[SWTOR] Flashpoints, romances, endgame [spoilers]

instancespinks

So Spinks is now level 50, and I think I’ve completed all of the flashpoints apart from Directive 7 (which is cool but looooong – I dropped out before we got to the end, but the guys were able to finish it) and Kaon Under Siege, which is the newest one. I’ve found them fun in general (although there’s massive hate on for Colicoid War Games, which is just an odd instance – think vehicle fights), especially the more story based flashpoints like Boarding Party/ Foundry and Battle for Ilum/False Emperor.

These pictures show:

  1. On the left, the downside to killing mobs by flinging them off high places. I’m standing on a beam, looking down at dead mobs who are way out of my reach …. and who have loot on them. Oops. However, force push is the best power evah! Flinging people off things is great.
  2. This is the equivalent screenshot to the one everyone took in Wrath of their character sitting on the frozen throne. Since Spinks is modelling a shiny black and silver set of badass armour here, she doesn’t show up too well on the leather-upholstered throne. Also it’s perhaps not the most ladylike pose, but who cares?

The levelling game in SWTOR has been one of the best CRPG experiences I’ve had in any game since Planescape. This game is no Planescape, but I don’t think the Bioware storytelling model has ever worked better. You have the multiple origins of DAO, the ‘you are a god/dess in mortal form’ of ME, and combat is genuinely more fun than either (for me at least). However flawed, the dialogue wheel has added some fun to the game, and so have the companion stories. I’ve enjoyed the various jumps in difficulty, but mostly I’ve loved feeling like a badass sith warrior and pretty much just abusing power in all of its forms.

It’s been a blast.

Endgame was always bound to mess up the nice smooth lines of story flow. There’s no interesting story way to really explain running dailies, PvP in the same battlegrounds, or regular flashpoints … or even why there are hardmodes in the world at all. The Ilum instances in particular include massive spoilers for the Ilum storyline, but you’re allowed to go run them as soon as you hit the appropriate level. They’re not gated by whether you have got to that part of the story.

Bioware pretty much have to do this, because plenty of players will not want to keep questing when they get to 50 just to get access to an instance. However, it does mean that you could innocently agree to an instance run with your guild and get massively spoiled on story.

Companion romances also have the potential to mess up the story flow. Unlike in DA2, where the progress of the romances was tied deeply into the plot, in SWTOR the romances proceed based purely on your level and the companion’s level of affection.

So, for example, you could be in a situation where the levelling storyline runs that your companion attempts to betray you, where the romance storyline for that companion is that you’ve just married them. And there’s not really much dialogue to explain either how that’s affecting the relationship or why it didn’t. (This has been a massive source of complaints on the Sith Warrior forums – I’m a RPer so I’m used to tying myself in knots to explain why my character has done fairly inexplicable things, but this one was a doozy.)

Actually, while the romances have been fun, it does my head in to imagine my character being happily married at all, and the thought of her having kids … (I’m not kid-averse, but she’s a badass sith warrior with poor impulse control, this is not perhaps the stuff of good mothering. Besides which, surely she’d rather be trashing the universe?) The marriage thing feels a bit tacked on, like a Lucasarts nod to conventional morality. ie. you can be as evil as you like, but if you have a permanent relationship, it should end in marriage/ commitment.

The DA2 relationships worked better, for me. But hey, it was still a bit of fun. Especially since the Sith Warrior romance with Quinn plays out more like an extended comedy sequence than a romance anyway. I did laugh at the conversation where he noted, “Now that we’ve agreed to get married, you could call me Malavai?” Just because it raised the spectre of ‘what on earth was she calling him in private if not his first name?’ Too much information on my character’s private life there, perhaps :)

[SWTOR] Let’s talk about class, and role, and faction, and morality, and story

Latest news on SWTOR pre-orders is that they are through the roof and analysts are now predicting 3 million box sales in the first year with 2 million steady subscribers and I’d like some of whatever they are smoking. 2 million subs, huh?

