Proving a Point – Thoughts on the Proving Grounds

  • You will need a Silver Proving Grounds medal in a given role in order to queue for random matchmaking for a HeroicWarlords dungeon. If you form a premade group, you can zone in regardless and no such requirement applies.

From here.

To begin, I’m not knee-jerkingly against this nor am I super excited. I don’t (unlike a fair number of WoW Insider’s readers) think that the sky is falling but I’m not convinced that it’s the correct way to fix the cesspit which random encounters can often be. I do on the other hand enjoy doing the Proving Grounds but that’s because I find it interesting to try and push my characters.

Balance:

This is a tricky one, especially at the start of an expansion when everyone is essentially under-geared and adjusting to new spells and talents. I know from talking to guildmates that most of them have faith that if Blizzard put importance on this aspect of the game, that they will ensure that it’s balanced but I look at the Arena ladders and find myself questioning this.  To quote from the Godmother:

What I really don’t understand is why the whining has to start even now, because according to ‘people’ the Proving Ground mechanic is broken and ineffective for many classes. When I hear this, I must admit I find myself thinking one of two things:

1. You need to try harder.
2. You need to play better.

Now I fully subscribe to the principle behind this comment, there is always room for improvement and certainly on a personal level I’m far harder on myself than anyone else but the truth tends to be that certain classes perform better than others in certain situations and trying harder will only get you so far. I imagine it will be possible to get silver on every class and spec in-game but the skill cap is likely to be higher on some than others, remember for example at the start of TBC when Paladin tanks made the Shattered Halls seem trivial compared to the other tanks. Then there is the discrepancy between specs within a class and their scaling potential. Mr Harpy only plays fire on his Mage (long story don’t ask) and admits that despite having easily obtained gold on his dps monk that he would find it well nigh impossible to repeat that feat on his Fire Mage because Fire needs a far higher item level to come into it’s own than the capped Proving Grounds. Should he however give in to the cold side, I suspect he could tick it off on his Mage. My Priest is Holy, I’d rather play Shadow than Disc but it’s likely that when we’re newly dinged, one of my available healing specs will be easier to hit the mark than the other simply because of the nature of the game. This perhaps becomes more of an issue as the game progresses through an expansion. By the time we’re two or three patches down the line, class balance will have changed especially to factor in how some perform with the max item level available and it’s here we might start seeing the real casualties of this change when newly dinged players on a class which scales too well with gear start trying a gear capped encounter. It really depends where the bar is set.

Learning Curve:

Does the Proving Grounds teach you to play? As it currently stands, my answer would have to be yes, it does to a degree. Certainly the Healer challenge requires you to prioritize targets and perhaps more importantly think about your toolbox as a whole, i.e crowd control and interrupts if your class has them however I’d also argue that the activity displayed in the screenshot below teaches the exact same thing in a far more fun and random fashion:

WoWScrnShot_022314_153634

However in most of the Heroics I have been dragged through, I haven’t needed to cc anything unless I was two manning it as a tank and healer combo (whilst it was current content of course). I’d also say that the Healing one focuses too much on mana control, something which is not needed to such an extent in any other aspect of the game.

People need to be invested in doing something for the right reasons otherwise the game becomes a chore and massively frustrating. I’d also say that people have to be in the right and receptive frame of mind to learn the proving grounds lessons, otherwise it’s nothing more than a paper exercise. You learn the required answers, you tick them off and promptly forget them. There is also the argument that it’s only the really challenging lessons which teach you anything and therefore if Silver is tuned too easily then it’s pointless for 99 percent of the community. Of course the opposite then runs the risk of being impossible for far too many of the player base but then there are ways around that, like playing with guildmates.

Character basis or Account-wide:

Silver needs to be required on every character you wish to queue with, at least until part way through the expansion in my book. Enchantments and gems are a big part of the problem in random content, people are focused on the fact that they will get better, shinier, purpler stuff so don’t bother with the entry gear and this is part of the mindset which needs breaking and rebuilding. The armory provides a list of what is missing as a sort of mini audit of your character and you shouldn’t be able to queue to the proving grounds making sure the basics are covered.

There is also difference between classes, even when covering the same roll and this is especially true of melee versus caster dps. I’m far better at playing casters than I am melee dps and certainly I imagine that getting silver on say a Mage or a Warlock would be considerably easier for me than doing so on a Rogue or Warrior. Therefore I should have to prove my mettle as a bare minimum on the type of dpser I wish to queue to random Heroics on but ideally on a character by character basis.

Circumvention:

If your guildmates can carry you regardless and there is no bar to entering any other form of content, I question what’s the point. 5 mans are indeed a part of the game and I know from most “normal” people, that they encompass a large part of said game but if we’re trying to tackle the obnoxious, the lazy and the “don’t give a damn” brigade then surely this needs to go further. That’s before we even look at the potential for cheating this. Back in Vanilla with the Hunter quests, one of my Guild’s hunter’s completed the quest chain for alts, random Hunters on the server and pretty much anyone willing to supply their log-in details and pay his often fluctuating price. The cynic in me could easily see this happening again if it’s hard enough to be worthwhile. I know Mr Harpy and of course the seller of so many bows didn’t have an issue completing said quest but so many others did.

