Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Healing and Default UIs

Coop pointed out in the last post that one of the troubles with healing in SWTOR is the UI. But it's not just a SWTOR problem. Almost every MMO I've played has featured a DPS-centric default UI.

Which is rather odd if you consider the fact that healers are the one role which interacts with the UI the most. One would think that the default UI should be optimized for healing. A healing-centric UI would still be functional for the DPS and tanks.

Here are three elements that a good healing UI needs:

1. All the friendly health bars in one place.

Almost all health bars put your own health bar in a different location than the other friendly players. SWTOR puts the companion health bar in a completely different place too. This is the first thing which is fixed by every single healing mod. All relevant health bars are collected together in one compact location.

2. Minimize target-switching.

I would love to see a default UI implement mouse-over casting for friendly spells out of the box. It makes healing so much easier and cleaner.

I also rather liked having Warhammer Online's use of one friendly target and one hostile target, that could be switched independently. You can kind of work around this with focus targets, but it's a lot easier to keep an eye on enemies with true dual-targets.

3. Emphasize relevant debuffs and buffs.

This is the hardest element to get correct for a default UI. But simply displaying all buffs and debuffs on a target is just not good enough. A healer needs to know when important debuffs are on the target, especially for dispelling. As for buffs, in general you only need to know when your short term buffs like HoTs and shields have worn off a friendly target.


I strongly recommend that any new MMO design the default UI with healers in mind. In fact, I'd go so far as to insist that the default UI designer be a full-time healer. Healers are the class which will interact with the UI the most, and thus the ones who suffer the most with a badly-designed UI.


  1. So true...

    This is one are when WoW is light-years ahead. Not because their stock UI is particularly good (it's getting better...), but because mods allow you to see what you need to see and do what you need to do.

  2. Yes. This is exactly why I quit Rift after 1 month's play and went back to Wow. No way to click cast? Bye bye.

  3. The other alternative is the method used in Age of Conan: the majority of heals were not targeted, they were area effect, instead.

    Every healer class had two basic heals, one cone-shaped and one PBAOE. As I recall, there were also supplemental heals (targeted, wards, bubbles, etc.), but the "green" and "blue" heals provided the majority of the healing. It made AoC one of the few games in which I was willing to play a healer. I can't stand the "whack a mole" paradigm that constitutes healing in most other MMOs.

  4. Good point, but I do not agree a healer UI is good for a DPS. I'm glad my UI in WoW called ElvUI allows me to use different layout for different roles.

    In WoW I use Vuhdo (but what I'm going to say would count for any other healer addon, like Grid), and I have this in the middle of my screen, slightly below. My UF are on bottom on screen, near my bars (I don't use power auras for CDs, I just use my bars). This way I still see easily near my peripheral vision what is going on in the fight.

    Near UF and bars. I also keep notice of important procs and ICDs a-la ForteXorcist.

    As a DPS I'd require such more, and use stuff like power auras. Then I could have this all a little bit higher near my peripheral vision in middle of screen. My point is that as a DPS I would not be too concerned about the health and debuffs of my teammates; I am more focused on my output, and everything which can help that should have priority over that.

    Of course, as a raid leader, raid assistant, PvP player (BG/arena) something like raid frames is more important but the average DPS does not, should not, and is not able to focus on this. If he is, the encounter is too easy.

    Now, my reply to all of the above in the only other MMO I have tried to play is SWTOR I have a Jedi Sage near level 50. Healing is easy, but I actually cannot emphasize certain buffs/debuffs, have the "raid frame" function like even Grid + Clique (I'd rather have mouse binds since I got a Naga, but whatever) and they are totally out of my peripheral vision. Healing 5mans and BG^H^HWZ is horrible because of this (tactic-wise it is all rather easy and I did things above my intended level). I really miss macros, addons. Heck I even miss skada/recount equiv.