[SWTOR] 10 things you need to know about consumables

There are four main types of consumable in SWTOR, and the reason it’s worth knowing about them is that they are all pretty good and can add a lot of survivability and power to your character. Bioware have been quite good about scattering medical droids who sell healing and buff potions all over the gameworld, and healing potions are also frequent drops from mobs. Vendors in cantinas will also sell buff food. And you will occasionally find stim vendors out in the world – I think this is just where Bioware decided that they needed extra vendors standing around for RP purposes because they just split off some of the goods that medical droids would otherwise sell.

I’ve been running Biochem, and it’s balanced oddly. The crafted consumables are better than bought ones, but also can be expensive to make at the top end, so I’m not sure that people have a good idea how to price them on the AH at the moment.

In any case, here’s ten things you’ll want to know about better living through chemistry in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

1. Store bought stims (buff potions) typically last for an hour and will buff one of your core character attributes (might, willpower, aim, cunning) – there are also Stims that boost presence (this buffs your companion) and endurance.

bluestim

2. Crafted stims will boost power or defence in addition to one of your core character attributes. Fortitude stims are the tank buffs which buff defence as well as endurance, the other stims all boost power as a secondary stat. Blue crafted stims will last for double the length (2 hours) and will not disappear after death – they’re the equivalent of WoW flasks. Purple crafted stims are for Biochem crafters only, are equivalent to green crafted stims and are reusable.

foodbuff

3. In Cantinas, there are vendors who will also sell you food buffs. The ones I have seen so far is a food buff that improves your out of combat regen for 30 mins (arguably not v useful since every class has an out of character regen ability, but this will probably save time if you’re speed levelling.) The other is a 30 min buff to presence (ie. boosts companion power), which does stack with stims. So if you’re struggling with solo content, the food presence buff might be one to keep in mind.

4. Green crafted healing potions will typically heal for more than vendor bought ones, and can come in at different level ranges also.

medpacs

5. There are also green crafted healing potions which heal your companion as well as your character. Potions which just heal your character will be called XXXX medpacs, potions which also heal your companion will be called XXXX med units. If your companion has died, one of these potions will res it in combat as well as healing – I don’t entirely know if that’s intended but it is what happens at the moment. I find these invaluable when I’m trying solo content that is a bit tough for my level.

6. Blue crafted healing potions will typically provide a HoT as well as the initial burst of healing. The HoT heals for half again of the initial healing burst over 15s. They’re good, but I’m not sure they’ll be worth the extra cost to craft.

adrenal

7. Adrenals are short term potions which provide a large kick to one of your secondary  stats for 15s (ie. power, surge, crit, et al). I haven’t seen any vendor adrenals, so these may only be available from Biochem crafters. Adrenals are all blue items, except for the purple reusable ones (Biochem only).

8. There are also triage adrenals which increase your tech/force power for 15s but reduce the amount of damage you do during that time by 50%. If it’s not obvious from the name, these are meant as healer buffs – if you’re not a healer use one of the other adrenals.

9. The cooldown on medpacs is 90s (ie. you can use one every 1.5 mins). The cooldown on adrenals is 3 mins. There is no cooldown on stims, but they are longterm buffs that you won’t need to spam unless you’re dying a lot. The reason Biochem is probably overpowered at the moment is that they can make reusable versions of any of the green crafted items for themselves. So as a Biochem crafter, you can if you want have access to a heal potion every 90s, an adrenal every 1.5 mins, and buff stims up all the time without having to rustle up the large number of materials or credits that it would cost anyone else to buy this.

10. You can use all of these consumables in PvP.

voss

This is a shot I took on Voss. There do seem to be rather more orange/ brown planets than strictly necessary ….

It came from the PUG: Northrend eats healers alive!

There’s something about moving on to Northrend that has broken the spell with my paladin. I still think that Retribution is a very fun spec at the moment but I am rapidly going off paladin healing. I will (not very) secretly be glad to get back to Spinks.

What happened, you say? Northrend instances happened.

I’m not sure why it is that so many level 70ish tanks feel the need to screw up the first pull in Utgarde Keep by pulling the entire corridor at once, but it’s happened to me three times now. And in none of those cases was it a mispull, they all deliberately grabbed every mob in the vicinity. In one case, a druid tank almost fooled me by pulling three of the mobs; just as I was thinking, “Oh good, a sensible pull” he charged in and got the rest too.

In case anyone was wondering, this is not a kind thing to do to a level 70 healer in green gear. At least, not if you plan to actually survive.

