Less is More?

Less is More?

As some of you may or may not know, I am actually trained in the skills of an architect. It’s a fun fact about me on the off chance you care about that sort of thing. The reason I bring this up is because all throughout my college career, my teachers attempted to drive home the point that “Less is More”. This is not a new design concept by any means, in fact it is a rather old idea, a 19th century proverbial phrase. It is first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is often associated with this phrase as a founder  of modern architecture and proponent of simplicity of style.

So I’m sure you’re asking why I’m dragging architecture into your dragon game right now yes? Well, quite simply the idea of less is more is a design concept that many game companies have embraced. To do more with less decreases production time, allows for a better shake down of bugs and glitches, and can free up a developer to create some very innovative game play.  One need not look much further than Braid or The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom to see what I mean here.

Blizzard it would seem has just begun to adapt to this way of thinking, at least it appears that way. You can see this in the latest build of the Cataclysm Beta. The new 31-point talent system has streamlined the talent trees by removing  bloat and overused space. What we are left with is a cleaner, albeit smaller, talent tree. A lot of the talents cut away were instead folded into the players choice in specialization, for example Earth Shield was removed as a talent and given as a core spell when a player chooses to specialize in Restoration. This design model is an attempt to do more with less. Less wasted talent space will lead to more interesting talents in the tree, as well more interesting game play for players… in theory anyways. I wrote up a more detailed breakdown of these changes on WoW.com so feel free to check it out. This is my more personal thoughts on these changes, and well… I just felt the need to keep talking about them some.

While it is still in an early beta phase, I can’t help but feel… disrupted a little bit. While I agree that some of the talents should have been moved, I’m not entirely feeling good about what was pulled out and what was put in. I agree that for restoration, Earth Shield should have been removed as a talent and made into a base spell. You will never hear me complain about that. Every resto shaman I know takes that talent, and in truth it is a very core, very iconic spell that is part of the identity of a resto shaman. If you are a restoration shaman without Earth Shield… well I just don’t even know. I am curious though as to why Mana Tide Totem was left in place though. Like ES it is a very core shaman talent and again something most if not all resto shaman take. Why not remove it as a talent and give it as a bonus for choosing the restoration specialization? That could further open up the tree and allow more space for more fun talents. From a design perspective it would make more sense to make it a base ability or a specialization bonus and open the slot for something else… maybe something like Spirit Link!

Another thing that confused me was some of the additions, Spark of Life to be exact. One of the things that Blizzard stated was that they wanted to move away from/remove talents that added passive % bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, I like the talent. Buffing the healing done to yourself has been near godly in the beta (*ahem* restoiz4tanking!) and it makes the passive heal from Healing Stream Totem nice for longevity, but I am still surprised to see it included. It does go well with Ancestral Resolve as far as that whole staying alive thing goes as well. I fully plan on using these for tanking as a healer!

Telluric Currents would be nice for leveling… if it was lower in the tree. I can’t see taking it as a dedicated healer in end game, as it is rare that I have to DPS at all and even then it is usually a flame shock followed by more healing and then a lava burst. It could be useful for soloing… maybe.

We lost a lot however. A lot of our supercharged healing is gone, and we are dreadfully low on passive crit. Some additions to the tree give us back some of the bonus healing, but no where near where it was. I understand that they want to make healing harder and more thoughtful and I am pro difficulty on that, but a shaman’s best procs all come from crit. Passively we can push 40% in a raid without trying, this helps with heals from Ancestral Awakening and helps trigger Blessing of the Eternals sure. It also is necessary for shaman mana regeneration. Improved Water Shield procs off of critical heals. The more crits you have the more likely you are to regen mana and be able to keep casting. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time not so long ago that shaman were having longevity issues. IWS was implemented to compensate for that, but by removing the passive crit, it hurts our regeneration rates. Meditation is supposed to allow for further regeneration, but the question remains if it will wind up being enough.

Along those same lines, Tidal Force is out. I really really miss this spell. It has become second nature in to pop this spell and its absence is keenly felt. When I’m healing on live I usually have a rhythm going. Like say for Valithria;

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Tidal Force > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc. Refreshing Riptide when off cooldown.

Now it has become

Riptide > Healing Wave > Healing Wave > Chain Heal > Look for Tidal Force *DAMNIT* Unleashed Weapon > Healing Wave > Healing Wave etc.

Throws me off quite a bit. Still getting used to it. I can see what they are doing by trimming the trees and I approve. While I may not be a staunch minimalist, I know when things have gotten bloated. The restoration tree on live definitely is bloated, and the one on the current beta could use some more pruning .

So Blizzard, keep in mind that less is more. Players have been doing creative things with very little for a while now. Just make what we have better defined and maybe move a few more things around. We don’t necessarily need a rolls-royce (although it would not be turned down!) we just need things that function well. We’ve been trotting along pretty much unchanged for a good bit, just make sure you don’t break us ok?

