I found this picture on the internet. Google links it back to ectmmo.com – so credit to them, I suppose!
I have now had experience with all six of the raid bosses that are currently available, as well as the two world bosses. As I have approached raiding this expansion, it has been with a love/hate relationship with my mana bar. And by love/hate, I suppose it’s probably more like a 20/80 split. There have been so many times that I’ve approached the end of an encounter cursing that damn blue bar. Cursing the raid wide AE damage pummeling the raid. Cursing my relative inability to efficiently deal with it.
And one night, as I was trying to squeeze out one more spell at the end of Elegon, in hopes that it might keep someone alive long enough to do just a tiny bit more damage, I couldn’t help but wonder: who decides what makes healing fun?
I mean, I know that the devs are invested in making the game engaging for everyone. But as we are immersed in yet another healing paradigm change I once again revel in the shortcomings of our toolkit, that are always highlighted the strongest when mana is an issue. But I don’t necessarily want to talk about how Mushrooms fell flat, or how Rejuv is still our way to get a raid topped up in high damage situations, and is so expensive that it’s laughable to think it can be effective – which means you have to throttle the one of the only tools you have to work with in those situations.
Rather, what I want to think about is why the devs seem to always go back to “making mana important” or why making your mana pool so tight that it’s borderline frustrating to work with equates to fun.
There are a lot of things about healing that I enjoy and would say make the game engaging and fun for me (hint: struggling with mana constantly isn’t on the top of that list). I like the constantly changing dynamics of healing. I like the awareness that is required to be a good healer. I like that my reaction time could be the different between the life or death of one of my raid mates. I like figuring out the best times to utilize certain tools like Tranq and ToL in an encounter. I like trying to find creative ways to use my toolkit to enhance my performance.
But at no point do I like losing a member of the raid because I lack the mana at the end of a fight with constant damage to continue to heal (and granted, the shortcomings of our toolkit are an extension of this problem for us that make it more obvious). I don’t like that I have to consciously try to monitor my spell selection so I have enough mana to push through burst sections of damage to see other healers with almost full mana pools laugh off those sections of damage that I’d been so preciously hoarding my mana for (I’m looking at you SCK and Healing Rain). And I guess while I’m here, I should toss out another obligatory I don’t like that early encounter dynamics again appear to be inconsistent with the amount of healing (and subsequently the number of healers) needed to succeed. Which, at this juncture, I think is more a reflection on the new healing paradigm and what it is realistic to heal with our new, static, mana pools.
I don’t really mind having to keep an eye on my mana and make smart spell selections, but I think it’s fair to say that I also don’t like having it be so constrictive that I can’t effectively utilize the tools available to me to be successful either. Whether this is primarily a toolkit issue or a mana paradigm issue, I’m not entirely sure yet. Likely it is a combination of both. But in either case, I can’t say that the recent changes have made the game more “fun” for me as a healer. If anything, I’m probably a little more frustrated at the holes in our toolkit, and exasperated that they have, yet again, been ignored – which is only highlighted by the new constraints on our mana.
So how would I fix healing and make it “fun”?
I guess I’m not entirely sure that I’d do it exclusively via our mana bar. I do think that there should be consequences to just mashing buttons mindlessly; but I also think that sometimes limited mana takes trying to make spell selection engaging a step too far in the other direction, to where the limitations actually hinder some of your freedom of making dynamic and interesting choices. Which, in turn, makes healing less interesting and less fun. Or maybe it’s just me that feels this way – after all, I did spend the past week untraining myself from casting Nourish as a filler and chanting “careful with those rejuvs” in my head every time burst damage hit the raid.
I suppose the question that needs to be resolved, and that is likely being tossed around in boardrooms as blizzard, is how to make spell selection meaningful. It’s clear that so far that the conclusion has been to restrict the resources required, but I think in a way that is somewhat counterproductive. Rather than making healing more dynamic, it often stifles the ability to make interesting choices. And, honestly, I’m not really sure how to balance the meaningful choices vs. resources problem. I just know that right now I feel a little bit like it is off balance towards the resource side.
What I do know is that being frustrated with my mana bar every raid isn’t particularly thrilling. Knowing that the abilities I do have drain too heavily on my resources for them to be as effective isn’t overly fun. I’ve healed every expansion since Vanilla, and my glasses aren’t rosy enough to say each expansion didn’t have its problems. I think the worst was probably the unending mana pools and mindless blanketing that was WotLK, but I’m not entirely sure that what we have now is better. Somewhere there has to be a middle ground. Somewhere there has to be the ability to enforce meaningful choices without making healers want to scream after every raid.
Perhaps the answer could be found in the in combat mana regen model. What if spirit did more for us? What if we could dictate when we needed more mana and when we needed more throughput? Stay with me here as I go off the deep end! What if we had something similar to that hunter aspect that caused you to generate resources more quickly, at the cost of how much damage you could do in that aspect. We could call it “meditated states”. When we are in a meditated state our regen increases, but our throughput decreases. This gives us the opportunity to be more active about when we want to regenerate mana. And going back to the days of “healing rotations” also offers the opportunity for team work, where you can rotate who is going to take the throughput hit in order to have a period of regeneration.
My thought in this is that it allows you to maintain the ability to make a plethora of selections with your toolkit – but also means that you have to monitor those choices and make meaningful selections, because being in a meditated state isn’t ideal. However, you are also not irreparably harmed when you have periods of strong healing – or heal like an idiot – because you have another meaningful choice to make: entering a meditated state and increasing your regen to prepare for the next period of burst damage.
With this thought, people who heal smartly will have to spend less time in a meditated state, and will be stronger performers while retaining their ability to make meaningful spell selections. Those who don’t heal smartly won’t perform as strongly because they will be forced to spend more time meditated, and will either have to learn to be smarter with their choices – or accept they will never be an exceptional healer. In short, this puts a lot into the healers hands, without the finite “if you run out of mana, that’s it, game over” mentality of having everything tied solely to running out of mana. And, in my opinion, has the possibility of being more engaging and more involved for the healer because it lets them, rather than the game, make decisions with regards to their mana.
I don’t know if it would work, but I do think it would be more engaging and more fun that what we have right now.
What do you think? Do you like the thought of meditated states? What would you do to make healing fun?