Saturday, 20 February 2010

On Empathy

Nice definition from Wiki: "Empathy, which literally translates as in feeling, is the capability to share another being's emotions and feelings." Not a hugely difficult concept to grasp, the idea of putting yourself in someone else's shoes for a period of time and understanding what they're feeling. Unfortunately it seems that this idea is often beyond the capabilities of my fellow WoW-players. That's an awful generalisation, I know but the LFG tool can turn a happy-go-lucky individual into a 'glass-half-empty' one with remarkable speed. Also referred to by Tam as Sanity Tap. If you haven't met Tam and Chastity go read. Now.

F'rinstance...the Other Half and I decided that we would give our rogue and 'lock some PuG love last night and jumped into the random LFG queue. We've been very spoilt on the paladin/shaman combo as we rarely have to wait for than a few minutes for a group, and more often than not it's instant - so much so that I ensure I'm in my resto spec with earthliving on my weapon before we even enter the Finder. But joining as a party with two DPS classes means a wait, so after about 20 minutes of (impatient on my behalf) waiting we zoned into Ulduman. Us, a shadow-but-healing priest, and elemental shaman and a bear tank. So group composition looked to be fine. After the first few trash pulls it became quite apparent that the tank had a 'gogogo' mentality, and that the priest was struggling mana-wise. Having (tried) to back up instance heal in 'oh shit' moments on my priest in shadow spec I know how mana heavy healing like that is. The priest was very aware of this and commented that he couldn't wait to hit 40 so he could dual spec holy. So good, the priest is aware of his class, spec and it's limitations. Now hopefully the tank will be appreciative of this and keep a weather eye on his mana bar... or not as he chain pulls another big group. The shaman dropped some heals around and we didn't wipe but it was a skin of the teeth moment. So the priest is totally mana drained, the tank is at half health and off he charges again to pull some more. At this point the priest did say he needed a mana break... and then he apologised. Now why, oh why would you apologise for needing mana? I said in party chat something along the lines of: 'Hey it's cool. No mana = no heals' and the tank did something along the lines of a /grunt. Now pull back a second. We're in Ulduman here. We're not kitted out in T9 lol'ing our way through Heroics. It isn't unreasonable for the healer to require a mana break.

We carried on, the tank determinedly pulling large groups, displaying an endearing (!) pechant for pulling them just round corners so the priest has to scramble around in order to have LoS. We did eventually wipe and the healer started to self-flagellate. Apologising profusely he explained that he hadn't run Ulduman before, how he was sorry etc etc. Mixed in with this was the tank demanding buffs. In context: the priest had a soulstone (because I am a well-mannered lock) and just finished ressing the whole party. The tank's view appeared to be that the healer did not require time to drink and he should be getting on with the infinitely more important business of buffing. At this point the Other Half began to twitch and asked him if we could possibly have a Mark of the Wild as well, as, y'know, it helps everyone. We rebuffed and and completed the instance with no problems. The priest asked for mana breaks when he needed them and the tank didn't grumble (too much). I had a chat with the priest via /w and said he was doing great, the healing as shadow was hard and that he should always but always ask for mana breaks when he needed them. There is no shame in being in the late 30s and not having infinite mana. And tanks need to know that if they want heals they need to make sure their healer has the mana to do so.

So stepping back from this a little. Firstly I've painted the tank in a fairly unpleasant light. He wasn't bad. He was a good tank, he was gathering up mobs so we could AoE them and make the run speedy. Ok, no shame there. He was specced to tank, he had no problems generating threat and keeping it. All good. My only issue, and it's a big one, was that he had no empathy with the healer. I may well be over-sensitive to the needs of healers in general, and priests specifically, having played one for so long, with it's accompanying burden of 'healer guilt' but I really believe that you should have some awareness of the others in your party. Again, as a f'rinstance - I tend to use Curse of Agony on my lock (probably out of habit) but when I'm grouped with another caster I try to remember to use Curse of Elements. This may mean, at face value, I 'lose' DPS in terms of a DoT effect but the party overall gains DPS from the increased spell damage taken by the mob. See, awareness of the group composition. It isn't hard. Now God only knows I'm not an uber player in any way, shape or form. I just try to understand other classes and roles.

If you haven't played a healer, it may well be hard to empathise with their mana needs. I know that on my lock if I run out of mana I can either life tap to regen or wand the mob. The mob might take longer to die but me having no mana is very unlikely to wipe the group. If your healer goes OOM it may well wipe the group. The 30 seconds it takes to let the healer drink is a lot less than running back from a wipe (and less depressing as well!) However the concept of no mana equalling no heals is a straightforward line between two points. I understand that bears and warriors need rage in order to generate threat and this can be hard to garner from a standing start and therefore it needs to be a balance, but if you aggro on a bunch of mobs when your healer is at 15% mana it is unlikely to end well.

In a similar vein (and to emphasise that I don't usually blame the tanks!), why do DPS classes feel that they are fit and able to pull? You have some dude(ette) with a huge health pool and good armour, yet you [in the spirit of fairness, insert DPS class here], decide that the best option is for you to decide which mobs should be pulled. Really? This seemed like a good idea when...? Now rather than just a straightforward threat gen on a mob the tank has to fight you for the threat. Wonderful. And plain rude. Please, please think of the other players in your group, if only because it will make the run smoother. Or roll an alt of that class/role. Maybe this is the only way to truly be able to empathise with them.

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