Monday, June 1, 2009

[General] The future of block part 4 - healing

The last post on the whole block wackiness got some really good comments, and I had been planning on talking about the healing aspect more anyway. But before I get to the comments, let's talk about a world for healers where the avoidance a tank has is drastically reduced, their worst-case mitigation is very similar between tanks, and block does a lot more but the average damage is still around the same as the dodgy tanks.

Clearly in a world where tanks get hit more often, they would either need to be hit for less or get a lot more health. Traditionally tanks have had about twice as much health as their DPS counterparts after buffing. Sometimes it goes a bit higher, but usually not much. This is by design; this way heals for a tank can also heal non-tanks when they take raid damage without having some huge gulfs, and the heals are going to be (mostly) similarly effective. In other words, it's okay to do about 1/5th of the health in damage to a tank and also do 1/3rd of the possible health in damage to a DPS, since these are both around the same amount of damage.

So there are ramifications for tanks having significantly more health than they do now. But if you don't give the tanks more health, what do you do?

One option is to tone down the damage dealt to the tanks, as I mentioned previously. The problem with this is that the heals are still for the same amount. When a healer can heal for about 1/5th of the total health a tank has in basically one GCD, it's not particularly scary if that tank gets hit for 1/5th of their total health every GCD. That means one healer can basically keep up with the damage on a tank, and that's pretty boring from a healing perspective.

So if toning down the damage doesn't work, we'd have to up the stamina, right? Nope. The other option is to tone down the damage and tone down the healing done. If all heals did, say, half the healing they do now, tanks could still take less damage but would still require quite a bit of healing.

So let's go with that. We'll have healers healing for half as much (the Sunwell radiance aura part 2: mortal strike aura), tanks being hit for half as much, and tanks avoiding half as often as they did before. Now, it takes on average 8 hits to kill a tank. It also takes on average 10 GCDs worth of heals to heal a tank fully.

Is that fun? Maybe.
Is that scary? Does the tank run the risk of dying? I think so, yes. Why? Because healers aren't going to be able to catch up instantaneously in this system. They don't have to keep their tank topped off at all times, but they will need to keep heals going on them quite often. And while a GCD costs less than it did before, it still is pretty expensive. At the same time, you have the very real ability for some tank healers to actually heal big, efficient heals and spend some time doing it. It's no longer their most efficient heal that's quick.

But there's still a lack of risk, and there's no real reward for doing the 'right' heal. Which means we need one more variable: nerfing mana regen for healers. This really should be done; there needs to be a very concrete penalty between the healers that can manage their resources for a fight and the ones that can't. This is a dividing line, just like tanks and threat/mitigation is, and just like DPS and mobility is. It's not any more, but it should be. The benchmark for hard fights is that healers should basically be OOM at the very end of any fight, and if they messed up they'll be OOM earlier. This makes one GCD less important, but the overall performance of a fight moreso.

My wife brought up an interesting point as part of this - what the current healing model solves. Currently for tank healing the model is really simple: you assign 2 or more healers to heal the tank, and they all just spam heals on that tank in the most efficient, reasonable way they can. There's rarely coordination. There's little to no actual communication. It's just heal, heal, heal. In addition, the raid healers tend to throw heals on the tank too whenever they can - a hot, a pom, whatever. In addition to that, the tank healers do the same thing on the raid when they can.

Which means two things: coordination of healers is at a fairly big low, and (this is the important thing) healing can be made puggable. I hadn't realized this, but it's fairly true. In an environment where people are encouraged to spam heal the hell out of something, it doesn't matter if you have good communication and teamwork and rhythm. You just spam away. And because (for worse) healing is measured often by effective healing and meters, a lot of the time you're rewarded for this behavior.

So if the above things go in (and a bit more), you won't be able to spam heal; it's just not efficient enough. You won't be able to snipe other heals as well; you'll need to stick to your assignment, they'll need to stick to theirs, and you'll need to coordinate. But...that means that pug healers will be pretty disadvantaged. And that's true, but I think that's okay. That also likely makes me an elitist jerk, but so be it.

Let's first go to Shamad's comments:
You're getting into a world of chain reactions if you want to touch the current chances of tanks being 2shotted...lowering avoidance doesn't effect healing, other than to reduce overhealing(currently for paladins in the range of 70%). Now if you want to soften the blows from this, you've eliminated tank deaths completely and trivialized the content....Now you might reduce the amount tankhealers heal for. Except then they become redundant and you'd just have raidhealers heal everything. Unless you change how much raidhealers heal for. And now we're back to damage not being able to kill. And the content is trivialized.
These are all good points (and he raised others that are good), but I think that this model can work. Why? At the very least, because this was essentially the model used in TBC. We had less avoidance at the start, and we had less damage intake coming in, and the heals that healers had were less as a percentage of the tank's health. Tank death was very real and very scary (especially with parry haste being a bigger deal, and especially with crushes existing). Very rarely did two damaging hits kill someone; at worst, it was something like Bloodboil, where multiple bloodboils damaging people killed people eventually as healers scrambled to heal too many people at once. Or a tank simply taking too much damage and the big heals not landing quite in time. Death was quite real - but a lot of times death was caused because a healer ran OOM or didn't get off a heal in time. That's a very different feel than 'people died because I didn't spam enough' . Basically, I think that right now the model is 'heal quickly or die'. I think the model can move to 'heal now and later or accumulated damage will put you too much in the hole and you'll die'.