I’m feeling this as a blow to my morale. After all, I made a point of healing through Azeroth and Outland instances just so I could get some practice (I figured I didn’t need any practice as melee dps but paladin healing is a bit different from druiding) and I did fine, absolutely fine. So to keep having groups that wipe on the first pull of UK just makes me uninclined to bother in the Wrath dungeons. It just seems to make more sense to queue as dps, suck up the extra 10 mins queuing time (probably by doing some questing) and leave healing until I hit max level and both me and the tanks have better gear.

There is an alternative of course. One could always just ask the tanks to pull more slowly and explain that undergeared healers have limits and that I’m not as good as their best mate who heals their level 80 all the time in arenas. But I think I stopped feeling that it was my responsibility to teach random people how to play awhile back … in comparison, that extra 10 minutes wait is sounding like pretty good value.

You can’t heal stupidity!

You have to feel sorry for overgeared healers sometimes. Trotting along behind the group, with a DS in one hand (thank you Professor Layton, rescuer of dull instance runs) and the other lazily tapping out the equivalent of Bach’s 4th Brandenburg Concerto on their healing buttons – looking up occasionally to check which instance they are in and to hit need on any shards.

It isn’t surprising that many entertain themselves by rescuing foolish tanks and dps from the results of their own stupidity.

Stood in the fire again? Yawn, no problem. In fact, I saw that one coming so I had a heal preloaded. That’s how good I am.

Others make up their own sets of rules – eg. always res the gnomes first, don’t heal people who refused to run back after a wipe, see if you can play chicken with the tank if they didn’t stop long enough for you to drink, and so on. It will usually involve something really arbitrary, or some healy way to punish people who are playing the game ‘wrong’.

In fact, one thing healers don’t tell you is that they all have their own version of The Rules. It’s like having your own little version of Miss Manners along for the ride. And for extra spice, most healers won’t actually tell you in advance what their rules are. Now I say this with all consideration to healers. Because I play one also and I also have my own set of secret rules which lucky group mates have to figure out for themselves.

I don’t care if people don’t run back after a wipe, I’ll let the group know if I need to drink and then run and catch up as best I can if they don’t slow down, none of those things bother me on my tree druid. But I don’t heal stupid.

Oh, let the healers with the strong work ethic, the ones who really LIVE the healer role, pull off those legendary saves where no one else bothered to read the tactics and they all stood in the fire. I’ll laugh as you die and I’ll even laugh as I do if it was all down to stupidity. (Of course, I’ll explain the fight in advance if people mention that they aren’t familiar with it too, I’m not that lazy.) But if you dare to complain to me about your death, I will simply tell you that I don’t heal stupid.

This was brought to mind the other day when I was healing a run through the Halls of Lightning. We had two suicidal rogues in the group. They ran ahead and pulled trash groups. They died. They got too close to the pack of slag elementals (I did not make up that mob name, by the way). They died in the explosion. They didn’t get out of the way of Ionar’s disperse. Guess what, they died. And every time, I laughed and ressed them after the rest of us had finished clearing the mobs.

And you know what? No one complained. They were too busy laughing at each other, or being mocked genially by the tank. It was one of the more good natured runs I’ve been on recently. Because not only do I not heal stupid, sensible players understand that if they’re living on the edge and doing daft things, they won’t get healed. I think of it as darwinism in action – plus, if you never died when you did something risky in a game, life would be so dull.

I don’t think I was ever really cut out to be a career healer, you see. I’d be more like that healer girl in Guild Wars who keeps yelling at you not to be a wimp and go kill more stuff, because she’s got your back. But I bet she doesn’t heal stupid either.

So, if you heal in MMOs. Do you have a version of The Rules? Do you tell the group or just let them find out?

Raiding and the Great Healer Problem

Of the three main roles in the ‘holy trinity’, it’s healing which changes the most between small groups and large raids.

In a single group, one healer usually supports the rest of the party. There may be an off-healer along as well who switches between dps and healing as needed. In a raid, there are many more people who may need to be healed, and also a larger healing corps who need to somehow coordinate who is going to heal which characters.

Unlike tanking, which is easy to organise (ie. you tank mob X, I’ll tank mob Y, and that other guy can grab the adds), sorting out the healing is a more complex problem. Healers in raids are often given very specific assignments to make this easier to manage. But it isn’t easy to always get this right. Assignments depend on the encounter, on the strengths and gear of the various players involved, and on the raid group itself.

Healing is also fundamentally different from tanking and dps. With tanking, there’s a set number of mobs who need to be tanked. It’s very easy to predict how many tanks you will need for an encounter and that’s unlikely to vary much. With dps, more is always better. You can always make a kill faster. But with healing, there is a maximum of heals that the raid will ever need. If you can see how much damage is thrown out, then you can figure out how many healers can take care of it. Healers can also ‘snipe’ each other’s heals — if I get a heal in before you and heal a player back to full health, then your heal will be wasted. We talk about overhealing (ie. heals that were wasted because the person they landed on didn’t need them) and it measures how much more time and energy was spent on healing than the encounter really needed.

