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.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately I know people who play healers like that when they're in end-game raids - and it sucks. Why couldn't they put out a game that really showcases how healing is right now? With mana management, the different CDs, reacting and being proactive with your healing - and they could grade you on healing done, one overhealing being low, on handling party errors (like, tank loses aggro to the mage, can the mage survive or must he use Iceblock and cost you 100 points?)