Monday, January 5, 2015

[WoW] Are Silver Proving Grounds a Good Gate for Random Heroic 5-Mans?

Something that's been on the back of my mind since WoD launched is the Silver Proving Grounds requirements for queuing random Heroic 5-Man dungeons. I've ran Gold Healer and DPS PGs on two characters so far, and while Silver was trivial, Gold required some thought and planning for DPS at least--healing I just waltzed in, waved my hands, took Gold, and walked out, but then again, I'm a much better healer than I am DPS.

Reading The Ancient Gaming Noob's recent post, he goes into how he nabbed DPS Silver, no problems, and then proceeded to get trounced by the Heroic dungeons. Similarly, I recently healed Heroic Slag Mines for some guildies of mine, and while I love them dearly, after wiping on Roltall six times I had to break it to them they did not have the DPS to kill the boss (despite being nearly 630 ilvl each). Roltall is a DPS race, if you don't kill him fast enough, the entire platform covers with fire and ain't no one healing through that.

But since we queued for that random 5th player, they all must have had Silver PGs in their roles. So where's the disconnect?

Clearly Silver isn't actually doing what it's supposed to: ensuring that folks who are queuing for random dungeons meet a minimum bar where they can be successful in a group where skill levels are not guaranteed and communication is at a premium.

Make no mistake, current Heroic 5-mans are difficult. They're not Challenge Mode difficult, sure, but they're nearly as difficult as Cataclysm Heroics were. Those of us with a lot of experience raiding probably cannot fairly judge the relative difficulty of dungeons, as once you've seen a few expansions worth of content, everything starts to look recycled. It's simple to break down fights into older fights as a proxy and use known strategies/coping techniques.

But for those who are not that experienced, it's a wake-up call, and not a pleasant one. If Silver was supposed to show you are prepared, well, enter Illidan's infamous quote. At least, not in its current incarnation.

Gold PGs currently might be a tad too difficult as a gate for Heroic 5-Mans

So let's say Blizzard made Silver more difficult, or upped the requirement to Gold. Some folks already struggle with Silver, and only get through because someone else points out a flaw in their strategy (often around the use of interrupts and/or stuns if my experiences are any indication). This is currently a failure on Blizzard's part for not giving enough feedback in PGs to show why you failed. Currently it is left as an exercise for the player, and many players don't have the skills yet to break down why they goofed. Heck, I've seen Mythic-level raiders who've subbed in our raid on occasion give completely incorrect and off-base wipe analyses, so it's no wonder that players who already struggle with Silver cannot figure it out.

And sure, one could argue that they need to do the research outside the game, the same as the rest of us have, but to me that's a failure in game design. The game should give you enough feedback to figure out what happened and such that you can tailor a new strategy from there. Now, this is probably far too big for raiding/dungeons, but for PGs that have a very scripted, controlled environment? Should be completely doable.

Of course, another argument from there is if they get used to the game telling them, it's a crutch that doesn't exist elsewhere so they may be lost in dungeons, but frankly, I think the WoW design team needs to start somewhere.

I also think that Proving Grounds currently don't provide enough mechanics. Where's the bad on the floor that's so prevalent in most dungeons? Something that deals you damage and reduces your DPS? Perhaps more interesting techniques like Line of Sighting casters, or anticipating a big attack on your tank and pre-casting a heal to line up after the attack lands? The PGs provide a prime opportunity for teaching, not just testing, and I think if Blizzard wants to continue to use them as an effective gate, they need to up the quality of each test.

So currently, no, I don't think Silver Proving Grounds are a good gate. Their difficulty is not in tune with Heroic 5-mans currently, and they leave newer DPS players with little recourse but to look up the puzzle solution if they can't figure it out--Healing is less a puzzle and more about cooldown usage, but stuns/interrupts definitely make it much easier; I cannot comment on Tanking.

They're not a bad gate--better than no gate, I think, so from that perspective they've improved things by keeping the truly unaware/unprepared away from an environment where they and everyone around them would be frustrated, but they could definitely be better. #WorldOfWarcraft, #GameDesign


  1. I'd rather it be a series of specific teaching moments instead of a time-based rush mode. Basically, a series of mini games, each of which teach very specific and very frequently used mechanics.

    And then I'd expand it to include some class-specific challenges!

    1. I think that some time-based rush mode should be included, because DPS checks are very much a thing in group content. However, I agree with your overall point. I think PGs could be so much better with the teaching moments where time-based rush mode is one of those moments, and eventually you put a bunch of them together.

      I mean, current PGs are sort of like that. They'll introduce no more than one new mob per wave, and the PG guy talks about what to watch out for (ie: Mantid and amber, or burrowers and healing the target to full to remove the debuff), so they're somewhat there.

  2. I have Gold Tank and it was rough. Probably took me 2 hours to do until I figured out I needed to kite the 2 giant dudes in the 10th round. I also did silver DPS as Protection spec for the achievement You're Doing It Wrong and it was ridiculously easy.

    As soon as I had the item level I started tanking Heroics and that was maybe a few weeks after WoD came out. We wiped (usually 3 of us guildies + 2 randoms) a few times each dungeon but eventually figured it out by only using the in game dungeon guide. Now, I'm finding more people doing heroics who probably shouldn't have completed the Silver proving ground but they did because it's too trivial for silver DPS. Silver DPS should have a slightly higher DPS output requirement and also more movement and staying out of the fire.
    It's a fine balancing act because Blizzard doesn't want to exclude too many people.

  3. PGs are completely flawed from top to bottom; the RNG, the sometimes odd or buggy party behavior (of which at least some healer forums are full of), the limited set of things to counter which favor some classes and specs over others - none of that sounds like a valid way to test players.

    But then how could it? You cannot create one same challenge and then expect it to test 5 different 'classes' performing the same role equally. Unless all your classes are the same of course which would mean diversity is dead. PGs aren't varied, they favor some skills over others and don't account for dynamic encounters with real players.

    On my holy priest gold took some real learning and I certainly couldn't just waltz in with the tank dying within 3secs on enrages and never having seen the debuffs in PGs before. It certainly didn't prepare me for heroics though which imho are easier with a half-decent party. The fact that we can perceive this switch so differently kinda proves my point about PGs imho.