Seleria commented as well, and I appreciate it:

That being said... Patchwerk remains one of my most exciting bosses to heal. Maybe I'm crazy, but I spend Patchwerk spamming my heart out on my healing assignment (an OT most of the time). There's no moving around in the fight, there's no guesswork as to who in the raid is going to take damage. It's a pretty boring healing assignment, but it's one of my favorite fights to heal.

What Blizz, however, has taken from "healing is boring"... is "let's send damage everywhere! Woohoo!" There's more raid healing than ever. Let's say you have 7 healers (that's what we run in Ulduar) 4-5 of ours are generally on raid and 2-3 on tanks depending on the fight obviously.

So with your suggestions I guess the end result as far as I can tell is "have tanks take more consistent but weaker hits." Which as you said... means there's less healing that HAS to be done. So you propose that healing gets weaker/regen gets weaker to correspond with these weaker hits... but the raid damage hasn't changed in your scenario. Sure, the tanks can avoid magic damage, but that doesn't do anything for the 22 other people in the raid....
On the other hand--what if you kept the damage the bosses are doing now the same, kept healers the same, but increased the health of the tanks. Keeping your block solution idea, you'd still not be running into "2 hits and you're done," but healing doesn't have to be completely screwed around with that way. Then you run into the pvp issue. No mage wants a prot warrior to wander into a BG and have 3-4 times the amount of health they do.
Yeah, that's one of the big problems with the idea - that if you up stamina on tanks, does every tank class automatically become insane? Do Death Knights now become ridiculous beasts with a tank/pvp merge? Do ferals? Do warriors? I think that's a serious concern. I also think that the big problem is that you need all healers to be able to heal both raid and tanks as needed, and if you have the tools too different from each other, it won't really work out. If flash heal can't do both raid healing and tank healing, it makes it harder for a holy priest to tank heal if they're the ones assigned. If HoTs are best on tank healing, doesn't that make them insanely good on raid healing? Like I said above - tank health and raid health have to be within a reasonable percentage of each other, or the healing just gets too odd and bifurcated.

So basically, I'd argue that all damage would need to be nerfed, all healing would be nerfed, and all regen would be nerfed. That's how big a change this would be.

I wanted to bring this one up specifically:
So I guess the dilemma I see is keeping average health values around the same as they are now (let's say tanks with 40k health) and they're taking less damage overall, that starts to make tank damage on the same order as raid damage so healing classes that are better suited to raid heal are suddenly the only class you want to have around--and homogenizing the healing classes even further probably wouldn't be a really good idea.
That's a reasonable argument even if you do nerf all healing. However, I think that the tank healers would still have some quality in there. For starters, the big, slow heals can be used - and they're a lot more efficient than the raidwide heals tend to be. They're not good for speed or throughput, but for mana efficiency they're awesome. And in a world where healers can go OoM easily, that's where the tank healing niche will shine, I think - in being the efficient healer. Sure, the raid healer can heal the tank, but they'll go OoM a lot faster.

I guess in my world the raid healer would spend a decent amount of time Oo5R, and the tank healer wouldn't. And that's how you'd separate out the two.

Finally, Yi brought up the elephant in the room (and this goes for healing as well):
Tanking diversity is fun because it makes you shine in certain situations. I would argue that the classes are balanced enough as it is; any class can tank any fight in Ulduar if they choose(how painful it is on the healers is another matter altogether--but then again, weren't they complaining about being bored). But certain classes will stand out, like warriors on the screaming mimi or bears on Ignis. Further homogenization, I fear, would come at the expense of non-standard tank class popularity and the "gasp" factor when you do some amazing, class-specific thing.
I really, truly agree. I think that class/spec homogenization really is starting to hurt things, and having more things like this will only be worse. I like the idea of block tanks trading block for avoidance, I like the idea that tank damage is less per hit than it is now, but I also long for the days that you wanted specifically a druid to tank a certain boss, or a paladin for another - because of their specific, unique mechanics. I kind of miss paladins rolling on specific odd pieces of gear and not wanting that tanking weapon because it had no spellpower. I miss druids and their big armor and that being an advantage. If "flavor" of a class really just means how it looks when it does things but all capabilities are the same, why really have that flavor?

I've suggested several times ways that Blizzard can retain tank balance while giving tank niches, but I don't think they'll do this until a large chunk of their populace express dissatisfaction in it. I've thought that healers should have a similar set of niches, and they're closer to it - but even then, they're becoming more and more homogenized. Really, above all I want them to force tanking niches as part of raiding; that you must cover certain tanking niches in 25-man or you will have a detrimental raid. This is fine for DPS and healing; why not tanking? But time will tell, I suppose.


