Will healing classes be Left 4 Dead?

November 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Every so often, I sit and think about MMOs.  It’s usually whilst I’m holding a sizeable amount of tea in an unfeasibly large mug, and it’s the sort of pondering that sees other, more normal people, sort out The Big Things.  You know, The Big Things That Affect The World.

Of course, being a Geek (First Class), I think about geekish things.  To me, The Big Things That Affect The World are the sort of Cthuloid-scale entities that only exist in online worlds…

Recently, when tea-based pondering occurs, the subject of instanced dungeons keeps popping up.  To me, it’s no surprise, really.  There’s Cataclysm and all its new-and-old instances hiding just behind the horizon.  There’s Fallen Earth, and its perceived lack of “endgame” due to not having instanced dungeons similar to those in World of Warcraft.  There’s even speculation about next year’s offerings, with both Tha Seekrit Wurld and The Old Republic on my radar.

Of course, new games often means new speculation, and with that comes talk using dirty, dirty words like “innovation”, “originality” and “new”.

One of my pet triggers is when someone casually drops the H-Bomb.  Yeah, when a spokesmouth for the game says something along the lines of not needing healers.  How needing a healer makes Baby Buddha cry.  Oh, how my heart leaps at those times.  And the fangs come out, the hackles rise, and the urge to summon Great Things Of Terror (I know, I’m capitalising a lot today.  I hope it’s a fad I’ll pass through rapidly) to go and punish them for their temerity by eating all their biscuits, and weeing on their chips.  I *like* playing healers.

Now, I am getting better.  Part of it is conditioning.  It’s becoming such a commonly used concept in pre-launch hype that I’m getting used to it.

But I’ve also seen one future where there are no healers, and it’s not actually that bad.

I’ve spoken of it previously, and it is Left 4 Dead.  Or, if you’re like me, you’re with the cool kids in Left 4 Dead 2 which I have been lead to believe is the sequel.

Whenever I read that Dalaran is a bit like a lobby area, with players waiting for their instance to start up, I think of Left 4 Dead.  Each Campaign is like a multi-wing dungeon, and each involves 4 players in a journey from A to B, with a number of set-piece events, the gathering of trez, and the killing of lots of mobs and bosses along the way.

The mobs are zombies, the bosses are called Special Infected, the trez is largely guns and ammo, and the set-piece events are often less about defeating a big bad boss, and more about running, screaming and general headless-chickening (if you’re me.  You are probably cooler, and therefore more level-headed than I am).

So the concept is the same.  It’s in the level of detail that things change.

Part of that level of detail is the removal of a healing class.  I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a specific desire to remove the specific healing class from the game, more that there are *no* classes in the game.  Want to be melee?  Pick up and use a melee weapon.  Want to be ranged?  Why, choose from one of the many fine and reliable ranged weapons in the game.

Want to be a healer?  Concentrate on picking people up from the ground, maybe concentrate on keeping those zombies that slip through from munching on your team-mates, and always be ready with a med-kit for when one is needed.

Of course, there’s no helpful aggro mechanic, so whomever wants to be tank will find that they just need to get in the way a lot.  Or they can just realise that Left 4 Dead (or the sequel, indeed) is also a future where *all* roles have been abolished.

Well, all roles apart from that perennial cockroach, the DPS.

Yes, I can make that gag, I’ve played enough damage dealing classes in my time, and I love seeing a big number floating up from a monstie just as much as the next damage-dealing chap.  I’m just being all clever and ironic.  Or something.

Yet despite that loss of role, it’s pots of fun.  Zombies are the in thing, and there’s no surprise there.  After all, there are no zombie rights.  There’s no fear of offending the undead minority, or having to deal with the Right To Shamble lobbying groups.  Add in high-velocity firepower and cooking implements, and you have a winner.  It’s not glorifying violence, because it’s zombies!

Everyone is allowed to pick on zombies.

And even better than that, they can feel good whilst doing it.  The fact that you also get some great action, clever set pieces, and some clever game design means that the game is a lot of fun.

So there it is.  A party based instanced game, with not a single role in sight.  The game-play has been specifically created to enhance the playing experience, to the extent that whilst one might wish for a healer class or role within the game (heal spells on tap would make it *a lot* more easy), it is not required for success; health and healing is a resource that must be managed more overtly than it is in most MMOs.

Would an MMO without roles ever be created?  Will one survive?

There have been plenty of classless MMOs.  Star Wars Galaxies was one; skill-based, not class based.  But that still left people gravitating towards the role they preferred to play.  It just meant they could pick and choose exactly how much of a role they wanted to perform, within the framework of the game.  One could also say that the roles were still a required part of the PvE game.

Would a role-less game mean freedom?  Would it mean that all players would have the choice to do whatever they want, however they want?

Or would it mean that everyone was free to be just the same as everyone else?  That every single player is free to be *exactly* the same as everyone else; part of one homogenously bland whole?

I suppose that until someone makes a widely received MMO that is genuinely role-less, I’ll be drinking a lot of tea whilst attempting to fathom out whether such a game would be one I’d enjoy as an MMO, rather than a fun romp for a couple of hours every week or so.

