Updated Mon, Feb 22, 2010 by Messiah
World of Warcraft has changed a lot over the years, some of it for the better, some just for the sake of change. There are big changes just over the horizon once again coming to the game in the form of Cataclysm. No one other than Blizzard is really sure of when it is going to hit the stores or just exactly what it is going to change in the game, but it will change a lot. We know that Azeroth will change, we know that stats will change, and that is just the tip of the changes apparently.
One change that has me acutely interested is the several references to tanking and healing changes coming. Blizzard has stated at Blizzcon and on the forums that they would like to make Tanking and healing more interesting and involving in the expansion. How they going to do this is a bit of a mystery although some information has been leaked, such as larger health pools and smaller healing values. What would make tanks and healers more interesting and involving to play though?
Having two end game tanks and two end game healers lets me take a pretty good stab at the question as I can see both sides of the issue. I know how tanks and healers work in raids and groups and how the two class types work together. I also have several ideas on how they could be made to work together better in the game. Do my ideas match up with what Blizzard is thinking, or are they way out in left field? Only time will tell.
Things both class types need
Healers and Tanks ideally need to work well together, that’s a key point of making both classes fun and interesting to play. The symbiotic relationship between the two is what creates a lot of interest and what ties players together in game. Luckily many of the things that I believe are needed in Cataclysm to make both class types better, are the same for both class types. Both class types need some excitement added for them, both need some interesting gear choices, and better cohesion between them. How to do this though?
For excitement both class types need a little more variety thrown at them. Again some things translate to both, such as more base abilities to be used to break up standard rotations. This can be done by adding more specialty abilities, which could become unwieldy or adding more interesting mechanics to fights. Aggro drops or juggling aggro can do this for tanks in most fights.
One thing that could fix part of this for healers is the much talked about larger health pools coming in Cataclysm. Right now players spend far too much of their time at either 100% health or dead. There is very little in-between other than on a tank. This is due to healers being able to top off most players in a single heal, which does not lead to a very exciting game, everyone is either full health or dead. Blizzard has already said they will be implementing bigger health pools and smaller heals to try to address this.
When Cataclysm launches I think that Tanks and Healers need to have some interesting gear choices to make sure they have to juggle gear and think about it. Unfortunately I do not think this is the way the game is going with the simplified stats, but would love to be proven wrong. Blizzard has said that they are going to make it interesting but with the removal of so many stats I think it will be hard to do. Having players make a choice with gear and playing a certain way based on those choices adds interest, having everyone aim for one best set of gear is boring, at least to me.
The two class types also need more cohesion between them, possibly even some abilities or talents that work off of each other. Right now each has talents based on cooldowns, which are all cool, but how much more interesting would it be if more of them interacted with the other class types’ cooldown? This is probably very hard to balance, but would add a lot of interest and timing between the two players. Something that Blizzard could look at is the Heroic Opportunities system that Sony uses in Everquest 2. This system uses abilities that start chains that other players and classes need to finish for extra damage, healing, or other effects.
There is one major thing that tanks need to make them interesting to play and that is bringing threat back into play. Right now threat is almost a non-issue in the game for almost any tank that is geared remotely close to their DPS players. When was the last time that DPS pulled aggro or really had to slow down drastically? When was the last time a healer pulled healing aggro? Neither happens any more to any great degree. Fighting aggro and stressing over the amount you can produce brings excitement to the class type. Right now, I do not remember the last time I had to worry about it.
Some issues come into play for Warriors on AOE pulls and sometimes for Death Knights or Druids if DPS starts too early after an AOE pull. In general though AOE threat is so easy for every tanking class that most non-boss pulls have devolved to simple AOE pulls with single target DPS and coordinated crowd control being a thing of the past. And don’t even get me started on Paladins! Paladins are a complete joke on AOE pulls. All we have to do is run in toss our shield and consecrate and all the enemies are locked onto us. The current AOE threat situation has removed so much skill, finesse, and coordination from the game it is sad.
Tanks also need to have a bit more choice in gear to be able to create sets specific to certain fights or situations. This used to be viable with block sets, avoidance sets, and mitigation sets. With the upcoming simplification of stats I for one am worried that playing with numbers will be greatly reduced. There needs to be a way for tanks to distinguish themselves. Knowing that Tank A has huge avoidance and is good in fight X, but Tank B has huge mitigation or block and is better in fight Y adds a lot to the game and a lot of enjoyment to tanks collecting different pieces for different reasons.
Healers, or at least certain classes of healers, need more choices in their healing rotation. They also need more time to think and make intelligent decisions instead of constantly spamming one heal over and over again. For many classes that is what healing has devolved to. For example many Shaman healers get assigned to raid healing and just pick a player that has taken damage and cast chain heal. They do this over and over just picking different targets.
A friend that just quit the game as a Shaman healer said he got tired of clicking a player and pressing 1, clicking a new player and pressing 1, etc. That is all he had to do throughout a raid if players were anywhere near geared for it. It was effective, it worked, but it got boring to the point he has left the game for a while. Paladins are much like Shamans as well with only two main heals and many Paladins focus on just one of those heals. They need to have some more options and reasons to use them.
Not all healers need them though. Druid healers seem to provide an interesting balance unless you are worried about absolute efficiency. They have lots of options and can do multiple things, jumping from player to player for HoTs, through a big heal, or throw a fast small heal. All of their spells seem to have a place and work well. They are by far the most interesting healer to play. All healers should be that interesting, they should be able to raid heal or single target heal, not have one specific role.
Healers also need a major revamp in the UI department. I know of very few raid healers that have touched the default UI in ages. This needs to change. Players that are levelling up and may not know any better get stuck using a very poor interface for healing, get frustrated or bored with it, and leave the game. Once healers find Grid or Healbot they like it far better, find it more interesting to heal as it gives them a bit more thinking time, and stick around longer. I think it is far overdue for Blizzard to come up with a healing interface that is more efficient and fun for healers, and this is the perfect time for it.
Messiah’s Wish List
So to sum it all up it comes down to a few simple things for both class types. As we all know these two class types are the most under represented, underplayed class types, mainly because players get bored with them or frustrated with them. The simplified version of my wish list is:
Time is far overdue for Blizzard to give Healers and Tanks some love and make the game more interesting for them. That’s what my whole wish list comes down to, interesting. I do not want things easy, or trivial, as they have seemed to migrate towards. I want options, interest, and challenge. I firmly believe that is what most players want, even if they don’t realize it. After all how many people still play tic-tac-toe once they figure out that it really isn’t a skill game? It’s a child’s game and as people grow up what brings them back for more is challenge and reward. Let’s bring that back for healers and tanks in Cataclysm!