Anonymous said...

Only comment I have is on the last section re niches: The biggest reason, if I understand correctly, they removed tank niches, was because it would stall a guilds progression if they didnt happen to have a tank of that class. Which I think has been an excellent change for guilds & tanks & the game. Niches slow guilds down; niches are a pain for officers or RLs. Niches encourage bad habits in players who believe they have a guaranteed spot. I hated niches for those reasons.

They have to make the game fun in a non-niche context, since I dont think they'll ever go back.

Honors Code said...

By the way, this has been a fantastic series. Keep up the great work on your blog.

"Really, above all I want them to force tanking niches as part of raiding; that you must cover certain tanking niches in 25-man or you will have a detrimental raid. This is fine for DPS and healing; why not tanking? "

It's a numbers game. You've got 6-8 healers from 4 classes. Plenty of room for niches. You've got 15-16 DPS from 10 classes. Plenty of room for niches. You've got 1-3 tank spots from 4 classes. Not much room for niches.

Plus you might not wind up with the niche you want.

I'm a Paladin. I had the AoE tank/trash tank niche in tBC. It sucked, royally.

You want to make tank niches that's fine, but you gotta do two things. Define them and leave me a 'Writ of Knowledge' that lets me turn my Paldain into a DK, Druid or Warrior, whichever niche I happen to prefer.

Kalon said...

Anon - really, before their tank 'niches' were "AoE tank" and "offtank". The niches suuuucked then. I don't want that kind of niche any more. I do agree that they can slow progression down because you must recruit a certain type or types of tank to progress, and that's the sort of thing I'd want to avoid. At the same time, without niches you'll not have any kind of reasonable diversity of tanks without problems. We see this now with DKs; they're simply better in a lot of ways because they have better cooldowns and encounters assume you have them. Paladins...don't, so they get hosed. The solution is to give paladins another cooldown, and then we'll probably see another round of druid nerfing.

But you're probably right - they'll likely never go back.

Honor - thanks. :) And I realize that there's not a lot of room for niches (though they managed somehow in TBC). I think that with dual specs the pain of not having a niche is much less than it was. I also think that there's room enough to have four niches of tanking provided that any given tank could cover two of them. And I agree that the AoE tank is not and should not be one of the 4 niche abilities; it's simply too important that everyone is able to do so.

I talked about this earlier in the series, where they could have the two blocking tanks and the two non-blocking tanks as niches. Then separate them with the high HP vs high armor. Then you'd have 4 natural niches, and ideally you'd pick one of the block tanks and one of the non-block tanks, and hopefully complement one with high HP with another with high armor. The niche thing is an article for another day, I think. :)

Grumpy Misanthrope said...

also long for the days that you wanted specifically a druid to tank a certain boss, or a paladin for another - because of their specific, unique mechanics. I kind of miss paladins rolling on specific odd pieces of gear and not wanting that tanking weapon because it had no spellpower. I miss druids and their big armor and that being an advantage. If "flavor" of a class really just means how it looks when it does things but all capabilities are the same, why really have that flavor?
Flavor disappeared when they decided they wanted to get rid of the itemization. When they decided that druids should have to wear rogue gear and paladins should wear warrior gear.

Flavor has left the room and according to GC, it ain't ever coming back.

Baseball said...

I just can't get behind your support of niches, though, Kalon. Niches are just a way for two tanks to be jealous of the other two tanks in 100% of the encounter.

Like Honor's Hammer said -- if they want to make niche tanking more important, please hand me a Character Change request such that I can turn my druid into a warrior if I get pegged for the niche I hate. Mix that together with 10 man raid guilds who very likely don't have the capacity to supply one of all four tanks, even with dual specs, and it makes things even more dodgy, since Blizzard is pretty firm on including 10 man content as more than just a sandbox for the kiddieswhile the grownups do 25s.

That said, your writeups are absolutely fantastic. This is the type of great analysis I wish there was more of in the community.

bobturkey said...

Half healing/half damage/half mitigation is an interesting idea.

If they want to make healing more interesting this would help, combined with reduced mana regen and synergy between spells.

Synergy such as Flash Heal (Priest) cast on a target with Rejuvnation (Druid) heals for 10% more or 50% more similar. This would complicate balancing somewhat though.

Gobble gobble.

Anonymous said...

niches will never happen because only hardcore ppl appreciate it and blizz is constitantly and openly moving the game to over to the casual gamers side. any hardcore druid tank would say 'ok, me not being able to tank so and so is fine, im cool with that cause i appreciate the paladin tank enough to step aside on this one' the casual gamer is going to say 'well i only get to play on saturdays, so why am i not allowed to tank all the content?' blizz is going to tailor the game to the second comment... why? cause the first guy is hardcore enough to play through any nerf... the second guy will say 'i only play 4 times a week anyways.... i am not playing this game anymore if i cant tank it all'

Taran said...

