Friday, September 23, 2011

Healer Test Fights

Last night one of our top healers mentioned how he hated Baleroc. Now this isn’t a guy QQ’ing about the fight because he’s not good at it, he’s currently ranked on it (in normal mode as we don’t have this boss down on heroic). He then followed it up with a comment about how he wished Blizzard would stop making healer fights. Given that I am overly opinionated, and USED to be a healer, I thought I would weigh in on this!

I should start with an explanation of what we mean by healer fights. Healer fights are fights that put the majority of the mechanics on the shoulders of the healers. No matter how good the rest of your raid is, there is NO way to make up for their mistakes. This is the equivalent of a dps check fight (with a tight berserk timer), or a tank check fight, with lots of adds to pick up or boss movement, such as Shannox, (although in these types of fights usually intense healing or dps can give at least some wiggle room). The three fights that are most recently thought of as healer fights are Baleroc (Firelands), Chimaeron (Black Wing Descent), and Dreamwalker (Ice Crown Citadel).

Blizzard tends to make this type of fight, in my opinion, because while dps and tanks sometimes get to deal with interesting mechanics (or at least testing mechanics), such as interrupts, “vehicles”, etc. healers are generally assigned the same role of keeping green bars full, and handling the normal high damage phase that seems to accompany pretty much every fight. As someone who used to play a healer I have to say that while you get very good at this type occurrence, it can get quite tedious and boring over the long run, “what do I do on this fight? Oh yeah stay out of bad stuff and keep green bars full…again…” Much as they make fights like Alysrazor where dps gets to try out something new such as flying, they like to let healers experiment with some new things too, even if “new” still means keeping an eye on green bars.

There are two major issues with these types of fights, as I see it. The first is that the mechanics tend to be, at first anyways, quite buggy usually, or don’t work as well as they should. Chimaeron for example was well designed (if annoying) however because of latency and the very short window to heal someone, it wasn’t that uncommon to see a green bar go over where it needed to be, only to see that person die, because while your computer registered the heal, the server didn’t. The second, and more important issue that I see is that while Blizzard’s intent is good, healers already tend to carry a ton of weight on their shoulders, 90% of the fights tend to be mostly relaxing for DPS, where they can stand there, hit their rotation, and move occasionally, normally with some sort of heavy “avoid this” phase or “burn” phase. Healers on the other hand tend to be constantly reacting to what is happening, and picking up the slack for people that don’t move or make a mistake. This is especially an issue on fights that have a soft enrage, where they tend to be able to extend the time that dps have to finish a boss by “brute healing force”. By creating healer fights, blizzard doesn’t tend to really change the fight for them, just make things more stressful, as a mistake on healer fights tends to mean at least one death, if not a wipe.

Personally I think that if done right healer fights can be a ton of fun for all involved, however the only one that I think of in recent times as “done right” has been Dreamwalker, and it’s pretty hard to extend that mechanic to new fights, without making it feel stale.

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