Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On healing and addons

MoarHPS! had a post today where Codi defended her reasons for not using healing addons. Today's post was in response to a previous post where she merely noted how long it had been since she had started healing raids without the use of addons, and was attacked for it repeatedly.

Utter rubbish, that.

Why anyone would insult or demean another person or player just because he or she chooses to play differently is baffling to me. And the silliest part is that, when you distill any such arguments down to the basics, you find that ultimately the insulter is arguing from a principled standpoint. Which in this case means that the results of addon-less healing don't matter at all. It doesn't matter if the whole raid survives, the boss dies, everyone is competitive on the healing meter, etc. -- if you didn't use add-ons and others did, you're a worse player and everyone else only succeeded because they were able to carry you.

Now keep in mind here, we're speaking about running no add-ons, period. None. No Deadly Boss Mods, no Decursive, and certainly no Grid.

I don't have a horse in this race, but I do have two different perspectives. My wife, who's currently working on Heroic Lich King 25 and Heroic Ruby Sanctum 25 in her guild, uses a few add-ons, primarily DBM and Decursive, but heals totally with the default raid UI. She's very successful at it, and obviously the default UI gives a player enough information and flexibility to support the statement that "add-ons aren't required to achieve a high level of performance."

That being said, I do use add-ons myself -- the aforementioned DBM and Decursive, as well as Grid -- but not only do I have to honestly admit that they really provide a minimal additional benefit, but I've also occasionally found that using add-ons can actually impede one's ability to perform as a healer. For instance, when pugging a raid, seeing all of these unfamiliar names in an unfamiliar configuration on Grid, a healer could find themselves delayed in finding a specific one to start healing. This is because by default, Grid covers names on the unitframes when the unit starts taking damage, replacing them with health deficits or incoming healing. Jaraxxus, a frequent target of the weekly raid quests, is a good example. Can a healer using Grid with default options find the target of Incinerate Flesh before the affected raider blows up?

It could be difficult, going only by class colors in Grid or by checking tooltips. Could it be much easier to simply use the default UI, trade Grid's compact design for a wider, more expansive display, and find your healing targets quickly without fighting your addons?

I think that's not a far-fetched assumption.

Now on the flip side of the coin, I think it's far easier for most people to think of ways that not using add-ons can be a serious detriment to raid performance. The problem is that this is a very short-term viewpoint. And this only on bosses that the specific person has some lesser amount of experience attempting compared to the rest of the raid.

On brand new, never attempted bosses, everyone is on equal footing. A raider used to the default UI for buffs and debuffs will not have any less of an ability to see when a crucial debuff is applied, for instance, and being used to interpreting this method of displaying information, will not have any unnatural lag in reaction time or in processing new information.

Now, lacking timers and countdowns, like those provided by DBM, can introduce a bit of decision making lag or user input lag as the player becomes used to expecting these abilities or phase changes, but once the player is there and ready to expect these mechanics of the fight, not having DBM can actually be beneficial as a way to reduce to incidence of "tunneling," or simply staring at your screen not processing and changes in scenery going on around you because you're hyper-focused on irrelevant information. Every healer has experienced tunneling at some point, and I firmly believe that an over-abundance of information on the screen, of which DBM is a prime offender, serious decreases a player's ability to remain alert and ready for changes on screen. This is just a natural consequence of seeing all of this constantly changing information displayed in front of a person. That person will become deadened to some degree to the other changes going on in the encounter, especially those not displayed by an add-on -- e.g., boss movement, raid movement, etc.

All this back and forth basically amounts to the following: healing with or without mods and add-ons is ultimately a question of style. If you choose to use them, great. If you choose not to use them, also great. Just make sure that, whichever path you choose to follow, that you are getting the essential information that you need as a player at your current level of difficulty. Perform as required, and nobody even has to know which of these kinds of healer you are in the first place.

Enough said, now?

1 comment:

  1. Some players consider addons to be a form of sanctioned cheating and
    prefer to play the game in its pure form. I respect their right to play
    the game without addons, and as long as they perform to a reasonable
    standard I'm happy to play with them.

    I accept that some players can get by just fine without addons – and maybe
    even a few of them can cut it raiding. But I think it’s a thin argument to
    say that addons can hinder performance: the fact that some addons need
    configuring to get the best out of them is not an argument against getting
    them in the first place (the same argument can be made for the default UI,
    which I’ve found generally needs some tweaking to get right).

    So while I would never insult a person for playing without addons, I would
    encourage everyone who is not a purist to give them a go — because,
    regardless of whether they can perform just fine without them, addons are
    generally designed to improve performance and most people benefit hugely
    from them on a personal level.

    Your wife, by the way, cannot be said to be healing without addons if she
    uses decursive. This is an extremely valuable addon in some fights, and
    her job as a healer would be much harder without it. Now imagine how much
    easier it would be if she could click cast, keep track of her buffs better
    etc. It’s not that she can’t be a good healer without addons, it’s just
    that she’ll probably be better with them.