I'm fine with having niches for tanks, even though I'm in a small 10-man raiding guild. As long as an encounter is DOABLE by any tank, I think it makes it more interesting if different tanks perform better at certain fights. For me, as a feral, if I'm tanking a fight that is more appropriate for a pally or a warrior, I have to be creative in my gear choices and use of abilities to successfully tank. How is that a bad thing?

It's a fine line to walk, I realize, but I think they can do it. As long as they don't make it unreasonably hard for 10-man guilds to progress, I don't have a problem with them tailoring fights to different tank niches.

Shamad said...

Bare with me, I'll prolly not have the time to finish this or get everything right as I am at work atm:

I'll have to disagree somewhat with your wifes assesment of current healing. Although normal mode encounters have received such massive nerfs since Ulduar was released as to make it quite viable to just spam away happily with litle co-ordination, I don't think this is what you can balance around. The story is quite different however in hard modes.

Firstly, many hard modes have aggressive enragetimers, which require reducing healers to hit. An example would be Hodir, which is a very easy fight to heal until you try to beat the 3min timer and are down to 3-4 healers of which 2-3 are raidhealers. Same thing happens in many other fights, for example Council hard mode(steelbreaker) is a long fight with constant low-ish raid damage which is especially suited for resto druid rejuv spam, but in which healers are so mana constrained overall that they can't afford to be sniping each others heals. As a holy Priest, you pretty much would be smart to idle for the first phase and start picking up the pace over p2/p3.

Mana is a real issue and assignments are needed because sniping each others heals and excessive overhealing as a raidhealer means someone will be without heals too long and die.

cont. later on the state of mana/healing for each class.

Shamad said...

Tank healing:

There's 3 viable tank healing classes atm, and while hard modes do require each to spam fully, they have varying degrees of mana issues and ways of regen.

Paladins don't technically have mana issues atm, however their regen has to be "worked around" since divine plea kills their healing output for its duration. Paladins are also the worst spam-healers.


Enth said...

My personal preference as a healer for fights are tanks that take spiky damage. It's riskier, it's exciting, it forces me to keep an eye on my GCD, it makes me choose when to burn cooldowns. Skill requires choice, making the right choice at the right time.

But like you say, the healing assignments often lack synergy. 2 healers on the tank. Good, spam away, go afk because average HPS > average DTPS. Going with more mitigation reenforces this trend. Yawn. Now introduce semi-predictable spikes and you will need between 2 and 4 healers on the tank, or controlled mitigation. This gets interesting in the big picture - will a raid member die because a raid healer switches to a tank for a moment, is it the tanks turn to use their CDs at that incoming damage.

As for niches, also consider the raid buffs/debuffs that various tanks can bring. No Arms warrior and you need a bleed bonus, put a Druid for mangle. No rogue/hunter for expose armor, put a Warrior on for sunder. Not to mention the strong buffs each DK talent tree can bring. The DTPS pattern isn't the only niche to talk about.

Reading through these posts, I must have missed any mention of tank synergy. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that there is only 1 tank per raid.

There are many bosses in Ulduar that are tauntable and most of these encounters can be tanked with more than 1 tank. A viable healing strategy is if the MT gets a string of heavy hits, an OT can taunt and take a couple for the team. Or if at range, doesn't need to take any for the team. The healers have a free GCD to heal up the MT. The MT taunts back, and it's business as usual. Consider this strategy "controlled avoidance".

I miss downing bosses with crushing blows. I miss the "oh shiz" feeling as a healer, where fast reflexes and reserving big cooldowns for those spikes could make or break a fight. Reducing the variance of average DTPS through mitigation may help tanks live longer, but at the risk of losing your healers' interests.

Sorry for going a bit off topic. Goes to show I don't really understand block. At the moment, as a healer, I don't feel that block is broken as all the tanks I've healed "feel" very similar. But your posts convince me that block won't cut it in future patches. Keep up the great ThinkTanking!

Shamad said...

Disc Priest is the other "tank healer by design", however it works much differently from Paladins. Firstly, disc probably has the least mana-issues of the tank healers. It's also "less spammy", atleast from my experience. This is mainly since Penance, the "big heal", is channeled and therefore more reactionary than Holy Light. Also, with all the talents and glyphs to support it, the secondary Flash becomes insanely mana-efficient. However the constraints on the spec force it into a pretty pegged hole. Co-ordination is somewhat possible, however not really needed beyond keeping holy priest shields off the disc priest target.

Resto shamans are the odd-bird of tank-healing, forced into the role primarily because CH is utterly useless as a raidhealing tool. They have reasonable mana-issues, may also be used for raid spot-healing, bring the armor-buff for tanks. They require relatively litle co-ordination and can with correct gearing do decent sustained spamhealing.

Tank-healing clearly is quite simplistic and spammy atm, and something probably should be done to change this.

Shamad said...

Raid healing currently is pretty much down to two classes, and whilst being one of the major pressurepoints in hard modes is also quite diverse and very constrained.

