Playing Doctor

September 24, 2009 at 8:03 am | Posted in healing | 6 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I had a revelation today.  It was sort of niggling in the back of my subconscious, sitting next to all the thoughts of what I’d do if I had a lightsaber, or an X-Wing, how much weight I’d gain if teleporters existed (the fear, the fear), and where would be the best place to hole up in the event of zombies deciding to walk the earth.  Y’know, the important stuff.

It was the fact that the first thing I check out in a new MMO is what healing classes are available.  Not what classes, but what *healing* classes.

Now I like to think that I’m a reasonable, balanced individual with only a few completely random and unsubstantiated biases, so that when I check things out I do so from a rational standpoint.  I investigate, I research.  And from a neutral starting standpoint.

Yet here I am allowing what information I can find on healing classes to influence my first impressions of a game.

Is that right?

Well, apart from a few blips, most of my MMO “main” characters have been healers of one sort or another.  I like playing healers.  They suit my style of play, and make me feel happy-joy feelings when I can try out a new style of healing play.  So it’s not really that surprising that I look to see what classes are available for my playing style.

So yes, the first glance at what healing classes are in game does have a huge influence.  There’s no point investing time and effort in a game if there isn’t a class that I want to play most of the time.

I enjoy playing alts.  Some of them even get past the starting zone.  But it’s rare that they do, especially when I’m levelling my main, which nowadays is invariably a healer of some sort.

One could also add that the lack of innovation in online gaming has also helped my condition.  Now, that’s a whole different can of worms, and my opinion is that if I can’t think of any innovations to put in an online game (genius thinker that I am) then I don’t get to moan about any games that come out that can’t think of any innovations either.  Whilst we have mindless violence in games, we’ll have Holy Trinities (or Holy Quads, depending on how lucky the Crowd Controllers amongst us are).  That’s fine by me.

It’s not my sole reason for judging a game, but a healing class that looks like it will be fun to play is something that will get me looking at a game in a more than cursory fashion.

I can be so shallow…

Cheers,

Hawley.

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First to get de sugar…

September 17, 2009 at 5:32 am | Posted in healing, raiding, Shaman, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I had an entertaining conversation the other day, which made me ponder the nature of online gaming, with reference mainly to World of Warcraft (but there is a certain resonance with other MMOs).

I was asked by a level 80 Shaman: Where do I get my level 80 gear?

Now, that’s a question isn’t it?  I was pootling around Dalaran wearing 4 out of 5 items of (I think) Tier 7.5 gear, which means Bright Orange! and somewhat over the top in the style stakes.  So I was an obvious person to ask.  I was someone obviously wearing a tier set.

In a nutshell, the conversation was this; chap wanted to know where to go to get the items, and then how to get into a raid to get the items.

I shall now leave the chap and conversation, and instead ponder some of the thoughts that slowly bubbled up through my brain in the couple of hours following…

Is it easier for healers to get into raids?  I think so.  Most people enjoy dishing out damage, so they play dps characters.  And I think some feel that healing is a chore.  It doesn’t help that when things go badly, it’s generally the healer that gets blamed.  So healers get the twin bonus of less people competing for the role, and the fact that without healers, no-one goes raiding.

Should a hybrid class with healing use that to get into raids?  In this respect, I think it’s something that World of Warcraft players brought upon themselves, so yes I’ll use it all I can.  I play a Shaman.  I can be melee dps, ranged dps, or healer.  So whilst the class is, effectively, two thirds dps, one third heal, most only see the one third heal.  So I can happily have a class that can solo with a minimum of effort, and raid in a role I enjoy.  Win for me!

Should hybrid healers be able to change to another role once in a raid?  That depends on your raid, but with most things being so gear-oriented, the only way to perform to required standards in a raid is to have good gear.  And that means having more than one outfit.  But once in a raid, it’s easy to get that second set of equipment, and once in a raid it’s a scary amount easier to swap roles, or even characters (with attendant class swapping).

Is raiding, or Tiered equipment, a right?  No, it’s not.  But it’s a real shame that so much of the focus of the game at maximum level (I hate the term “end-game”.  It has far too many negative connotations for my liking) is towards raiding, and grabbing hold of tiered armour sets.  It’s a powerful draw, and there is a remarkable amount of peer pressure when it comes to being decked out in purpz.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Peaks and Troughs

September 8, 2009 at 6:28 pm | Posted in healing, Shaman, World of Warcraft | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I had a strange night’s raiding last night.  Herewerd got to finish off a Naxxaramas run by killing Sapphiron and Kel’Thuzad as part of a short-numbered run; 19 in total.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think we’d do it, so was remarkably surprised when we did.  Well done, our lot!  Then, to cap it all off, Voice of Reason rolled out of Kel’Thuzad’s frosty-cold bum, and I got it (I shall miss my Saronite Defender, but it was time it was upgraded).

