Daily Archives: December 16, 2008

Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus.

Tobold COMMANDS us to design a new hero class for the next World of Warcraft expansion, and so we grudgingly obey. Because we’re bored. And it’s been a while since we’ve sat in our designer’s armchair, which is a designer armchair, so it’s a designer’s designer armchair and… I’ve no idea where this is going.

Tobold has settled on the next hero class being a healer of some sort, and as such has outlined a framework for consideration that I shall bullet point thus:

  • “The first question to answer is how the new healer hero class would power their heals. All existing healing classes in WoW use mana for heals. And just like the death knight doesn’t use mana or rage, but a completely new mechanism, it would probably be a good idea to design a new healing mechanism for the new hero class.”
  • “A related question is what else but healing the new class should do, and what connection there will be between his healing and his damage dealing.”
  • “The hardest design question is how to balance that new healer hero class against the other existing classes.”

With the points all firmly lined up against the wall and bullets squarely pointed at them, we shall now attempt a little straight-faced design brainstorming. ‘Dis shit be somewhat more serious than the customary puerile persiflage found here, yo. Old bean’, as I believe they say down in the game design meeting rooms of Harlem.

So everybody put on their serious straight faces. If you don’t have a serious straight face, perhaps you can skin one from the person sitting next to you and attach it like a mask through the use of Sellotape or staples. Right, is everyone wearing a straight serious face, be it theirs or someone elseís? Good, then I shall begin.

Stop giggling at the back! Yes I know Jenkins’ serious face mask is drooping and it looks like he’s having a permanent orgasm; you should have used more staples along the brow line Jenkins, this is supposed to be serious! Now shush!


Healing hero class

I like melee healers as a concept, but they’re often a tricky blighter to get right because you’re combining two roles – both of which need concentration to perform well at – into one class. As much as we like to pretend otherwise, your average healer is someone who plays health bar whack-a-mole whilst standing as far away from the enemy as possible and hoping that they find the tank a more interesting conversationalist, usually enhanced by the tank shouting intriguing topics of conversation at the mobs such as “Yo mamma so fat!”. And as much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, doing decent DPS with a character does take some level of thought, even if that’s nothing more than hitting the right buttons in sequence for the current ‘optimum attack rotation de jour’, it doesn’t give that person much time to think about healing other than maybe quaffing a potion if they see their health bar drop dangerously low; certainly it’s a bit much to expect melee characters to maintain focus on all of the health bars of other people in the party at the same time, which leads us to idea the first:

  • The hero melee healer automatically applies a buff on other party members. This buff can be charged-up by the melee healer doing damage, the player it has been cast on can then activate the buff (it would appear in their UI as a button) to heal themselves, as and when it is required. The buff can be activated at any time and heals proportionately to the amount that it has been charged.

So, we combine the two ideas of melee and healing into one. Other party members become responsible for monitoring their own health, which is not too much extra to ask in the grand scheme of play, and the melee healer powers this healing through the somewhat surprising mechanic of… have you guessed yet? Those who said ‘meleeing’ well done, those who said ‘scientology’, seek professional help.

We need to consider several things with this mechanic. Firstly, we know that powerful melee characters with healing abilities are what are known in technical circles as OMG WTF NERF NEERRRRRRRRRRFFF!!!1, so the healing buff would not be applicable to the melee healer themselves. However, we also know that playing in an instance and being a main healer who is unable to heal oneself would lead to what is known in technical circles as OMG WTF I R BROKEN FIX ME OR I QUIT THIS IS AN OUTRAAAAAAAAGE!!1, so to compensate we would need idea the second:

  • The hero melee healer is also healed by some amount X when others in their party are healed

This leads to what I think is an interesting party interdependence on healing. The party requires the melee healer to be alive and doing damage to get their own heals, but the melee healer relies on the party members using their own heals judiciously so as to keep themselves alive and also to keep the melee healer alive as well. This spreads the primary healing responsibility out between the party as a whole, giving each player a little more to do, but gaining the party an extra level of DPS. However, this is a very passive level of healing for the hero class, so we would give them a little more control over healing by implementing idea the third:

  • The hero melee healer has special abilities that can draw on the stored healing power of all party members in order to activate a more powerful overall effect.

This could be as little as an ‘Oh shit!’ ability on a reasonable cool-down that allows the hero class to heal all party members by a substantial amount at the cost of all currently stored healing power in the buffs of the party members, but for a proportion more than the stored power would allow if the buffs were activated by the players themselves. Or it could be a powerful damage ability, again at the cost of stored healing, to be used when the group was on top of a fight and not taking that much damage, again on a cool-down, lest the temptation be for the hero class to constantly activate their damage ability in PvP at the cost of their team mates being able to heal themselves.

Speaking of PvP (and for PvP here I’m talking about PuPvP, i.e. battlegrounds and open world), this passive healing helps a little with the whole (alleged) ‘nobody heals in PvP’ problem. The hero class merely has to wade into combat and they will be empowering their side through the Joy of Healing. PvP is also the reason why the buff is applied automatically to all team members, to get around the notorious secondary problem that many players are too lazy even to buff their own team mates in PvP (again we’re talking battlegrounds and world PvP here, obviously arena teams are likely to be a tad more disciplined if they want to get anywhere at all). Now the reason that it is an automatically applied buff rather than a stance or aura comes in to play here: in PvP (and potentially PvE) if the enemy has a dispel ability in their arsenal they can remove the buff; the buff is, of course, automatically re-applied, but the stored healing power is lost. Therefore we provide the enemy with a way, through intelligent play, to compensate for the fact that the hero class is a very powerful member of a team, as a hero class should be. However, we don’t want the hero class to be so awesomely powerful that no other class is worth playing, and therefore we have to temper them somewhat, so onto idea the fourth:

  • The hero melee healer’s melee damage is related, in some way (which I haven’t quite calculated because I’m too lazy and it’s too much work for a bit of armchair-based design beard stroking) to the amount of power that they have stored in the healing buffs of their team mates.

The idea here is that the hero class’s power will ebb and flow with a battle, therefore they won’t necessarily be one static level of uber DPS, they will start low, build up to higher levels of DPS, but inevitably their team mates will need to heal themselves, and thus the hero class’s power will lessen as some of the stored healing power is used up. This is all well and good for PvP, but now we have to go back and consider solo play, because if we cannot store healing power when we are solo, as stated in idea the first, then we need a way to increase the damage of the hero class when solo, thus idea the fifth:

  • The hero melee healer has an innate ability which increases the power of their melee abilities when they are not a member of a team

Quite simple, the hero class can do more damage outside of a team, at the expense of any healing.

So there we have it, my initial brainy stormy idea for a melee healer hero class in World of Warcraft. To be sure there are bound to be flaws and problems and missing elements, I’m certainly not claiming that it’s perfect and ready to go, but hopefully it is food for thought and might inspire others to take part or all of the ideas and run with them further.

You may now return your faces to the non-serious non-straight position, and if you stole your serious face from someone else, please be sure to remove all staples, wash it thoroughly and reapply any make-up before returning it. Thank you.