Moo Tang Clan: Is healing boring because of interface design?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Is healing boring because of interface design?

Playing DPS is generally more fun that playing a healer - that's the accepted wisdom.

This is often explained due to hurting being more fun that helping, and also due to hurting being essential to accomplishing the game goals (and that you can't "heal a mob to death").

I've previously written about making more quests for non-killing activities, particularly healing, but could it also be due to the interface design? With DPS, you are given continual appraisal and reinforcement of your progress towards your goal: the enemy target's health bar is diminished, gradually or in leaps, until it's all gone. Healers on the other hand see a full health bar when they start, and if they are doing their job properly they see .. a full health bar. Where's the encouraging feedback in that interface design? (The same goes with dispelling debuffs by the way.)

We're so used to seeing progress bars in our games, steady measurable visible progress. Enemy health bars go down, XP bars go up, reputation bars go up, cast bars fill up, channeling bars go down, item crafting feedback bars slide across the screen, etc.

There are no progress bars for healing though.

So, is healing boring because of interface design?


Rebecca said...

I never found healing to be boring; in any MMO my first character was invariably one of the healer class, or would eventually promote into it.
I mean, you make bars go up, rather than down; you fail if bars empty entirely. You play whack-a-mole with undoing bad statuses and debuffs. You can throw shields on people to prevent them taking damage, throw buffs on them to indirectly help kill things. Playing a healer is a bit like playing a real-time strategy game without much or any control over the units, just the ability to keep them alive.
Then again, I also tended to look on healer-classes as very competent soloists, what with the ability to heal themselves mid-combat, buff themselves, and gradually wear things down. Playing WoW was usually balanced between support and that.

There's a general lack of progress bars for support in general, though. Maybe if a game kept track of how much over-healing you did and periodically gave bonuses out based on that, or something.

Verilazic said...

I'd have to agree, even though I myself found healing to be a lot of fun (though moreso in pvp) once I tried it. The key was trying it though; until I did, I didn't know what I was missing.

Even then, I have to agree that in a simplistic pve situation, healing is boring. And I don't think there's any way to change the interface to fix that. It's more of a philosophic problem.

For instance, right now doing a good job for a healer is defined as all those bars being full. What if it was change to being defined as everyone still being alive? Make it so people never die in just a couple hits, but make it impossible to heal everyone up to full in a few spells (or at least make it a difficult thing to do).

That might make things a little better, but really, it's also about punishments versus rewards. Doing damage is rewarded by the reward of the dead mob and loot. Healing is rewarded by not being punished by the death of someone and the group wiping. Avoiding failure is intrinsically less enjoyable than achieving success.