Thursday, June 5, 2008

Healing and Tanking Talents and Quests

WoW is such a violent game. Most options to gain experience in this fantastic world involve bringing someone's head or proof of 12 dead wolves to an NPC. This is all fine when your class can mete out hundreds of damage per second, but is much more daunting as a tanking or healing class, designed to produce threat per second and heals per second. Admittedly, most quest mobs certainly can be killed by a tank or healing class, but this occurs at a much slower rate. By the time I have gathered six-thousand enchanted wolf bladders to level from 70-80, I probably will have sunk at least double the time into leveling, as a DPS specced player.

The simplest solution to this problem is to spec into the the DPS tree of your respective class- every class has such a spec. The problem with this approach is that tank, healing and even CC classes are hindered in their ability to L2P (learn to play) in these roles until endgame. Some essential end-game abilities are not even available if they require talent points. While learning skills has a reasonable learning curve, it would be more fun and result in more adept players to have access to all endgame talents while leveling.

To address this deficiency for healers, Blizz has added 1/3 of +heal as +spell damage. However, this really won't get a healing class rapid kills. Rapid kills occur when cast time is reduced, crits are more likely, free spell casts proc and other damage bonuses from the talent trees multiply to produce the respectable damage of the dedicated caster. I can imagine that paladins don't increase their melee, damage reflect or AoE abilities appreciably with the +heal bonus.... Warriors have things are a bit better off as Prot and Feral specced druids do pretty well (more in a minute).

What we really need as healers and tanks are stances or forms that will allow healing/dps abilities to be present. The druid Feral tree is the best example of this need. Bear form and Cat form share talents that increase threat and damage simultaneously. For example: Heart of the Wild combines increases in health for bear and increases in damage for cats. Neither ability can be used at the same time due to its form requirement (Bear or Cat), which prevents an uber-talent. These dual features are available throughout the Feral talent tree and allow druids to tank instances and DPS while questing with only a change in gear required for role optimization in either setting. A close look at the Resto tree shows that damage increases here are assumed to be in the form of mana regen? Defense in the Resto tree is limited as well, confining Tree-of-Life to the endgame.

The other alternative is to offer up some peace tokens to the hardworking tanks and healers:

1) Instead of "kill twelve wolves," how about "heal twelve wolves" or "aggro twelve wolves." This would give healers and tanks something to do with their one-trick pony skillz. These types of quests could be modifications of escort quests where mobs aggro the escortee until killed (DPS), aggroed away from the escort for a certain amount of time (tank) or healed despite attacks (healers).

2) Straight damage increases for tanks and healers specced past a certain point in their respective trees.

3) Discounted respecs for healing/tank classes?

Can I show up at endgame and hope to understand how to alternate targets to keep 3 Lifeblooms rolling, use Swiftmend effectively and Cure Poisons/Remove Curses? Is it realistic to ask a class to spend 100g to respec, re-design the UI for the needed role?

I suppose the introduction of Death Knights will help with tank availability.
Healers will remain rare due to difficulties leveling in PvE. I hope Blizzard sees that dual-function talent trees will allow greater hybrid utility in heroic and other end-game content. I hope that we don't have to kill ten wolves for the remainder of the WoW level experiences.