Proving Grounds will not solve the real problem

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|03.05.14

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Proving Grounds will not solve the real problem
Olivia Grace wrote an excellent post last week about the upcoming change that will link a silver performance in Proving Grounds to the ability to queue for heroic dungeons. You should definitely go read it, because I cheerfully cede to her points. It's not hard to get silver in proving grounds. Linking a silver performance to heroic dungeons will allow them to make heroics more challenging. These are all good things.

Now I'm going to say something - the biggest problem in heroics isn't players who don't know what they're doing. It's players who do. Specifically, it's skilled and geared players who massively, massively out-gear said heroics and want to ignore the mechanics and chain pull every mob in the place, players who are completely inconsiderate of the other players in their group. Players who are skilled, but who let their fevered egocentric natures run wild, hurling insults at lesser geared players for 'not keeping up.' Players who make the dungeon an unpleasant festival of wipes because they refuse to understand that some of the people in the dungeon are only just geared enough to be there, and can't heal through thirty mobs hitting them at once or kill those thirty mobs fast enough.

It's players who have a really well geared main, but come to the Scarlet Monastery Cathedral on their brand new monk and refuse to understand that they're not nearly as powerful now. It's not skill, it's attitude.

None of the situations I just listed will be fixed by this change, nor will a host of others. I tell the story from time to time of the dungeon I had with the racist tank - he had racist epithets macro'd to all of his abilities, so that when he threw his paladin shield he yelled slurs, and so on. I dropped that group, of course, and I reported him, also of course. But my point is, a silver Proving Grounds medal wouldn't have stopped him. It wouldn't have stopped the guy I had the other day who pulled every single mob in the SM Cathedral, failed to hold aggro because he didn't bother to tell us what he was doing, and let the healer get steamrolled by them. It wouldn't have stopped the healer who would not stop telling every poor, undergeared DPS that came into Gate of the Setting Sun what was wrong with him/her on first meeting.

The problem with five person heroic dungeons, and it's a problem that's been there for a while, is this - they've gone from content that is run by people who like that content to content that everyone runs because it is convenient for their Valor and Justice point gathering, even if those players would otherwise not run that content. Both Valor and Justice points can be used to purchase gear considerably stronger than current dungeons reward, and raiders in even better gear still need valor to upgrade items. By creating a reward system that works for items outside the scope of the dungeons, the dungeons become a resource that players will continue to mine, rather than a fun experience players do because they enjoy the content.

It is this, rather than lack of skill in players new to a role, that is in my opinion the biggest difficulty in current five man content. And it is this that causes me to be less than enthused about the prospect of linking the silver Proving Ground achievement to queueing for these heroics. Even making it require a gold medal wouldn't really fix the issue, because while gold is harder, the people who cause the most problems in five mans would get it easily.

What will happen is this - for the first few months of Warlords, when the dungeons are being run by people whose gear is appropriate for them, things will run more or less smoothly. There will still be jerks, of course, but they won't be able to steamroll the content and so things will achieve equilibrium. But as time progresses, new raid tiers are released with new LFRs, and more and more geared players flock to heroic dungeons to get their valor fix, the situation will degrade. What's the solution to this, then, if not to gate the content with a qualifying achievement? Well, here are a few possibilities.
  • Remove valor points from heroic dungeons. Especially if your goal is to make heroic dungeons a separate, more challenging path for players who enjoy small scale group content, why have them also serve as a resource players mine for their point fix? Assuming we still have Valor points in Warlords, don't make these new heroics a means to an end. The dungeons should be an end, themselves, not a stepping stone to it.
  • Release new dungeons that are more challenging periodically. One of the biggest problems is that players can come in and steamroll a dungeon - new content that requires better gear to proceed (like the Cataclysm CoT dungeons) keeps players from walking in the door swaggering in their powerful gear and overwhelming the place.
  • Scaling tech. We've talked about this before in regards to Proving Grounds themselves, but having heroic dungeons potentially scale up to provide more challenge to geared players or scaling players down a-la Challenge Modes might be an idea. In order to make it less grueling than CM's (which are intended as the ultimate in five player content) you could set the scaling cap higher, so that CM's scale you to the ilevel of gear that heroics themselves drop, and heroics scale you twenty or so ilevels higher than that.
  • A more robust report system. It's not enough to block players so you don't group with them again, and it's not enough that we can just report them and hope they eventually get banned. Really egregious jerks need real consequences for their actions. Perhaps a sufficient amount of negative reports makes a character ineligible for heroic queues for a day, a week, or longer. Perhaps they simply get banned from heroics entirely. Something with teeth is needed.
I'm not opposed to the linking of the silver Proving Ground achievement with queueing for heroics, so much as I'm opposed to it if the goal is to improve the experience of running heroics via random queue. I don't think it will do that, because frankly, having players who are new to their role has rarely if ever caused me to have a bad PuG. Players who think they're too good for their role have.
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