I also suppose that with compelling and engrossing game-play, any sort of game is one that is both good, and fun.

Of course, the ability to gauge what is compelling and engrossing is most probably the most important skill of a games designer.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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In space, no-one can hear me heal.

March 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Finally, I got a taste of what it is like to be a logistics capsuleer in Eve Online.

I had scuttled…  Hmm.  Maybe “scuttle” is the wrong term to use when talking about capital ships, but it’s the best way to describe my frenzied movement from gate to gate…  Scuttle it is.

I had scuttled from jump gate to jump gate with an Osprey and a hold full of expensive junk, from where the Osprey had been parked in HiSec all the way into NullSec.  The fear of losing the ship, and the huge amount of cash sunk into it (well, for me it was a huge amount of cash) is a surprisingly effective death penalty, so even though I didn’t see a single aggressive soul on my way through 31 jumps, it was with a sigh of relief that I finally docked at my destination in Nullsec.

From there, I set about trying to fit the good ship Urine Sample with the equipment necessary to turn it into something approximating a fleet support vessel.  As this was a first experiment, I had based it heavily on a basilisk fit that used lots of Tech 2 gear.

Suffice to say, I have neither the skills nor the ISK to be able to be playing around with Basilisks and Tech 2 gear.  So it was much stripped down, into what I could both use and afford.

The business end was two shield transporters, and two remote armour repairers.  Supporting those were four capacitor rechargers.  And a very short time after announcing to the world that I finally had a ship ready, I was invited into a fleet.

The fleet was a corp carebear fleet that was taking out havens for fun and profit.  It was an ideal opportunity to check out my ship, it’s loadout, and to learn the very basics of logistics, as to be perfectly honest I was surplus to requirements.  I was flying with the big boys, and the big boys were probably capable of surviving by themselves.

However, I was able to learn the following:

It’s healing, Jim, but not as we know it. Well, as I know it.  Rather than flinging a spell which has a casting time and then an effect, it’s a cyclic-tick trigger.  Thingy.  I switch it on and off, and it keeps healing until out of capacitor power, or I switch it off.  It’s a quite important distinction, and feels a lot more like a Heal Over Time than a direct heal spell.

Suddenly my Cap is my Mana. When did that happen?  I’m mainly used to my Cap just… being there.  It sits there, runs out very occasionally, and is a pretty yellowy-orangey thing on my User Interface.  But now, it’s everything.  I can eat through it in a few seconds if I fire up everything, or most of a minute if I just fire some of it up.  Either way, sometimes I’m just sat there doing nothing, letting it build up again.

Pimping my ride could become an obsession.
And I’m not talking about painting it metallic purple, and putting 38 speakers and a dvd player in it.  I am, unfortunately, talking about tweaking and upgrading until I’ve got a ship that can do the job I want and need it to do, but also is affordable enough to lose in PvP.

It’s different, it’s fresh, and it’s new.  It’s a different environment and a new role in a game I had realised I didn’t know that well, but at least felt comfortable in.  But that doesn’t mean there’s no fun.

I’m very much looking forward to my next session in Eve Online.

Cheers,
Hawley

What to do in the Barrow Downs when you’re (about to be) dead.

February 19, 2010 at 7:45 am | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

For all my love of Skirmishes and skirmishing, I tend to be a bit lazy (big shock to both of my regular readers, I’m sure.  Wotcha, regular readers!) because most of my skirmishing is done solo as I level up my Hunter and Evil Captain alts.

Because I’m a slacker and they were both about level 30 when Skirmishes were introduced, I would go into the Siege of Gondamon as it was one of two available choices.  Tuckborough, being the other choice, tends to confuse me.  I get lost easily, even there.  So it was a lot easier to let the monsties come to me, and defence is a lot easier than attacking.  The available guards also help a lot, even if they do try their level-best to hoover away all my xp.

Since I got Hawley to level 65 and Lucky all trained up, I only tend to skirmish with him when there’s the offer of some hot group action.  Life as a Minstrel is more fun when it’s someone else you’re healing.  Or something.

So it was that I got to take a walk away from Gondamon (and all that lovely leet doomy-dps Hunter/Evil Captain action) and step into…  The Barrow Downs.

It was an attempt to put a 12 person kinship skirmish together, but it was a few people short, so some dropped out and we made a 6 person group.  Then we started discussions on where we wanted to go, and flushed with the excitement of going somewhere different, I kept jumping up and down shouting about the Barrow Downs until everyone else was too tired to object.

Bad Hawley.

Their comments regarding the difficulty just spurred me on.  If someone tells me we’re likely to survive 2 minutes, then I want to try, just to see if we can get to 5.  Maybe, somewhere back in time, one of Hawley’s caveman ancestors did Wrong And Bad™ things with a lemming.  Who knows?

As it was, my first trip into that particular skirmish was hilarious fun.  I like healing skirmishes, because with the preponderance of healing Skirmish Soldiers out there, many fights are quite easy for me.  And with those same Skirmish Soldiers not appearing in group lists, healing them is a case of keeping an eye out for their icons and topping them up every so often.

And when things go bad, they tend to go really bad.  Which is what happened after the 15 minute mark.  Too much fire, too much pain, and suddenly Skirmish Soldiers are dropping like flies, and I’m following them.

We survived to 17 or so minutes.  Seeing as the objective is to survive for an hour, that might not seem all that great, but I did have hilarious fun, and got to throw a lot of healing out in a short period of time.  Best of all?

No walking.  There is a fantastic pillar-like stone to stand next to/lean against, and that means little chance of getting lost.  Just how I like things.

After a bit of surprise at the amount of time we survived, we went off to go and defend the Prancing Pony.  Apparently some ruffians were taking umbrage at the amount of arrrrrrrr-peeeee that was taking place inside, and had decided to remedy this by burning the place down.

Resisting the urge to help them, I elected to join my fellows in defending the place.  Bree wouldn’t have as good a skyline without the Pony anyway.

Again, much fun was had.  A successful resolution meant being able to hold my head high again, after having it beaten low by a horde of the dead in the Barrow Downs.

It was a fun evening, and one that reminded me of how much fun group Skirmishes can be.  I had wondered at how often I’d be able to repeat them, but the gameplay is really nice, especially the defence scenarios, where managing resources is really nice.  It’s also nice that this is stress-free gaming; no worrying about messing up and ruining everyone’s night, as you sometimes get in raiding.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Bad Hawley’s Sword Halls of Dol Guldur Casebook

January 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

The Caveat: Bad Hawley loves the intarnet because it is filled with crunchy information.  This is not one of those places; for finely detailed crunch-based tactics, you are invited to look elsewhere.  Here, there is but opinion formed of direct experience.

First, a brief introduction:  The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur is part of the Tower of Dol Guldur.

Second, a slightly more verbose introduction:  The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur is a single room instance designed for a small fellowship (3 persons).  In concept, the heroes enter the auditorium where a Nazgul orders three of its champions into combat.  This Casebook will look at the non-Challenge form of the instance, where each champion is part of a separate phase.

As a minstrel, it is possible to succeed comfortably in the Sword Halls at level 64, and with what can be considered “average to low” gear and equipment.  Having level 65 companions helps a great deal, especially if one of them is of a tanking persuasion.  Remember, without adequate protection from your enemies, you are only so much jam.

As there will be many references to The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur within this casebook (this being a casebook about The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur) I shall be using a shortened form of the correct name.  Therefore “the Sword Halls” shall be standing in for “The Sword Halls of Dol Guldur”  for the remainder of this casebook.  Cooler kids might use the acronym “SH”, but Bad Hawley hates acronyms.  Hates them!  (Bad Hawley is also not a cool kid.  And that makes him cry.)

There are five phases to the Sword Halls, and each is separate and distinct.  Between each phase there is a short pause during which it is wise to gather one’s breath, check that everything is still where it should be (potions, quickslot icons, nads) and prepare for the next phase.

Phase the First:  The Wait.
Upon entering the Sword Halls you will find a short ramp leading up to the arena.  The arena itself is bare (apart from such requisite furniture as piles of bones and other detritus) and a Nazgul looming over you and your companions.

Now, you might feel that there would be no challenge to a phase named “The Wait”, but there are in fact two challenges to face.  The first challenge is to ignore the Brazier, or “Clicky Thing” at the other side of the arena, for this is a trap.

At first, nothing seems to happen.  To the extent that it might not seem unreasonable to think that clicking on the Clicky Thing will start the instance.  Do Not Do This.  Clicking on the Clicky Thing will engage Hard Mode, which could be A Bad Thing™.  As you might not wish to engage Hard Mode, it is a good idea to ensure no-one steps too close to the Clicky Thing, so as to avoid any inadvertent clicking errors.

The second challenge is to use the time effectively.  You might find that having a sip of tea helps to occupy the time, but remember your role.  You are an Minstrel, and it is your job to ensure that the morale of your companions is never depleted.

Now, the average player might feel that Morale is merely a thin and shallow method used to hide a standard hit points/healing mechanic, but to the true Minstrel, party morale is more than a simple numbers game.  Use Phase the First to not just drink tea, but remind your comrades of how valuable and appreciated they are.  If necessary, lie about their abilities, and their importance to the group.  Remember, high morale is better than low morale.

Phase the Second: Urcheron.

Phase the Second sets the template for all bar one of the remaining phases, and it is well to bear this in mind.

It begins with a group of general underlings, who are similar in nature to the warm-up acts as seen in modern vaudeville theatres.  As such, they have the abilities of the Main Act but are not particularly developed, so they are a minor nuisance so long as you and your companions are aware, and not falling asleep at the keyboard.

After the underlings, Urcheron will arrive.  Urcheron has three noticeable attacks, and all of them are about as much fun as doing star-jumps in hedgehog-skin underpants.

All three are fire attacks, but two of them are simple enough.  One is an AOE instant attack, the second opens a big burny portal under the chosen victim.  As one cannot be avoided (victims are hit or not) and the second relies upon parents to hammer home the vital information; FIRE BAD! to their children, there is no need to go into these attacks further.

The third attack is most annoying, and one that requires special attention.  It is a flame attack that must be seen to be fully understood, but could be likened unto a snake made of fire.  This snake will slither upon the floor, heading towards the object of it’s anger.  And, just like all fire, this fire is BAD.  Do not let it be bad, for you or your comrades.

The best way of dealing with this attack is to move, and keep moving.  Both this attack and the portal of fire are presaged by Urcheron crouching down, and becoming surrounded by an orange icon.  This is not Urcheron suddenly suffering from an irritable bowel, so beware.  If you see this, be prepared to move, and be smart about it.

However, the attack only lasts a number of seconds, and it is easy to outrun.  As a minstrel, there are a number of tactics that will help when dealing with the effects of this attack:

Firstly, try not to stand next to Urcheron.  You might be tempted to help out on the old dps front by whacking him/her/it with your dobber of choice.  This is not necessarily a good thing, as you will have less time with which to vacate the area.  Let the creeping fire take it’s time getting to you,

Secondly, try running in an arc, so as to keep range between you and the fire, but remain within healing range of your tank.  Remember, they may well need healing as soon as it is safe for you to stop running.

Thirdly, try using a Heal-Over-Time ability on your tank such as Soliloquy of Spirit as you set off running.  It will help keep your tank on their feet during the period of the attack.  At the least, it will take the edge off any pain they might take during your jaunt.

Fourthly, there are three of you in the auditorium, so keep checking that the creeping fire is creeping after you, rather than a colleague.  Getting this wrong and accidentally running *into* the fire will make you look like a chump, and your comrades may well call you a “Thicky”.

The key with this fight is to not make your life harder by needing to heal yourself as well as the other members of your fellowship.  Urcheron *will* fall, it might just take a little while.

Phase the Third:  Carchrien.
Carchrien is one of the Morroval, which means that she is a bat-winged screecher that is only happy when ripping out your spleen.

Her warm-up act are morroval, so be prepared for stun attacks, and being buffeted by small numbers of bats.

Whilst I cannot guarantee that each Champion of Shadow enters on a timer (in my experience, Urcheron and Durkar have both appeared a few seconds after their last little henchman has died) Carchrien always seems to arrive with one or two of her henchmen standing.  At this time it is unknown whether Carchrien is a bit of a cheat, a bit unsporting, or is running late for another appointment and was hoping we wouldn’t mind an early entrance.

Whichever it is, the fact remains that you will have to deal with Carchrien at the same time as one or two henchmen.  Usually, as a minstrel you might well be in the grand melee, but it is advisable to not get too carried away.

Firstly, there is no respite to regain used power before the entrance of Carchrien.
Secondly, it is worth keeping some distance between you and she, due to her attacks.

Now there are two attacks that you will need to be aware of, and overcome.  One is a standard stun attack, the other is a timed summon.

The stun attack is simple enough to overcome, and is more of a hindrance than anything else.  The important point is to ensure that your comrades are either topped up enough to survive your momentary inactivity, or to ensure you are in good enough communication to advise them to drink healing potions if they are not.

The timed summon is slightly more of an issue.  In this attack, Carchrien summons a swarm of bats, which will (in my experience) attack you.  This is most probably because, as the healer, you are the member of the fellowship with the most attractive flavour to a recently summoned bat.

The attack will mean that you will not be able to cast anything with an induction time; any attempts will most likely be interrupted.  Instant-cast abilities may also be used.  There is no point attempting Song Of Soothing, neither will engaging the bats in combat; they have too many hit points to kill quickly, and will disappear after a few seconds anyway.

If on good enough morale, it is possible to weather the attacks of the bats.  A tank with a handy taunt can also help, so in this instance it is useful to be relatively close to your tank.  The important thing is not to panic, but to calmly assess the situation, and if necessary use an instant heal or drink a healing potion if the situation seems dire.  Running around shouting “Bats!  BATS!” will only make you appear to be a loon, and make your comrades wonder if the moon is full this evening.

Phase the Fourth:  Durkar.
As usual, you will find that Durkar is presaged by his warm-up act.  However, similar to Urcheron and unlike Carchrien, you should find that the mooks will be dust underfoot by the time Durkar arrives.

Whilst Durkar seems most physically imposing, the poor chap is possibly the easiest to defeat.  With a good enough tank, he isn’t even particularly harsh when it comes to healing requirements or power usage.  This may well be a trap; the temptation to “speed things up a bit” by using war speech is high, but will leave you with very little power all to quickly.

Due to the nature of Durkar’s attack, you will be pleased to note that it is possible to stand next to a pillar for the duration of the combat.  It is a lovely pillar, and nicely patterned.  Try and avoid wearing green, though, as you may find yourself clashing against it.

Durkar appears to throw out some Area Of Effect damage as part of his normal attacks, so should be tanked a short distance away from your pillar.  During his special attack, he will run from wherever he is being tanked to the centre of the auditorium, and perform what can only be called; “a boogie”.  At the culmination of this “boogie”, preset lines of force will shoot along the ground.

You should, however, be safe at your pillar.

As is the way with such fights, patience and professionalism are the key.

Phase the Fifth:  The Divvy.
Should you be victorious, you will find that the Nazgul will fly off in a huff, and your fellowship is left in the auditorium with three chests.

There is no warm-up act per se, but you might wish to initiate some cheering and congratulations to your comrades (even if they do not necessarily deserve it.  This is not the time to be churlish).  After that, looting the chests is your final challenge.  Whichever method of distribution your fellowship settles on, do not forget to loot each chest, as there is a lovely, shiny Medallion in each one for a total of three medallions for each member of the fellowship.


Addendum:


You are not the damage.

In a six person instance, your lack of damaging abilities will not be readily apparent to any other member of the group.  After all, there will most likely be at least two members of the group who are playing high damage output characters.
In a three person instance, your lack of damage will become obvious.  This is not to say that you will be an inhibitor of success, but that your talents lie elsewhere.  Remember this, and that the fights will take a little longer.

Yours is a slower, but surer route.

Conserve your power.
Power is healing.  Healing is power.  It is a simple mantra, but one worth repeating at every opportunity.  The Sword Halls is, at times, about weathering the slings and arrows directed at your power.  There are long fights, with little opportunity to replenish your power, and the chances are slim that there will be a Burglar there for handy power-replenishing conjunctions, or a Lore-master with their power-providing goodness.

Fellowship’s Heart.
It is a good idea to keep Fellowship’s Heart handy, for those moments where you need a large amount of healing to all the members of your fellowship.  I have found it to be of use against Urcheron and Carchrien, but so far have not needed it against Durkar.  So if in doubt, use it earlier rather than later.  It will also make you look big and clever.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer

January 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Posted in General | 5 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Prompted by Spinks’ claims that she Can’t Heal Stupidity and Syp’s further breaking of the Healer Mafia Code of Silence, *M*M*O*S*H* is proud to present:

Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer

There’s a lot of talk about healing in MMOs on the intarnet, but most of it deals with the crunchy stuff.  What class to take, what talents to spec, what gear to get, and what numbers you need to aim for in order to get to where you want to be.

The best thing about that information is that because it’s out there, I don’t have to learn scary maths to figure out what it all means.  Besides, crunchy stuff isn’t what Bad Hawley’s How To Hael Primer is about.  This is about the social aspect of being a healer, the arcane art of which can take a lifetime to master.

These are the collected insights of a jaded, bitter and slightly effete old man, who really should find another hobby…

You are the drummer.

Apparently, the drummer is the butt of all band-related jokes.  One day soon there will be MMO-related gags, at which point we’ll get “How many healers does it take to change a lightbulb?” and sundry other commentaries which we shall file under “Humour”.  Whilst wearing a fixed smile.

Yes, *YOU* are the drummer.  The Tank is the front-man, shouting for everyone to follow his lead.  DPS are the guitarists, twanging away with as much noise as they can.  You’re the guy at the back that no-one really notices, but without you to provide the the beat, they’re just making a raucous cacophony.

You may feel that this is an unfair analogy, but, in the words of the Great Philosopher; “Sucks to be you, don’t it?”  Get used to it, because you’ll never get recognition for what you do, you’ll just get shouted at for getting it wrong.  And most likely called a “Thicky”, or something similar.

Drummers, we Healers salute you as brothers.  And sisters.

It’s not a lifestyle choice.
You are not Doctor Kildare.  (Younger readers may wish to substitute; “You are not George Clooney’s character in that ER programme” for “You are not Doctor Kildare”).  Your leet healing skillz are not going to help you alleviate world suffering, they will not bring succour to the needy, and they are most certainly not going to find the cure for cancer.

Feel free to remind the rest of the group of this fact, if they seem to forget it because they want to go instancing, and they “just  need a healer”.  Just like they’re not psychotic axe murderers, you are not a living saint.  This means you can choose to do other things than be at their beck and call whenever their oh-so-special armour isn’t enough to keep them alive.  Playing hard to get will make them appreciate you for whom you are.

After all, be easy, and no-one will respect you.  They won’t even call in the morning.  “Just need a healer” indeed!

Managing aggro.
Sometimes, you’ll be healing, sometimes you’ll be watching as a monsty that’s three times your size attempts to turn you into so much jam.

Yes, you shall have drawn aggro.  Usually this comes from two situations.

Firstly, you’ve managed to pour so much healing into the tank that you’ve managed to gain more aggro than he has.  Take a moment to reflect on how cool your skill at healing is, and hopefully in that time the tank will have regained the attention of afore-mentioned beastie.  Before someone has to scoop you into a Jar marked “Raspberry”.

Second is a poorly-timed Add.  Always be aware that *all* Adds hide in the shadows (usually stood next to a ninja), and only decide to join in the fight as you’re firing off that lovely group heal.  Yes, the one that makes you look really cool, and heals everyone for a bajillion hit points.

You might be wondering how best to deal with this.  You might find that your command of language might well diminish to the point where only one word is still in your vocabulary.  Do not follow the advice of Mr Amygdala.  “Flee” is a bad word in this situation (anyone who thought that one word was not “Flee”, but was a rude and bad word is naughty, and should probably not play a healer).

Think about how you got into your current situation (face full of monsty), and think about why it’s just not your fault (tank/add).  Now, you need to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate.  And it will, if you are not careful.  If it does, it *is* your fault, dear reader.

Point the First: Do not move.  If you move, the tank cannot do his job, and get the monsty back into its rightful place; hitting them, not you.  Forming a conga-line of pain does not impress anyone.  So don’t do it.  Stand still, take your lumps, emerge a stronger individual.  If you *must* move, move slowly towards the tank, taking the monsty with you.

Point the Second: Alert your team to the fact that you are taking the pain.  This is not the time for rudeness, as a little forethought can pay dividends: A macro wherein your character states, for example; “Ouch!  Ow!  Oooh!  The pain stops me from healing you all!” is only a click away in the heat of the moment.  If you are using some form of voice communication, always use a calm tone, and express yourself clearly; Mr Mumbly will not get his message across.  Do not forget to state the name of your character.  “Hawley getting ouchy” is such an example, and has been used to good effect a number of times.  Pro tip: You might want to exchange the name “Hawley” for one that pertains to your character.

Point the Third: Do not heal yourself.  Every self-heal adds to the trouble the tank will have in peeling that monsty off you.  Just like a plaster, it hurts less if they can rip it off you quickly.  Remember, self-healing is what Healing Potions are for.  If you feel the need to do something, try using one of the aggro-reducing abilities you have been provided with.  Or whistle.  One should only self heal if the alternative is taking an early dirt-nap.

If there is a second healer in the group, they should be looking to heal you in your moment of need.  Just as you should heal them in their moment of need.  In these situations, being clever is better than panicking, and running around.  That works for chickens.  It will not work for you.

Remember, panic instills panic.  A true healer sails through the carnage as a stately ship does the ocean calm.  Or the nearest thing to it.

Aversion Therapy.
Sometimes, a member of the group may not be fully au fait with the aggro mechanic of their chosen game.  This is usually a lack of knowledge, and one that is easily remedied with a few short instructions.

Some players, however, are wilfully ignorant, and will have decided that their quest for ever higher damage numbers is more important than any “mere” method for determining whom should take lots of pain.

Do not think of these people as “Fellow Players”.  Think of them as “Assassin!” because all they wish to do is kill you.

It is simple.  They draw aggro from the tank, because they care only about their positioning in some pedestrian thing called a DPS Meter.  As they have drawn aggro, they are taking damage, and you must heal them.  As you heal them, you are drawing aggro, until the point when you are, inevitably, drawing aggro.

Then the monster comes and turns you into jam.

Do not become the jam.

Denial of healing is one popularly ascribed method for dealing with such assassins, but this will make you out to be “an jerk”.  The idea here is not to survive the encounter, but to ensure that the assassin is changed in his ways.  And no-one ever takes the advice of “an jerk”.

Aversion Therapy is the answer.  I should recommend starting at 25%.  This means that when the assassin has lost 25% health, you should heal him.  And not before.  25% is enough for them to know that they have taken some pain, and that they should do something (that is not take more pain) about it.  If they do not do something about it, raise the level to 50%.

Usually, a comment will be made by the assassin at that point.  Remind them of the machinations of the Aggro Mechanic, and that you would rather devote your energies to keeping the tank alive.  At this point the assassin should realise that you shall not fall for their wily attempts to turn you into jam.  If they continue in their nefarious ways, raise the level to 75%.

After that, let them burn.  You did your best, and not all souls are for saving.  Some must be examples for the rest.

Talking in class.
Sometimes, instruction will be required.  Usually the raid or group leader shall tell everyone what they should do in the forthcoming set-piece battle, and they shall do so in their best stentorian tones.

It is not particularly required that you be aware of the smallest minutae of each boss fight of each instance and raid in your chosen MMO.  No.  Only a madman would wish to know such a vast and bewildering amount of knowledge.

It is merely enough to know where you should stand, and who and what you should be healing.  For this, your fellow healers will have a better idea than the group or raid leader.  Talk to them; that is what private channels are for.

Make friends with your fellow healers.  They are not your competition, they are brothers and sisters in your struggle against the lemming-like nature of the rest of the group.  Chat to them, swap favoured recipes, and inform them of your favourite chocolate.  These are the things that will see you through the bad times, and these are the people who will keep you standing in the bad aggro times.

Love your Pillar.
At many times in your healing career, you will ask where you need to stand in order to fulfil your healing obligations.  “Over there”, someone will tell you, handily forgetting that the ability to point is of particular use in such a situation.

“Where?” may well be your request for clarification.

“There, by the pillar”, will be the clarifying statement.

Do not feel that being sent to the pillar is an obscure punishment, or that you are not cool enough to stand with everyone else in their rabble at the front.  The pillar is *yours*.  No-one else gets a pillar.

Get used to your pillar.  Learn to love it.  It is, after all, yours.  When that archer Add decides to turn you into a coat-rack or similar receptacle for their arrows, you can use your pillar as cover.  If someone must come to you and they are unsure of where you are due to a confused melee, “By the pillar” is a highly useful set of directions.

The pillar is your friend.  Love your pillar.

