Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Makes the Healer Class Unpopular? Part 1

The History of the Hard to find Healer

Its a infallible rule in MMORPGs that the best healing class in the game will be the class rarely played. Since the beginning of the MMO market priests/clerics/medics have been in short supply and our game experience has suffered because of it. Early games in the market often forced social behavior by requiring players to group to make progress in the game. This was a great way to build friendships in the game and MMO developers liked how online friends stuck around longer in their virtual worlds. However, once developers forced people into groups it became obvious that those with healers were much more powerful. As a result developers designed all enemy encounters around the assumption that a group would have a healer.

This often made enemy encounters impossible for any group that did not have a healer and as a result introduced long wait times. Everquest was famous for this since most players would refuse to do anything without a specific type of healer called a cleric. The cleric had the ability to rez other players who died and gain back their experience, which often was equal to several hours of grinding. Though most modern MMORPGs don’t have harsh death penalties we still see this behavior today as sub-healing classes are made less effective then the main healer. However, even if you combine all the healing classes together it still becomes apparent that they are much less popular then any other class. Because of this rarity certain trends now exist in MMORPGs as a result of this healer shortage.

Trends caused by Healer Shortages:

1) The Dynamic Duo: Gamers started to get their significant others into their game of choice and set them up as a healing class. Thus many online games are filled with husband/wife teams with one of them being the healer. If you're smart you would make friends with couples who play together.

2) Two boxing: Gamers would buy another account and play a healer on it. Then they would use a computer setup to play both accounts at the same time. Not as effective as having another person play but it did allow you to advance in the game without waiting long periods for a healer to show up.

3) Guild Sneaking: Just as a group requires a healer to kill stuff so does a guild require many healers to kill stuff. Thus guilds are often lax on requirements for their priests. Raiders wishing to make it into a big guild would often apply as their priest then slowly but surely switch to their alts once in. This worked great but often forced a person to spend much more time to fully equip two characters.

As these trends started to form in online games it became apparent to developers that the rarity of people playing healing classes was affecting their games. Yet most high level decision makers saw these trends as encouraging more subscriptions and commitment to their games. Everquest began to make very hard encounters that not only required healers but also required other specific classes. Dark Age of Camelot saw the introduction of buff bots which were needed competitively to keep beneficial spells on players in realm versus realm combat. Other games also took advantage of this design flaw and to this day we still see specific and rare classes required for progression.

Tomorrow I am going to try express my exact thought on why healers are unpopular with most MMORPG fans.

Part 1 - The History of the Hard to find Healer
Part 2 - A Healer does not a Hero make
Part 3 - How to make a Happy Healer


Kinless said...

I played a Priest to level 25. Never liked the speed of the character. But I've played a Paladin (to 26), and a Druid (to 36 so far), and a Shaman (to 60. Fun!) And my Alliance team will be rounded out by a Draenei Shaman. I like being able to heal, because live friends = victory!, but I don't like being a Priest.

My wife plays with me. She's made a Night Elf Druid (that accompanies my Night Elf Warrior and Night Elf Druid), and an Orc Shaman (that accompanies my Orc Warrior). She'll be making a Draenei Paladin to go along with my Shaman. And her Priest will be a Blood Elf.

Yes, I've encourage her to be a healer to my Warriors because a Warrior can get you places a second Healer can't.

Relmstein said...

The only problem with pure healers is that they are often limited in what they can accomplish by themselves. Also the restrictions on direct combat and having to constantly monitor other players hitpoints seem to make the class unpopular with most people.

Luckily the priest class gets more attention from other players because of their rarity. As a result social people like playing the class.

In my honest opinion priests are so boring that I can only play mine in half hour increments. So far I have a lvl 60 hunter, rogue, paladin, and warrior. But I doubt I will ever get a priest to max level.

ReAn said...

I started with a 60 Rogue, after noticing it was nearly impossible to find priests on my server i rolled one, it was a hard endavour, but it was easy as hell to get instance groups, this made it easier to level because you can sit back and heal while everyone else levels you.

That sounds a bit lazy, but i relax when i heal, i dont think in the entire time i played my priest (lvl 1 -> AQ40 @ Twin Emps) did i ever feel stress from healing, it's quite simple, no-brainer.

Sure it wasn't 'heroic' but id like to argue that not everyone wants to be the hero.

I also have a lvl 60 shammie, this was easy to level because i was already used to healing, so i was able to learn how to heal with a shammie real quick, and was comfortable with the role (most shammies dont heal anything but themselves).

Frankly im having the most 'fun' as my warlock. Im not really a 'hero' ingame, but a bit of a 'hero' in my guild for even tho i sit in the back and dot/shadowbolt stuff, i have lead my raid through MC with incredible speed and we're now on Rag after being in MC for about 2-2.5 months with blues and SOME ZG gear.

Right now im finding that priests arent THAT hard to find, but DRUIDS are next to impossible to find.........

Doomgar said...

I play a 60 rogue and I love stealth I just can't stand being 15 ft from my goal in a quest and having to go get a group because a group of 3 or 4 mobs are in the way. So when it became apparent that a priest is a pain to level the natural choice was druid.

Now to everyone who wants to heal but can't stand the slow lvling of a priest, I HIGHLY recommend druid. Cat and Bear form make lvling a breeze since once you get a heal cycle down you can grind with NO downtime at all. At 40 I respecced resto and since then have been in league with holy priests and ridiculously above shadow preist healing.

Though I have not quite yet reached 60 several druids in my guild rival the priests for top healer in MC.

You might be thinking, "Why did he post this?" Well I wanted to argue that blizzard through hybrid classes has greatly relieved the NEED for priests allowing for people who actually enjoy priest to play them while other's can roll druid or pally. Even the priest population recieves a huge boost in lvling speed at lvl 40, when most classes hit a brick wall in leveling speed.

A lot of this also has to do with guild attitudes. In my guild if someone dies or there is a wipe it is the person who died/pulled the extra mobs 's fault not the healer. While healers do not recieve any special /cheer, neither do warriors. Every one of the 4 MC bosses we've downed in the last month has been a group effort and as a result the entire group recieves the praise.

Relmstein said...

While not everyone who plays MMORPGs wants to be a hero most people still expect to play as the main character in their online adventures. Priests who can't directly impact enemies during group combat seem more like a secondary character or sidekick.

Look at all the videos on YouTube of epic melee classes running amok. Do you ever see any videos of priets showing off their healing crits?

The need for priests is greatly reduced but people will always hold out for them since druids can't rez. Its just too risky to run back into an instance and have to fight respawns which makes the dungeon even longer.

World of Warcraft is probably one of the best games at making hybrid healers almost as good as the priest/cleric class. However, there will always be a need for a pure healer class since the hardest encounters in these games always requires the effectiveness of priest/cleric healing.

WoW Priest said...

Leveling is priest is slow going at first. It is harder to solo compared to other classes and you really don't find groups as easy as you think you would in the lower levels.

But at 40 you can get shadow form and spirit tap, which both make solo leveling easy.

By your mid 50s, all those groups you had trouble finding will knock down your door as soon as you log on.

The last levels which are a pain to get through, you will zip through.
Remember it takes more xp to get through the final levels than many of your previous levels combined.

You be asked to do instances way above your level and as a result, you will get quests done much earlier. Not to mention, while other classes are standing around waiting for a healer to get started. You are inside the instance gaining xp.

However, unfortunately, this is one of the few benefits of being a priest.