I think that the chemistry definition describes it best.
In Chemistry, mixtures may be homogeneous. In other words, mixtures have the same proportions throughout a given sample or multiple samples of different proportion to create a consistent mixture.
It has been said by the boys at Blue that healing classes are going to be homogenized further, to pull some classes out of their restricted niches. There are folks on both sides of this fence. There are those who fear that all healing classes will be so similar, that there will not be a defined niche for any certain type of healer. There are also those who fear that it may actually push some classes further into a defined niche, lessening their chances at a raid spot.
Personally, I believe that it isn’t a problem of the generality or specificity of the classes, but rather a problem with how Blizzard may plan to keep healing interesting. I do get a bit tired of playing whack-a-mole after a large raid wide damage spike happens.
In addition, there is more than just the spell selection that is being homogenized, as stats will be a difining factor as well, no matter the class.
Homogenization is a risk. Totally. It’s something we try and fight against. In the case of healing, we don’t want to erode the unique aspects of the 5 talent specs. We just want to move the non-unique parts closer together. If you need an analogy, we’re not going to mess with the flowers or the fruit or the shape of the leaves. We just want everyone to have similar roots. Spells like Circle, Chain Heal and Beacon will continue to be an important and unique part of your repertoire. We just want to make sure everyone has the basic tools so that they aren’t in a situation where they’re trying to tighten screws with a hammer.
Now having said that, there are a couple of exceptions. If you are a Disc priest who loved to use PW:S and nothing else or a Resto druid who loved to use Rejuv and nothing else, then you will probably need to use more of your buttons again. We don’t want to promote the strategy of trying to pre-heal as many people as possible without really worrying about who is actually taking damage. There’s not a lot of decision-making or coordination or reactive gameplay there. Disc priests will need to actually cast heals (and Penance can certainly be one of them) and druids will have to mix in some direct heals along with their hots. (Source)
Healing in Cataclysm
I take a different view on a couple of your points here. Healers won’t be forced to spam their most efficient heal because the encounters will be less threatening early on. Later on when your mana regen as at its highest you will need to use your highest throughput spell because the damage is higher. You’ll also need to use your fast heal sometimes for the same reason. Fortunately fully raid buffed and in good gear, you’ll have more mana regen. I don’t think any of these changes encourage players to blame healers more. Bad players are always going to deflect their failures onto someone else. That is why they are bad players. The alternative is to make healing so simplistic that there is almost no chance of failure (i.e. nobody would ever die). You’d never get blamed for anything but you’d probably also be pretty bored.
Minus gaming coefficients, we pretty much had this model with downranking and it largely worked.
My fear is that if they over shoot the homogenization of the healing classes by to far, it will cause healing to become far more boring than it already is. Don’t get me wrong, healing isn’t always boring, in fact it can get pretty frantic at certain points. However, it is still the same spells with the same priorities, on the same targets.
Cataclysm looks to be pulling the Paladins out of their Tank heal only niche, and providing them with tools to provide raid healing. Now this isn’t necessarily efficient or effective raid healing, but we have yet to actually get our hands on it to see. Along with pulling each class out of their niche, it also appears that their stats are becoming far more homogenized as well. If you think about it, a Paladin would have NEVER consciously purchased or rolled on anything with spirit; however, come Cataclysm, it will be a very important addition to their healing repertoire.
I do agree that the stat homogenization is a good thing. There were so many Elemental Shamans and some Balance Druids who were left out of upgrades, simply because they shared stats with their healing equivelant. This appears to be going away with Cataclysm, as +Spirit is now going to be a “healer only” stat, while incentives will be provided to each class to incist on using the armor type appropriate. Grouping this together will make it that much easier for RL/GL to distribute gear accordingly.
It is good to hear, though, that they don’t plan on passing spells around like a mixed drink. Instead leaving Beacon, Chain Heal, PW: Bubble, etc. to their respective classes. This is also apparent with the new “AoE” heal for the paladin, as there has never before been a “moving totem” type spell like that, well at least not for healing.
Here’s to hoping that they continue with their current design philosophy, and don’t overdo the homogenization of the healing classes. Also, here’s to hoping that the new spells are worth the wait.