Lag is your co-pilot.
You may well notice, if you have attended sporting events as a spectator, that in a team sport, the “Last Man” will usually end up on the floor when the other team has scored a point.  The goalkeeper in Football (or “Soccer”, as colonials usually refer to it), the last tackler in a game of Rugby or American Football, all end up prone upon the floor whilst their comrades look dejected, and their opponents celebrate.

This is because they have just failed.  However, rather than look as if they are slackers, they have elected to fall upon the ground, in the hope that someone will think they are injured, and give them sympathy.  “You did your best”, and other appropriate platitudes.

MMO players will want someone to blame when their character dies.  Their first port of call will be you.  Yes, you.  They will not care that you have carried them through the last 3 encounters, that you have kept all of the group bar them alive through that fight.  No, they will want their pound of *your* flesh.  And then an abject apology, and then to send you the bill for their repair costs.

Stop them, and with ultimate force.

/say Lag.

That is all.  Preempt their unfair moaning, if possible.  In an inhospitable group, you might want to prime them with the question:

/say Is anyone else getting random, weird lag today?

It’s all in the timing.
It’s not enough to know what to cast when healing, but also when to cast.  If it’s a big heal, it will usually have a long induction time.  Start casting it early, especially if the tank is about to take a lot of pain for an extended amount of time.  A long induction can always be cancelled, even at the last minute, so you have nothing to lose by starting to cast early.

Be aware that sometimes you’ll need to spam the same heal again and again.  Get used to the rhythm required to cast it as fast as possible; you’ll need it.

Similarly, if your MMO of choice allows it, have the next healing target ready to go as soon as your last heal has cast.  Shaving off seconds, and parts of seconds, can be the difference between success and failure.


Triage.  It’s not just a place in Bermuda where ships disappear.

At times it will all go wrong.  This is a good thing, as this will remind everyone else in the group of how useful you are, and how they would all be jam were it not for your skilful play, and delightful presence.

When it goes wrong, someone will need to decide who lives, and who gets scooped up into the jar marked “Raspberry”.

That someone is you.

First of all, protect yourself.  Without you, everyone else dies.  Unless you have figured out a way to continue healing whilst smeared all over the floor.

Secondly, protect your tank.  Yes, your tank.  He keeps you alive, you keep him alive.  By extension, the two of you will keep everyone else alive.

Thirdly, keep any other healers alive.  Their backup healing will help you in your moment of glory.

Fourthly, keep the fellow players who are your friends alive.  They are your friends, after all.

Anyone else, and that usually means that annoying bloke who plays the ranged dps, may die.  Tanks and healers can finish a fight really slowly, so dps get to be the bottom of the triage pile.  Sucks to be them, don’t it?

Be.  Ruthless.

Do not let the gnashing and wailing of dps players distract you from your mission.  The group is about more than them.  In these moments, it’s your ruthlessness that will save everyone.  So save them now, rez the dps later.

You are the hammer that knocks the nail in.
Never forget that you are the one that keeps everyone else standing.  Never be afraid to let your group know that.  It is by your actions that victory is won, and by theirs that it is lost.

Take that attitude with you; that attitude is what separates us from the monsties, after all is said and done.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Banjo-Njub, reporting for duty

December 18, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I suppose one thing that I really didn’t think about when anticipating Siege of Mirkwood is how best to set up my traits.

Being a slacker, I just assumed I’d set up my traits for maximum damage potential, as I’d be levelling up through 5 level’s worth of questing.  After that I’d change to a healing trait setup for lots of instancing and assorted group usefulness.

Of course, Turbine decided to laugh at my slacking, and threw Skirmishes into the mix.  A dps setup is fine for a minstrel that just wants to solo skirmishes, but I like grouping up for them, and that means needing some healing traits.  I’ve tried healing with a dps setup, and it’s not fun.

Besides, if I’m in a group and chucking out damage rather than healing, that means the Hunter has to heal.  And seeing as my damage is a lot less than a Hunter’s, I’m doing the group a disservice.  See?  I know my meta-gaming.

In a surprising yet welcome development, Skirmishes have been found to be a challenge, rather than a place for me to go for free xp and goodies.  Partly it’s because Lucky, my expendable minion, has been fantastically expendable due to having to level him up.  Now he’s bigger and better, and sometimes even manages to survive a fight (despite my best attempts), but the fact remains that Skirmishes are not the pushover they might have been.

This means that when in a group, healing is needed.  And that means that I’m currently running with a mish-mash of traits, in an attempt to out-think the system, and allow me to solo quest, group heal, and everything in between.  I’m also partaking in some much-needed house-keeping.

For once, it’s not clearing bags and making the vault look all tidy, but making sense of all those unexplored avenues that have appeared as a result of the expansion.

That means new skills, new equipment, new traits and remembering all those skills that got used for a short time, and then forgotten under the weight of Big Heal, Big Damage, Best Buff skills.  Yes, those standards that I use to the exclusion of all others, because they’re generally best for general situations.

One of the great things about MMOs is that they’re so situational.  I may have forgotten that I have more than seven skills, but the game (and most importantly the developers) haven’t.