In conclusion:

All of this is semantics really because I don’t do Heroic Dungeons as I’m too scared that there will  angry people who will blame me rather than looking inward if we can’t stampede the whole place in three seconds flat but I feel that Proving Grounds whilst fun shouldn’t be linked so much to getting gear. The biggest issue I feel with random group activities is the rage you often find there and this won’t do anything to fix that, in fact people might actually be worse because they feel that as Blizzard have effectively “gated” content that everyone should be able to play better. Perhaps a more productive use of Blizzard’s time would be make leveling require a bit of thought, even if it’s only between levels 90 and 100 so that people hit the level cap with an understanding of what their class is capable of and more importantly that overwhelming desire to be the best they can be.

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11 Responses

  1. I must admit I get a little resentful when someone suggests I should “play better.” I am very hard on myself, and do not think this will solve the asshats out there who “play better” but are still jerks. In fact, it may result in further widening the “elitism gap.” And just like a standardized test does not make a student ‘read better,’ you’re right, proving grounds as they are now may not be the answer. This may all be tempest and teapot nonsense though, and am not going to worry about it any further. I have fan fiction to write! lol Great post Erinys

    • I suspect we who are hard on ourselves aren’t the issue but I don’t see this fixing the elitists or those who feel they don’t have to contribute.

  2. I don’t know how I feel because in a way I think that if Blizzard is going to start making Heroic dungeons somewhat challenging again, then the Silver Proving Grounds medal should be necessary for random groups.

    If Blizzard wants people to learn to play better through Proving Grounds, they need to either scale Silver up or require Gold.

    As for gating content? I think it would help in that everyone that queues into a heroic dungeon will know that the people in their party have gotten the required achievement in Proving Grounds. With that assurance, I think the amount of LFG nerd-rage in heroic dungeons would decrease.

    But if they require Proving Gounds Silver for heroic dungeons, they should also require it for LFR and Flex modes.

    I think what Blizzard really needs to do is add solo dungeons to the game that are role-specific, so that people can practice their classes without feeling the pressure of a group. There should be a few different ones, ranging in difficulty, that require different mechanics for the player to deal with.

    And the solo dungeons, in my mind, would scale with level, so that they could be repeated all the way to 100 until a person really gets the feel for the class they are playing.

    I’d say they would have to reward minimal XP, though, and have a cosmetic reward/monetary one instead so that people still have to do group dungeons on the way to 100.

    • I love that idea. That was one aspect of the Priest, Hunter and Druid flightform class quests that I loved and I think it’s a shame Blizzard removed them rather than building on them.

  3. I so agree with the part about making leveling more challenging, considering all my alts you need about zero skill to get maxed by leveling. I know this because I have zero skill with quite a few of those profession alts and I dress them in rags.

    It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.

  4. “certain classes perform better than others in certain situations and trying harder will only get you so far”

    I have recollections of a guild Mistweaver monk mentioning that his mastery was useless in Proving Grounds, because it made more bubbles that the NPCs never actually used in the first place. (Disclaimer: I have not and will not ever monk the Proving Grounds because not happening, so it may have changed? And maybe it’s not mastery? I dunno.) Trying harder wouldn’t help that sorta thing at all.

    • The first character I took into the Proving Grounds was a Mistweaver monk and whilst I got gold on her, it was an exercise in frustration and RNG definitely played a part. The NPCs don’t stand in the bubbles at all but I found myself using them to heal up rather than casting heals on myself but then I don’t like the Monk Mistweaver mastery for anything.

      I’ve only tried it properly on a Holy Priest and a Mistweaver so far and there were noticeable differences. Not having a silence/interrupt on the Priest being a huge one.

  5. “Enchantments and gems are a big part of the problem in random content, people are focused on the fact that they will get better, shinier, purpler stuff so don’t bother with the entry gear and this is part of the mindset which needs breaking and rebuilding”

    YOU’LL NEVER BREAK MEEEEEEEEEEEE

    But the 4k+ Jade Spirit enchant does, every freaking time I gotta buy one. There is no way in freaking hell that I would ever put an enchant that damn expensive on anything other than the best I can get.

    BREAK THE MARKET, MAYBE

    • It doesn’t have to be the best enchants/gems but every time I see someone without a single gem in all those sockets, it makes me whimper inside. I must admit I’m permanently broke, farming isn’t my thing at all and the only reason we have money is because Mr Harpy sees the auction house as another battleground of sorts :(

  6. […] Proving a Point – Thoughts on the Proving Grounds […]

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