Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What Makes the Healer Class Unpopular? Part2

A Healer does not a Hero make

One of the popular attributes of a MMORPG is that it allows you to play the role of a hero. You get to go on quests, vanquish bad guys, and help save people. In fact one of the most involving features of these games is that its your avatar who is doing all these epic tasks. Now not everyone thinks of their game avatar as a facet of themselves but a connection between a player and their character does exist. Thus when a character is forced to not participate in any of these events directly it affects the player behind them. You have to face the fact that healers are never the focus of any heroic action in the game

1) Combat: You are forced to heal your group and keep your eyes on everyone's health. If a enemy attacks you must fade or shield while screaming for someone to get the mob off of you. In World of Warcraft if you wand enemies or go into shadow form after healing you are considered a bad healer.

2) Quests: You can trump easy mobs and maybe even handle a pull of more then one when soloing. It does take you forever to kill any bad guys and your progression is slow. If you run into a elite mob then you better bring help to defeat it. You aren't the hero embarking on an epic journey, you're the half dead messenger who runs back to town asking for help.

3) Dungeons: You walk in the back of the party. Since your the only one who can rez you are treated like a invalid who shouldn't stress themselves by doing anything physical. You aren't allowed to pull and in all likely you would die if you did. Encounters never require any special tactics or strategies from you except for.....wait for it....HEALING PEOPLE.

As you can see most of the main activities in MMORPGs aren't really conductive to a Healer acting as a Hero. You basically have to follow other people around and support them as they go on adventures. In fact the similarity between a healing class in a MMO and a superhero sidekick is remarkable. As if that comparison wasn't bad enough healers also have to deal with social problems that have gotten attached to their class.

1) Healer's Goals are Not Important
You are a support class and your needs are not important when compared to the needs of real classes. Healers are often treated as if their main purpose in life is to help other people progress. This attitude is very prevalent in the early levels but can persist up to the end game. This often forces healers to use the threat of leaving the group to get any of their goals accomplished. All the muscle tactics healers have to use to get their loot and quests often make them very jaded players by the time the reach the end game.

2) First to be Blamed, Last to be Praised
If the tank goes down it is because you weren't paying attention. It has nothing to do with the fact he charged four mobs while the mage was afk. If dps classes die its because you aren't cross healing and not because they didn't wait for the tank to establish control of the mob. Just last week I watched our guild's main tank lag out and get killed by Onxyia. Then a warrior with much worse gear managed to tank him since three of our priests were very coordinated on chain healing. We won and the warrior was given much praise and the head by default. When I mentioned that the priests were able to constantly keep him healed by being well coordinated I was informed that kicking ass beats out coordination any day.

3)You are a Healbot
You are a machine which groups are required to have to be able to defeat opponents. People input a tell about needing more hit points and expect you to output a healing spell. As if it wasn't bad enough that people treated your goals as unimportant but some don't even treat you as if you were a real person. One of the major complaints about raiding is that it makes players feel like a cog in a big machine since their actions are very restricted. Healers go through this every time they are grouped.

I've listed 6 negative reasons that I believe are partly responsible for the healer shortage in MMORPGs. Some are direct design issues while others are social issues which have formed because of the design issues. There is hope though since I hear developers have some control over design. It's not too far fetched that eventually someone might be able to make a healing class which was fun to play and useful to groups. While game developers might not have been eager to make such changes to healing classes they are beginning to see the negative aspects of healer rarity. MMO subscribers are less patient with bad design that causes long wait times and making a required class unpopular to play is definitely bad design.

Tomorrow I am going to try throwing some ideas around on how to make healers more fun to play. The problem of course is that everyone has a different definition of fun.

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


Anonymous said...

Heya Relm,
Found your blog on the WoW forums, very well put mate. My main is a 60 priest (healbot) and I couldnt agree more.

Anonymous said...

I'll agree that its hard being a priest (myself haveing a 60, a 70, and a 19 twink priest), but it sounds as if you almost have scorne for the other classes.

My experience has been entirely different from ANYTHING you just described. I am praised for my healing abilities (which are very good), I use many strategies and tactics which could determine the outcome of the fight (i.e. knowing when to shield/renew the warrior as opposed to greater healing him, variations on where to stand, variations on when to move, knowing when to use higher threat healing and shielding myself to pull a mob to me and save some mana, when to bandage as opposed to healing, etc... the list can go on), and if the maintank dies, I'm usually in a party that is comprised of players who break the game down strategically and who can see who dragged it in (usually the hunter).

Also, while soloing as a HOLY PRIEST, I can take on 3 to 4 mobs at once... and I can take down elites up to 2 levels above me (above 60, my level or lower cause of the massive damage they deal). Not because of my gear, but because of strategy, knowing when to heal, when to fear, what methods to use when attacking... a good combination of holy fire, mind blast, S.W.P., and shield+wand will bring down almost any mob your level or lower without you taking a single point of damage.

I agree with the bit about not being the hero... you arent. But you're the one that makes it possible for the hero to exist... in Marvel or Capcom or whatever labels the heroes with sidekicks fall under, you will see that heroes dont NEED their sidekicks... what good did robin ever do batman? Nothing. He got in trouble a few times and batman had to bail him out. Shortround to Indi? Again, nothing, and shortround almost got indi's heart ripped out from negligence. The relationship between a priest and his warrior is quite different. And yes, I chose those words on purpose. Many times, a priest and warrior will pair up as the heroes. If the group functions at maximum efficiency in an instance, the warrior is the only player taking any damage. The priest will mainly heal the warrior with a few helter skelter heals to other party members who pick up aggro for a second or who get an angry mob breaking their crowd control. The priest makes the warrior and has the true power. If the warrior scorns the priest, the priest can leave and warriors that dont have a priest to back them up are a dime a dozen. If the priest knocks out the warrior, however, then you up a creek without a paddle.

I dont mean to attack your views, merely share mine which are different so people can see both sides of the equation. As I read those paragraphs it honestly sounded to me like you may have been in the guild led by that guy that is featured in the "MINUS 50 DKP" video. I apologize for the poor experience you had, or the one you didnt have and chose to create there and I hope this comment lightened the views of readers who are considering rolling a priest.

Anonymous said...

Soooo true, just my feelings. Still, somehow it is good to be a healer, otherwise we wouldn't do it, would we? :)