Current Difficulty of Proving Grounds
This has been a topic of discussion lately within my guild in World of Warcraft over the last few days, as we're all preparing ourselves for increasingly harder content by gearing up and whatnot. I was poking around the WoW forums this morning after I couldn't find news to write about so far for the day, which lead me to a thread discussing something I've spent so much time discussing with other people at great lengths recently. Are the Proving Grounds too hard? Are they bugged and broken in their current state? Are people calling them bugged and broken just bad players? Let's look into what this is, why it's necessary, and the community reactions.
The Proving Grounds are trials you can undertake that are designed to determine your skill while also introducing you to basic mechanics. This can be a learning tool, especially for those who have returned to the game, or are new to World of Warcraft, who have used their level 90 boost, and now find themselves sitting at 100, wondering what to do next. I feel that with this influx of new boosted players, Proving Grounds are a necessity. Getting from 90 to 100 while learning a class will not necessarily prepare you for performing your role well in a group setting. It's possible that new boosted players might have tried out dungeons as they become available, but it's still possible that even with that, they don't have adequate experience to do well.
Each trial begins at the Bronze level, and is available to players for DPS, healing or tanking. For Bronze (at least for healing and tanking – I generally don't play DPS classes, so I cannot speak from experience here), you're faced with five waves that increase in difficulty, as new mechanics are introduced. It's wise to pay attention to your surroundings here, since the NPCs who accompany you will tell you what to watch out for by hinting you about what's being introduced. Not all players right now will know about things like Deadly Boss Mods, so they won't have a babysitter baked into their UI to yell when they're doing something they shouldn't be doing, like standing in fire. Paying attention to the shout outs in Proving Grounds will at least get new players used to having the UI yell at them, which will get them ready for when DBM is added on.
Bronze is pretty easy, but I've read that some players are having issues even here. Failing at the trials can be frustrating, but instead of calling something broken, take it as an opportunity to learn. If you want to queue for Heroics through LFG, you'll need to have accomplished two things: an item level of 610 and to have passed the Silver trial for your chosen specialization. This doesn't mean that you can pass the DPS trial and queue as a tank or a healer. If you want to queue as a specific role, you'll need to have succeeded in that role's Silver trial. When I first got to 100, I took my undergeared scrub self into the Proving Grounds and began my trials on my Druid, for Restoration spec. I've always been a healer and my druid is as old as my World of Warcraft account is (spoiler alert: it's a day one account). Back before dual spec and respeccing was easy, I even bullheadedly leveled as Restoration. Druids were pretty broken as healers back then, and anyone who wasn't leveling in Feral Cat spec was pretty dumb. Don't take offense here if that was you; notice I just called myself dumb.
The Bronze trial for healing, at least to me, was barely a challenge. I don't think my heart rate bothered increasing. Silver was a little different. As you go up in tiers, the difficulty increases. Silver has three new waves, increasing the number to eight. New mechanics are also introduced, which brings me back to that whole paying attention thing. I failed my first Silver trial as a healer. I wasn't paying attention. However, I looked over my shortcomings and realized something so basic that I felt really dumb here. Dumber than leveling as Restoration in vanilla WoW. So, not only do I have to heal a bunch of dumb NPCs who insist on standing in fire, but I failed to cure a damage over time spell. My second go at Silver was a success once I realized why I failed and I thought that would be it. It turns out that wasn't exactly it, which is now where I'm about to get to what lead me to want to all the Proving Grounds discussions I've had recently, and what's ultimately lead me to want to write about this.
I'm in a pretty small guild. The ones I do know, I know because we all used to work together. The ones I don't know are otherwise real life friends of my friends. We're not all 100, we don't all have 610, and not all of us have done our trials. I like the pacing and I'm no longer in a hurry to experience everything immediately. I'm quite fine getting to things eventually. Because we're in our infancy of gearing up, I've been tanking with my Druid for the first time since Wrath of the Lich King. You could say it's been awhile since I've tanked for groups. I've kept up on being a bear, because like I said, DPS just isn't my thing.