So what do you guys think of the changes so far? Anything you noticed you love? Hate? Anything you think they should add in?


Understanding New Talents and Thoughts on Priests

Last week, it was announced that talent trees would get sliced. Reason being that there was too much unnecessary crap and not enough fun talents. Most of us sort of got the idea of what they wanted to do. Include more talents that do something tangible, that we can feel or use.

Potentially free Lightning Bolt after casting a Lightning Bolt? Cool.

Gradually increasing healing by some random percentage of which you can’t really see? Not quite as exciting.

Preview the new trees and see what they’ll look like

How specialization works

Okay, so the way I understand it, the moment you ding level 10, you get to start specializing your character. The moment you invest your first talent, you get access to a myriad of spells and abilities which define that particular tree.

Let’s use a Priest for example.

As Holy

I get access to:

  • Desperate Prayer
  • Holy Priest (Pushback reduction on discipline and holy spells)
  • Meditation

As Discipline

I get access to:

  • Penance
  • Pushback resistance
  • Meditation

From what I can see, no special training is required. You are well on your way to becoming that specialized priest of your choice. There won’t be any 20/21 type builds either. You need to fully invest your points down one tree before you can fork over to a different one. The rate at which you receive talents points have been roughly halved as well. Figure you get a new point every 2 or maybe 3 levels.

What do I think?

My opinion though, I’m not sure what can be done to entice players to select holy at the lower levels. I notice a few sad face Priests when they notice that Desperate Prayer is the innate spell we get. Desperate Prayer makes the most sense for balance and logistical reasons (like what’s the point of getting Circle of Healing at level 10?) At that stage of the game, you’re hardly doing much in a party anyway. At least with the prayer, you can fire off a desperate heal if you pulled one too many murlocs.

I can’t count the number of times where I could’ve easily leveled the murlocs and their huts if I had access to Desperate Prayer.

Anyway, I can certainly see the foundation of Holy taking place. I’m trying to remember what the original 41 point talent was back in vanilla (Spirit of Redemption? Lightwell?). Now if they can just somehow throw in something new in place of Renew or Empowered Healing at the first level under Holy. What would be a decent ability at that level?

Holy seems quite top heavy in the sense that any of the deeper talents could easily fulfill the role as the 31 point talent. Guardian Spirit is the current one. Circle of Healing used to be the end talent back during Burning Crusade, if memory serves. I wouldn’t mind seeing Chakra and Guardian Spirit switched. From a symbolic perspective, I think a talent like that which gives your spells nifty bonuses whenever you string them together should be an ultimate skill.

But that’s inspired from assorted limit breaks from Final Fantasy.

From a logistical and practical standpoint? It might be better off if priests get a feel for Chakra earlier in their leveling life.

The Discipline side of things looks great! Power Word: Barrier as the 31 pointer? Awesome. It appears that Discipline is destined to be the leveling spec (due to Evangelism and Archangel).

One thing I noticed is the placement of Inner Focus. At 11 points in, it will not be accessible to Holy priests. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not. Inner Focus has been one of those taken-for-granted type talents that all healing priests usually get. For it to be cut off like for those that choose the path of Holy is going to be quite the impact. Here’s hoping it gets switched with Archangel.

Anyway, I like the direction the talent condensation is going. Obviously they’re not all complete or finalized yet. Some classes still have a few placeholders or leftover talents from live that aren’t supposed to be there.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have a heck of a time figuring out which healing priest type I want to switch to. I’ll probably end up dual speccing both anyway. I might just go back to my roots and be straight up holy again in the expansion.

How are you liking the talents so far? (And it doesn’t have to be restricted to just priests either)!

Where in the World is Spirit Link?

Where in the World is Spirit Link?


So, it has certainly been a busy week around the office so to speak. The announcement of the Cataclysm beta has everyone chomping at the bit, eagerly awaiting their invitation to what is sure to be one hell of a party.

Since the announcement of the beta there has been a flood of information. Among that information was many tidbits about Restoration shaman. I did an analysis of those updates over on wow.com feel free to check it out. The one thing that has been missing from all of this information has been Spirit Link.

Spirit Link was the original 51 talent in the restoration tree in the first Wrath of the Lich King beta build. I fell in love with this spell very early on, and was looking forward to using it in a raid. It was, however, not to be. Shortly after the second beta build of Wrath the talent was taken away like a jealous father stealing his daughter away in a tower prison, replaced by our now glorious Riptide. I still pine for Spirit Link however. I often wonder if, when I look up at the lonely stars at night, if  Spirit Link is somewhere looking up at the same stars missing me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Riptide, but my heart still belongs to Spirit Link.

When we got the very first set of class previews, Blizzard developers stated that they were going to try and bring Spirit Link back. The restoration shaman community was incredibly receptive to this, and there was much rejoicing. I know I danced a little bit at the news. So we eagerly awaited the announcement of its presence. When the beta information was released, I am sad to say that Spirit Link is MIA. There have been no official statements as of this post as to why it was not included this round, but I have a few suspicions.

