Sunday, July 21, 2013

The State of Healing

I saw this post by Vixsin on The State of Healing, and I wanted to comment on the general subject. Please note that I'm not really doing organized raiding this expansion, so you should take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

I think there has been a general problem healing this expansion, and perhaps taking a step back, a general problem in the design of healing since TBC.

The problem this expansion is that there is too much "ambient" healing. Compared to previous expansions, there's lots of aoe heals, lots of hots, and lots of absorbs that kind of buffer the entire raid. There seems to be a lot less triage and healing assignments.

The problem with this is that boss damage needs to balance out healing. Lots of ambient healing leads to lots of ambient damage. This means if the ambient, background healing ever dips down, then all of a sudden the damage can seem overwhelming. Second, and you see this in LFR a fair bit, healers that do not heal in an ambient style do far less healing than they should.

Now, the problem with healing development in general is a bit more subtle. It seems that when Blizzard is looking at the healing classes, the thought process is, "X is pretty cool, let's make more use of X". So they use X a lot more and the game breaks.

The obvious example this expansion is absorbs. Power Word: Shield is a cool spell. It does something slightly different than all the other spells, and wasn't too broken on its own (at least when it was more restricted). Blizzard saw that PW:S was good, and spread it around when they needed new spells and abilities. Paladin mastery, spirit shell, etc. And then the game broke.

It's not just absorbs. Cooldowns and AoE spells have followed the same pattern. Rare at first, with only one or two specs with access to a version that usually had a significant downside. Then everyone got access and the healing game became unbalanced.

Older paladins will remember that critical strike and Illumination did something similar. The original Illumination made critical strike interesting, but crit was a rare stat for paladins. Then Blizzard saw that paladins were chasing crit, embraced it, and ended up breaking Holy paladins.

In my mind, healing works best when it is fairly basic. A couple direct heals, a signature heal, and weak (non-spammable) AoE heal is all you really need for a good healing environment. Making healing more complicated, in some sort of arms race, just leads to less fun healing environments. Damage has to keep up with healing. The more powerful healing is, the more powerful boss damage is, and the healing environment becomes less forgiving and less fun.


spinksville said...

I quite like simple healing setups also. I miss the old days when you could several different versions of a healing spell on your hotbars.

Shintar said...

I completely agree with this post, and it's definitely something that I've thought about myself many times. Personally I felt that it really started to get problematic in 3.0/Wrath, when they started to make all group heals raid-wide and "smart" and then had to introduce more and more raid damage to keep up with the crazy AoE healing people put out. Fights like Festergut and Blood Queen in ICC were such crazy AoE button mash fests, the whole experience just made me want to cry.

That's why I really enjoy healing in SWTOR currently; it harkens back to a simpler time with fewer abilities and more resource management.

Xico said...

Alternatively, they could embrace the AoE healing game and just make it more interesting, by spicing up the inventory of AoE heals. Say, different AoE heals that hit different numbers of players, or different AoE healing spells with different HPM and HPS (i.e. the same structure as single target heals in WoW).
In my opinion, the only reason why AoE healing is dull is because it is often simply about spamming one or two abilities.

The same problem affects AoE damage: it lacks a lot of depth when compared to single target rotations. The main difference is that a DPS only needs to hit the boss most of the time, while healers have a whole raid to heal -- AoE healing is fundamentally more natural (than AoE damage) because of this.