Thursday, January 22, 2009

Waxing philosophical: Healer squabbles

Have you seen the Healing forums lately? Yikes.

Not that it's much different to any other patch or period of change, but I suppose these days we actually have a combined forum for everyone to gather together to get their collective knickers in a knot.

Healers have been at each other for a long time, it's just more evident now that they can all do it in a central location. Before, they had to sling insults across the class forum gap, or venture into "enemy territory" to complain to their nemeses face-to-face.

It's really quite sad to see so much healer hate. We're meant to be a team - not opponents. It's something that has been weighing on my mind for a few months now - well, basically ever since they gave us our new talents just prior to the expansion, and AOE healing went BOOM and I started feeling unnecessary in raids. Naxx hasn't been a whole lot better - it will probably be slightly different with the CoH nerf, but there's still far too many heals for not enough damage. So far, Sartharion and drakes has been the only encounter where I felt like I was actually having to put my hardcore healing hat on and heal my butt off.

Most of the time though, I feel bored and superfluous, and I know that most (if not all) of my team feel the same. We're only stepping on each other's toes because there's nothing else to do.

I remember starting in Naxx and it was already too easy to heal; we run with 6 healers and I think we could do it with 4-5. The competition is high - and frankly anyone who says "meters don't matter" is not being honest. Meters matter to almost everyone in some way. Nobody likes to be low on the meters. You can be objective about them and take various things into account when you read them, interpret them with a grain of salt, but everyone still likes to do well on the meters.

There's constant competition within the raid team, which is magnified by the fact that the bosses are easy and everything becomes a skillless zerg-fest. DPSers push to see how high they can go - which is fun. Healers... well, what's fun for healers if there's nothing to heal? You can only heal as much damage as the encounters do, you can't push higher, unless you start sniping and stepping on the toes of the other healers. And that's what breeds these feelings of contempt between the classes.

I saved this from a while ago, from a priest named Meia of Bloodhoof:

DPS just basically has a target dummy they can throw their all into and that's their contribution and competition. Tanking has threat(or rather did, not sure what it is anymore). Healers actually have to compete with each other since damage is finite and on a limited time. The very nature of it itself is competing with one another, that is what breeds some of this anger.

Honestly, until Naxx, I never really thought of it this way before. It's true though - dps, while competing against each other, aren't jostled around by the actions of other dpsers. The enhance shammy doing high dps doesn't result in the warlock being unable to dps. Healers though - it's not just about our skill, but also the actions of the other healers around us.

I hate healing meters. I really do. I use them to reflect and improve, and that can make them a great tool, but at lot of the time, even though I try not to care, I do get annoyed if I'm not in the top 3 healers. It's frustrating that it's not just my skill that decides where I land on the meters, but who else is in there with me, the numbers, the classes, their abilities and their skill. Obviously if someone has more skill that will push them higher, and push me lower, but not just because they did more, but also caused me to do less. Does that make sense?

If a raid is dps heavy, it doesn't matter how many rogues you have, that is not going to lower the mage's potential dps. Not true for healers - the more healers you have, and particularly if you stack a number of the same class, that can drastically alter each person's performance.

Obviously skill will still go a long way, and good healers can shine even if the odds are stacked against them, but it still seems a little disheartening that you're never truly in full control of your output and performance to the degree that dps classes are.

I don't like feeling resentful of other healers or healing classes, but it's hard not to be bitter occasionally when there's just not much damage flying around and a bunch of healers all scrambling for a piece of it. I heal because I love healing; and I don't think it's unreasonable to feel a little upset if I do my absolute best but still can't be 100% in control of my performance.

And no, I'm afraid that people saying "as long as everyone lived, that should be good enough"... is not always enough. Are the dps just satisfied that the boss fell over, regardless of the dps numbers? Yeah, fat chance.

So why is it such a crime that healers should want to be competitive, too? Why are people scornful of it? Why do you never hear people telling DPS to ignore the meters and just make sure the boss dies?

I don't want to seem as though I am playing the battered healer, but it does seem quite skewed to me. We have fewer places in the raid, finite damage to grab a piece of to heal up, too many healers doing it, AOE heals flying around, and we're not allowed to WANT to be high on the meters. If you're a healer complaining about slipping on the meters, you're either bad or greedy. I still don't like meters very much, but I think it's in our nature and not unreasonable to want to do well on them.

There will always be exceptions - gimmicky fights where you spend half the time running around and reducing your uptime - but wouldn't it be great if meters actually showed you your HPS in a vacuum? If I'm down the bottom, I want it to be because I need to improve or because my gear is terrible or because I wasn't paying attention, not because others are managing to squeeze heals in before I can or because they're bored and doing their own thing despite assignments. If I'm up the top, I want it to be because I'm good - not because I have abilities that trump the rest of the team's. Know what I mean?

I don't want to be at the top because my class has an advantage somehow (occasional domination by a class is fine, just not all the time). I don't want to be up there automatically because my heals are "easymode". I want to know that it's all ME. I want to be up there because I'm GOOD.

If performance was based entirely on your own skill and not on who else is in the raid filling up the health bars before you get a chance to, I think healers on the whole would be less inclined to lend themselves to inter-class bickering.

Something to chew on, I suppose.


Anea said...

