Lag is always really, really annoying. There have been countless times that my university failed in some respect when dealing with our internet connection, and so at different times throughout my WoW career I’ve been plagued by such monstrosities as internet outages when the rain and thunder start (actually just the rain), and connection throttling/blocking recently. Since I’m in the midwest right now, rain and thunder are common, and that used to mess with my connection a lot. We were on solid ice for a long time, but sadly they installed some new software to block torrents and it’s had bad side effects in WoW. So mixed with my feelings of anger at not being able to perform my role effectively, I thought it would be good to share some ideas on how best TO perform your role when you’re in this situation, all the way from first joining to the party to gracefully leaving mid-instance, or sticking it out staying. Take the jump with me and we’ll discuss how to heal through the lag!
Coming to Terms
The first, and arguably hardest, part of dealing with lag is coming to terms with that you can’t fix it at this exact moment (and if you can, stop complaining and fix it!). It’s a painful process because who wants to admit that something is wrong on their side? I’d prefer to push it off on Blizzard as bad server connection, failed bandwidth allotment at the server farm, or any number of other reasons that we could cook up. But when it comes down to it, most times the problem is either unavoidable, like with dial-up, or at the mercy of the network admin and the ISP deciding they want to get a damn about it (my situation). Swallow the feeling and set yourself mentally so that you can work well with the group your running in. Most people queue up for a random with the intent of going fast through the instance. It’s already a bother for some of them to deal with inexperienced players, stupid players or stubborn players, but being laggy sometimes makes it even worse. After you’ve accepted that the group might get pissed etc., then you’ve really gone as far as you can.
Being Humble and Notifying the Group
This is sometimes the hardest thing for people to do. It’s so easy to just tag along wordlessly while you twitch back and forth. Sometimes this can work for DPS, however if you’re in a vital role, like healer, then it’s a bit more noticeable. Most times, players will be understanding and forgiving and they’ll at least give you a chance. It’s really important to let the group know anyway. The ramps run I just completed in the picture at the top was a perfect example. As soon as I got in I told them I was having some troubles with mid-fight lag. Two DPS stayed quiet, one laughed it off and the tank pulled. I offered that if I couldn’t perform well enough because of lag that I would gladly step out. The moonkin who had interacted with me mentioned that if we wiped a couple of times he’d consider the offer. That’s an example of what I mean when I say that there are decent players out there. Once I had notified the group I felt a LOT more at ease and was able to focus better on combatting the lag instead of freaking out over whether the rest of the group was hating me because I couldn’t get a LHW off fast enough, or because I couldn’t align my “Oh shit!” CDs with the heal they were supposed to boost. Some of these things still happened, however since the group knew, they didn’t assume that I was a bad healer, which can cause a whole other set of problems to deal with. Suffice it to say that it is in your best interest to share the issues you’re having with the group.
Kicking the Lag in the Ass
Once you can focus and your mind is off how bad you might be appearing to the other party members, you can get down to the grindstone and attempt to minimize the impact the lag has. I’ve noticed that lag produces two worrisome side-effects. The first is frighteningly inefficient mana use. I found that in my attempt to anticipate incoming damage, I was overhealing a lot. There’s no amazing way to fix this besides of course fixing the lag problems. Since we’re assuming that’s not the issue, the best way to avoid too much overhealing is to taper down your heals near the end of the fight. If you can catch that there’s only one or two enemies left to kill then you don’t have to be healing so hard. Of course be prepared for the occasional damage spike on the tank that can make you nearly piss yourself, but for the most part this works fabulously. If you’re unfortunate to have complete server response shutdown during your lag, like I get sometimes, there’s really nothing you can do. If you can’t get the slightest hint about what’s going on and your healing addon or raid frames can’t update your party’s health, then your SOL. If I get into that situation I use keep healing every GCD as if I were fighting. For the most part that manages to keep the party up however there is a margin of error here, by the nature of the problem.
The second side-effect is the failure to keep up with the party. Even after I told my group that I was having lag issues, the tank kept plowing forward around corners etc. without giving so much as a thought to where I was. This isn’t specifically your fault nor the lag’s fault, it’s actually the tank being stupid and not paying attention to his healer, however part of it falls on you because you’re supposed to stick with the group. If they get too far ahead and you catch up while they’re low on health, your lag issues will likely stall the healing spell you try to send them and they might die. Ways to combat this are to notify the DG or the tank that they should hold up until you’re with them before they pull, or if you’re a shaman, put up Earth Shield to take care of him while you lag over to their location. It can be frustrating to deal with insensitive tanks and group members, however remember that you always have the power to leave, and sometimes that is the best course of action.
Leaving… with Grace
And there comes a time when it’s really just better if you leave the group. Don’t let this mess with your ego (though healer egos shouldn’t be too big…) and make you think that you’re a shitty healer (or at least that you’re a shitty healer because of the lag). Leaving can be a courtesy to a group that is too nice to kick you. I’ve left before because my lag was so bad that it was unplayable. I felt bad for leaving them because they were a decent group, but by that same token they where a decent group, and I felt they deserved a healer that could perform decently in place of my delayed chain heals. If the group is getting mad at you, or even in general, it might be time to leave so that you aren’t the focus of any trouble. Also if you’re feeling uncomfortable or you’ve wiped a lot recently, it might be a good idea to leave. But remember that even if you leave to an earful of swear words, insults and raging, it is completely within your power to be the better person and step above the petulant child mentality that sadly plagues a lot of WoW. Not only do you preserve your reputation in this situation, you also come out ahead on the mental game. You’ll be more firm in yourself by being mature, and you’ll feel empowered to find something else productive to do instead of sitting around wallowing in your lag fate and letting the hateful words of your ex-group members haunt and plague you. Keep your head on straight and you’ll turn out fine, mentality-wise.
So in general conclusion and review, make sure that you yourself are ready to deal with the lag, and then make sure to notify the group and be courteous to them and respectful to yourself, remembering that if you need leave for some reason, that’s okay! If you manage to stick with it, always anticipate where the damage is going to arrive. This is excellent practice for the raid environment since a lot of good healing is preventive healing, except this can be at a much more frantic experience, watching your tank’s health bar slowly decrease while your hands hand to your side glowing yellow. Anticipation is folded into situational awareness which I’ve emphasized as an important factor in a lot of end game scenarios and raids. The best thing to do really is to get technical help so that your lag goes away. If that occurs then you’re all set and peachy!