Still, it’s great news for Bioware, and I cannot be the only person eyeing the various classes and thinking about what I might want to play. These are the types of factors you may be weighing up:

  • What faction?
  • What race?
  • What role (ie. heal/ tank/ ranged dps/ melee)?
  • What look do I prefer? (robes vs plate)
  • What theme and feel? Other roleplaying considerations? (Do I like the idea of being a sith warrior, a smuggler, etc.)
  • What will fit in best with my friends?

In addition to this, because of the heavy Bioware emphasis on story, companions and voice acting, there are other variables too.

  • Which companion do I like the look of? (Some companions seem to be class specific.)
  • Which romance option do I like, if any? (Jedi get darkside points for romance, you have been warned.)
  • Which voice actor do I prefer?
  • What type of storyline do I want? Jedi are likely to be heavier on moral choices, the imperial agent looks to be like James Bond, etc.

This information is not all available yet but expect to read more about the game as we get into September and people try out the beta weekends. Meanwhile, MMO Gamer Chick has a post showing the intro videos to all the different classes which may help a bit with getting the look/ feel and some of the voice acting out there.

The interesting thing for me with the differing class storylines is that you may get a completely different genre of RPG depending on which class you choose. The sneaky agent is going to tell stories in a very different style to the monastic, high fantasy jedi knight. In that sense, this game is a very true descendent of DAO where the starting preludes genuinely felt like different styles of story.

It also becomes increasingly clear that Bioware would like to make the dark side/ light side choices very important in play. For example, some of the crafted and dropped gear will only be wearable by light side/ dark side characters. I think this will be controversial but I hope that they stick with it, because it’s a really interesting way to drive the storytelling into the gear acquisition game. My only concern is that if you are mad enough to play a light side sith inquisitor, do you really want everyone else to be able to see it?

To do more research, I went to the official forums to see what types of conversation players who had already picked their class were having. At least it will show what the player expectation is. Here’s a roundup of each.

Jedi Knight: These guys are clearly interested in discussing moral dilemmas. My favourite thread on the front page is called “Is it wrong to use the force to make money?” which practically inspires character concepts all on it’s own. The goblin jedi!

Jedi Consular: Consulars seem more interested in social issues, such as whether they like their companion and how they feel about romance leading to the dark side. I’m not saying these are more likely to be female players but …

Smuggler: Smugglers have two full threads about what to name their ships (the first one capped at 1000 posts), so clearly of great interest. I still want to name a ship “Justifiable Homicide” since that had too many letters for STO.

Trooper: Some discussion about whether dps specced Troopers will get groups, and a long thread asking for a Jedi companion ‘to boss around.’ I’m sensing control issues, you can tell this is a tank class.

Sith Warrior: Some threads discussing the various advanced trees, and one asking if anyone is nuts enough to consider playing a light side sith warrior. I found a thread a few pages back asking if it was possible to play a non-outrageously evil looking sith warrior also (not in this genre, I suspect.)

Sith Inquisitor: Like their counterparts, sith inquisitors spawn a few romance threads. There’s a large poll on whether sith purebloods should be able to be inquisitors (controversial because Bioware have said that this would not fit with the sith inquisitor plotline because they start as force sensitive slaves, which would not be appropriate for that race.)

They also have my favourite thread so far, which is advice from a SI to their apprentice:

Alright Darth Noobster. Starting today you get to be my apprentice. Congratulations. But, before you get too excited and start planning any shenanigans, like trying to push me over a cliff, I think we should have an open and honest discussion – put all the Pazaak cards on the table as they say in Nar Shaddaa.

So, it’s like this. One of these days, you’re going to get it into your head to kill me and take over, probably while I’m in the bathroom with my robes around my ankles.

Imperial Agent: There are some complaints at not seeing enough footage of the IA in action, and some discussion of whether people like the idea of playing a Chiss Agent (I’d think the name Mystique will be gone fairly quickly given that they are blue skinned and red eyed.) I see a few threads about PvP also.

Bounty Hunter: Wide ranging discussions on specs, as well as more RP type issues like names and inspirations. There’s an active thread discussing player bounties (and the lack of same) in game.