After which we went to Osidian Sanctum, which I’d never been to, and after a short but bloody set of encounters, I got the gloves for my armour set.  Bonus!

Finally, we dropped down to a 10-man set for the Trial of the Champions.  Not been on the 10 man version before, along with most of the rest of the raid, so we just bounced off it for a while, at the same time as getting some experience of the place.

So, in Warcraft terms it was a good evening.  I stopped caring about epixxx and phat lewtz a long time ago, but I do care about how my little blue space-demon looks, and the Saronite Defender does look a lot like a combat-based ironing board.  Voice of Reason has a much more demented look to it…  As well as enhancing my frankly absurd “+Heal”, which in turn makes other people think I *must* be a great healer, and yes, I *should* be on the raid.

Yet all this was tinged with a heavy sense of regret that after this raid night, things would be changing.  A lot.

There are two main reasons that I’m in the raid community.  First is that a group of real life friends are in it.  And seeing as they all live in another city, it’s a great way of keeping in touch, and seeing how life is going.  THe second is that when I joined the community, they didn’t have a Shaman that signed regularly.

Well, over the last few weeks a few more Shamans joined the community.  So Herewerd’s less of a special snowflake than he was.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing.  I’ve still been able to get the amount of raiding I want to get done, as due to various real-life obstructions, raid signups haven’t been so heavy (hence short-numbered runs to Naxxaramas and other sundry places).

But my friends leaving is another matter.  Someone they’ve raided with in the past is setting up a raid guild, and asked them for help.  So they’ve moved their raiding characters to this new guild, having left the community.

Now, don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not upset with them, as they’re off helping someone else, and from what they’ve said they’re moving to a guild-based raid.  Now that will allow them to shape it to the way that they like to play, which is informal but insanely progress based, as opposed to the sometimes warm and woolly anarchy that you can get with a community.

I’m just wondering what I should do now.  Not raiding means I get my Monday evening back, and I can do other things during that time, including getting to bed half an hour earlier.  A lot of the fun of raiding was being there with mates, so if my mates aren’t there there’s commensurately less fun.  But I also enjoy raiding, for many different reasons.

However, I have made a decision to PUG more, so maybe Monday could become my PUG night, and that way I can start having a look at all the instances I seem to have missed in the last few months.

Hmm.  This is all turning into an even more confused ramble than usual, so I think I’ll take my time, see what my options are, and welcome this opportunity for change.  A little chaos is good for the soul.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Half-Brick Heroes?

September 5, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Captain, healing, LotRO, Minstrel, Runekeeper | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I do wonder if I get a little too jealous of Minstrels at times.  I can’t help feeling that Captains are made of purest evil because they have the odd healing skill.

Let me explain in a little further detail.  I get jealous of the skills and abilities of my chosen class, and I hate it when other classes can do something that my chosen class can do.  I could probably try and dress it up so that I sound very reasoned and learned, but it all boils down to the fact that I want to be as much of a special snowflake as online gaming will allow.

A belief I adhere to is; “Do whatever it is that your class alone can do, and do it well”.  In Lord of the Rings Online, Minstrels used to be the healing class of choice.  In fact, one of the things I really like about Lord of the Rings Online is that with so few classes compared to other games (ten for World of Warcraft, two hundred and seventy-four for your average SOE game) you could have quite a cool amount of individuality in a group.

So, apart from Captains and their evil healing ways, Minstrels were somewhat alone in that whole healing thing.  And yes, I’m ignoring the fact that the Lore-Master has a heal every half-hour or so (it feels like that when you’ve no Minstrel in the group, at least).

But then Moria gets released and the Rune-Keeper appears on the scene.

Boy, did it look like a threat.  In fact, it felt like every time Hawley even thought of chucking a heal, I could hear a flick-knife *snick* from a Rune-Keeper grinning in the shadows.

Paranoid?  Nah…

Now I might sound like someone who only ever plays a Minstrel, but there are times when I do like to get out a stick-hitter, and go and hit things with sticks.  And I’ll never be a stranger to low-level alts (it’s having the patience to get them to high levels that’s the issue).

So I decided to see what these here little fellers are like.  Do they really hide out in shadows with flick-knives, ready to shiv up Minstrels?  Time to find out.