Resto druids shine on multiple single target damage encounters(council is the best example of this) due to the slightly insane 4p t8 bonus. This is a reasonably spammy job, however druids are best when left to this niche assignment, to some extent dropping wild growth from their healing arsenal. Druids are reasonably mana-constrained.

Holy Priests are the most mana-constrained healers atm simply because we can rip through our pool the fastest. Even with proper use of fiend/other cooldowns external innervates are often needed. Theorycrafting shows that the use of renew over flash would yield a higher uptime of holy concentration which should help ease mana issues, however in practice it's sometimes better to let the druids handle spotheals when damage is light, and instead just stack serendipity and handle the high burst raid damage with PoH/CoH. Mindless spamming will kill your raid on hard modes.

Furthermore you seriously need retripaladins with JoL up for hard modes to make the decrease in healers viable.

Shamad said...

What makes a chain of non-too-informative and rather bland ramblings better? Another non-too-informative and bland rambling!

Yeah so I guess what I posted didn't give as much insight as I originally planned, sort of an side effect of not being able to properly focus on it, sorry for that.

Anyway the TL:DR point is that I run rather efficiently(around 10-30% overhealing as Holy Priest), and I have the joy to work with the best raidhealers I've come across in WoW so far, and yet I can say that if I play slightly sloppy I will run oom before a hard mode fight ends, sometimes even if I get an innervate. I regularly blow in the regions of 100k mana in a single fight(estimate based on recount mana regen numbers), and run between 3-6k sustained EHPS with a burst capability of around 30k EHPS. Raidhealing on hard modes is overall very well tuned atm.

Shortbusman said...

What I don't see here is any mention of the major pvp implications this would have. Blizzard obviously takes that into account and with healers not able to heal big in pvp it would go back to old school style quickly.

Kalon said...

I just can't get behind your support of niches, though, Kalon. Niches are just a way for two tanks to be jealous of the other two tanks in 100% of the encounter.

It totally, 100% is, baseball. I absolutely agree. And I miss that. I miss the tank competitiveness where I'd envy spell reflect on Hyjal trash or a prot paladin's ability to generate insane threat on Gorefiend, and I miss their envying my taking almost no damage on Archimonde. I am totally willing to buy that this is entirely a me thing. At the same time, I think there is value in seeing other classes and seeing the cool things they can do. As long as those 'cool' things aren't critical to making the encounter work, I think they can add a lot of fun.

Synergy such as Flash Heal (Priest) cast on a target with Rejuvnation (Druid) heals for 10% more or 50% more similar. This would complicate balancing somewhat though.

Hey Bob - thanks for coming by! I wanted to say that I really enjoy your site, and I really appreciate you picking up where ADP stopped.

The idea of synergies between actual classes other than DPS is...really awesome. I think you could make it more generic, like having a priest talent that gave you a 2% boost to healing for every HoT on your target, or a druid talent that procced a small absorption shield whenever the hot was ticking and someone else cast a direct heal. I hadn't thought about that kind of coordinated effort, but man...that sounds really, really fun.

Anon - I don't want niches in the sense that tank A can't do something and B can - I want it so that tank A and B can both do something, but B does it better. I think there's room for that even in the world of casualcraft.

Taran - that's a really great way to express what I meant, and far better than how I said it. Kudos.

Shamad, I think you raised good points...though it seems like at the end you came around to the notion that healing is really spammy right now :) At the same time, I'm not that concerned about hard modes. Hard modes in a world where healing is half as effective as now wouldn't be changed; if they require coordination now, they would then. It's only the easier stuff that would be altered. And maybe that's a reasonable 'hard mode' filter - simply give MS aura on all hard modes and boom, insta-healing coordination.

Enth, thanks for writing and the kind words. :) I think the idea of having tank synergy (similar to bobturkey's idea of healer synergy) is another aspect that should be reasonably explored. It would be really neat to require multiple tanks not because the boss is going to hit multiple tanks, but because tanks provide specific buffs/debuffs that make up for their lack of DPS. It could be easily broken as a mechanic, but it would also help a lot with the multi tank to one tank phenomenon that sucks so much some times. I also think that some variance in damage is a good thing; those moments where you bust your ass as a healer to save that tank who was at 38 health for 2 seconds are the times that you really treasure. At least that's how it is with me, and that's what my wife's said in the past. Risky is...well, risky. But it's also fun. Controlled risk is where they should aim for.

Shortbusman - you're absolutely right, and that's because I really don't tend to care about PvP much. :) And you're right - healing would need to be buffed in arenas to some degree if this went through. But that's doable in many different ways, and it would probably be okay to figure out in time.

Shamad said...

Kalon; Thing is though that as long as you tune for hard modes(and you sort of have to as it's the frontline of content), normal mode healing will have a good deal more leeway, partially because guilds bring too many healers as standard since the enrage timers aren't especially tight on normal modes, and partly since each healer has so much less to do.

