Feb 21, 2012

Posted by in Halls Of Healing | 17 Comments

Halls Of Healing: Bringing Balance to the Force

Each week or thereabouts here at Ask A Jedi, we’ll meditate on the finer points of the healer’s role in Star Wars: The Old Republic. No matter where your allegiance lies, you’re sure to find guidance here in the Halls Of Healing!

Last week’s patch started some heavy complaints on the official forums and elsewhere in the blogosphere when they announced the nerf to Surge Rating. I was, maybe to your surprise, quite delighted at these changes. Why you may ask? I currently play a Scoundrel, and as you might know Critical Rating and Surge Rating are a very important part of the mechanics due to talents such as Accomplished Sawbones and Prognosis: Critical. So why would I be delighted at these changes? Currently the state of the Scoundrel/Operative healing is quite poor. I’m not talking in terms of numbers or how to be competitive, but how the actual mechanics and toolbox of the class. We are heavily dependant on our critical hits to be able to put out good numbers and if you ask me this is where the fault in the design is. While it is particularly so for Scoundrel/Operative healers the way Critical Strikes is designed in the game, it has a major effect on other healers as well.

A Nerf eating some delicious grass

Balance Of the Force

Something that I’ve always loved about healing is how little impact the theorycrafting and the actual min-maxing has on your performance. Sure, in many situations and especially in high-end Operations you probably want to stick to what your numbers say give you the highest possible output. But the most important factor when healing is the power to be able to adapt to situations, and those situations are something you cannot predict accurately with math and formulas. Yes you can come up with an average but you won’t be able to get a lot more accurate than that. There are many different philosophies when it comes to this… will you for gear towards the worst possible scenario? For example when you don’t get any critical hits at all, or will you gear towards the average scenario? Or something in between? There isn’t any hard data on which you can base this decision on. That is what I love about healing as it allows each player to weigh the various Attributes and formulas based on his or her own feelings, because that’s really what it boils down to, what you feel is best for you.

Some years ago I came across a very fitting saying: Damage is science, Tanking is strategy, but Healing is an art. And it’s something that I’ve taken to heart. We healers are artists when it comes to our restorative skills, be it the Force, medpacs or health scanners!

Playing With Dice

I mentioned previously that I didn’t like the idea of having to rely heavily on critical hits in order to have a sufficient throughput when healing. I have many reasons for this, one of them is the fact that there are already too many random variables in the game that will affect your healing severely, add in some human errors and bad luck and you have a recipe for disaster.

Obviously we want to reduce the number of random variables that affect us in each encounter as much as possible. Some of these variables are influenceable others not. For example if there’s a randomly targeted skill the boss is doing but it requires line of sight, you can control this by having people you don’t want to get hit by moving out of line of sight. Another example is if there’s a targeted AoE, if you have your group spread out evenly you will reduce the amount of targets to be hit to a minimum and therefore reducing the impact of RNG on that fight.

There are numerous of other examples of this, most of them we don’t even think about. But the one that you personally have the most control over though is your attributes and your gear. For example by prioritizing attributes like Power over Critical Rating and Surge Rating you can reduce the randomness of your heals since you know that Power will increase the potency of all your heals and not just some of them whereas Critical Rating and Surge Rating will only improve your critical hits. Right now though in most situations this is just not a possibility since Surge and Crit are too powerful, it’s in most situations more beneficial to stack these even though your throughput will be heavily dependant on luck. I hope that the developers keep pressing in the same direction that they showed last patch, either by reducing the potency of critical hits or by increasing the health pools of the Operation team and through that increase the time in which we can land our heals, making the average healing throughput more important than the worst case scenario reliable throughput.

Reedyn is the chief nerf-herder over at Force Heal, the healing community for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Artwork is done by strawbeki.

  1. The one thing I would say when thinking about crit with this game is make sense about how you look at it. There are 2 ways to look at crit, IMO.
    1. I have to crit on 1 of the next 4 heals. If you are RELYING on crits to heal, then crit is horrible and, imo, you are looking at it wrong. RNG rules your day.

    2. Crit over time balances out how many heals you need to use. Over time you will be using less heals due to your crit percentage. In this case you are removing RNG from the scenario.

    At the moment there is so much wrong with operative healing, the surge nerf just added to it as our throughput was probably effected more than most classes. However, after the dev response on Operative healing I am very very optimistic and expect some significant changes in 1.2 and this weeks patch.

    • First, the way you are looking at doesn’t take into account many aspects of healing that are very important. For example, you cannot just take a look at meters at the end of a fight and determine which healers did the best, it doesn’t work like that.
      Take this scenario for example, you have heavy damage on your primary tank and your other healers are occupied with something else (they can be out of range or taken out by some boss ability, it doens’t matter) and you are the only one that can heal the tank. The tank quickly drops in health and you have to heal him quickly to save him. You also have a heavy amount of crit. However you don’t get a single crit on the tank, and since your class is heavily designed based on it’s crits your normal heals just don’t cut it.
      Sure, if you would’ve scored even one critical heal you might have saved the tank and without it wasn’t enough.

      The above situation isn’t even that uncommon, it happens often, and usually you get that crit you want, but it’s very luckbased. You can’t just take the average of the entire fight and say that “this is good”. The actual healing that saves people aren’t over long durations, they happen in a split second and if you make RNG a major part of the class design then the game will shift more and more towards luck and less towards skill.

      If you see it from the class designers perspective: If the healers do 5000 healing/sec on average, then the boss needs to do about 5000 damage/sec. However if the output healing fluctuates between 3000 and 6000 based on luck then the designer needs to take that into account as well and lower the average damage to something closer to the lowest possibly HPS the healers can do.

      • First I made no mention what so ever of using a meter to guage healing…none.

        The scenario you give can just as easily be applied to someone with more power. That exact scenario can just as easily fail someone with power over crit. Cherry picking an example of power over crit doesn’t make it true.
        Again, you are looking at crit as I MUST crit 1 out of the next 4 heals…that is horrible and will not work. Looking at crit over time will remove the RNG.

        I understand YOU do not like crit, it does not “feel” right to you as you put it in your article…but that does not make heavy crit wrong. I think you are using and looking at crit in the wrong way..my opinion.

        • Again, you are looking at crit as I MUST crit 1 out of the next 4 heals…that is horrible and will not work. Looking at crit over time will remove the RNG.

          The thing is, that is how the reality is in many situations, when we don’t get those crits for longer durations it can be incredibly difficult to keep the group alive, whereas when you get those crits it’s overly simple. The difference is just too big.
          Also measuring the power of a healer over the entire fight is very silly, especially so for a Scoundrel/Operative since our Resource work in very short “bursts”. The healers just heal too different to be able to judge the capabilities of them of the total output across the entire fight.

          • Personally I think you are overvalueing how much bigger the heals are going to be from adding more power.

      • I would also like to add that your assessment of “common situation” where a healer is isolated alone on the tank and the tank dies due to the healer not having enough power and too much crit is false…again in my opinion.

        When a healer is isolated and the tank is taking heavy damage, more often the damage exceeds steady healing output and it is in fact a CRITS that allow you to keep the tank up until another healer gets in range is far far more common.

        • That is exactly my point, in that case you ARE relying on the crits to keep your tank alive, which isn’t optimal. If you didn’t get the crit in the scenario you nicely depicted above, your tank would die.

          • No, stacking power would not benefit you, which is what you claimed earlier. Crit whether STACKED or NOT is what would save you in that situation….not power.

          • I think you are misunderstanding the entire point of the article. If you read carefully you see that I’m not advocating anyone to stack Power over Crit and Surge, I’m not doing that myself even. Cause we know it isn’t optimal.
            What I said in the article is that in an ideal world we don’t have to rely on Crit, it’s just a bonus. Currently it’s not the case. The point of the article was to show how badly this game-design has on the gameplay of healers, and how things would be better in an ideal world where we don’t have to rely on crit. It wasn’t a guide of any sorts!

            If you can’t see that or still disagree with me, then we just have to agree to disagree! Regardless, thank you for your comments and a nice argument! :D

          • We are going to have to agree to disagree. As an Operative healer I don’t/never relied on crit on a GIVEN cast. Again, if you were always saying, “I need this heal to crit, please crit”, crit was/is bad for you.

  2. The Surge change was needed, the scaling was simply broken causing massive damage/healing spikes in high-end gear. The change brings things down to a less spiky norm, which is great for healers.

    I would guess that the next stat change is going to be Alacrity. It currently provides no benefit (or in some cases, provides a penalty) for DPS/tanks and marginal benefit for healers. It currently scales too slowly and doesn’t affect 1/2 of player abilities (instants, HoTs, DoTs).

    • I have seen nothing but bad things from alacrity. With the fixed regeneration rate of trooper/smuggler casting faster means that you will go through your resource faster. The lower your resource… the lower it regenerates.

      If they allowed alacrity to affect regeneration rate it would be a wonderful stat.

      I have absolutely no use for alacrity as a tank.. but I do appreciate not having to cry over my resource regeneration as much…. I have to keep my ammo over 50% or I begin to lose a lot of potential threat generation (slower ammo regen = less ammo = less attacks/weaker less costly attacks = less threat)

  3. Wait, are there healing meters in game that I missed for so long?!? if so, how do I see it/access it? thanks!

    • No there are none. We need a combat log first, which isn’t likely anytime soon. I think once we start seeing a lot of class balance patches, then we may be gettiing close.

  4. Nice article. I always see crit as a welcome bonus and not a needed occurrence. I would rather see all my heals with big numbers than to see tiny numbers sparse monster crits.

    The stat system in general needs a lot of work. I am happy they are going in the right direction. Too bad there are no good enhancements with power.

    If alacrity affected resource regeneration for all classes I think it would be a much more valuable stat. Who wouldn’t want to stack power-alacrity if you could churn out fast big heals and able to not be gimped with trickling regeneration?

  5. Relying on Crit as a healer is always an iffy scenario, imo. You can’t predict them, you can’t count on them unless you have a one shot talent for it and unless you are burning that cd, you caren’t calculating that into the type of heal you need to cast in that particular moment. I’ve never been real thrilled with Crit as an important stat for heals, but it’s what works right now, so I do it because it is an optimal stat for heals. I hope this changes over time, though, I really do. An Alacrity and Power combination would make me a much happier camper since they don’t sit idle a lot of the time.

  6. I don’t play as an Operative/Scoundrel healer so my view may be completely invalid, but reliance on Crit is never a good thing and if there are mechanics for you class that do so, they’re kind of silly.

    As far as your thoughts on individual “feeling”… To me, that sounds like “well numbers don’t matter because it’s about your ‘playstyle’.” While having a system that works for you is all well and good, it may not be optimal. And performing sub-optimally hurts everyone.

    Otherwise, great post! Very informative as was the little discussion in comments.

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