Still not sure yet? Me either. I can’t help feeling that I’d like to know more about the storylines before I decide. For example, I really like characters who start out fairly seedy rather than heroic from the get-go, which is one of the things I liked about my uncaste dwarf in DAO and Hawke in DA2. It looks as though the smuggler and sith inquisitor (!) both come from that side of the tracks, so that’s another thing for me to bear in mind.

Do you think story considerations will come into your decision also?

[SWTOR] I find your lack of excitement disturbing

Slowly, slowly more information is being released about Bioware’s upcoming WoW-killer, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Last week, EA held a press event in London to show off a new playable species, their plans for class customisation and talent trees, and the Bounty Hunter. The link above also includes links to various press reviews of the demo. Most of which are notable for a tone of polite interest masking a lack of any genuine excitement.

Maybe people don’t want or need to get excited about their games any more. Maybe the journalists are so jaded from seeing demos and hype that they’re wary of piling on the plaudits for yet another game that will fail to meet its beta promise.

The writeups politely agree that combat looks fun, the demo story looks fun, and regret that much of the rest of what they saw is still in flux. Eurogamer has taken deserved flak (check the comments) for their MMO reviews recently, but Jon Blyth, reviewing for Eurogamer this time around does ask about plans for more alien races and gets the entertaining answer:

When I ask about others, I’m given an entertainingly evasive answer that they’d only be using humanoid races because love scenes get weird with blobs.

Love scenes get weird with blobs. Someone actually sat down and thought about it then? Hold me Garrus, Bioware are starting to scare me.

Today, the SWTOR Friday update announces their Advanced Class System, aka talent trees. This is Spinks’ lack of excitement. I don’t understand why my character has to choose between being dps or being a tank. Obviously I want to switch depending on what mood I’m in that night and what my friends are doing; or maybe that’s not obvious to anyone except me.

All I can say is that this fourth story pillar had better be absolutely knockout. And the truth is, I’m still so enamoured of the storytelling from Dragon Age and Mass Effect that if they are able to produce a massive version with several months worth of story based content, it won’t really matter if the gameplay fails to excite.

9 Ways to Justify Changes in the Lore

I love the lore behind imaginary places, people, objects, games, worlds, and stories! And I’m not alone. Far from it, drawing people into these imaginary places is what drives the huge popularity of the great IPs of our time. Middle Earth, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Twilight, James Bond, Superman, Sherlock Holmes, Sandman, Harry Potter, Warhammer. And so on.

They were stories first of course, or games, or comics, but to fans it’s all about the lore. About the imaginary history and the internal consistence, and even bout the places and events that are only ever visited ‘off camera’.

Now, MMOs, comics, and TV series have a unique challenge with respect to their lore, because it will change and grow over time. Sometimes in a long running series, it’s difficult for creators to keep track of every single aspect of the IPs history – and fans love to catch them out on it. This is especially true when it becomes more and more obvious that when the series began, the creators hadn’t yet decided how it would end.

And both TV series and games have reasons for wanting to insert new elements or directions into their lore. For a TV series, maybe the series needs to come to a neat ending (Battlestar Galactica), or a new show runner wants to take a different direction (Doctor Who), or one of the script writers just had a really cool idea that everyone likes. In games, developers also want to be responsive to what players want, and shifts in game design. Or maybe they just want to drop in a new race of space aliens because they look cool. Or in other words, there are good reasons for wanting to twist the lore into pretzels; to improve gameplay, or to improve a dramatic arc, for example.

As fans, we’d like to think this never happened, or at least that we would never notice. And in great novels, the chances are that the author will be able to go back and adjust the lore to fit the story if s/he needs to do it before publication. But in ongoing TV series, comics, or games, that isn’t an option.

It’s a familiar dilemma to pen and paper GMs also. You think of a great idea for next week’s scenario. But how can you make it fit into the game world?

Here are a few suggestions for game designers. Next time you need to do something crazy in game for gameplay reasons, try one of these excuses to sell it to the players.