If you want to challenge healers you just need to start dropping healers until you reach a point where they can no longer keep the raid/tanks up, and then tell them to suck it up and stick with that number until they work out the needed co-ordination to make far fewer healers work.

Derrick said...

Kalon, very interesting and insightful series of posts - I've really enjoyed reading them, and they've made great conversation pieces amoungst my guildies.

However, I feel I need to comment on the tanking niche thing.

In my opinion, tanking niches are marverous in theory, but fail utterly in practice. It's not a matter of getting overlap between tanks or what have you, it's a matter of the limited number of "current" raids noone cares who's the best tank for non-current teirs.

So, if there is only ever one raid that "matters" at any given time, or one full raid and an individual boss like Sarth, you have a situation where there is only a small number of bosses.

Of those bosses, several will be fairly easy, and the tank best suited to these bosses is irrelevant.

That leaves just a couple bosses. Of those, whichever tank is best suddenly becomes the ideal tank overall - you need him for those encounters, and he can do well enough in all the others.

Tanking niches would work really well if there were enough current-tier raids at all times to present a sufficiently large number of challenging encounters to avoid this, but quite frankly that just won't happen.

So, when you implement niches, you marginalize any tanks who specialize in whichever niche isn't needed.

Nobody wants to be the tank who's only allowed to tank the "trash" bosses, but doesn't get to stand up and kick ass with the bosses people really care about.

Furthermore, 10-mans really break the tanking niche thing further; unless you only have 2 niches. It's simply unreasonable to expect a 10 man raid to cover 4 niches even with each of the 4 tanking classes having 2 niches covered: It requires a 10 man raid not only having 2 tanks(which they should), but those two tanks must be different classes, and moreso once the 10-man raid has one tank, there is only one viable class for the second as they need to cover the other two niches.

Kalon said...

Shamad - I think that by 'tuning' for hardmodes, you're really failing on making the game fun. Sunwell was a good raid, but it was a guild killer and excessively hard because it was tuned for the hard modes, basically. Which meant class stacking, weird specs, odd requirements and perfect execution.

I think it's reasonable that you could offer challenges to raiding without necessarily requiring enrage timers. What if healing mana was tight enough that enrage timers weren't an issue, but healing mana was? In other words, you had basically 6 minutes to finish a boss before you were hosed.

And what if that were the norm?

Derrick, that's a really great post and one that deserves a longer response. Some points of clarification: whatever niches that exist must not be anything important in 10-man (which is very doable; raid stacking is all but obliterated in 10-man too), all tanks must be at least theoretically able to do all content, and niches should be a choice of sorts.

My back of the envelope sketch: all tanks would have in their trees (probably off-trees, honestly), two different niches they could specialize in (out of 4 total for all tanks everywhere).

Then when designing new raids, make it such that there exists at least one encounter that emphasizes that niche per raid. That would be 4 total.

What I've been toying about is the idea that single-tank fights should not be at all about any tank niches, and it shouldn't matter who tanks; single target fights should be the easiest tank fights, in other words, and should be DPS or healing limited. The multi-tank fights then become where niches can shine.

Shamad said...

Kalon; Then just bring 10 healers and have half of them sit around regening mana in shifts. There's no enrage to hit so DPS doesn't matter, just play it safe and bring your mitigation specs. Healing is trivial since when you really need it, you've got another 5 healers in reserve. And mana doesn't matter since spirit regen can be abused to your hearts delight.

Derrick said...

That's largely how it worked in The Old Days. When we ran MC/BWL (when they were the progression raids), they'd heal in rotation, taking turns healing, then regenning mana. It's not a really fun way to play.

Enrage timers are largely mandatory for that reason. Or similar things, at least - ever stacking debuffs or what have you. Besides, noone really liked those 15 minute Garr fights anyways.

Shamad said...

Derrick; I agree, there's a reason why everything has a enrage timer these days, it's because Blizzard learnt early on that being able to fill the raid with healers until the boss went down was a damn boring way to play.

Kalon said...

Derrick, Shamad - you're right, you need some pressure on the raid, one way or another, and if you have no pressure for an enrage, you're basically hosed.

I even thought that they could fix it so that there were three classifications of regen - regen while casting (5SR), out of casting but in combat, and out of combat. This way you couldn't easily cheese an encounter by bringing 12 healers or whatever...but you could. It would just take a really long time.

So enrage timers of some sort are going to be needed, even if they're basically lax.

But you don't need to make hard enrage timers the only thing that makes something a hard mode. I think that's really poor design, honestly. Sarth3D didn't have anything like an enrage timer (practically at least)and it worked fine. But Mimiron? Hodir? It's just sloppy. I hope they get away from that in the future.

I will say that hard enrages or timing really does basically say 'bring fewer healers' which can lead to more interesting healing. But there's got to be some other ways to make healing more interesting...don't there?

Derrick said...

Agreed on the hard modes. They need to be more interesting than just a steeper enrage timer. That just seems sloppy and lacking in creativity.

