Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How-to Survive Playing a Healer

I've played a wide majority of classes in MMOs over the years and I've found myself experiencing every role in the combat trinity. All of them have their perks and downsides which are mostly set by the game design. However, sometimes the downsides of a playing a certain class are primarily set by player behavior and the peer pressure they exert. Its because of this that the role of healer can be particularly grueling. World of Warcraft was the first MMO where I focused on a healing class in the end game and I became quite familiar with how they were treated. Deaths were always my fault, I got constant tells asking me to heal while already grouped, and people often pressured me to stay on longer then I wanted to play.

Luckily I'm a mildly anti-social sort and my responses to those situations were always, "get bent", "get lost", and "get real". Unfortunately, I had chosen to play a paladin and found myself in these situations quite often since everyone assumed I was a masochistic healbot. I wasn't alone as a lot of people fell for the holy warrior image that Blizzard had expressed through their lore and class descriptions. Still as easy as it would have been to blame Jeff Kaplan (and I do) I could have just switched classes. But as much agony as it was to only ever use two buttons on my hotbar I grew to like the benefits of being a healer. While grouping I had a stronger say in what instance we ran and often it was very easy to make a group.

These benefits of course disappeared the second I joined a raiding guild. The guild leaders decided what instances we ran and of course most of my friends were in the raids and not available to do anything else. Also have you ever tried to do anything else as a healer during raid time. No matter how much you don't care it can get tiring ignoring a million tells and raid requests. The primary benefit of playing a healer was gone and I like many other healers was approaching burnout. The funny thing was that the arenas basically saved my interest in staying holy and I had a nice long career as a healer through seasons 1-3. Just relying on PvP to keep you sane isn't enough though and not every healer is going to like that part of the game. That's why I decided to write down some tips on how I survived playing a healer.

Tips to Surviving as a Healer

1) Be proud of your Healing Crits
Healing in a fight instead of directly attacking does not meet the primal instinct we have to smash faces. We can try to ignore our instincts and take satisfaction at contributing to the group's overall success but few people can actually do this for very long. To avoid developing a chip on your shoulder its important that you be proud of your healing and not get jealous of the dps. Every time they link the damage meter just respond with the healing meter. Also make sure to brag about your highest healing crit of the night.

2) Do not join a guild unless you have some voice in it.
When you join a guild as a healer there's a tendency to treat you as a commodity. You'll log on and guild chat tends to have messages like "5 healers. Ok was can go now" or "Finally our healer logs on". Your plans are sort of made by committee and you lose a lot of the influence you had the group level. While you can always leave a guild that overworks you, it's much easier to just make sure you'll have some voice in the decision making. Either make sure you have good friends who are guild officers or just do what most priests do and start dating one.

3) Invest in Alt Characters
Make sure you have a lot of alternative characters you can play. Don't be surprised when guild officers try to find out the name of every character you play and more often than not succeed in tracking you down on raid night. Basically pretend you’re a movie star and they're the paparazzi. If you can avoid them you might actually get some "me" time but if you get caught your stuck signing pictures all night.

4) Instead of #3 you could always just grow a pair
Never underestimate the effectiveness of simply telling people "No". Some people might not understand you don't want to raid every night and will try to throw all sorts of begging/rules/naked photos in your face. The simple matter of the fact is that if 24 people all asked you to do something do you feel obligated to do it? If you answer "yes" then stick with tip #3 and avoid looking in mirrors.

5) Routinely let someone die
Besides being funny it’s important that your dps and tanks don't get too complacent. If you have a string of raids where your healing is too perfect then they start expecting it every time. Unfortunately, healing is just like playing a game of whack a mole and at some point too many moles are going to start poking their heads up. It's better that they expect a few deaths then have them accused you of watching "Lost" while raiding.

6) Have a friend who is a Warrior
Doing battlegrounds as a healing class is a lesson in futility unless you have a murder machine to follow around. This also makes it easier to form a group for instances, quests, arenas and pretty much everything in the game. Basically warriors are the yin to your yang and as much as paladins and druids have been improved as dps and tanks they still aren't as good as most warriors. This isn't to say that warriors are better than the other dps/tank classes just that it’s easier for warriors to get the items for arms and protection.

7) Explore PvP
As much fun as it is to become an expert in ever stun ability in the game they’re other benefits to healing in a PvP environment. One benefit is that the gear rewards for PvP tend to be better for soloing and decrease the time it takes to do quests and dailies. The other is that healing is much more exciting in PvP then it is for most PvE raids. While bosses always react the same way in a dungeon, I can guarantee you that player strategy in the arenas will change every minute. Each match is like a unique blood covered snow flake.

8) Set a Deadline
Raids runs late and you hate to ruin everyone's fun by leaving but on the other hand going to bed at 4am and waking up two hours later is for college students cramming for midterms. Establish a maximum time you want to be playing and give plenty of warnings in raid chat leading up to that time. Most guild officers won't begrudge you a deadline since its a lot better then faking a disconnect which is what most healers actually do to get some sleep. Or so I've been told.

9) Bring Real Friends and Family
Having someone you can talk to about the game in real life tends to make the experience much more enjoyable. Couples tend to do really well in World of Warcraft and I've seen a large percentage of them become cornerstones in guilds. Another advantage is you can totally embarrass a friend in real life by bringing up that they play a MMO. If they gender bend make sure to mention their character's name and tendency to wear chain mail bikinis.

10) Do Different Things
Don't get stuck in a rut doing the same things over and over again. Just because your talents maximize your healing doesn't mean you have "Raid Healbot" stamped on your chest. Try forming up groups to do wacky things like raid towns or complete elite quests. You'll be surprised how many people want to be on a healer's good side and want to help. I'm not sure why. It's either because they'll want help with something later down the line or else they think you’re a girl.


Capn John said...

I had a sadistic chuckle at #5 >;)

I've never got a Priest passed 30, but in an attempt to Heal for an unorthodox Deadmines Group I definitely experienced the Blame when we Wiped. Having also played a Tank it was also funny (not really) to be blamed for Wipes.

Funny how nobody blames the DPS for DPSing too much and pulling Aggro then fleeing in terror so the Tank has to chase him down, losing Aggro on the other Mobs, who promptly slaughter the Healer, the remaining DPS, then you, but not the Rogue who suddenly remembers he has Vanish. Bastich.

Shalkis said...

Speaking as a DPS class..

#5 is absolutely necessary. Just because you can fix other people's mistakes (tank standing in avoidable AoE, DPS pulling aggro), it doesn't mean that you should. If you keep covering for them, they'll never get better. There's a time when getting your knees scraped will help you become a better cyclist more than a set of training wheels ever will.

Viet said...

They think you're a girl.

Relmstein said...

Crap, Never should have wore that healing robe.

steve said...

Having been a healing class along side relmstein in most of the mmos we have ever played I can safely say he left out an important rule.

#11 You decided when it is time to run....and you don't necessarily have to share that in advance.

Nothing better than to look around for your healer and getting a message telling you to run after he has already zoned out...or the blair witch like vent shout to "runaway".
On a side note to what capn john said, if you are the rogue that caused the wipe, groups don't like if you have an emote that yells "Ninja Vanish" everytime you use your vanish....something about adding insult to injury.

Chris said...

Possibly my new favorite wow blog since :)

Our guild is having an epic flame war with a new applicant over this exact theme here: