the Evil Network

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Friday, March 03, 2006


Posted by Nathaniel at 2:35 PM
GamingThere's an article by game designer Raph Koster circulating the net at the moment (first springing up on Boing Boing) that talks about Raph's unique concept of an MMO revolving around the idea of healing and medicine as opposed to combat and raids.

But I don't want to talk about that.

I want to talk about the article that Raph linked to.

Raph mentions an article from an mmo player and blogger named Abalieno discussing the role of the healer in MMOs; which is, basically, he simply wants it to go away:
The first is again about the role of the "healer" and why I think it is superfluous to the point that I wouldn't miss it if completely removed and replaced with something different.
At this point in the article (Abalieno's second paragraph, to be precise), the people I know who play the MMOs I see would be shaking their fists in fury at this unknown man's utter insolence. The nerve! they would be saying. Healers are VITAL to the MMO gaming landscape! However, read on, and you see that his rationale for this is actually quite lucid:
The truth, to go back at the main topic, is that the healer classes don't exist because they are indispensable and valuable in the situations we are trying to reproduce. The healer classes don't exist because it was required to make a fight work. They exists because till today we played the meta-game of "buttons and colored bars": a parody of combat.
I hate to summarize such a thoughtful and articulate article, but what Abalieno is basically saying is that our current MMO environments have become stale and emotionless, resorting to nothing more a graphical interface for mere mathematical formulas and calculations. In this sort of world, we're constantly watching the "green bar", so to speak, and our first instinct when the bar goes down is HEY! I need someone to help me make this bar go back UP! Thus, the healer is born.

The reason I wanted to bring this up is because of, well, yeah, you guessed it: City of Heroes (doesn't it always come back to this game?) In CoH, I'm actually beginning to see the tide turning in recent months, and I think ultimately, it's a good thing to see.

You see, in CoH, you create an archetype called a Defender. One of the Defender's powersets that you can select is called Empathy. It's basically the priest set (or "cleric" set, as your particular MMO history may go). And at the beginning levels of the game, you would almost never see a team without a healer. You were constantly sitting around waiting to enter a mission as the leader scoured the nearby zones for an "emp def". Broadcasts in the Hollows screaming for a healer were constant and deafening. A group that attempted a mission sans-healer was largely considered doomed.

Now, consider this. There's another archetype in CoH called the Controller. The Controller has the ability to "lock down" enemies and hit them with nasty effects that undermine their ability to strike you or make them easier targets. This is useful. No, this is necessary.

But did you ever hear anyone on the team say Hey, guys! We really should have a 'troller for this mish?. No. Never. No one ever said We could really use a grav troller to keep those bosses at bay while we clean up the minions. Not once.

But like I said, I see the tide turning. These days I see fewer and fewer empaths. I see more and more Controllers. OR, more and more Defenders choosing powersets other than healing. It's refreshing, and it's powerful. It alleviates the mindset of requiring someone in the group who can make those bars turn green again. It requires you to use your skills as a team to create strategic situations and harmonize your combined abilities in unique ways.

So, in essence, it's making this particular MMO more of a dance, and less of a mini-game of raw numbers.

Just thought I'd share that thought.

3/06/2006 6:26 AM: Blogger Dacquin said...

Off topic, I find it funny how in RPGs that you can resurrect any character w/ an item like Phoenix Down, but if a character has a cutscene and they die in it, those items don't work for them.

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3/07/2006 7:57 PM: Anonymous Kevin said...

The thing is that some games...WoW for example, use healers AS part of the group. End game bosses do retarded amounts of damage. Not all classes are tanks, so they need healing, hell a good tank in essence SHOULD need healing. The Main tanks job is to aggro the shit out of the room so that DPS classes can kick its ass. And it takes talent and skill to be a good healer. Ask any group that has wiped 10 minutes into a large instance. All classes exist for a reason. Healers I feel are needed in a nasty game like Craft. You could do away with them, but then you would have to weaken the bosses, and then where would the challege be? Interesting article, but I say "LF1M healer, UBRS and were off!"

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3/08/2006 10:58 AM: Blogger Nathaniel said...

Wait, you're contradicting yourself. You said: You could do away with them [the healer class], but then you would have to weaken the bosses, and then where would the challege be?

But wouldn't taking away the healers and weakening the bosses be the challenge? What you have to do in a game where there are no healers? You would have to strategize. You would have to organize your team. You would have to make better use of the the combined talents of the group. You wouldn't be able to just tank, aggro, deal damage. You would have to work out a plan of attack that takes into account the skills of your team to contribute equally to success. It would be a whole new dynamic, and one that I heartily support.

Keep in mind that in traditional pen & paper RPG settings, the role of the healer is a afterthought. Someone will take some medicine skills to heal some wounds post-battle. The bulk of the game is represented in utilizing a strategy with the remaining player types to successfully navigate a specific situation. It requires thought and organization, and you push to the back of your mind the idea that you need to keep that HP high. That's really simply a mechanism of the pen & paper game, not an outright feature of play.

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3/09/2006 9:38 PM: Anonymous Kevin said...

I may have contradicted myself, it has happen before. But in WoW YOU do have to work as a team. To get to a boss you HAVE to work as a team, and even AT the boss you have to team it up. Mages can sheep the extras, your rogues sap (sleep) extras, hunters can kite. We can discuss this in detail in IA the next time I am back. But the thing is I feel if you loss healers then you loss some fun of the game. I haven't done CoH so maybe they can swing some game play without them, but in Warcraft they play a role on the Team. I mean if you lost healers in WoW then, take away Pally healing, and Driud healing...hell I can heal my pet as a hunter if I need to. Blah. It is like saying, "ok Magic the Gathering is lossing the color white in its five color system. Cause white cards are played 90% for their healer skills, and not their bow staff skills...

Anywho, with a healer you still have factor in all classes roles and talents during a fight. Shit I did many a run during lower levels without a healer. But end game runs require it. Just how it is in WoW. Once again maybe you can swing it without one in Cities...but not Azeroth.

We can discuss in IA. And I will bring The Blue Boy as a witness.

Hugs and kisses.

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