It would be easy to imagine mechanics which converted overheals into something more useful. Maybe extra damage on the target’s target, or some kind of buff, or even just storing them in a buffer to be used the next time the person takes damage. But that’s not a common feature in MMOs – the skill of healing is to be smart enough not to waste power on overheals that you might need later. (In WoW at the moment, overhealing isn’t a major issue, healers have more than enough mana. But there’s a pass on this next patch.)

There are actually three big healer problems connected with raiding in WoW. At least one of them is common to just about every MMO which has healing classes.

How can we find enough healers?

Healers are often in short supply anyway, it’s not as popular a role as dps or tanking. Raid healers also anecdotally burn out more quickly than any other role. It’s a stressful job with low visibility – people often blame healers for wipes even when it wasn’t their fault. Healers also aren’t usually as involved in the details of an encounter, it’s very easy to spend the whole time staring at a raid interface and frantically trying to keep the green bars from dropping (aka playing whack-a-mole).

It has been a constant struggle to find healers in most MMOs I have played. Oddly enough, we have plenty in WoW at the moment. I think dual specs have invigorated the healing classes (which are all hybrids in Warcraft so can have a dps as well as a healing spec now if they want). But this is also partly because healing requirements drop over time, which is my next point.

I healed myself out of a job!

Jov@World of Snarkcraft covers this better than I ever could.

As a raid gears up, the tanks take less damage, the dps kill the mobs more quickly, and everyone learns to stay out of the fire. So the raid in general needs less healing. If they are tackling hard modes or just want to speed up the farm runs, then it makes a lot of sense to replace an unnecessary healer (who would be bored anyway) with more dps.

Dual specs should have provided an answer to this. Get one of the healers to switch to dps, no problem. But there is a problem. Firstly, what if the player wanted to heal? It’s what they had originally specced and geared for, after all. And second, hard modes can involve highly tuned dps races. So that healer can’t be replaced by an inexperienced dps in offspec gear that’s a tier or so behind the content. They need to be replaced by a main spec dps character to beat the various timers.

Short form: raids need more healers during initial progression than later in the raid instance lifetime. Not only does this mean that it makes sense to drop one or more healers from the group (until the next raid instance comes out), it forces the existing healers to be competitive with each other. If one class turns out to be better suited to healing current raid content than others, then it’s pretty clear who is less likely to be dropped.

What makes this worse is that the rest of the raid group is often very happy about being able to drop healers and make the kill faster. This does nothing to make the remaining healers feel wanted (and a lot of people play support classes because they like feeling wanted), it’s more as if it slows everyone down to have to take the support classes along.

There are solutions to this. Dual spec is one of them, healers being better able to boost raid dps (maybe via buffs or an ability to turn overheals into dps) is another. Not tuning hard modes to be such total dps races is another (ie. so that it’s sufficient to get a healer to switch to their dps offspec).

In any case, it’s hard to escape the feeling that if the healers do a really good job, people will just think: great, we can drop a healer.

Raid healing is boring

This may be a personal thing but I find raid healing terrifically tedious and this is why. In a 5 man group, the healer gets to make a lot of decisions all the time about who to heal and which heal to use. 10 man raids are still small enough that healers need to adapt on the fly.  But once you get into a large raid, it’s very likely that you will be given a fixed assignment. You may get told off later if you drift from your assignment, even if the raid was completely successful and you kept your healing assignments up as well.

Managing a team of healers is a complex job. To make it more tractable, healing leads do use fixed assignments and the tactics require healers to stick to them. So healing in a large raid often means that you lose a lot of the normal fun decision making of healing in groups. You don’t even get to decide who you heal. No wonder people refer to healers as healbots. I’ve never felt so much like a healbot as in a large raid, and I used to be a healing lead in 40 man raids. Not only that but you probably won’t even get to use half the spells you use in 5 man instances.

In fact, one of the biggest challenges in raid healing is how to setup your UI and addons so that you can most easily work out what’s going on. In any discussion about addons, you’ll see the healers weighing in most loudly. This is because a tank mostly just needs to see the boss and any adds. So do dps. But a healer needs to be able to see the mobs AND the entire raid. And because healing is so often reactive, they need everything to be represented in a way that makes it easy to react very quickly.