The reason the spell was removed from the Wrath beta is that it was hard to balance. here was the original wording of the spell.

Spirit Link (Rank 1): You link the friendly target with two nearby targets, causing 50% of the damage taken to be distributed to the linked targets. After 2200 damage, the link will sever.

That is pretty interesting right? The problem was two fold here. First, the spell had no duration limit aside from the damage cap. So you could set it on two targets and just let it be. Second, the damage cap was either too low (2200 damage would be one swing from most bosses) or too high. Finding a sweet spot was always a problem as it was either way too weak, or way too powerful.

My guess is that either it is NYI (not yet included) or they are still having problems balancing it.  In the Wrath beta  it could be stacked and made damage mitigation moot. “Non def capped tank? We have three shaman NO PROBLEM!” type deal. I will be highly interested to see if it makes it to live, because I love it so much. If it doesn’t make it to live, it will surely still be the one that got away.  It was interesting and a brand new mechanic to play with. I love it like a fat kid loves cake, and I’m a fat kid that LOVES his cake. As a bonus here’s a video of the spell in use in the Wrath beta.

So what do you guys think? Want to see this spell make it live to Cataclysm? How would you balance it? How would you change it?

Also this week, my buddy shane has written a new Google Chrome extension called Armory Links. It allows you to look anyone up quickly and easily in any of the various armory and gear checking sites. You should check it out, I know I love it and use it frequently.

And if you’re heading to BlizzCon and are interested in custom badge art, be sure to swing by Ginny’s site and check out her stuff. She does great work, and I know she’s working on a custom Lodur piece for me as we speak.

Enter the Circle of Healing Podcast

I mentioned it briefly before, but it’s official now. There is a new World of Warcraft podcast in town. I’ve always had my sights set on expanding to podcasts and videos. Dawn Moore, the host and producer (Spiritual Guidance on WoW.com, discipline) will be regularly joined by Kinaesthesia (vodka’s ace priest, holy) and myself (some guy with multiple blogs, who plays both).

Now to be fair, we’re all priests. There will be times where we make efforts to discuss healing from perspectives of other classes. I suppose you can call us the Circle. Or something. Once get a little more established and comfortable, we’ll be bringing in some guest healers and specialists.

We’ll be recording new episodes twice a month.

What this podcast is

  • Healing discussion: We’re going to be talking about healing stuff. Expect to hear our thoughts and opinions about any and every aspect of healing.
  • Question and answer: Have a healing question? We might have a healing answer. These can either be fictional or real. But we figured someone out there will benefit from it.

What this podcast isn’t

  • It is not a WoW news show: Don’t expect us to be providing news or opinions on general WoW changes. There’s enough podcasts out there that do that already.
  • An update on our lives: We won’t be talking about what we did today or that week. We’re trying to keep a tight schedule so it’ll be straight to business. Although random interjections and tangents may occur, it won’t be a regular occurrence.

Why you should listen to it?

  • How many other WoW related healing podcasts can you name?
  • An educational experience (we hope)
  • Stuff that no other podcast has
  • Kinasthesia’s wit
  • Dawn’s on it
  • Me being… me (that’s not a selling point, is it?)

Oh but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what a former guildmate of mine had to say about it:

“Great insight from some of the game’s leading minds in Priestlyness. Hoping to hear more from them in the future!”

- Infiniz

Okay, enough of that. You want to listen to it and you want it now.

Episode 1: Introductions

Introductory podcast where we discuss our backgrounds, our thoughts at the current state of the healing priest (comforts and discomforts), and these blue posts about healing.

Mirror 1: Circle of Healing Podcast
Mirror 2: World of Matticus

Episode 2: Priests, Masters of Tangent

Big news for this episode? Cataclysm priest talent previews are available. I know that I didn’t put up a post yet detailing my thoughts on it, but you can hear my take on some of the talents here.

Mirror 1: Circle of Healing Podcast
Mirror 2: World of Matticus

The site for the podcast itself is still being developed, but the podcast episodes themselves were ready. Figured we may as well push them live.

Remember, we’re just starting out. Feel free to hit us with feedback, what you liked, didn’t like, want more of, and healing questions are always a plus.

Why It’s A Problem That Healers Don’t Communicate in PUGs

The end is nigh.

Healers don’t communicate properly in PUGs. It’s a can of worms waiting to explode in Cataclysm.

WotLK minted many new practices, including PUGing raids. While the level and quality of communication in PUGs has always been unpredictable, there’s been decline in healer communication since the LFD tool was introduced.

People don’t seem to want to engage in communication unless pushed. I rarely see anyone bring up the topic of healing assignments. I usually wait to see if anyone else will initiate communication to sort tank and raid assignments and then organise it myself. The favourite responses vary from “sure”, “just heal ffs” and the particularly fine “lol Apeorsa tht healing setup is so naxx”.