I'm a fan of hard modes not just requiring more DPS/healing/mitigation (which, honestly, doesn't make them harder it just requires better gear) but instead requiring more coordination.

Sarth 3D is a decent example of that. While the breath issue is a gearcheck; the fight was made difficult because there were so many things going on and everyone needed to be focused to handle it. Hard modes need to make things more difficult - in terms of skill primarily, not just gear.

I'm honestly a fan of the gradual enrage timer type thing, where a bosses damage ramps up gradually over time, or more and more adds arrive (or more dangerous ones) - things that pressure the raid to complete an encounter faster and make huge, long, boring fights impossible. It just seems more interesting than a hard enrage timer, where at x time the boss just basically one-shots everyone. That's just kinda cheesy.

Kalon said...

Yeah, the Gruul style of enrage is very good. Thorim does this well too, as does Steelbreaker.

My favorite fight in the game that they've ever done was Reliquary of Souls - and that had 3 separate 'enrages', each with their own interesting mechanics, all of which were more interesting than 'enrage nao'. Fights like Kael where you essentially only have so much time to do a certain phase (or part of it) are good as well. They've been kind of hit and miss with hard modes in Ulduar so far in that respect. Yogg's hard mode, for instance, just seems like it requires tighter play and doesn't change things significantly. XT's is like an entirely different fight (which is good).

What I do hope they do in the future is make it so that hard modes are not primarily on bosses that are part of the normal raid progression path. In other words, it's silly that FL has a hard mode, since you can't go and do any other bosses until you do him. Same with XT. Sarth was a great hardmode because you could do all the content and then him if you wanted. It doesn't have to be entirely like that, but I think they need to make more winged raids like SSC/TK that have some hard modes in them, some not.

Derrick said...

That's really the key, I think, and it's the question Blizzard is searching for an answer for.

How do you make healing more interesting? Some people do love it how it is, but there are not many healers overall for a reason, and many who do play healers do so for their guild moreso than their own preference.

I think they need to approach healing from both an encounter design and healing mechanics angle. I honestly believe that the current healing mechanics are, quite frankly, uninteresting. The lack of overall complexity makes it more difficult to make encounters that are more interesting to heal.

As a rule of thumb, most healing can be done effectively simply by spamming a heal or two. Typically, healers don't need to use a whole lot of different abilities.

Imagine if a healer worked like Cat dps works, requiring management of a series of buffs/debuffs in a priority system to really maximize output and/or effeciency.

If healing is fundamentally more interesting from the start, then it'll be a lot easier to make boss encounters more interesting and challenging for healers. Following the Cat model; you make a fight a lot more difficult for a kittydruid by requiring movement and target swapping - maintaining maximum dps in those circumstances requires real skill.

If healers had to manage something similar, then encounters requiring them to react would really step up the attention required.

Currently, if an encounter requires a healer to move about, or switch targets (The boss targets a raid member with some ability, for example) the healer can just switch targets and continue spamming away with little or no loss of thorouput. The only demand on the healer, then, is switching targets fast enough.

What if, instead, they needed to maintain a series of buffs or what have you to maintain their output or effeciency? It would provide an avenue to make good healers shine, and demand more of them in encounters making them inherently more interesting.

Shamad said...

I'm just going to say that as someone who actually knows both the feral cat rotation and the about as complex shadow priest rotations and both of these dps roles, thinking that these are in some way more dynamic or harder than the choices healers make is...funny. Seriously, yeah, it got easier when they removed downranking and I'm not particularly happy they did that, but the sheer arsenal of spells for various situations that some healers(most noteably druids and priests) pack these days has made up for the loss of downranked spells.

The amount of choices I need to make as a raidhealer priest trumps anything you ever have to make as a dps or tank. Warrior tanks might be the exception when played extremely well, although they still have far more attention to spare.

Try your hand at switching chars with your wife for a night of raiding Kalon and tell me how that turns out. Then bare in mind that it gets far more intense and unforgiving on hard modes.

Kalon said...

Shamad, it's really ironic that you say that. Last night I got to bring Silena (my wife's toon) in to Ulduar 10 and heal it. She's currently got zero pieces of Ulduar gear at all, and we were doing Hodir and Thorim hard modes, along with other various achievements.

It was really fun. And you're right - raid healing is a complex mix of reaction, cooldown juggling and movement on some fights. Freya was great for instance - it's utter chaos sometimes in who will take damage, how they'll take damage, what you can expect, etc.

But that's not the norm. The norm is XT, where I barely had to heal at all. Or Council, where it is FHx3PoM in the back, then FHx2PoMCoH with the occasional renew thrown in.

I would love it if what Derrick suggested was true for tank healing as well as raid healing. It's a lot closer to the mark with raid healing for priests right now; with serendipity, renew, PoM, CoH and PoH you have a lot of options and choices to make, and it is never as simple as 'press this button'. That's good, and there are nice synergies between the abilities. But what are the synergies for (example) a resto shaman? What are they for a holy paladin on a tank? It's still the same job, over and over.

