Wash in the Serenity movie defined interesting as: “Oh god, oh god, we’re all going to die.” Is this the definition of interesting that makes healing more fun?
Or, is healing fun when there is not such a huge threat of death and you can take breaks from spamming your buttons all the time? Is healing 25 people more interesting than healing 5 people? Or, is it the boss encounters themselves that makes it interesting? Why does a boss encounter have to be hard to be interesting?
Lets think about a couple things developers can do to make healing more interesting:
A) Having more players in a party/raid means we have to manage more health bars and keep track of more people.
B) They can can make it such that the healers will eventually run out of mana, so we have to watch what spells we cast
C) They can make it such that the healers have to cast a variety of spells.
D) They can design various boss encounters that feel different, dynamic, and interesting – rather than making healing interesting on it’s own.
Lets examine A:
We know that raids in WoW used to be 40 people, and that they got reduced down to only 10 and 25-man. So, it can’t just be the number of people in the raid that makes healing interesting.
Maybe what makes it interesting is just having more people to heal. When you healed a 40-man raid, you may have only had 1 or 2 people taking damage at any point in time, so healing in a lot of fights didn’t necessarily mean having more targets to heal.
So, having random unavoidable (or even avoidable) damage that the raid takes will require at least some of the healers to really be “on their toes” and watching everyone so that the DPS doesn’t die. This is why a lot of Ulduar fights have AOE damage, or huge bursty damage to random people in the raid (ie. slag pot).
Lets examine B:
We know that before 3.1 hit, the developers tried to adjust healers’ mana so that we’d run into mana problems (ie. the spirit nerf).
I don’t think 3.1 really caused mana problems for many people, but they definitely want to constrain our mana pools, in hopes that having to make decisions about our spells will make healing more interesting or something.
I know that I’m still not completely worried about mana regen at the moment, and that the change to lifebloom actually saves me more mana than it costs me, due to my switch to not rolling lifeblooms in 3.1.
Lets examine C:
I think one of the biggest current complaints that paladin have is that they don’t have a diverse enough set of tools to use. However, some people seem to be perfectly happy with a small set of tools. I was happy with my shaman healing when all I had to do was spam chain heal & keep up earth shield. However, when I was asked to heal on a druid where 90% of my healing needed to come from lifebloom rolling during Burning Crusade, I know I hated that healing style.
I like my druid’s healing style right now because I rarely have more than 30% or 40% of my healing done during any fight come from one spell. I always have a range of things (lifebloom, rejuv, regrowth, nourish, wild growth, swiftmend) to choose from, and I try to use all my tools appropriately in any fight. What may actually make healing in Ulduar fun for me is having a choice of what tools to use, and using a different combination of tools in different fights.
Lets examine D:
It’s always the goal of game developers to make dynamic fights with different mechanics on each fight: Will there be AOE damage? Will there be adds? What will the boss do? What does the raid have to do?
Learning the strategy for killing a boss is probably the most fun part of an instance. If the mechanic is just “tank and spank” for every single boss, and the major difference is what the boss looks like, then raiding really isn’t fun. If we were happy with just doing the same thing over and over again, we’d all still be in Molten Core killing the same bosses. What makes new raid instances fun is the very fact that they are new. Once they are on farm status, then healing those encounters is not nearly as interesting as it was when you were first learning. So, that’s why I think that the developers focus on having healing being fun by being challenging.
In addition, having to watch your surroundings can make an encounter interesting. I know there were some fights pre-BC where I could literally face a wall, zoom my camera so I couldn’t see anyone, and then just spam heals on the health bars that covered my screen until someone said the boss was dead. Sure, there were always situational things you had to be aware of (ie. You’re the bomb!), but the type of encounters are always developing and changing in a way that requires more and more situational awareness at any point in time. Even when Ulduar bosses are on farm, it’s still going to be challenging to deal with the situational awareness factors for the bosses, unlike Naxxramas, where a lot of them just become easy things you can just heal through. I think the most fun boss in all of Naxx was Heigan’s Safety Dance, where you didn’t have to heal all that much, but it had a high situational awareness factor, that remained interesting even once the instance was on farm status.
I don’t think healing A LOT, spamming all your buttons, and praying that your raid doesn’t die is really what’s interesting about healing. It’s encounters where you don’t have to heal as much (and you have to deal with other things going on in the environment) that actually make being a healer in a raid more fun. When you can take breaks from mashing your keyboard/mouse and have time to see what is going on around you, I think that’s what makes healing the most fun. It’s the chess event encounters & Flame Leviathan encounters that break up the raid and makes the encounters where we are spamming our little fingers off actually more fun.