Considering how players might feel these days I’m not greatly surprised at this lack of communication. As the root of group play, random 5 mans are largely to blame. They tend towards brief and impersonal affairs at best and arenas for bullying at worst. Sure, nice runs do happen – but for some there’s little incentive to be nice with strangers they’ll see once. There are no seeds of trust and friendship, and that dearth puts cracks in the foundations we build bigger PUGs on.

I’m sure some healers think communication in PUGs is unnecessary. From their POV, they’re kinda right. Think of a tree – call him Furtree. He’s used to raiding with his guild. Perhaps PUGs just don’t feel the same – he doesn’t get the mutual comradeship and pride he does with his guild. Perhaps VoA25 isn’t the challenge he’s used to in his guild’s ICChardmode runs. He has no reason to show loyalty or effort; he’s only here for a handful of badges to put a minute edge on already spiffy gear.

As a seasoned raider he might have a lack of patience with less experienced healers, or anyone inclined to ‘overtalk’ the situation – he just wants to get through the fast content as fast as possible. Many of us – including me – have been guilty of these at times. We’re slightly bored by now. I’ve even seen healers hiring themselves out as one-man-band progression healers, effectively amputating dialogue and shared learning.

At the other end of the spectrum we have new, struggling, healers. Imagine Timmy the timid priest who’s hit 80 and has blues and 219s. He wants to PUG for kit and badges, but PUGs can be harsh. Timmy’s more likely to be laughed off than invited to PUGs. When he does get an invite to his first ToC25 and the raid wipes to Burning Inferno because the healers didn’t communicate on Incinerate Flesh, Timmy’s may well get the blame.

Healers not talking mean that new healers don’t learn their own versatility in encounters or specifics behind healer setup. Sure, Timmy can read and watch tactics, but there’s an equation for learning encounters you’ve never seen plus how to heal in the first place which doesn’t necessarily = 2, for new healers.

equation2

A lack of teaching and support from other healers could have several effects. Timmy might get bored because the other healers have it covered. Or Timmy may believe all wipes are his fault and he can’t heal. Or he’ll have been given the easiest job and will think he’s brilliant – then he joins a guild and his lack of knowledge sticks out like a sore thumb. All of these can turn a new healer off of healing. There aren’t many of us to start with!

It adds up to a vicious circle in which there’s no incentive to communicate in PUGs. As in random five mans you’re unlikely to see these people regularly. As in random five mans it’s easy to believe you needn’t be loyal to anything but your character’s gear, for various excuses from improving it for guildruns or because you have something to prove. As in random five mans the atmosphere can be of distrust, which increases the chances to wipe when no-one’s healing the tank, and then snipe at each other with Blame Bullets. Frankly, I’ve found that people are grateful and relaxed if you run groups saying there’ll be oodles of communication.

Communication is the foundation of relationships. By not engaging in it any more than necessary healers distance themselves from possible ‘relationships’ in game – be they new friendships or just networking for team members. We should never, ever forget how to socialise in a game we play with other people.

If that’s not incentive enough consider this. Cataclysm is going to challenge us in ways Wrath wasn’t meant to. Healers may face changes to mana and even role setup. We’re going to need to communicate. It may come as a shock; falling into apathetic and uncommunicative habits now is signing our characters’ – and WoW’s – death warrants.

Crucial tweaks to the LFD system – like cross-realm friends lists – would encourage us all to communicate better. Whether or not that happens we can all take responsibility now, in content we might be bored of. Take fresh interest in ‘healing’ the foundations – just by putting a bit more effort in. For The Cataclysm!

I’m not whining; there are positive cases and it’s not all bad. I’m genuinely concerned. Question is -what do you think? Have you noticed a difference in communication or has it not been too bad where you are? Do you think this could turn into a longterm problem or am I doomsaying? Do you think we’ll be flexible enough to adapt out of bad habits?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Article image2 originally by Tim Trueman @ Flickr

Are Healing Classes Losing Individual Identity?

In my recent Priest changes announcement post, Kivassha posed some excellent questions that I wanted to share.

Comment edited for length

Hi Matticus

In my mind disc priests are topping up absorbing the damage on Tanks, almost like druid heals are for raid, helping with spike damage until the big chain heals (shammy) and POH (holy priest) lands.

My concern?

I wonder if getting Disc priests to focus on MT will make it boring. I like how classes compliments each other and the unity that forms when everyone gets to know each other’s play stile and can on the fly make the right decision and heal where it is needed. It feels like the synergy will be lost between classes.

With the holy priest changes a priest will be able to heal a little bit more like a druid does with all the hot changes. Again how will the synergy between classes work? How would druids feels about this?