A couple of fences needed climbing first, though.  The first was race.  Yeesh, playing the race card in online games…  I’m (generally) a humanist (is that a real term?  Does it apply here?).  It’s rare that I play a race that is not human.  It’s a deep-rooted thing of long experience, but it largely boils down to this; Elves are bow-wielding super-beings, whilst dwarves are the boiled down essence of dour and doughty.  But humans fighting huge, evil monsters?  That’s a struggle that real people could be facing.  It could (it never would, though) be me.

However, Humans can’t be Rune-Keepers.  Bah humbug.  Dwarf or Elf only.  So I went for…  An elf.  Why?  Well, I don’t like short in online games.  It makes the perspective look all wrong to me, and I’m easily confused at the best of times.  Oh, and those beards scare me.

So, an elf it is.  But then again, I find it hard to act all refined and posh at the best of times, so I named him a good barbarian name, and I’ll probably offend many players of elves by being far too common.  Thus Ataulf the elven Rune-Keeper popped into existence.

From here, it’s having a look at the starter zones, and extremely low-level rune-keeping.

I didn’t see much healing to begin with.  Starter zones seem more of a soloing thing to me anyway; you don’t particularly need to group up to complete any quests, and there are no instances that require you to group up.  Time flew by.

And it was only at level 14 that I realised that it might have been some time since I last visited a trainer.  Only to discover that yes, it had been eight levels since I’d last visited a trainer.

This was possibly because I was having fun playing a low-level Rune-Keeper.  I had one heal that was a small heal over time, and I could drop a rock that looked like something that bad guys should impale themselves on at the climax of the movie (surprisingly sharp and pointy), that healed a small amount every few seconds, but did it for some time.  A bit like a Shaman’s Healing Stream Totem.

Only more rock-like.

And I also had a few ranged damage spells.  Some fast casting light damage, some mid range damage over time, and a lightning spell that was a lovely fast hitter, but only once I’d “attuned” during the course of a fight.  It looked great, like a miniature version of the Loremaster’s lightning, and was a fantastic way to finish a fight.

It really did get to the stage where I had to resist the urge to shout; “The power!  The POWER!” and then laugh maniacally.  In point of fact, discovering I had all these extra powers somewhat diluted my power-crazed trip into DPSland.  Suddenly I had a bigger heal over time, and some utility spells.

So now I’m close, but not at, level 15.

How was it?

Well, with a lack of heals and quite a bit of ranged nastiness, levelling was pretty easy.  It’s a strange feeling seeing mobs hit the deck half way to me, but I could get used to not being clawed half to death every fight.  The effects look pretty cool, and are a lot more obvious than the Loremaster, which at times seems almost ashamed to be a spell-flinger.  Yes, Tolkein’s world doesn’t have wizards as a rule, but there has to be a game somewhere.

Not having a big stick, or even a weapon of any kind, looked very different.  Runes seemed a strange choice to me, but they’re quite a funky and different choice.  And there is also the fun of running around unleashing all sorts of malarky with what amounts to a couple of half-bricks.

Will I continue playing Ataulf?  Aye, I think I will.  I’ll see about getting him to the point where instancing starts, and then see about joining a few groups so I can see what he’s like as part of a group.

I like the Rune-Keeper.  It’s combined two elements which I rarely get to use; heal over time, and damage over time, and put them in a fun and funky half-brick brandishing package.

Using hots and dots is novel and interesting enough for me to make the whole package seem fresh and fun, especially when taking a break from playing direct heal chuckers.

Are they made of the same purest evil that Captains are made of?  Well, they don’t have all the really useful mini-buffs that Minstrels can cast, and I can’t tell if they can heal as well, so the jury is still out.

Cheers,

Hawley

The Secret Lives of Healers (or, how we met)

September 3, 2009 at 4:28 am | Posted in Captain, Grouping, healing, LotRO, Minstrel | Leave a comment
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A long long time ago, when I was still playing Dark Age of Camelot I think, I read a piece somewhere about how the best healers were those who could chat in group/raid while healing. As a multi-tasking test more than anything else. Since I’m horribly chatty, I took this as gospel and as a validation of the fact I’m just as likely to be chatting as healing someone at any given situation!

So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that the way me and Hawley met was via chat, during a raid where were were the only healers. Our kin ‘borrowed’ Hawley from our allied kin to boost our minstrel numbers for the 12-man Rift raid in LotRO. I am even relatively sure he offered himself up for this. We didn’t have enough minstrels to regularly go twice a week, and his kin had plenty of healers and weren’t actually raiding as seriously as us. So Hawley became ours for the nights we needed.