Derrick said...

With a druid as a main, I do heal on occassion, though I tend to dps and tank more. I'm really just an adequate healer, certainly not a very good one, but I've never felt my performance was holding my raid back.

Now, while healing, I've always ended up as an tank healer so I've virtually no experience in raid healing.

I don't generally heal often because I find it mind-numbingly boring (at least in the case of tank healing, as I said.)

Tanking I find honestly the most boring - main tanking, that is - since threat was removed as a consideration. In most(!!) circumstances, it's merely a matter of hitting various oh-shit buttons when bosses are using key abilities. I so, so miss the days when maintaining threat was a critical component of tanking.

All that said, I certainly don't want this to descend into a ridiculous "which role is harder" argument. That doesn't achieve anything.

However, and I'll fully admit this is entirely my subjective opinion, I've always found non-hardmode very uninteresting, and I view that as a problem. Could well be that I'm just not cut out for healing, though.

Are you saying you find healing to be exciting and involving as it is now?

I'll note as well that having healing only be fun in Hard Modes is a very bad design; it should be fun regardless.

Kalon said...

Derrick, I'm not sure if you were replying to me or Shamad, but I'll comment.

Healing can be fun, sometimes. But I don't think that it's the norm. When a fight is hectic, when there's lots of situational awareness and secondary abilities (Dispel, frex), and there's a lot of nondeterministic raid damage - it can be really fun. It can be as complex or moreso than the cat rotation.

But that's not the norm. That's the exception.

The norm is as you say - tank healing where you're just sitting there keeping HoTs up and spamming your heal of the day. Raid healing can be like that too sometimes; raid healing for XT normal is similar to that, where one person is going to take a determined large amount of damage and then there's a little bit, or there's a whole bunch at very specific parts of the fight. Neither of these are all that interesting to me.

I guess I'd say that it's clear healing can be made more fun. How holy priest healing works with various synergies is a good example - but the fact is that a lot of the time, those synergies don't matter. It doesn't matter if you have serendipity if all you're doing is FH/PoM, for instance.

And as you say - if healing is really fun and challenging only in the hard modes, that's a poor design. I'd work on it being interesting in all modes, and challenging in the hard ones.

Derrick said...

I think the problem may be a matter or thresholds. Not just in tank healing but raid healing too. In the majority of circumstances (excepting, perhaps, cutting edge hardmodes) there's no need for healers to really maximize throughput and/or efficiency... But worse, when heal spells can take an average nontank raid member from 1hp to full in a spell or two, you can't easily design encounters were maximizing you potential is really important.

Instead, it often just feels kind of 'all or nothing'.

Hmmmm, this has gone full circle, hasn't it?
I think a pretty major change is needed. I'd like to see a situattion were healers could see raid health gradually dropping, and have ways to push up their output to compensate. Thing is, it needs to happen slower, so it's more a matter of utilizing synergy between spells/buffs/etc instead of a spell spam race. Basically, if everyone had twice the health, everyone took less damage per hit and heals healed for half as much. Then, this could happen.

So, yeah, full circle.

Shamad said...

Interesting discussion you've had there and I'm glad to see you liked playing holy priest Kalon :) Although I'd say that from my viewpoint, you were working sub-optimally ;) Then again, anyone picking up the complexities of priest healing in one go is highly unlikely ^^

Firstly, yes I do enjoy healing as it is right now. I enjoyed it more with downranking perhaps, but that might have been because of how resto shamans worked back then(played shammy/priest in TBC). At it's best it's the most hectic and complex task in any raid. I'm constantly reacting and assessing where I'll be needed next.

Now the issue that you've hit upon is that content becomes trivialized. Everyone knows this, but I think healers know it the best since it changes the most for us. Easy is easy. Hard is HARD. Solution is to reduce amount of healers on farm content and allow them to run as DPS offspecs or such. This speeds up raids and keeps the healing involved and fun. Most raids don't do this though, and they teach their healers to slack off, which means they need extra time to get back into shape when new content hits.

I can say for a fact that every healing class has some synergies and cooldowns to manage, and that for each they make you a better healer when you get it right. The ones I know the best are Priest/Shaman. Shamans get the riptide/CH synergy, riptide+CH/Faster LHW synergy, Nature's Swiftness/Tidal Forces/Manatide cooldowns, Earth Shield/Water Shield/Healing Way/Ancestral Healing buffs to keep up... It would be a lot of fun if it weren't for the fact that CH is pretty gimped atm so the proper thing to do in progression raiding is to reduce them to LHW/Riptide spamming on tank, which gets very old very fast.

Tank healing in general is the more boring job, even though it can be made relatively complex as in the case of Disc priests atm. However the problem is that there are severe limitations placed upon disc due to it's complexity, the most annoying being that you can only maintain Grace on one target at a time. Still, a good disc priest can go far and beyond as is needed, for example I played disc on a recent IC hard mode kill and spent almost as much time throwing around shields to raidmembers on low health as I did healing the MT.