Blizzard added Proving Grounds in MoP. These were solo battles intended to prove your skill with a specific role. But very few people used them. They awarded you nothing other than an achievement, which is not a carrot most people care about.
The progression of leveling/loot currently goes like this:
Level -> Normal Dungeons -> Heroic Dungeons -> LFR -> Flex Raids -> Normal Raids -> Heroic Raids.
Each of the stages up through Flex raids requires an item level to queue unless you are running with a pre-made group. The purpose of the item level requirement is to check that you are geared and prepared for the dungeon/raid you are about to go in. Does this work? Not really. Dungeons, after the first two months of the expac or so, people outgear them, so even a terrible player will just be carried through on the backs of their group. The same goes for LFR. In a group of 25, there are usually up to about 5 or so people who are just completely worthless and they get carried through.
Does this create frustrating or difficult times? Yes. Should Blizzard be attempting to fix it? Yes.
Well now, Blizzard has announced that Proving Ground will be REQUIRED to queue for Heroic Dungeons in WoD as a fix for the above problem. And I think it is not only the wrong fix, but also shows a lack of understanding as to the problem.
My experience with Proving grounds was I walked in, tried the Bronze, one shot it. Cool. I tried Silver. I got to the final wave (10) and was overwhelmed. So I checked WoWhead, and sure enough, as a Warlock, I *have* to spec into certain skills to be able to succeed. Because you can’t out-gear the encounter, you are literally LOCKED into certain skills and talents. I didn’t have tomes, and I didn’t care enough, so I left.
Two other times in WoW I have been in a similar position – The Legendary Nexus quest in Cata and the Legendary Cloak quest in MoP. I was trying a thing, I couldn’t have help, and I needed to literally change the way my character played to succeed. Both times it was annoying, frustrating, and felt like Blizzard was telling me “We gave you all these choices of ways to play your character, but haha, most of those were wrong and this is the only way to play.” Both times it took me several hours of frustration that I was being forced to SOLO extremely difficult content when I had a GUILD full of people willing and wishing they could help. (It’s especially odd when for the Legendary staff, I literally COULD NOT have done the entire rest of the questline without a guild.)
The problem with random groups is not specifically that people don’t know how to play their class, but rather with the ways of gaming the ilevel system. First off, items in the bags count, meaning many people are queuing based on their off spec gear or pvp pieces they have their bag. Or just flat out wearing pvp pieces. Or they will game the system and queue wearing gear that has no business being worn in that instance. (I am not even kidding, I had a tank in LFR one time who was wearing a GREEN 432 weapon – when the ilvl to queue was over 520 – and no one was willing to kick him because of how long it took to find tanks, so we struggled through a 3 hour LFR instead.)
Further this, the kick timers and troll prevention are needlessly obfuscated, and the punishment timer goes on the person doing the kicking and not the idiot getting kicked. In a 5 man it’s actually not hard to kick people. In an LFR it is. I was in an LFR where we had TWO dps who were in tank spec, one of whom was actively taunting off the tanks and throwing off the rotations. We couldn’t kick both, just one, because the people willing to do something all had timers. Another time I was healing, and the death knight tank was THIRD on the healing list. The other people were just farting around. It had ZERO to do with skill and more to do with them not giving a shit.
See why requiring a proving grounds medal does this not actually address the problem?
There are also other reasons, like: people don’t play solo the way they would in a random dungeon or lfr. Proving grounds is also not balanced for all classes and specs. If it’s not an account wide thing, it means people will have to do it over and over again on their alts.
It’s gatekeeping. This has been proven to be a POOR choice every single time it has been used in WoW. Attunement quest chains? Discovering the instance portal? Even the item level thing has not worked out as intended.
What did work? 1. Luck of the Draw. 2. Determination. 3. Bonus Bags.
So what would I do?
First – require all dungeons be completed in normal IN THE ROLE YOU QUEUE FOR. So with this requirement, it’s like the achievement requirements for LFR. First off, it solves the issue of group play vs solo play. A guild can carry someone through. Even if you are running with your guild, if you are healing, you learn a bit about healing the fights. If I want to queue for heroic dungeons as a healer, I have to heal all the dungeons in normal first. To me, this upholds the pillar of multiplayer, allows for help from a guild, and also allows a path for people who play less seriously to get there without the frustration of gear scaling/spec changing.
Second – WoD’s gear “adaptation” is already going to fix *some* of the ilvl gaming going on. But I honestly feel unless an item is equipped, it shouldn’t count. This comes from someone who has BOUGHT blue pvp gear, held it in my bags just long enough to queue, gotten a drop or two, then re-sold it on the AH. Never equipped, but used for the purpose of queuing.
Third – Change the vote kicking system. You should be able to know if you have a timer because of “too many vote kicks initiated”. For every completed instance, you should get the ability to vote kick without messing up this timer. For every wipe, you should get to vtk without affecting this timer. In LFR, it should take more than 5 kicks in a single LFR to affect this timer. If you are the person kicked, you should get a 30 minute debuff JUST LIKE THE DESERTERS.
There are other small tweaks that could be done, but these are big ones. Also, does anyone else notice, this whole thing seems to be “fixing” heroic dungeons when the real problem is LFR, WHICH IS NOT GOING TO REQUIRE SILVER? What are they even thinking? Is LFR going to be removed from the gearing steps? If so, it will have to be the same gear as drops in Heroics, in which case, people will just stop outright, as LFR takes far longer, and you have a greater chance of getting asshats. Not to mention, Heroics drop RARE items… RARES. We have to do jump through how many crazy hoops to get RARES?!? Why? At least in LFR it’s epics! Heroics, even Stonecore, was only awful for the first two months of the expac or so, then the number of people who outgeared it had hit critical mass and it became fairly easy.