How boring will it be if everyone can do what every other healer class can do? Holy can main tank heal, can do big raid heals and will now be able to do really good HOT’s. Even Shammies will now have a HOT. So I wonder if Druids will get big long casting spells like POH, Chain heal?

To me it looks like they are giving each healer class similar capabilities to make them more like all round healers. Will this take away from each class the niche they have?
Yes the email sound negative, but I am curious and excited to work out how things will work in future.

[…]

I can’t say whether or not Discipline healing will be boring. Different healers I talk to just love healing. If you love what you do, you’re never going to find it boring. As for class synergy, there’s no reason for it to go away. Don’t forget that this is just a class preview of what they intend to do. There is still a long wait before Cataclysm is installed on our computers. If you look at the different things that healers can excel at, Discipline Priests are optimized best for tank healing. Does that mean it’s the only thing they can do? Nah, far from it. That’s what I’ve always liked about the game is that I can mix and match healers and not have to worry too much at all about it.

Druids should have nothing to worry about at all. We still heal in fairly different styles. While some of the mechanics might blend together, the numbers still need to be tuned and adjusted accordingly. I suspect that will help narrow the gap a bit between Priest and Druid healing.

Going back to healing styles again, I don’t think it’s going to be boring for healers. Each healing class can do something similar to each other. That’s good though. While you want to encourage a variety of healers in your raids, it doesn’t mean that you have to always have a Shaman or have to always have a Paladin. Each healing class has their own strengths and weaknesses. At the very minimum, each class can fire off some AoE heals. Each class has a large heal, a fast heal, and an efficient heal. It just so happens that their extra healing spells are done in a different way. Priests have group based healing in Prayer of Healing and Circle of Healing. Shamans have that new Healing Rain which hits everyone in a certain area. Paladins come out at the end of the week so we’re not sure what they get yet.

As far as the healing niche goes though, you are right that each class will have similar capabilities. How much would it suck if a Druid healer who loves to play a Druid has to re-roll to a Priest to heal a particularly difficult encounter because the Priest can heal a certain encounter way better than a Druid can? During Sunwell, I heard many top end guilds had to bench Paladins and some Druids for the Twins encounter. They ended up bringing in Shaman alts and Holy Priest alts for Circle of Healing and Chain Heal. The philosophy of Blizzard has always been to bring the player and not the class. A Druid should be able to heal an encounter just as well as a Priest, Shaman, or Paladin and I agree with that.

The identities of each healing class won’t be lost though. Just because each class can keep players up doesn’t mean they’ll lost their own unique style or method of doing it.

Let’s not forget what Ghostcrawler said:

We’d rather make healing fun for the players who like to heal rather than make healing easy for the players who hate to heal but do it anyway.

And I’m sure they’ll find ways to make it entertaining.

Heroic moments

Heroic moments

Last couple days I’ve been talking with a few friends about the heroic or epic feel of the game. This was spurred by the recent Cataclysm class previews. My friend felt that the game was making players too over powered and he feels that what he wants is and I quote

“To have the ever loving shit beaten out of the raid by a boss. Like seriously have Deathwing be so badass he just looks at us and we die.”

I replied with a little snark informing him that he could always level to 60 and turn off xp and raid classic content while it still existed, whatever was left of it.

To me the game is taking a logical step in many ways, I mean let’s take a look at all the things we’ve done in the game (and by we I mean as a collective player base).

  • Defeated an elemental lord
  • Defeated the son and daughter of the aspect of earth and the progenitor of the Black Dragon Flight
  • Defeated and old god and his followers
  • Defeated troll tribal leaders and their god
  • Defeated the Lich Kings floating citadel and his right-hand lich
  • Cleansed the home of Medivh
  • Defeated a Daemon lord
  • Stomped a troll hero into the dirt
  • Defeated a power sucking Prince of the blood elves
  • Defeated Illidan
  • Restored the sunwell while repelling a powerful Eredar
  • Trudged through the snow and ice to set fire the the Lich Kings floating citadel AGAIN!
  • Killed the aspect of magic
  • Beat down ANOTHER god and the servants of titans
  • Slapped around the custodian of the titans
  • and Dethroned an undead king

/breathes

So…  Yeah. Safe to say we’ve done a lot right? but if you look at it it’s been big bads right? So why shouldn’t we feel a little powerful right?

We’ve all had those moments too, where after a boss goes down or a particularly hard fight is won where you want to stand up and thrust your fists in the air and yell in victory. I know it’s just a game, but you can’t help but feel accomplished sometimes. For me it’s those moments of the harrying first kill. My guild’s first Blood Queen (25) kill, there were only two people left standing. Me and the feral druid stood over her corpse amid a sea of raider bodies. It may sound weird but in that moment I felt really good at the kill, being so close to that wipe and trying EVERY trick I had to stay alive / res / keep someone up long enough for the DoTs to tick was heart pounding, and that kill is among the ones I savor the most. I count that as one of my heroic moments in the game, where I felt that this could see this as a scene from a movie or book and wanting to throw my hands up victorious in the air and scream my defiance at this villain that had stood in our way threatening death, and nearly delivering it in full.

