#1 - Jan. 31, 2016, 5:51 a.m.
I have seen WoW's healing design go through many different iterations and believe I have a firm grasp on the objectives and reasoning behind many of the shifts in the way healers are played. However, I have also been through a few design approaches that didn't quite work out. I'm here to provide my feedback on what I see going into Legion through analyzing the current build (20994), my experience in the history of past healing metas, and what I see going into the future. I will be covering the following subjects:
Healing combat flow
Single target vs multiple target heals
Healer roles and raid composition
Thank you for embarking on this exploration of healing with me.
1. Healing Combat Flow
One of the most controversial subjects in WoW is whether the game is more fun when there is always something to do, or if it is okay to be waiting for a couple of seconds before there is something relevant that a player can be doing. I fall strictly on the side of waiting around to be boring, which is why I stopped playing Rogue and switched to healing in WotLK.
Always having something to do is easy for DPS and tanks (who also DPS), but how is that achieved for healers? I believe there to be only two possible ways: making healers play an intense game of resources where a variety of similar heals with varying mana costs are laid out and it is up to players to pick the most efficient tool for any situation, or relaxing the resource game in favor of allowing healers to DPS in the resulting downtime.
It is my opinion that Blizzard decided which model to go to a very long time ago when downranking was eliminated. Having a somewhat relaxed mana game with fewer options leads to far less button bloat and complexity, however past expansions have failed to deliver on a sufficiently meaningful activity to do in the mean time, which makes many players feel somewhat bored whenever healing is too easy.
I think that it is in-line with the WoW development team's philosophies and direction of healing design that there should be a couple of options to deal with healing situations that make healers play the mana game, and that the ability to DPS should be leftover and be somewhat engaging in itself (i.e. more than spamming one spell) as well as being meaningful (a level of damage that would affect the raid if it did not exist or was executed exceptionally poorly). Currently I believe Shamans have the best design in this regard with perfectly adequate damaging spells with just enough complexity, as well as artifact traits that enhance damage. I would like to see this extend to all other healers as well.
2. Single target vs Multiple Target heals
In the spectrum of cheaper, more efficient, but lower HPS heals to expensive and high HPS heals, multi-target heals naturally trend towards being more expensive because healers always have the ability to single target heal multiple targets consecutively while the reverse is not true.
With that said, it is imperative that multi-target heals are both powerful as well as expensive to emphasize the importance of selecting the right healing tool for the right job. An odd trend I have seen in Legion is to make multi-target heals affect far fewer targets, with Vivify and Power Word: Radiance affecting 3 total targets or Light of Dawn having positional requirements. While this may be a good way to ensure multi-target heals still have value in targeting and positioning, I think it is important to ensure that they remain both powerful and expensive and not too similar to single target heals. Currently Power Word: Radiance has lost this distinction, much like Disc's Prayer of Healing on live and that in part is due to a long cast time and low power.
Going forward, I hope the development team takes special care to make sure that AoE heals are good in multi-target situations and single target heals are good at healing specific targets, as part of the issues with Mistweavers, Holy Paladins and Discipline Priests on live are due to losing this distinction as the specs become one-dimensional when one side dominates too much.