The upshot is that I’m levelling whilst playing catch-up on all those “Use Shouty Shout of Quite Useful Group Buff” skills, and it’s somewhat of a re-education in how to play a Minstrel.  I’m a big man (that would be all the pies I eat), and I’m not too big to admit I could have been playing a lot more effectively (but in about three pies’ time I will be too big, and probably have to be winched out of bed or something).

Of course, this raises a question, of which I might not like the answer; How am I going to use all of these “forgotten” skills?

I suppose the answer is; “Learn to play, Banjo-Njub”.  It’s an opportunity to get up off my laurels and put some practice in.  And of course now is the perfect opportunity, as there’s a whole new situation, what with a new zone, a new skirmish system, and then new instances and a new raid.

So, I suppose the plan is to stop slacking at the back.  Re-organise my quick-slots (again) and redress my traits, so that I can get the most bang for my buck.  At the same time, it’s beholden to me to sort out my equipment, and maybe even get some of this new-fangled radiance gear.

All of this means that I’ve a new purpose to my Lord of the Rings Online, rather than just going through the motions of levelling, instancing, raiding (in that order).

New purposes are always welcome.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Hawley, destroyer of amphibians

October 29, 2009 at 7:56 am | Posted in LotRO, Minstrel, Moria, raiding | 5 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Recently, I killed a turtle.

Admittedly, that’s not the most impressive-sounding of feats.  And it’s a turtle that many others have defeated before me.

At first, it even looked like a particularly weedy opponent (especially for a raid), but pretty soon I discovered, in true Father Ted stylee, that this was because the turtle was Far, rather than Small.  This turtle was a big turtle.  So much so that it went from being “the turtle” to “The Turtle” pretty rapidly.

I’d not faced off against The Turtle previously.  It’s a one monster, one room fight.  It’s a test of dps, where the idea is to race between the amount of damage we can kick out, against the rapidly increasing amount of dot damage the monsty kicks out.

In an age where fighting raid bosses seem to be more a case of performing random crazy acts at the same time as tanking, damaging and healing, this was a refreshing change.  After time spent in Ulduar, this was a fantastically straight-forward fight for a healer;

Can I keep healing fast enough, and cleverly enough, to keep everyone alive?  Or am I going to blow my power so fast that we all end up dying?

It was also a reminder of why I love raiding.  I love pitting my wits and skill against a situation, and constantly wondering if I’ve got it right.  Especially when I’m in a situation that I’ve not encountered before.  Because I’m targeting other raid-members rather than the monsty itself, I have no idea how much longer I need to keep things together; feeling like it’s just about to unravel when the raid boss drops is the best feeling in the world.

It was the first time I’ve been involved in killing Nornuan.  Probably won’t be my last.

Cheers,

Hawley.

Aion: Day Three

October 6, 2009 at 3:35 am | Posted in Aion, Grouping, Guilds | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Day 2 doesn’t deserve its own post, because I didn’t get to play much.  Gained a level or so, and was happy at that.  I then promptly put on my encounter suit, and headed off for an evening in the real world.  Fun.

Day 3 saw me get to level 10, and go through the Ascension set of quests.  Now, I must remember that these are Devas, and neither angel nor demon.  Hmm.  Isn’t Deva another name for… And isn’t “Ascension” a moment where…

Moving swiftly on.  My gameplay in Days 1 to 3 has mainly consisted of what I term “guerrilla healing”.

Now that may or may not conjure up images of wide hats and crossed bandoliers filled with bandages and plasters.  If it has, that’s ok. You are not alone.

It’s me, running around doing whatever I’m doing (usually questing, brutally slaughtering things, or both), and throwing out buffs and heals to those that need it.  Now, I don’t do it because I’m desperately looking for friends, or a group, or anything like that.  I don’t even do it because I’m lonely.

No, I’m not lonely.  The nice gold seller would kindly send me a tell every so often, because he likes me, and because he wants to peddle his evil gold at me.

I do it because I have the skills to do it.  It costs me a moment to target and a moment to cast.  And it gains me a bit more experience in buffing and healing, in a nice and easy way that might (or might not) make someone’s game a bit easier.

I’ve still not been in a group, but then again all of the content up to level 10 was easily soloable, so no real need to group up.  I’m also wondering if everyone is attempting to level up quickly, and too quickly to want to group up at low levels.  Who knows?

I also had a pleasant exchanges with some of the individuals I guerrilla healed.  You know, the MMO equivalent of the cheery wave and a smile you give when you’re putting the bins out and see a neighbour.  They emote, I emote in return.  Nice and polite.

Of course, it’s not an all-you can buff buffet at Chez Hawley.  Oh no.  I might be giving it out for free (oo-er missus) but I do have my grumpy side to placate.  And that means people will daft, stoopid or just plain not-names get ignored.  Sorry, but you’re just not on my radar.

Yes, if there was a role-playing server I’d want to be on it.

Plan for the next few days?  Find a guild.  Or, as they are called in Aion, a “Legion”.  Although that term does have some unfortunate connotations thanks to a certain Emperor boasting about having an “entire legion” of Stormtroopers.  If I recall correctly, that boasting took place shortly before they all got shivved up by some angry ewoks, and their pet wookie.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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.

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