Me, I played a minstrel up to 50 so I could also bolster the numbers of real healers. But I quite often went as Captain healer anyway. And of course, we introduced ourselves on the way to the first fight, had a little chat about strategies, who was most likely to die first, what order we tended to heal people, etc etc. Just in way of a professional greeting.

But, by boss no. 2 we’d kind of moved to chit-chat, and jokes. I’ve always chatted to the other healers on raids, during the raids. We share tactics. That’s good. In some MMOs we have to take care of overhealing, so discussion is very important. But, in other cases, it’s just nice to hang out and chat with people who face the same strategic choices and stresses as you.

Let’s face it, we all know healers get yelled at a lot. Whether right or wrong it’s basic human instinct to want to not die! Especially if there’s someone there who can prevent it by pressing a few buttons. But, there are times, when fights are going well.. when healers are really just on stand-by mode. And we can spot those times, and break out of them when needed. In those times, I’d say I generally exchange some kind of chit-chat, mostly via page. Teamspeak makes raidwide chatter easier, but often, in a new raid, the talk needs to be kept down a little. So typing offers me that release. And I was glad to find, in Hawley, a fellow chatterbox.

No-one died unnecessarily on our watch, and we continued our conversations every friday and sunday at the Rift for many months. It helps to be friendly enough to de-brief after a rough fight also, or to reassure that nothing could have gone differently (or discuss how healing could have been better). I chat with most healers I raid with.. sometimes I think it’s just me, but they always join in and seemingly enjoy it! I think it helps build a healer support structure, since the only people that really know how it feels to heal and to be yelled at are the raid healers. And to support one another and be sociable is the main reason I play MMOs. I’ve made a lot of healing friends, and no-one’s ever told me to shut up and get back to healing!

In other games, I have been told off for typing in group while healing, I guess that’s why I page people mostly these days. And because I don’t think my healing suffers in any way from the chatter. I’m no fool, I pick my moments, as do the people I chat to. In fact, we need the behind-the-scenes chat to let off steam. It can be a little stressful, and anything said in a raid in private chat, stays in private chat and is forgotten afterwards. Honest!

Arbitrary

The PUG is my friend, the PUG is my friend

September 1, 2009 at 5:51 am | Posted in Grouping, healing | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Back in the mists of time, Skooge was a bad, bad undead rogue.

One day I was on the Baron Run.  I was in a PUG that was proceeding quite well; we weren’t going to do it in time, but it was good practice for all that.  There were no temper tantrums over phat lewtz, and no-one was acting like a melon-headed sausage-fingered fool.

But just as the portcullis closes, and the first of the waves of ogres begins to trundle towards us, one of the two warriors tells us that his dad is calling him down for tea, and despite his protestations, he has to go afk to eat.

It brings a smile to my face, just thinking about that moment.  We only just survived that fight with four active players, and it was great fun, but the reactions of some of the party were more than a little uncharitable.  I wasn’t one of them; food is better than gaming, any day.  If anything, it made me smile as I remembered being 12 and not wanting to leave the Spectrum for food…

Why my reminiscing?

There are loads of horror stories regarding PUGs; players not understanding aggro mechanics, pets that run amok, petty arguments over phat lewtz.

And I will hold my hand high, and freely admit that I am allergic to PUGs.  They bring me out in a rash, honest.

However.  I am older and wiser now, and I am going to change my attitude towards PUGs.  Why?  Well, I have a number of characters that I need to bash back into shape.  I’m out of practice, and I’m looking at some of the skills and abilities they have, and wonder; “We used to be mates, you and I.  Why?”

Being in a PUG is fantastic practice.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I learn more about playing a healer when things go badly than when they go well, and it’s an honest truth that playing with people you don’t know makes things more likely to go wrong.

Instances are also great for levelling, as they provide bucket-loads of xp, and trez.  Bonus!

It’s about more than just the material benefits, though.  Massively Multiplayer.  The bit that makes these games more than the sum of their parts.  And for me to pointedly ignore that aspect of online gaming means I’m not playing these games to their fullest potential.

So, from now on, I shall play with a view to getting into instances and groups (time permitting).  Gone are the days of insular, curmudgeonly Hawley (and alts).  No, from now on it’s friendly, welcoming Hawley, here for all your PUG healing needs!

Yeah, I wonder how long it will last as well, but we’ll see, won’t we?

Cheers,

Hawley.

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