So, no posts here in ages and it would be kind of embarrassing if the last thing I wrote was a tediously boring bit about extracting audio tracks from mkv files. Instead, let’s have a tediously boring rant about healing in MMOs.
I played a lot – and I hesitate to think about how much “a lot” means, here – of Final Fantasy 14 last year and early this year, and if I were recommending an MMO to anyone curious about the genre it would still probably be FFXIV. It’s probably the most heavily story-driven MMO on the market, to the point of having different quest icons for “GO HERE FOR MORE PLOT” and “GO HERE IF YOU JUST WANNA KILL TEN RATS”, and I have developed a genuine fondness for the game’s characters over the course of several expansions’ worth of storylines.
If you like playing healing classes – and I do! – it is not exactly the most exciting thing.
Very little of FFXIV’s player damage is random. If you’re fighting a boss that casts a big AE nuke 90 seconds into the encounter, you know that boss will always cast the big AE nuke at 90 seconds, you know to save your “heal everyone back to full” spell for 91 seconds into the encounter, and the 89 seconds prior to that are spent spamming damage spells at the boss. In the worst examples, you know in advance that the four DPS players in the group – and only the four DPS players – are about to be afflicted with a status effect that needs to be cured off or that they need to run away from the group. There’s no need to adjust for “what happens if this lands on a tank or healer?” because the game is scripted to make it always hit players in particular roles.
In addition, most late-game encounters in FFXIV have rigid time limits. There is no outhealing a party-wide instant-death attack that is going to occur eleven minutes after the boss is engaged.
The end result is that healers in FFXIV are usually reacting to very predictable damage and are expected to be nuking 90% of the time to help prevent running into that “you took too long, everyone dies” attack.
By contrast, I have been playing a little bit of WoW recently because both my wife and I were in a WoW mood and it’s a good thing when we’re both playing the same game at the same time.
Now, WoW has some serious issues. It’s creaking with age and it really doesn’t feel like Blizzard particularly has its heart in pumping out new content, and the graphical style is… well, it’s not going back to 1999 EQ levels of bad, but it’s definitely stylized in a way that is a bit marmite.
Healing is marvelously chaotic.
Just look at all of those green bars, at various levels of “healthy” to “not doing so hot”, and imagine that you have a few healing tools to choose from and need to decide which character is at risk of dying if you don’t use the fast, mana-hog heal and which can live long enough for your bigger, more mana-efficient heal to land.
Oh, and there are like half a dozen different healing specs and they all have different tool sets with obvious shortages. I the last time I played WoW, I was playing as priest, and got used to having shields, heal-over-time spells, group heals, just a marvelous toolbox to counter the minor drawback of basically being made out of tissue paper.
This time, I’ve been playing a “Holy” Paladin, and it has great single-player heals but suffers tremendously in any situation where there’s a lot of AE damage… but I also have the ability to put an invulnerability bubble on a character who is about to otherwise eat floorboards, which my priest character never had. There are also druid and shaman healers, all of which seem viable but have their own weaknesses.
FFXIV has White Mages and … the other two healers, who kind of struggle to find identity. Scholar is an “anticipate damage and put shields on the person who is about to take damage” class, and Astrologians are just kind of … there. I don’t know much about them and rarely grouped with them. They’ve avoided adding healing classes past these three.
Now you’ve lost a few people. The boss obviously isn’t dead yet. It would be good to have someone resurrect those players back into the fight, BUT… in-combat resurrections are incredibly limited in WoW and need to be used strategically. If the raid uses up one of its rezzes on a dead DPS player and the off tank goes down, there may not be a rez available for him.
Obviously, every MMO handles the question of mid-combat resurrections differently. EQ1 had its five-minutes resurrection sickness, which made sense because boss fights in that could last upwards of a half hour, EQ2 has its mechanic where the boss heals 4% of its life every time a character dies, FFXIV lets you bring back players without limits but you are still facing that encounter timer… You could argue the good and bad points of either, but I am currently appreciating WoW’s approach to it.
The end result is that, for all the things that Blizzard could be doing SO MUCH BETTER, if you want a Green Bar Filling Strategy Game, they have that in spades.
Anyway. Probably not the best post to come back from a long hiatus with, but I wasn’t quite ready to let this blog shuffle off into nothingness quite yet.