Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Whack-a-Mole (ahem, Healbot) comes to iOS


 So following up on the heels of other World of Warcraft themed iOS applications (mobile armory and mobile authenticator), today a new app called "Healbot" comes out. Unlike the other apps released thus far, Healbot tries to capture an actual aspect of playing the game to make a mini-game.  An argument could be made for the premium mobile auction house, but that actually affects things in Azeroth.  Healbot takes the healing part of the game and specifically healing 5-man dungeons, and makes that its own game.  
As a healer, this intrigues me. As a healer who uses Healbot as the primary healing mod, this intrigues me even more.  But can this app be somewhat realistic or will it be glorified whack-a-mole?  After all, that's how many non-healers view healing, and on some level, they are correct.  Make the green bars go up when the green bars go down.  Rinse and repeat until the boss is dead. 
Unfortunately, the app is a colorful whack-a-mole.  Instead of having a number of different options such as preemptive healing (shields) and heal-over-time spells, you get light, medium, and heavy, which are analogous to lesser heal, heal, and greater heal for a priest, or the same analogues for other healing classes.  That's it. 
As shown below, Healbot looks like the healing mod of the same name in World of Warcraft, except with a sixth bar present to show a pretend boss health bar.  Over the course of a game, the boss health bar slowly goes down much like in a 5-man dungeon, but the boss deals damage to all party members.  The game is not very intense, unless you lose a player (assuming hard mode is turned off, the hard mode making you lose automatically if any party member dies) in which case the damage per player becomes somewhat harder to handle.

On the plus side, the boss does deal damage in a realistic manner, sometimes hitting party members directly for a lot of damage, sometimes doing damage to all party members, and mostly dealing damage to the tank in heavy bursts.  The problem is that the damage is really not a problem to keep up with, even late in the boss health bar's life when most bosses put out more damage and cause the battle to be a race.
If this app is supposed to encourage people to learn how to heal, perhaps it is a reasonable introduction to an essential mod for healing.  This app might also be analogous to early healing in level 1-30 dungeons when spell lists are simplified.  However, Healbot is also just as likely to scare people away from healing because it takes the boring essential bottom line (whack-a-mole) nature of healing and makes that stand out like a sore thumb.
If this app is supposed to help a healer stay in practice when not raiding or playing, then Healbot needs to have far more difficulty levels and preferably more types of spells to make it realistic.  Healing requires a lot of situational awareness and strategic use of cooldowns and different tools, but none of that will be refreshed by playing Healbot.
If this app is supposed to be a fix for addicted WoW players who are at work or have 3 minutes to blow, then mission accomplished.  iOS games do not have to be anything spectacular to hold your attention in the casual "fill-a-void" type game universe, but Healbot is so simple that it is insulting to healers, especially in the much harder Cataclysm era.
At least the app is a free download.  So people can try it and see it, but I suspect most people will not keep it around long.  You get what you pay for in this case.
All that being said, this could be a first slow step in an interesting direction for WoW-themed game development on the mobile platforms.  Healbot could be the building blocks of a more realistic healing simulator, or a tanking simulator, or maybe even mobile WoW.  Hopefully developers build upon this framework and make Healbot or some other healing app that actually captures the essence of that portion of the game.  Until then, you can pass on this one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Happens When The Guild Leader Retires?

Although the more pressing concern appeared to be what needed to happen if the figurehead and guild leader Maui left AIE (because of a conflict with working for Blizzard), that has not come to pass. Furthermore, AIE has such a large and established set of officers that a transition would not be all that difficult. 

Randy is really a figurehead of the guild, the leader of something that became a monster community under his watch.  Of course it helps to have the most popular wow podcast behind you as well, but that's neither here nor there.

What did actually happen was that Jeff decided after nearly three years to step down as leader of The Illuminati. His longtime second in command Ruach had decided to take a break from the game a couple months earlier, so the likely takeover was not in place.  So what could Jeff do to maintain the livelihood of the guild he built from scratch into the biggest Alliance guild on the server?

Turn to one frond named Sophrosune, that's what! Although she was one of the two most recently made officers (in a narrow vote over me, and thank goodness they made the right choice...real life would not have made me a good officer the past few months), she captures exactly what made Jeff a fantastic guild leader: personality and drive.  It would be difficult for me to understand how any person in the guild for any length of time could not feel like they have a solid relationship with Jeff and Soph, all because they take the time to chat with their guildies and be friendly.

Of course I also am guessing that Soph was behind linking this blog to the front page of the guild website, which is very cool even though I don't write enough anymore. Perhaps that will inspire someone else to start blogging and adding to the alliance-side community, maybe starting a budding new AIE. Jeff is still with the guild as a legacy officer, but it seems like a good time for a new face for the guild.  Congratulations to my frond Soph on this momentous promotion, and best of luck in continuing the success of the Lumies!

With the effective departure of Ruach and Jeff, this may open the door for more officers to follow in Soph's footsteps.  I urge anybody interested and active in the guild to step up and give back to the guild.  This will be an exciting time to lead one of the great guilds in Azeroth.  I look forward to the next anniversary event where presumably we will welcome one or two more officers to our core.

Also congratulations to Ghomus and the other recently named new AIE officers.  The funny thing about AIE is that people usually become officers after doing so much that they are basically acting like officers without the title beforehand. Ghomus puts out quality content in the AIE Podcast every other week, and so he will be another welcome officer in that guild. 

In other words, the beat goes on...the beat goes on....