I had never been introduced to healing meters until well after BC had launched, at the insistence of the guild I was currently raiding with. I wasn't too bothered about it initially because I was very new and undergeared and expected to be low on the meters. Now, however, in my much smaller guild, meters matter more. I check to see how I am doing and am saddened that I am not in the top two - I can rationalize this as much as my knowledge of the healing mechanics of the other classes goes, but it's not much, so I do wonder exactly how much I need to improve. (I guess that will be helped with research.)

But you're right about the sniping when bored, though. I find I accidentally do this sometimes - which of course is bad. But where is the line of seeing big healing numbers from a druid, but seeing the tank's health be incredibly low all the time? At which point am I being helpful or stealing heals? The numbers tell me she's doing a good job, but his health bar consistently tells me otherwise.

Blòód said...

nom nom nom... am chewing hard on this one.

Meters /sigh. I agree with this and it is worded well here. Healers can only heal a finite amount and when you compare this to dps mechanics - you really need to understand before concluding 'That healer is low, they are a poor healer'. Personally the first thing I do is look how my spell rotation is working, how much impact passive abilities are having (living seed, glyphs, trinkets - and how I can increase/decrease those numbers) and overall how much impact I had.

However -

When looking at stats such as WWS, the healing is ranked on effective healing. If you consider the info here, if the healer with the highest effective healing didn't heal, everyone elses effective healing would be higher. But would the rankings of effective healing output change? Probably not. Although our output is dependant on how much damage there is left to heal - the numbers we are dealing with are so high that averages will prevail. These numbers are not measuring qualtity but quantity. Reaction time is a major factor, if I can see someone creeping up a threat meter or look for visual clues as to when someone might take damage (eg. loose adds) - i will react much quicker than if I wait for grid to show someone has low health. Those who can get this damage repaired quicker if not instantly are always going to be higher. I will never raid thinking I am not in control of my effective heals.

Conversly, if my role is to solely focus my energy on the MT - there is no way I am worrying about the AOE dps pulling threat. I will focus on one target and one alone - and my effective healing is going to be very low compared to those watching everything else. In those situations we need to take a big bite of humble pie and just realise we did our job. And the outsiders looking in need to know the difference before giving a /poke.

A thought provoking one Keevs ;-)

Aertimus said...

Another fantastic post!

I try to avoid blizz forum fights in general... How do you bring yourself to read it?

I think I feel kindly toward all the other healers in the guild. I totally agree about feeling like crap if not in the top three-ish.

And then when I'm NOT in the top three-ish I come up with these excuses like "It was assignments" or "This fight favors CoH". Excuses make me feel better and I'm pretty open with myself that every other person could be doing the same thing! If every healer in your guild thought they are in the top half of the healers in your guild, don't you think the world would be a better place?

I Like Bubbles said...

You have managed to nail, quite eloquently, the reason why I've wanted to strangle a priest in my guild.

I'm already bored-because there's what, 1 or 2 fights in Naxx we can't 2 heal, so we bring three, even though for the ENTIRE REST OF THE INSTANCE we're bored? As a holy pally, I find myself flailing around when the holy priests are merrily AoEing their way up the meters. It was/is hell on my esteem and my raiding morale.

I'm going to post a link on our guild forums to this post. Perhaps pinpointing the issue will make it easier to bear for all of us.

Great post!

kyrilean said...

Just remember there's a finite amount of damage to be done as well.

Bottom line yes we like to be at the tops of meters regardless of our role, but we all need to step back and realize it won't always be the case. Healers should quantify their roles based on other things.

i.e I'll never outheal the druid healer as a pally, but damn I'll kick his butt on the Instructor Raszuvious fight!!! :)

Bearess said...

My complaint about the healing forum is people seeing raw numbers and then start jumping up and down.. "I want that.. I want that!"

Each class has their pros/cons. I'm sure blizzard can solve this problem by creation a "Healer" class and removing Resto from the game all together. Then we'd all be equal.

Frankly, I have no interest in being the heavy-handed tank healer. I'm very happy finding my place as a solid group healer. It has taken two-and-half months to find my rotations, glyphs, and talents. I can shift into the heavy-handed healing if I have to, but it is not what druids do best.

As for healing charts, I think as healers we need to change our way of thinking. Having the top healer do 60% of the healing and the rest doing 40% is a sign that the healers need to pow-wow and discuss healing assignments, gear, and rotation. Because if that top healer dies it will throw the rest of the healers into a panic.

I'd rather have the healing meters show heals almost equal over all healers (it will never be equal because you have to handle curses, rezes, and other utility services). Which is why I think a better game for healers to play is "How can we equalize out the healing among all of us?" If that game is played right and played effectively while everyone is doing their assigned healing. It will ensure that if a healer does go down there is more mana over all to pick up that healer's tasks.

- Ben

Xoria said...

I remember having meters back in the MC days of Rank 4 HT all night with your 9-11-31 Innervate spec. I remember using a windows keypress emulator to autoheal the emergency monitor while I went to the grocery store to get more beer. Came back and I was 3rd on the monitor. Love 'em or hate 'em, meters are here to stay.

DPS is somewhat dependant on the other classes and the mobs being killed. If the mobs die really fast due to outgearing the instance or just low HP, classes that have higher rampup time on their dps abilities suffer on the meters. If a boss has unusually high or low armor it changes the position of the melee. If you dont have trauma debuff for instance, it lowers some of the rogue's dps.