Consumables, play longevity and group management

The Elitist Jerks board has another interesting thread going with the title “Mana Regen: the last broken mechanic?” The story is basically about how mana regen has evolved in WoW raiding since it started.

A very enlighting discussion of the possible role of mana is by an EJ poster “mek” in this thread at #82:

The concept of “mana” is essentially “resource management,” and it’s a way of limiting actions without resorting to cooldowns. It’s good when used meaningfully; in the case of healers it generally is, but consumables + shadowpriest make the mechanic largely meaningless, beyond its moneysink aspect.

A good example of “bad” mana implementation is hunters. For hunters it’s purely a PvE inconvenience which makes the “sustained dps class” bad at what it’s supposed to be good at. If priests didn’t have mana bars they’d just spam PoH and max rank gheal all day and it’d be fairly stupid; if hunters/mages/warlocks didn’t have mana bars, their playstyle wouldn’t change at ALL (in single-target scenarios; their aoe dps would go through the roof, admittedly) – they’d just drink less potions and not bitch when they’re not in a spriest group. The mana bar is there to add complexity to gameplay, but it’s almost completely circumvented by gold and min/maxing.

If you want me to QQ about some other game, EQ2’s “power” is even more poorly implemented. Virtually every skill in the game has a cooldown, and running out of power is virtually impossible, so you just spam every button you possibly can to kill, heal, whatever. In raids, power is rendered completely meaningless by various spriest-like abilities doled out to various classes. Enchanters actually lower themselves to sub-30% power BEFORE COMBAT BEGINS and try to stay there, as their damage increases when they’re “running low,” which ends up being all the time.

At some point in WoW’s lifetime we just gave up on managing mana and decided to circumvent it. Remember actually doing things like “healing rotations” on Golemagg (right after they nerfed FoL spam)? Having healers standing around doing nothing is asking for a wipe, nowadays – because the developers noticed that we’d successfully circumvented mana as a limiting mechanic, and started balancing encounters accordingly. This is why alternative systems like rage, energy, focus(lol?!?) and stuff like EVE Online’s capacitor are generally much better than mana because they can serve different purposes and add complexity in different ways; complimenting a class’ playstyle rather than being at odds with it.

Of course he is right here. Raiders (my group did that too) actually used various ways to manage group relevant resources in WoW raiding, like healer rotations. The neat part about this strategy is that it is a group activity, you coordinate between different people to manage a resource (mana) that is needed to succeed. In TBC this has largely disappeared. Healers are always strained and hence rely on non-organised sources of regens: consumables, regen buffs (blessings, judgements, totems) and class abilities (shadow priests).

Mana or the LOTRo equivalent of power often serves as a fight limiting mechanism. You are out of this resource means that you are in trouble if you are not close to done. In LOTRo the tank class Guardians also have to manage their longevity resource, while WoW warriors and Druid bears have rage as sustainable resource. Paladin Tanks’s get indirect sustainability through healing (since WoW 2.0).

In LOTRo fellowship moves can be used to replenish resources. This is a way to keep group management and join activities in the resource management game. In WoW due to the tight design even with Shadow Priests, chain potting is a must for almost all mana classes at a certain point. The bad part of chain potting is two-fold: It’s an individual management activity. It requires time spend outside raid to acquire the resource (make sure that ample mana regen pots are available for each raid).

I actually know nobody who honestly enjoys chain potting, I know a few who very much dislike it. All put up with it, as necessary to progress. But certainly there remains the question if relying on individual consumable use is a good idea for regular game-play.

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