In every story I’ve ever read as the main character got more powerful, so did his enemies. We are about to go up against the corrupted aspect of earth. EARTH. That little thing all of Azeroth is comprised of. Safe to assume he’s going to be something of a jerk right? So with all the class changes happening I think it’s in good form that we are starting to feel well…. uber. It fits with the progression of the game.

Also consider that encounters are changing. The way we handle fights now is for the most part pretty linear. Don’t stand in fire, don’t stand in front of the boss, let the tank get aggro etc etc. Even the current mechanics can be boiled down to simplistic measures in many cases. In Cataclysm however the dynamics of each role are changing. The mechanics of each class are changing and this is going to allow developers to make more interesting encounters.

Me, I’m looking forward to Cataclsym and all the changes. I’m looking forward to having to approach different encounters differently. I look forward to feeling like yes I am powerful, but still have a damn good challenge ahead of me. I’m looking for more spells, more encounter mechanics, harder mana regen. I’m looking forward to feeling like the team I belong to earned EVERY kill with sweat blood and perseverance. I don’t think we’re overpowered, I just think we scale with content!

So how about you? How do you feel about the changes coming? Do you think they are over powered? Do you have a heroic moment to share? A well earned kill?

That’s it for today folks, until next time, Happy Healing!

 

Priest Changes Announced! Your Thoughts?

Priest Changes Announced! Your Thoughts?

300-shield-wall

Some of the announcements were those I had expected. But there were a few surprising ones too! Check out the official blue post!

Expected

Heal: Yep, I figured they’d bring this back. Flash Heal is a 1.5 second cast, Greater Heal is a 2.5 second cast (untalented) which means that Heal will lie somewhere in between. I remember using this spell quite a bit during my downranking days in Burning Crusade and Vanilla. But yes, that’s another direct heal for us to use. Flash Heal will be on the side in favor of Heal.

Prayer of Spirit is gone: I expected this would go too. Last month, I asked in a post whether or not Spirit would be removed. My logic was that since Spirit would become a mandatory stat for all the healing classes, there wouldn’t be much of a point in having a buff around that did that. They removed it from raid buffs like Kings and Gift of the Wild. It didn’t make sense for Divine Spirit to stick around either. Guess that answers that question.

Radiance: Wow, that seems a little overpowered. It’s like converting Glyph of Prayer of Healing into Glyph of Everything Healing. Every direct heal now has an additional heal-over-time at the end of it. I think several weapons in the game had an effect like this as well.

Power Word: Barrier: Totally called it. Although knowing my luck, it might not make it past the beta phase :(. Almost two years ago, Kestrel interviewed me and served me a helping of my own 20 questions (I haven’t done them in a long time actually and I kinda feel like bringing it back. Any ideas on who I should interview?). One of the questions he asked was what the Wrath of the Lich King 51 point talent would be like. I said:

Matt’s version – 12 seconds, channeling, 2650 mana: Draws on the spirits and ancestors of all party members of the Priest to create a large bubble, capable of absorbing 22945 total damage to players within a 5 yard radius. While the barrier is in place, spellcasting will not be interrupted by damage. Players in the party within the Barrier can not be affected by fear or silence effects. 5 minute cooldown.

Blizzard version – Who knows?

Ridiculous and overpowered? Yes. Thank goodness I’m not a game designer. But I’ve always secretly wanted some sort of group shield. Later on during the development cycle for Wrath, I remember reading a post saying that the devs wanted to introduce it, but ran out of time or something. Now it’s being pushed back to Cataclysm.

Anyway, so it looks like it’s just going to be a big shield that hits an entire group. I don’t think it’s going to be a smart spell in the way Circle of Healing was. I suspect it’ll hit every player within a single group which offers a fair degree of predictability like Prayer of Healing does. Nope, GC just clarified it. It’s going to be similar to the Death Knight Anti-Magic Zone. So it’s going to create a bubble somewhere on the ground and players that stand in it will have any incoming damage absorbed (and not just spell damage like AMZ since it’ll absorb all). Already in my mind, I can picture of myself casting Barrier on one group and then casting Prayer of Healing on a different group. Think of how many lives you’d be able to save even further on something as simple as Stinky! As for shield strength? Possibly on par with or stronger than an individual shield.

Internet? Can I get an internet fist bump?

Deep down inside, there’s a little me that’s screaming “Yay! Blizzard liked my idea!” but I know better. It’s probably a spell that someone deep in the dev team already coined and it just happened to be a coincidence. I’m glad to at least see that there are plans to introduce it.