Long story short, by last Sunday, we had one tank who had successfully completed Silver. He got it on his first try. Something, something...Death Knights. I won't call for nerfs, because that's just silly. However, dude is a good tank and it's cool that he got through his trial. He obviously paid better attention than the rest of us. He likely even bothered doing silly things like research. I didn't do research. I'm just bullheaded, and I look at failures as opportunities to learn, so I went into the tank trials without really thinking about what would happen or what to expect. Me being dumb assumed it would be like the healing trials and I'd have a fake group to tank for. I crack myself up sometimes. Anyway, what I'm getting at is, it took me a few tries, but I got Silver, and it felt awesome because I kept tweaking maneuvers, strategy, hotkeys and anything else to get through it, while others were telling me it was bugged and broken, therefore, I shouldn't bother. I'm not the best tank, and my gear is pretty bad, but I got through it.
Other tanks I know have been super frustrated with this. I'm sure having a girl do what they couldn't must have eaten them on some level, too. I hear we all play healers because healers are easy (sorry, but healing will never be as easy as DPS that doesn't want to move out of the fire...hell, I find healing far more stressful than tanking at times). For me, Silver was really hard, but I'm still learning (well, relearning) how to tank. A lot of what I remember has changed with 6.0.2, so not only am I working on remembering what to do, I'm working off of old information. Because of this, I'm inclined to say that no, Proving Grounds Silver is not bugged or broken.
However, I will say this: the AI of your companion for tanks isn't the smartest. Panda Lady (I'm pretty sure that's her actual name, as these screenshots I took will show) is pretty bad at healing. I've had terrible healers in PUGs manage to find their heal buttons better than she can. It was frustrating dying because she was DPSing or watching her die for the same reason. While I would say that part could use a little help, Blizzard probably did it that way to up the realism. The bad heals for the tank trial and the bad DPS for the healer trial are just like getting bad PUGies, so we're probably just getting trolled by Blizzard. It's like tough love and they're wanting us to be better before we can queue for Heroics by making our allies in the trials as terrible as some of those players we've encountered through LFG.
The community is, as with most things like this, pretty divided. Some say that if you can't do Silver, you're bad. Others say it's rightly difficult, but totally doable. There are some who believe that things like the Proving Grounds only divide the community by letting the elitists have their camp of haves, while the have-nots are left behind, unable to obtain gear they want. There are also people who believe that Proving Grounds are absolute necessary for Heroic LFG. I remember when item level requirements were introduced to LFG and people would keep gear in their bags, gear they couldn't even equip, just to fudge their item level to meet the requirements. Obviously, Proving Grounds were put in to address that issue, because people will always try to get into Heroics before they're ready, because the feel they are ready. If Proving Grounds aren't the solution, then what is?
I've had to heal Mages in Heroic PUGs who only managed to get into LFG because they had some high item level plate gear squirreled away in their bags. Don't worry, I think I've had a similar example from every single class out there, so this isn't anything against Mages specifically. I do, however, have something against people who don't want to work their way up and earn their spots. Your monthly subscription does not entitle you to the best gear in the game just because you can pay $15 a month. We all want those pretty purples, but fudging your way into Heroics out of your own selfishness before you should be in there is a terrible disservice to the rest of your community. Take the time to watch some tutorials on getting through the Proving Grounds, work on getting your gear up through regular 100s and rare hunting or dailies, and have some patience. I highly doubt that Blizzard is going to turn around and give us a new expansion in the next six months, so you have plenty of time to get there. Be patient and learn from your mistakes.
Maybe next time on The Adventures of Vendolyn the Dumb Dancing Bear we can do something more fun.
If you're willing to own up to making them and learn from them, people are pretty forgiving. If you think gating content like this is stupid and you're so awesome that you should be in Heroics with a 580 item level of quest greens because you don't care about the other players with you, maybe MMOs aren't your thing. They're not solo games; they're built on cooperative play. If you want the best gear the game has to offer, cooperating is best. Cooperating gets you on friends lists. Cooperating means you get invited to groups and raids when you log in because people know you're willing to work for what you earn.
Are Silvers giving you a hard time or are you so awesome you've cleared Gold or Endless Wave by now? Are you already bored of Heroics, waiting around for raids to come, or are you still enjoying working your way to 100 for the first time? DPS, just because I don't like playing that role, please know that I still love you! Thank you for making everything die faster.