1. A Wizard Did It

A time honored D&D favourite justification. This can explain just about anything you ever want to do in a fantasy setting. And as a bonus, can cover up any failure on the part of the GM to remember some minute background detail that was mentioned in passing three years ago. Players will ALWAYS remember this sort of thing.

For example: ”Why is there a black monolith in the middle of this desert? There’s no black rock around here.” “A wizard did it.”

If you get bored of wizards or are working in a different genre try these alternatives:

  • an ancient god/ civilisation did it
  • ultra high tech did it
  • black ops/ secret government labs did it
  • you have no idea what did it  (Oo, a mystery! As a bonus, if you are lazy you can listen to players discuss their ideas and then use the one that sounds coolest.)

2. A MAD Wizard Did it

Like #1, but when the thing in question is obviously pointless, contradicts current lore, or even acts against the creator’s best interests. You can even combine 1 with 2 if players ask particularly awkward questions:

Why is Bob riding a sparkly pony!

A wizard did it.

But all wizards are afraid of stars, you told us that last week.

Uh … a MAD wizard did it.

Sometimes you can even explain that the wizard in #1 later went mad and was responsible for #2.

3. Gotterdammerung

Everything goes up in flames for no reason. But it’s ok because it’s SYMBOLIC. Bonus points if you can work in a thematic colour scheme, weather effects, and NPC names.

“Do you think Mr Justifiablehomicide wants to be our friend?”

4. Crisis on Infinite Azeroths

It’s … a crossover!

5. The Hudson Hawk Defence

Also known as ‘the totally bullshit explanation’. Just state your highly implausible explanation with a straight face and see if anyone buys it.

You’re supposed to be all cracked up at the bottom of the hill.

Air bags!Can you fucking believe it?

You’re supposed to be blown upinto fiery chunks of flesh.

Sprinkler system set up in the back.
Can you fucking believe it?

Yeah! ……. That’s probably what happened.
— Hudson Hawk

6. I woke up, and it was all a dream

Made famous by Dallas, this explanation allows you to reset the lore to any time in the past that you wish.

7. Take the blue pill, Neo

Haha, bait and switch. Everything the players thought they knew turns out to be wrong.  In The Matrix, this was because the entire world known by the protagonist was just a VR simulation.

But a similar explanation can be used to justify why the players’ allies are actually their enemies or any of their assumptions (which were encouraged strongly by the game, story, or TV series) were completely incorrect.

Players will typically accept this once, but will then choose the blue pill and try to stick with the original assumptions because those are why they liked the game in the first place anyway.

8. Break the fourth wall

I’ve got to stay here, but there’s no reason why you folks shouldn’t go out into the lobby until this thing blows over.

- Groucho, Horse Feathers

We don’t see this often in MMOs but occasionally an in-game narrator or tutorial will explain game mechanics to the player. A similar scheme can be used to try to explain lore changes that were made for gameplay reasons.

9. Blame Christopher Tolkein

Blame any changes on the vagaries of the IP’s current owner.

Christopher Tolkein and the Tolkein Estate can take the flak for Middle Earth based games, Games Workshop can shoulder the blame for changes in Warhammer, and so on.

Which came first, the game or the story?

I’ve read a few posts recently on immersion in gaming, and Toskk summed up the problem neatly here. There are different types of immersion, and they don’t all happily coexist.

If I’m immersed in a story, the absolute last thing I want to do is stop and min-max my character stats (or worse, be forced to go back to a previous save point, redo my gear/stats and play through some of the story I have already seen). If I’m immersed in a game, I don’t want to have to sit through seventeen cut scenes and have to care about which option would give me the best reward. If I’m immersed in exploring an area, I don’t want to have to fight through some scheduled event or be forced to grind out reputation just to be allowed to enter the next zone. And if I’m immersed in a solo resource management game, I don’t want to be forced to group.

Immersion (or we can call it flow) is not only the goal of many gamers, but it is also the problem. Having to switch between a gaming mindset and a storytelling mindset not only kills immersion but also will annoy people who liked one side of the game but not the other.