Unexpected

Leap of Faith (I’m calling it Life Grip though): Oh my goodness, a defensive Death Grip that Priests can use to pull compromised players out of fires! I can see a ton of intriguing abuse for this especially in PvP. Need to get the flag to safety? Have them run below the graveyard and Life Grip them up. But yes, I can certainly see the application in raid environments. It’s got a 45 second cooldown so it can’t be too abused. Note how it says that it’s expected to help rescue players who have pulled threat. I wonder if it functions as a minor threat lowering ability. The problem now is that I foresee other players complaining and saying “Well why didn’t you life grip me out?!” and opening yet another can of raid worms.

Inner Will: It’s various Mage armors for Priests. Sort of. This one increases movement speed and reduces the cast of instant-cast spells. It’s either Inner Will or Inner Fire. I suspect in most cases, we will use Inner Fire. During phases where we need to hustle, we’ll switch over to Inner Will. I wonder if it’ll stack with Body and Soul or the 85 equivalent of Tuskarr’s Vitality.

Holy Form (sort of): There’s a new talent that tips Holy Priests into a super-saiyan form when they chain cast Prayer of Healing, Heal, or Renew three times in a row. The effect will vary based on which spells have been cast. Perhaps a stronger AoE heal, a stronger single target heal, or harder hitting ticks from the Renew? Nice to see them add some more interesting effects for the Holy Priests. [Edit]: GC also stepped in and elaborated further saying that the talent (called Chakra) allows the Priest to temporarily specialize in something like tank healing, group healing or even Smiting.

Lesser Power Word: Shield: It hasn’t been confirmed as being in the plans for Cataclysm yet, but it’s something that has been discussed. A second (and slightly less potent) Power Word: Shield that’s exclusive to Discipline only. The aim is for it to be used on multiple targets. I suspect it’s been inspired by the massive shield casting style of raid healing Discipline Priests and this does make sense. At the moment, Discipline has limited tools in handling AoE or raid wide damage. We had to rely on establishing massive shields before the attack hit and follow it up with a Prayer of Healing or something. Since Mana management is going to play a more important role, shield spamming wouldn’t be a viable option anymore unless a smaller Shield was introduced. Interesting idea!

Actually, if you look at the Mastery Passive bonuses, you’ll see Absorption is listed under Discipline. Conclusion? Increased emphasis on Power Word: Shield (and the lesser one if it’s in the game), Power Word: Barrier, and the various Divine Aegis bubbles.

Our Shadowy brothers got an interesting mechanic change with the introduction of Shadow Orbs. Reminds me of the little floating things that Troll Priests used to have back in the day. Anyone remember those?

Okay, time for bed. Tomorrow’s Raid Rx on WoW.com will have a full analysis of the dispel changes, and what the Shaman and Priest proposed changes will look like in future Cataclysm raids (at least, in theory).

Changing of Dispel Mechanics

These changes went up the other day and are altering the way us healers do things. I gotta admit, I am more the intrigued in how the system is being set up. Here’s the summary:

  • Druids will be able to dispel defensive magic, curses, and poison.
  • Paladins will be able to dispel defensive magic, diseases, and poison.
  • Priests will be able to dispel defensive magic, offensive magic, and disease.
  • Shaman will be able to dispel defensive magic, offensive magic, and curses.

This leads me to conclude that upcoming encounters in Cataclysm will revolve primarily around removing magic. Also, is anyone else a little confused about the way they’ve worded defensive magic and offensive magic? I’ve read it as all classes can remove magic debuffs on friendlies while Priests and Shamans can remove magic buffs on enemies. I did have to think about that one for a good minute to make sure I had it right.

How this affects raid utility and healing

* Protection and Retribution paladins will lose their current ability to dispel magic.
* All shaman will lose dispel disease and dispel poison in exchange for Restoration gaining dispel magic.
* Restoration shaman, Restoration druids, and Holy paladins will need to talent into their defensive magic dispels.
* Shadow priests won’t be able to remove disease in Shadowform.
* Mage, hunter, and warlock will retain their current dispel mechanics.
* Body and Soul remains the same, and basically any dispel mechanic not mentioned above is currently planned to remain as it is.
* When possible, we’d like to combine dispels into a single action. For example, the druid ability to dispel curses and poisons might be a single spell with a Restoration talent that also allows it to dispel magic. This part of the design isn’t finalized, however.

On encounters like Rotface, I’d usually ask a Prot Paladin to handle dispels since they’re the ones on the outside anyway (on 10 man at least). With this change, this means that I’ll need to assign a healer to take care of that. It shouldn’t be a significant problem at all. What it means is that the healing “bandwidth” is going to get a little clogged up more with extra dispels that need to be done.

To be honest though, I don’t foresee it being a serious issue. As a reflex healer, I’m already spending my GCDs on player dispelling anyway and on some fights, I like to have a fun competition on the dispel meters to see who can squeeze off the most and the fastest.

For example, you know that guy in Warsong Gulch who just sits around while the rest of the team is killing the opposing flag carrier but is just spamming the space around the carrier with right clicks and your jaw drops in amazement when they return the flag even though you could’ve sworn you got to it first?

