A Healer’s Lament

by on October 11, 2011

Whilst the Kitten Standard was occupying the front page today, another topic crept out of the WoW woodwork, and potentially one that’s more serious for the game.

The current raid content contains fights that wildly differ on the number of healers and sometimes number of tanks required. With the nerfbat swinging as often as it does, that exaggerates the changes even more – a fight that used to require one composition suddenly requires another.

And so today we have two healers lamenting the extremely awkward situation they find themselves in, where they’re forced to either sit on the bench or take a DPS role they don’t enjoy for half the fights in the raid.

First up, Beruthiel of Falling Leaves and Wings chimes in with a typically well-argued post explaining the problem and its effects

“People in competitive raid teams want to be competitive. They want to do their best. They want to be performers. And if they are constantly at the bottom, in their off spec role, it will eventually get to them. As can comments that are meant to be a joke, or even comments meant to be helpful, about their performance in their off spec. The other night I bit the bullet and DPS’d for Heroic Staghelm. It was my first time for that fight in that role. I was mildly competitive with some of our lower DPS – but when push came to shove, at the end I beat the tank. I’m one of our top performers as a healer – and what I got to say about my undergeared, and uncomfortable performance as DPS was “Hey! I beat the tank…at least”. Frankly, I was embarrassed.”

Beruthiel explains the problems, point by point, and successfully demolishes the “well, that’s what dual specs are for” argument. A dual spec is fine – but players tend to prefer one role or another. A game that’s unpredictably forcing players into a role they don’t enjoy and can’t do well at is a game with a problem.

And that’s where we come to the second post, from a more personal point of view. Vidyala of Manalicious has been going through the same pains that Beruthiel has been – and in her eloquent post, she talks about just how damn sick of it she is

“I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me. So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself?”

There’s no understating this one – if the design of WoW’s raids are meaning that raiders are starting to conclude they’d rather not raid than be forced into an unfun role, the game’s got a problem, and every raid leader out there has a problem. Blizzard are going to have to think about this one – but so is everyone who’s involved in a raiding guild. How can we mitigate the problem of forcing people to play a role they don’t like?

Any ideas?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Neill October 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm

As has been said elsewhere and by other people, on comments for both those entries, I don’t think that the designers can be blamed for this.

The designers put together encounters, and then people work out how to deal with them. If people chose to take more or less healers, tanks or DPS than an ‘ideal’ set-up (whatever that is), then that’s their choice, and no-one is forcing them into it.


Hugh Hancock October 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm

@Neill – I’m not entirely sure that’s how it works. The Blizzard designers have access to a lot of data and a lot of experience, and I’m reasonably sure that when they design an encounter – or its nerfs – they know what roles and how many of each will be needed.

It’s a pretty simple equation, in fact – the boss’s damage output is directly proportional to the number of healers at X gear level required. If the devs wanted to have a more even number of healers and DPS required, they could simply up the incoming damage and reduce the boss’s health to increase healer numbers, or reduce damage and boost health to increase required DPS numbers.


Shintar October 14, 2011 at 1:24 am

Interesting topic. I think it’s unfortunately a natural part of the evolution of raiding. As Blizzard struggles to keep fights interesting and significantly different from each other, requiring different group setups is just one more way of making a fight stand out. I also think that it’s no coincidence that Beru mentions that the problem seemed to start around the time of Ulduar, which is the same patch that introduced dual specs – though I suppose it’s a chicken/egg question whether dual spec was introduced to enable players to tackle more varied encounters or whether the developers started designing fights differently because they could now expect players to switch specs at the drop of a hat. Either way it just goes to show that no good feature seems to come without unpleasant side effects.


tehsmashz October 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

@Neill – For 25 man, I agree with you.

However, anyone in a serious 10 man guild who did 6/7h pre-nerf knows that is simply not true.

There were multiple fights where it was either pointless to three heal (domo) or put you at a serious and quantifiable disadvantage (ryolight, alysrazor, baleroc)

That is the designer’s fault.

It’s the designer’s fault for tuning them the way they did, and even more basic than that; it’s their fault for attempting to make 10 and 25 the same difficulty.

@OP – I absolutely agree, when we did this tier’s progression, the healer that had to go dps hated it. Just like the quotes, he was embarrassed at his performance, and we sadly had to replace him with another player for those fights (he hated it so much that he told us he would rather afk in stormwind than dps), which eventually ended in his departure from the guild because he felt completely neglected.


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