Active Experimentation

Twitter is sometimes useful for finding a tidbit of information I find interesting or worth chewing on.

@WTSHeals twitted (tweeted? twatted?) a link to a joystiq/WoW Insider article about What might Mists of Panderia mean for healing?

(And remember that anything said about the MoP expansion is based on shreds on information sifted through countless hands and is all subject to change or just being flat out wrong.)

The monk class will be expanding on the “active healing” style introduced with the Atonement spec of the discipline priest. (Active healing involves more than playing whack-a-mole with the raid frames.)

There is speculation that active healing with a DPS component may be introduced to more of the original healing classes.

Personally, I don’t think it will happen.

Think about the introduction of the Smite Priest.

Priests are the only healing class with two different trees for healing. Druids, pallies, and shaman all only have the one tree to provide healing.

If Blizzard had introduced Resto Kitties the community would have exploded. (Think of how bad it was when tree form was removed.)

Even with Smite Priests being an OPTIONAL spec choice within the disc tree, there was still a very vocal outburst from the healing purist community.

They want to heal and just to heal. If they wanted to DPS they would spec shadow or play a different toon. And I can understand this. It doesn’t fit me, but I can see where they are coming from.

So priests were the only viable option for Blizzard to play with this model. To use another healing class would have been to risk alienating all the players that healed as opposed to half the class’ healers.

But, it was only an optional choice for the disc priest! There are many priests (myself included) that have a non-Atonement disc spec. (Granted, mine was just for Rag since Atonement was broken on that fight pre-4.3.)

Choice is a funny thing and you can see that in full force watching people talk about the new MoP talents. When given a choice, there will always be pressure to take it.

Tangent: Losing the cookie-cutter talent choices is going to be a massive challenge for a lot of players, “What do you mean I have to make a CHOICE? What do you mean that there isn’t a clear-cut winner? What do you mean I have to select the one that I think will fit the encounter and my playstyle? What is my playstyle? I’ve been pushing buttons as prescribed by people much smarter than me for the entirety of my WoW career and I don’t have an independent thought in my head!” (By the way, the new D3 talents are very similar in respect to this radical free-choice model and are a lot of fun. I’m experimenting with all sorts of things, something I never got to do in WoW because it wasn’t the “right” thing to do.)

Anyway, when Atonement was unveiled, a lot of priests felt pressure to try it and there was resistance and bitterness. There were disc priests that were insulted by the addition of DPS to the toolbox and went holy in protest. Eventually the community settled down and we now have the Holy priests, the non-Atonement priests, and the Smite priests. Somehow, we all get along and eventually get the job done.

But if they had tried that with any other healing class, there would not have been that second healing spec to take refuge in.

Fast forward to the monk.

It’s shiny and brand-spanking new.

They can do anything they want with the monk. They could make the monk heal by /dance commands (hey, it’s glitching in SW:TOR) and no one could complain about THEIR class being ruined. (They would, instead, complain about the further dumbing down of the game.)

So they are (hopefully) taking what has been learned about active healing from the disc priests and incorporating it in to the new class.

The game has changed a lot over the years and this is actually a very important step forward in overall design.

Comparing DPS to healing, I find healing to be more challenging – when the content is new. While we’re still learning where to stand, when to swap targets, when to use cool downs, when our gear is still low enough that the encounter stretches our mana and our GCDs, that’s when the content is more challenging as a healer. Conversely, it gets more challenging as DPS to be competitive with people as experience and gear levels rise at unequal rates.

After it gets easy, we start sitting healers and bringing in more DPS just to make it go faster. If your healer doesn’t have a viable DPS spec/gear set you’re hosed unless you have another character to bring in… but chances are that character was sidelined for the first half of the expansion and is now just being carried.

But what if, because of a more active healing model, we didn’t have to sit healers?

My 25-man guild technically runs 5 healers on Ultraxion. We use a holy priest, pally, druid and shaman as the 4 main healers. They heal the duration of the fight and get all the crystals. I run as DPS for the first 75-80% of the fight, but start laying down barriers and Prayer of Healing when things get dicey towards the end.

Eventually, I’m sure we could do it with only 4 pure healers and someone (most likely me) will have to be swapped out. But what if one of those healers was a monk? 3 pure healers for the first 80% and then 2 hybrids to help out at the end. The healing is ready is case someone else fails at pressing the BIG BUTTON but you’re not completely sacrificing DPS for the duration of the fight.

Healing also gets boring as content gets easier. By bringing in more active activities, engagement is increased. Increased engagement is supposed to increase enjoyment.

The problem is that “active” for one person is “obnoxious” or downright “unwanted and I will quit the game because you destroyed my class” to another. Blizzard was able to mitigate a lot of that with using the dual-heal spec priest as its guinea pig and taking it further with the new class.

The trick will be increasing engagement for the other healers without forcing them into a DPS-required playstyle. So far, DPS weaving for mana regen has been the model of choice, with both Shaman and Paladins required to do token damage.

But I don’t think that there will ever be a movement to make healing through damage a requirement for any existing healing class. It may pop up as an option, like it did with disc priests, but doing that will risk further homogenization of the healing classes.

The question that remains will then be what more can Blizzard do to make healing more engaging without forcing healers to DPS?

Disc priest is pretty engaging for me with the DPS options. Holy priest already seemed pretty engaging to me with the chakra switches.

So for my druid, shaman, and pally healers what would make healing more fun/challenging/engaging?

2 comments on “Active Experimentation

  1. repgrind says:

    I’m not sure judging once a minute (or even on cooldown as it was pre-4.3) qualifies as DPS weaving, or even token damage. The only players I *ever* beat on the dps meter are, well … resto druids, because they don’t even appear on it.

    As for your last question .. I already find my pallies fun and engaging. I hope they don’t change *too* much, although each change usually works out for the best.


    • Agree with my fellow paladin here. Holy paladins are already very dynamic and engaging, and I don’t see the need for much changes. Maybe some nerfs, as we’re obviously OP right now.

      That said, it would be nice to have our damage spells synergize a little better (I miss judging on CD), and in the unlikely event they were to make us into a “smash someone in the face with a sword to heal” spec, I’d probably welcome it.


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