Yeah, that’s me!

I’m also thinking that encounter mechanics will change so that poisons, diseases and curses won’t be as punishing to the raid unless you’re on hard modes. My expectation is that debuff mechanics will simply need to be healed through since if you don’t have the class composition to cleanse it, there isn’t much that can be done. With the pool of available dispellers narrowing, there is a greater emphasis on healing teams to contain at least 1 healing class of each type. Just having the classes alone aren’t enough since non-Priests will need to talent into the ability to dispel.

As for PvP, I’m not too sure what effect this change alone will have. It’s going to make things increasingly tougher, I would imagine. But let’s not forget the increased stamina change coming to all the classes. So for example, while that Rogue you’re engaging has all his poisons on you, I imagine it wouldn’t be as deadly at 85 as it would be right now in the game.

Don’t forget about the Cataclysm class information changes. They’re coming out with them tomorrow (at least for Shamans and Priests).

Blizzard – “Let healers DPS?” Good Idea?

Blizzard – “Let healers DPS?” Good Idea?

Can you hear it?

There’s a gentle hum in the ether. It’s a grinding of cogs and a rattlin’ of nuts and bolts. It’s the sound of the WoW developers thinking about us healers. Yay, they’re showing us some development love! Ah, but this time, they’re thinking about getting us to DPS. Wait, wut? I’m a healer, not a DPS! That’s like the antithesis of healer, right?

Well, that was my first thought when I read Ghostcrawler’s musings, over on MMOChampion. I’m not going to regurgitate the blue tracker verbatim here as you’ve probably already read it, but for reference the basics are that the devs are thinking about giving us healers some DPS utility. It sounds like their current plane of thought keeps healers away from having a duty to do X damage in a group setting but enables them to do some damage if they want to. That is, enabling us to damage things might make things a bit faster for the group in a Heroic, say, or fun for us if we fancy it.

Of course, this is all speculation at this stage, and there’s nothing  concrete now or definitely going to happen in the future. But if it is an option then it got me thinking. How would I feel, as a healer, about having new and improved DPS options?

The power! Now that you mention it. I mean, we don’t know any details of how much damage they’re thinking we might be able to do. But come on – having your group’s cute, fluffy priest patch the team up and then turn round and smite ye monsters seems a bit well, Heroic. The fluffy priest would be worth the utility of two single-role players. That sounds a little over-powered to me, or at least like a back-door into Hero class status. “Uber-healer” perhaps.

I’m sure the devs have already thought of the potential of too much power, too much utility. Powerful healer class also able to kick out a believable impression of another role? Surely not. So perhaps we’re going to see some kind of power trade-off. A glass ceiling on our healing capabilities to make room for DPS utility, so we’re not too good. Perhaps that ceiling will even be customizable, so that you can decide how much or little you fancy being able to DPS – in return for being a slightly less capable healer.

I wonder whether this could lead to a whole new breed of hybrid. I’m not just talking about a hybrid class, or role, made by Uber healers – although that could happen, exponentially more if it were to be customizable. I’m talking about a hybrid player type. I’m willing to bet that not all healers want or much care to be able to DPS. I know I don’t, for one. Personally I think that healing classes should be about restoring health, not subtracting it. I also think if that’s what the class’ or spec’s lore is centred around, a lot of healers might have a problem with doing damage. Mimetir herself would, as tree. Zap the enemies? No, that’s what lazer-chicken form is for.

Saying that, I’m sure it’d be fun for some healers, and there are probably healers all the way along the spectrum from “meh” to “w00t laz0rtree here I come!”

Either way we’re getting into the battle-lines drawn up between “spec ret if you want to DPS” and “healers should contribute as much as they can”.  Both are fair sides, and the latter gets me thinking about mechanics. An Uber healer putting out twice the threat to usual? Think of your holy pally dropping some huge heals and then nuking the mobs with something suitably vengeful. That’s either going to be one dead Uber-healer, one twitching tank or one game play mechanic in need of serious tweaks. So that the players don’t, you know, break.

Not to mention the brief fate met by a PvP mage who’s missed the patch notes and has just met his first Uber healer in Warsong Gulch. Or team of them in the arenas. I know I wouldn’t be amused if I was that mage, particularly if I then found the battlegrounds were overrun by these new Hero classes. Oops, Uber healers.

It also occurs to me that whatever it does or doesn’t do to healers, cataclysm does bring with it a drive to get us all to start new characters. Do we really want the capital cities to be filled with fluffy but overpowered priests months down the line? Imagine the looting.

So what do you think? Do you want to be able to DPS as well as heal? Do you see any problems with the idea? Or do you have anything you’d really like to see done with it?

This is a post by Mimetir, a druid of a raidleader on The Venture Co. (EU). You can find my twitter feed here.