This would be vastly easier if WoW could steal an idea from WAR and give everyone the ability to have both a friendly and an unfriendly target. What they actually do instead is let you have a focus target (which may be friendly or unfriendly) as well as your main target. It’s workable but not as simple as if heals always went to your friendly target and damage to the unfriendly one.

By comparison, raid tanking IS different from group tanking but it’s not any less interesting.

A lot of this does come down to WoW in general. If healing raids was more similar to healing groups then it wouldn’t be an issue. You could imagine a game where most healing spells are actually group heals. In that game you’d assign one healer per group and focus on positioning so that a group would always be within heal range. You could imagine a game where it actually wasn’t possible for a healer to heal outside their group. That would give them back the flexibility to decide how to keep their group alive.

But in that case, it simply wouldn’t be possible to drop the number of healers in a raid. You’d need one per group. And maybe more than one for the main tank group. It’s not a flexible way to manage the setup.

Being tedious is not necessarily a problem in itself. Some players prefer to have their assignments predetermined. And it’s way less of an issue for healing classes that specialise in single target healing anyway. If you are mostly healing the tank in raids, and mostly healing the tank in instances, then there’s no reason that raid healing will be any duller for you. But if you like cross-healing (ie. healing whoever you like in the raid) then it’s frustrating to be told that you can’t do it.

I always found battleground healing far more fun, for that reason.

WoW Raiding just isn’t kind to healers

I think it’s the highly tuned aspect of WoW raids that makes them so awkward for healers. When you have a fixed number of people in the raid and a lot of pressure to kill bosses as fast as possible, the raid spots which don’t directly add to damage are under more stress.

I don’t mean that I haven’t enjoyed raid healing in WoW on the occasions when I have done it. But they haven’t really nailed yet how to make raid healing fun, and even the encounters that are designed to test healers (like Loatheb) are often dull for everyone else.

For me, the absolute high water mark was healing Zul Aman on my druid. Hex Lord Malacrass was an absolutely awesome fight – busy in lots of ways, lots for everyone to do, and it really did test the healers. I was proud when we got that and I was there. (The low water mark was 40-man Razuvious because I didn’t get to heal at all on my priest and had 38 people shouting at me on Vent whenever the mind control broke.)

If you play a healer, how do you feel about raid healing?

Do you need to suffer to be a real healer?

You probably know the kind of person who is very proud of being a ‘real’ healer. They are happy to heal 100% of the time and consider it a sign of weakness if their character has any non-support spells at all. Worse still would be a viable dps spec, because that might attract *say it in whispers* the wrong kind of player.

Damage? Only the feeble minded want to be able to solo on their healers, real healers need not these things.

Real healers ™ never ignore a call for a healer from any quarter; LFG channel, guild chat, random newbie, they will trudge out to the ends of the earth to martyr themselves to whichever poor soul needs their tender ministrations.

Real healers give of their time and gold unstintingly, knowing that the effort may never be really appreciated. They may occasionally cry out to the heavens about how miserable their lot is, and how difficult it is to be so very popular, but they secretly enjoy it.

Real healers get very very pissed off if they see a hybrid ‘stealing’ their group or raid spots. Because apparently it’s not enough to want to heal 50% of the time, if you don’t heal 100% of the time and suffer constantly for your art, you don’t deserve to have healing spells.

Real healers are twats. They know that their vaunted popularity depends on them being available in limited numbers. And they know that the best way to keep the numbers down is to make the class as unappealing to anyone who is not a real healer ™ as possible.

Real healers have a vested interest in making sure that it’s always hard to find a healer. This goes against the interests of the majority of the player base which is why we’ll keep seeing more hybrid healer classes in future (until someone thinks of a way out  of the tank/healer/dps model.)

There is nothing wrong at all with having a preferred role and always sticking to it. That’s cool, although soloing usually requires a different type of role to grouping anyway. But assuming that yours is the only worthwhile way to play makes no sense.

Complaining when your class gets better soloing tools makes no sense.

People who think that hybrid healers should not be able to heal as well as pure healers are living in cloud cuckoo land. There is a difference between wanting to heal 70% of the time and wanting to heal 70% as well. Healing 70% as well means that if instances are tuned for the pure healer, the hybrid will really struggle AND if instances are tuned for the hybrid, the pure healer will be bored.

The big problem with the idea of lesser healers is that there isn’t much of a role in many games for the off-healer. And when it does exist, it’s a lesser role that isn’t always necessary. So unless a hybrid has a lot of extra utility and damage to add to the off-healing role, when they do get to heal they’ll have to be the main healer.

There are a lot of dedicated healers out there who are also good players, fun to hang out with, and not hung up about playing the martyr. These are the guys to find and treasure, everyone will have more fun.