Figuring out how to neatly merge some of these styles is the big challenge for the next generation of game designers. But most MMO gamers will agree that they’d enjoy a virtual world from which stories and interesting gaming challenges both flowed naturally. We know it is possible to some extent, as long as players are willing to compromise – games like Uncharted 2 merge the storytelling and gaming brilliantly well, to a limited extent. Dragon Age charmed over 3 million players with a similarly engaging take on a similar problem. And it looks as though Mass Effect 2 will be at least as successful.

Playing the game badly

It’s very easy to play a storytelling game badly. All you have to do is completely ignore the story so far when making decisions.

If you decide that your character has no social skills so you will insult everyone you meet, you’ll still get through the game. You may also get some very amusing interactions and possibly more fights. It will involve picking non-optimal conversation options, but from a storytelling point of view, it’s a perfectly good way to play through the game. And that’s a player decision, you CAN choose to not try to pick the ‘best’ option in any conversation and … it won’t lead to disaster, just a story consistent with the choices that you have made.

In a bad storytelling game (like, many old school text adventures), making the wrong decision early on can cripple you in endgame. It’s like having a sadistic storyteller just waiting for you to slip up. But a good game, like a good storyteller, will give you plenty of hints as to where a decision might lead. Or if a decision has random and unforeseen results, then you will be given a chance to deal with them.

I was pondering this when reading Ravious’ post on why he feels stressed by storytelling games. I feel he missed the point. In a good storytelling game, you don’t need to stress about making the wrong decision. If the decision is right for your character and the story you are telling, then it isn’t a wrong decision.

But what this means is that a true storytelling game should never be heavily reliant on min/maxing from the player. Because that would lead to one preferred route through the game, and would cut out any character concepts that were not in line with the min/max result.

For example, mages are really powerful in Dragon Age. A min/maxer would tell you to pick a mage, would tell you how to spec it, and would tell you which specialisations to select. But I finished the game on my dwarf rogue and never felt hampered – being able to play on an easier mode was a way for me to tell the game that I didn’t want min/maxing to get in the way of my story.

When stories flow out of games

Storytelling is all about the art of giving meaning to things that we encounter in life. If you read a good biography, it will read like a series of anecdotes (ie. small stories). No one’s life is really a story until a storyteller sits down and pats and moulds it into the right shape. A news story might be dull when it happens to you personally … until you see it written up in a newspaper at which point it becomes a proper narrative.

Or in other words, that sword +1 that you got from the GM is very dull. But Caliburn, the sword +1 which was a rare drop that you cleared an instance 40 times to get, and that you then used to go tank a raid boss? That has a story. Adding difficulty or grind to a game is one way to add meaning. When you overcome those barriers, the results feel more meaningful than if you just woke up and got your quest reward in the post.

But difficulty isn’t the only way. Seeing the virtual world around us respond to decisions we have made in the past makes those decisions more meaningful too. It’s just that difficulty is by far the easiest way to make these achievements meaningful to all players in a multi-player game.

In a solo game, there are other options. The game can adjust more easily to the player. But in a MMO … if anything is going to be genuinely difficult, it needs to be designed assuming min/maxers. So in an MMO, either everyone must min/max or else difficulty is going to be somehow adjustable and high end achievements lose some meaning.

Freeing up the stories

Then there are players like me who love the stories and the virtual worlds and even the gameplay, and don’t enjoy the min/max side of the games at all. I’d have much more fun in games if I never had to care about how my character was specced or geared. Those things are not fun for me. So I’m glad in WoW that people make up gear lists – I wish they weren’t necessary but at least they let me skip the parts of the game that I hate.

This is also why I don’t like collectible card games. I love playing them, but only if someone else puts together a deck for me. Deck Building, like other forms of min/maxing, simply doesn’t appeal. So really I’d be happier playing a non-collectible card game like Bridge or Fluxx (which is an awesome game that everyone should try) where it simply isn’t part of the game at all.

No wonder I loved Dragon Age so much. The game was designed to let you downplay gear and talent choices. And gave you a great personalised story anyway. I can only pity the people who played that game badly, because they were too scared to veer from the min/max path in case anything non-optimal happened.

Rewarding the Character vs Rewarding the Player

It’s hardly possible to move these days in an MMO without tripping over a slew of new rewards. Emblems, xp, gear, badges, pets, titles, gold, cosmetic clothes, house decorations, mounts, achievements, quest unlocks, and so on – and with every patch, the list gets longer.

And yet, not all rewards are equal. There’s been a slow and ongoing trend in MMOs to reward the player rather than the character. I’ll give some examples of what I mean by this.

Rewarding the character means that you get something that will help with character progression. When you are levelling, almost all the rewards you get in game are to do with character progression. The xp, the new gear, new abilities, talent points to spend, being high enough level to travel to more interesting places and unlock new quests, for example. All of these things are about character progression and your character’s story.

Rewarding the player is a different kettle of fish. Rewards may add extra gameplay options, or more ways to interact with other players. They might simply be avenues through which players can compare achievements or satisfy those collection itches. So achievements, cosmetic pets and clothing, fluff, fun, and anything that doesn’t really operate in the same sphere as character progression falls in here.

So far, so good. Older games also included many of these player rewards, but they tried harder to tie everything to character progression also. So for example, in City of Heroes, if you get the right set of titles, your character gets some stat bonuses. Moving away from that era is a very distinctive and definite shift in approach. And it solves a lot of problems. Because if players could be gotten to concentrate more on player rewards than character rewards, then character progression could slow right down.

The problem of character progression

Character progression has been an albatross around the neck of MMO devs back since the MUD days. It’s not an issue with single player games, but there are specific problems with multi-player games. For example:

  • How do you pace progression so that the hardcore and casual players can all be satisfied?
  • How can players interact with each other when they are at different levels of progression?
  • How can a new player cope if they come into the game a couple of years after the start? Will they be too far behind to catch up?

Interestingly, we didn’t have this problem to quite such an extent in MUSHes. But that was because they were such social games, and your character’s power level wasn’t as important as who your friends and contacts were. And that’s worth remembering, because it is one solution to progression that hasn’t really been explored.

The other problem with character progression is that players adore it.

Many many games, not just RPGs or MMOs, are based on the idea that a character starts off weak and defenceless and gradually gains more power, knowledge, and tools over time until they can defeat some kind of final challenge. Character progression is a powerful story tool, and it’s also the most basic, the most primal story in the world. It is the story of life. We are born weak, we grow up, we gain knowledge and power, we make friends and relationships. (And then grow old and die but games don’t explore that side of the story very deeply, which is a shame.)

Character progression in MMOs is painfully basic. The story is mostly killing monsters, getting loot, selling said loot on the auction house, maybe learning a tradeskill, and interacting lightly with the same quests as everyone else. And once you have finished levelling, the progression has nowhere much to go. It’s because our character’s stories are so weak that we treat the rewards as so much candy. Another day, another piece of gear. Ho hum.

So at endgame, it isn’t surprising if devs want to shift to player based rewards. Creating more character progression is hard, and although tentative steps have been made towards player driven character progression in games like EVE (I’m thinking of proper virtual politics and the player council) , that’s not really how game developers have been thinking.

The great advantage of player rewards is that they don’t affect game balance or do anything mechanically to put up extra barriers to prevent character interaction. They also foster a different type of social dynamic, and one that is potentially less character based.  And yet … yet those pesky players adore their characters and their character progression. They want to tell more stories about those characters, not just the endless ‘I did instance X 13 times last week’ or ‘I ground out Y points in battleground Z’.

So it makes perfect sense for devs to try to move away from character progression. The problem of endgame might not exist if the rest of the game wasn’t all about levelling and progression. The question is, will better designed player rewards help to dissociate players from their characters?

And next year Bioware will debut Star Wars: The Old Republic, with their emphasis on story as the fourth pillar of gameplay. Will they be able to find a way to keep telling stories after the levelling period is over? Or will their game also dissolve into a mass of achievements, cosmetic pets, and random fluff?

What tanks really think of healers

This is inspired by a great shared topic at Blog Azeroth which asks about non-healers view of healers.

And I think this is really typical of WoW in that Nigiri (who is a healer) asked the question, and everyone who has responded so far has played a tank. And they have all said the same thing: I don’t care where the heals come from as long as they keep coming.

Bear in mind that WoW has 4 classes capable of healing and there is some competition between them. Plus support classes always like to feel that they picked the most useful/desired combination because you feel like a tool if you’ve gone to all the effort of levelling and gearing up one group-friendly toon only to find that you aren’t wanted. So healers in WoW are always asking: which type of healer would you prefer in your group. I used to do this when I played my druid too in TBC; maybe I didn’t come out and ask, but I was very sensitive to my ‘groupability’.

But like the other guys have said, no one else cares who is healing as long as it is someone who is paying attention. And that’s a sign that the heal classes are reasonably balanced at the moment, for solo/group play at least.

As a raid leader, my preference is for a mix of healing classes because they each bring something different to the table. In Ulduar specifically, I prefer priests but that’s down to encounter design. In practice, no one is cut out because:

  1. We don’t have many priests
  2. I’d still want to use a mix of classes

I’ll come back to my preferences with healers later because it is a bit more than ‘whoever is there’.

My first experience with heals

I want to share a story from years back in Dark Age of Camelot.

I was playing my first ever MMO and my first ever MMO character which was a minstrel (a kind of jack of all trades class with a bit of melee, a bit of crowd control, a few buffs, and a group speed buff). And I had been soloing on Salisbury Plains with some success – I’d killed a few mobs, died a couple of times, business as usual.

Then I ran into a friendly cleric, so we grouped up. And I knew they were a healing class but it was the first time I’d ever been in a group in the game. We eyed some monster up.

I said to him that I thought we might be ok but it would be a tough fight, because it had killed me before.

He said, it’s ok, I’ll be healing.

I was doubtful. But I figured that two people were better than one and the worst that could happen would be that we died and had to release and run back.

When I fought that monster, I was a living combat goddess!! My health barely dipped. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t even easy. I swung my sword a few times, and it may have hit me but I laughed off the damage. Then it died. I didn’t just have healing, it was as if my health bar had suddenly stopped being an issue.

I said, wow, that seemed easy.

He said, yes.

So I pulled another one.

So what do tanks really think of healers?

With a healer at my back, I feel as though I can do anything (in the game). I will charge the biggest bosses, I will smash skulls in PvP, and nothing will stand in my way. It’s the craziest kind of team-up – a tank and a healer is one of the most powerful duos in just about any game I’ve ever played. So it can be a really great partnership and lots of fun for everyone involved.

But there are some caveats:

  1. The usual rote goes that if the tank dies, it’s the healers fault. If the healer dies, it’s the tank’s fault. If dps die, it’s their own silly fault.  If the healer gets aggro then I have done something very wrong. But don’t go out of your way to die by forgetting to heal yourself or get out of the fire.
  2. I do prefer being healed by a player I know or have played with before. It’s funny how that works. You do get used to someone’s playing style.
  3. Communication helps. I prefer healers who tell me in advance if there’s anything special I can do to help them out in a fight. As a tank, I may not notice aspects of a boss which only affect casters (like silences). And may not know if one particular type of healer needs a hand on one particular boss.
  4. One thing I learned from playing healers in WoW is that they are not fragile butterflies. All of them have ways to handle themselves which means that screaming like a girl when a not-very-hard hitting add heads your way is somewhat of an over-reaction.
  5. Run towards the tank when you get aggro, not away. We all actually do have ranged taunts now, but it’s still a good rule.
  6. Don’t freak out at constructive criticism, even if it means someone correctly calling you on a mistake that you made. This applies to anyone really but some healers are particularly sensitive. It isn’t personal!