Friday, 2 October 2009

Mythic, Obi-wan and the role of healers

Leading up to the release of WAR, Mythic’s marketing machine was in overdrive. Quite a bit of what was said by a hyper-excited Paul Barnett & Co turned out to be just that; hyper-excited. If it was just marketing spin or a misunderstanding of their own product I don’t know (I’d guess the former), but regardless of the reason it set expectations impossibly high.

One of the things many of us were looking forward to was how in WAR healers wouldn’t just sit at the back watching health bars go up and down. Oh no sir! In WAR healers would be in the middle of the fight, dishing out pain and destruction, which through magical funkiness would in turn heal their allies. Unfortunately this premise turned out to be based on rather Obi-wan Kenobi style statements from Mythic, because what they said was true… from a certain point of view.

WAR’s healers do have abilities that deal damage and heal at the same time. You can purely play as a damage dealer that auto heals if you so wish. It’s just that if ALL your healers play that way, then you group is doomed. The healing from damage is not anywhere near potent enough. There is just no escaping it, you have to have some traditional dedicated backline healers if you want to live... But whilst that maybe the case, we still have the option to play differently (and get our arses kicked) should we choose to. So technically Mythic didn’t lie, they just stretched the truth a wee bit.

When Obi-wan told Luke that his father was “killed” by Darth Vader, he was just selling a dream to an ignorant farm boy. Mythic are no different to Obi-wan, they’re just selling their dream like every business does, and we are the ignorant farm boys (with potential for greatness ofc)… Or we’re suckers with cash to burn, one of the two. ;) But this is just the nature of advertising and building up the hype for your products. Everyone twists the truth. Apart from Barry Scott obviously, he is the real deal. No, honestly.

With this particular dream, “the loads of fun to play healer”, the problem is probably that it’s very hard for a developer to get the balance right. I’m sure Mythic tried bloody hard and there is more to their healers than those in most other MMOs, but they still didn’t quite manage to break the mould.

How do you make a hybrid healer that doesn’t over balance on one side of the scale? If their DPS and healing is both excellent, then nobody will play other classes that can’t do both. Then if you over balance on one aspect you get other problems. If their healing isn’t potent enough to cope with the damage dealt by high DPS classes, then they’re useless as healers. If their damage is not as good as other DPS classes, then they’re no good as DPS, particularly in PvP where spike damage is often important. It seems like no matter how you set up the scales, it just won’t quite balance right.

It’s a tricky one for sure. If there is a way of becoming significantly better at one aspect, then that aspect becomes their focus, because playing jack-of-all-trades so rarely works. When you look at how people actually play, almost everyone that uses a so-called hybrid class ends up assuming a set role of tank, healer or DPS. Sure by respeccing they can change their focus, but it’s not the same as actually performing a hybrid of roles at the same time. Some poor sod will still end up just watching those health bars.

Of course guilds will often keep one or two DPS specced healers around, but not often because they need to, it's more likely novelty value or just due to people being nice. Yes it’s true that they do have their uses, WoW’s Shadowpriests being a prime example, but you can’t have every healer specced like this. It would be pixel suicide. If you’re a tank or DPS by trade, be honest, wouldn’t you rather they were all pure healers? You know you would really; it’s more reliable...

So is it even possible to make a true hybrid healing class while we remained locked in the MMO mindset of everything requiring set roles? If our MMO games continue forcing people to assume their role of Tank, Healer or DPS, will it ever change or will there always be some poor sod stood at the back watching health bars go down and up, down and up, down and…zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

To be fair Mythic had a good crack at moving things forward and they’ve made the most fun PvP healers I can think of. I'm enjoying my Shaman and look forward to getting him into the big leagues. OK, perhaps they shouldn’t have gone all Obi-wan on us, but I think there was a genuine attempt behind it. So at least they tried eh? Not that Yoda would approve of just trying… But then that picky little git failed miserably and ended up stuck in some crappy swamp. Maybe he should have tried.


  1. I actually think they did a really good job with their healers. You can do either, DPS or heal, it's only a re-spec away. Building a hybrid spec makes for great fun in small scale, 3v3,2v2,1v1 battles where you aren't having seizures on your group heal button. Obviously the DoK and WP are the most effect melee healers, but from range the RP/Zea/AM/Sha can be just as irritating and effective.

    It's hard to imagine what more they could have done. What are they missing?

  2. Define "effective" for the WP/DoK. Sure, if you do what Bootae referred to and spec into the "best" tree for healing, you can do quite well pumping out the short-range AoE heal. But that's not what sold me on the class and it's not what I wanted to play. I want to play the battle cleric, following hard on the heels of the tanks, smacking around the enemy as the means of healing my allies. To that end, the hit-heal abilities need to give out more healing, and/or determine the heal amount before resist/armor. I like the buffs available in the Grace tree (parry boost, toughness siphon, wounds boost), but they just aren't enough if the class' distinctive method of healing is pitiful to the point of uselessness against the enemy. I really don't think that the melee healers need better damage. I see the ability to heal as I do damage as rewarding and interesting in it's own right. I just wish that they had fulfilled the promise of actually being able to fill the healer role on the front lines.

  3. I think all told they did a good job, it's just not quite what we expected it to be.

    As for what else could they have done? Hmmm, well I don't know if this would work, but I think the first step would to make ALL heals the type that result from you doing damage. Even if the damage the healer does is relatively low, at least it would mean you could always get stuck in to the combat.

    The concept around the DoK and WP is a step in the right direction, but they still all to often end up standing at the back. Perhaps over time Mythic could look at taking a few bold extra steps forward and morph them into true melee healers, regardless of their talent spec. Would be a brave move mind you...

  4. Player opinion post-launch show that people are NOT accustomed to having healers that can do damage and heal at the same time.
    In fact there are a few who outright say that they want to "just heal and be support". It's indeed hard to break the mold set since EQ.
    Still, some problems also originate from Mythic. It seems with each patch WP/DOK is less able to be a MELEE healer.

    For AM/Shaman I think what they did is quite nice, hopefully they can make RP/Zealot more interesting too.

  5. I actually felt that the rune priest was pretty bloody good. It was never a top of the line dps, but for leveling purposes he was great, once I had rune of burning, matched with a Intelligence focused suit.

    I would often have a PvE and RvR sets of armour and matching tactic sets to boot, once the switch was done I could be adding 30-40% to either damage/healing depending on what set I was using.

    But it did all come down to have Equipment Sets/Closet Goblin making this constant switching viabale.

  6. I'm doing the same with my 28 shaman. I have my renown benefits balanced between INT and WILL and I switch tactics and gear depending on the situation. Actually it's mostly the same renown gear sets, with different talismans depending on the "spec". However, it's true that in a scen or a WB I don my WILL suit and go all heals because I don't want to let down my bros. Seems to me the biggest obstacles to effective dps/healing are:

    1) Targeting is still a bit borked, and dps/healing means you need to effectively maintain two targets instead of just one.

    2) Many obstacles such as rocks and columns often obstruct line of sight, and dps/heals require line of sight to two targets instead of just one.

    3) As noted by others, dps/heals go off of the unmitigated damage, which although philosophically understandable, makes them much less effective, since in this situation I need to maintain line of sight to a carefully chosen non-tank target who is a bitch to click on or tab-select. Then they might die and I have to do the whole targeting thing over before healing again. Almost always, I say eff it and go back to my single click very effective non-dps heals.


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