A new Dev Watercooler went up today and it addressed a topic near and dear to my heart, healing. Specifically, it told us some of the changes we can expect to see to the healing game in Warlords of Draenor.
The first topic brought up is about health and resilience. It’s mainly related to PVP, so I don’t really care. I do think beginning the Watercooler with this was a mistake, as it open it up to cries of “Waaah, PVE healing is being nerfed because of PVP” and “you’re making healing too hard!”
Here’s the problem with that argument. It’s stupid. Okay, I’ll explain more. Nerfs (and buffs) relate to class and game balance. If you overhaul all of healing – reduce effectiveness of spells for each class/spec, add cast times, try to make each healer think and plan more – no one is getting nerfed. As a Resto Druid, I’m not any worse off than the Resto Shaman who’s seeing the exact same types of changes to their spells. People may not trust Blizzard to fix things correctly, but are they going to completely break the PVE game so no healer is capable of keeping their group/raid alive? No. They’re not.
Let’s move on to the changes that are being discussed.
Healer throughput will be toned down relative to the size of player health pools
…healers are able to refill health bars so fast that we have to make damage more and more “bursty” in order to challenge them. Ideally, we want players to spend some time below full health without having healers feel like the players they’re responsible for are in danger of dying at any moment. We also think that healer gameplay would be more varied, interesting, and skillful if your allies spent more time between 0% and 100%, rather than just getting damaged quickly to low health, forcing the healer to then scramble to get them back to 100% as quickly as possible.
To me, this sounds fantastic. I know it’s something that was tried before, but I’m glad Blizzard is giving it another shot. Hopefully it works this time. Health bars do get filled way too fast, and people spend way too much time at 100% health. Healing has turned into a very twitchy game, a contest of who can get those heals out first. As a Druid, the idea of people not being at full health very often is fantastic. I don’t want my Rejuvenation to be 60% overheal anymore, I’d love for it to do more effective healing. As a healer in general, I also really like this. I don’t want to play whack-a-mole. I want healing to require some thought and planning. If a tank dies, I don’t want it to be because I missed the 1 GCD that I could have healed her in between damage ticks. I’d rather it be because for the last 5 or 10 seconds I didn’t prioritize or anticipate damage correctly, and I got too far behind to save them.
Additionally, we’re toning down the power of absorbs in general. When they get too strong, absorption effects are often used in place of direct healing instead of as a way to supplement it.
Obviously absorbs create huge balance problems. It’s nice that this is acknowledged, but we didn’t get much detail about how this will be fixed.
We also took a look at healing spells that were passive or auto-targeted (so-called “smart” heals). We want healers to care about who they’re targeting and which heals they’re using, because that makes healer gameplay more interactive and fun. To that end, we’re reducing the healing of many passive and auto-targeted heals, and making smart heals a little less smart. Smart heals will now randomly pick any injured target within range instead of always picking the most injured target. Priority will still be given to players over pets, of course.
I’m a bit torn on this. I think smart heals are a huge problem. However, I’m not sure that making them dumber is the answer. I’d rather see less smart heals overall and have the ones left be less efficient. On the other hand, having my Wild Growth target a person at 70% health instead of the person at 30% health will force me to use some targeted heals on them, which I think we need to do more of.
Another of our goals for healing in this expansion is to strike a better balance between single-target and multi-target healing spells. We’ve taken a close look at the mana efficiency of our multi-target heals, and in many cases, we’re reducing their efficiency, usually by reducing the amount they heal. Sometimes, but more rarely, raising their mana cost was a better decision. We want players to use multi-target heals, but they should only be better than their single-target equivalents when they heal more than two players without any overhealing.
On the surface, this sounds good. However, thinking more about it, I see a problem. Earlier in the post they mentioned that they don’t want players to be sitting at 100% health so often. If that’s the case, multi-target heals should usually be hitting two or more players without overhealing, meaning they’re usually better than their single-target equivalents, meaning there’s really no decision to be made. I think that efficiency/mana costs will need to be adjusted even more if this has any chance of working.
Finally, we’re removing the low-throughput, low-mana-cost heals like Nourish, Holy Light, Heal, and Healing Wave, because we think that while they do add complexity, they don’t truly add depth to healing gameplay.
…we’ve increased base mana regen a great deal at early gear levels, while having it scale up less at later gear levels.
In theory, this should mean that we can’t spend our mana willy-nilly in the last tier of the xpac. As long as they don’t add in things like the legendary meta-gem to ruin it.
Less instant cast heals
Over time, healers have gained a bigger and bigger arsenal of heals that they can cast while on the move, which removes the inherent cost that movement is intended to have for them, while also limiting players’ ability to counter healing in PvP.
Now this change does actually seem to be mainly about PVP. But, I think for many of the spells they mention getting a cast time (Wild Growth, Uplift, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn, Cascade, Divine Star, Halo) a side effect will be that these smart/multi-target heals are even less efficient, and encourage people to think before they use them. I do have a couple concerns with the spells they’re giving a cast time to though. Giving Prayer of Mending a cast time seems unnecessarily punitive, as does giving a cast time to Wild Growth, a HoT. If they do this, I think WG needs a small instant heal component like RJ does, otherwise it takes too long after you decide to cast it for it to start ticking.
Overall, I’m impressed with the information they released and really hope that everything works out. I think a few of the points need some more thought in order to accomplish the stated goal, but I’m hopeful.
I think a major overhaul is just what the healing game needs. Right now it’s about as engaging as swatting flies. Make mana matter, force us to make choices, let us use our whole toolkit without 1 or 2 spells making up the most of our healing. If they can pull it off, healing should be fun again.
The 80% of comments whinging on the watercooler post really boil down to this: