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Healing and Addons

Posted by Malevica on July - 28 - 2010

There’s recently been a bit of a debate over the use or not of addons for healing. I don’t want to throw more fuel on the fire, but some of the posts and commentary have been quite throught-provoking, and since I’m about to head into the Beta and my usual UI will go out the window, I thought I’ve been giving my own addon usage even more thought.

My story

I use addons to heal and pretty much always have. I remember my first healing experience in Wailing Caverns in my 20s, way back in mid-2007, clicking on party frames to target people and then clicking on the healing spells on my bars. This being early in TBC and not my first character I was well aware that there existed a wide variety of addons to help classes do their job, so it was a natural next step for me to go a-Googling and I quickly found Healbot. Thus was a click-healer made.

Although I’ve never seriously used the default raid interface to heal, I have had occasion to quickly drag out the default raidframes and heal with keybinds (not mouseover macros, just target & press number keys) in a pinch when I’ve been disconnected mid-fight. I’m far from brilliant with it, but I can be non-useless in such a situation.

Pros and Cons

For me, healing effectively means mastering two stages: decision-making, i.e. picking the right person to heal and the right spell to use, or deciding whether to dispel that thing or to leave it; and then acting on that decision, i.e. reacting in time and hitting the right person.

Addons can help in both areas, but I mostly value assistance with the first part. Addons, if you spend the time to set them up properly, can provide you with as much information as you need to make your decisions, with (hopefully) no excess clutter, although of course in reality no addon can provide perfect configurability.

The problem that was brought up recently was that near-ubiquitous use of addons for showing spell cooldowns and boss abilities or for changing health bar colours when a decurse is needed means that people are losing, or failing to acquire, a sense of timing or even a depth of knowledge of boss mechanics. This can lead to a dependence on the addons, to the point where people become (or at least feel) unable to heal without them.

The trouble is that this is predicated on the idea that the addon(s) may stop working one day and expose that dependency. As long as the addon is active and functioning, there’s no problem. As a commenter observed, you’re judged on results, not methods.

Of course if your addons do break on patch day someone who has a more “visceral” understanding will probably outperform you, as will someone who is more accustomed to using the Blizzard interface to heal. When you don’t have an addon using a special this-one-really-matters colour, someone who can recognise an Unbound Plague icon from a Plague Sickness one will be at an advantage.
That is, until the player adapts to a new addon or the old addon is updated.

Here’s a different perspective: the default UI can be thought of as simply a set of ‘addons’ designed by Blizzard and included with the game, rather than something special or sacred. The only difference is that Blizzard make sure that their ‘addons’ are working before each patch release. From that perspective, it becomes much more like a choice between Vuhdo, Blizzard, Grid and Healbot.
You simply pick your comfort point in the trade-off between reliability in extreme conditions and everyday convenience, configurability and performance.

As a fun thought experiment, consider Blizzard announcing that due to the large number of excellent addons in the community, they are removing the default UI completely, leaving it purely in API form.

Short Version?

The most important thing addons provide is the ability to provide only the information you want to make your decisions, no more and no less. This (in theory) should lead to the most optimal decisions being made in any given situation. If providing more information than the default UI is helpful, then suitably-configured addons should improve your healing.

If those addons break, you may find yourself worse off than someone using the default UI (which is unlikely to break, at least on Live) until you can readapt, adopt a new set of addons, or the old addon is fixed. For the vast majority of us this isn’t a problem, although I can see how world-first guilds might find it helpful to be able to raid and heal regardless of the situation on the day new content is released.

I’ll be shortly spending some time on the Beta realm, where my normal UI is unlikely to work, so this will be an interesting test of my “dependency” on addons.

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Categories: Anecdotes, Opinion

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