Jul 20 2013

Proving Yourself in Proving Grounds

This PTR build of patch 5.4 introduced a long-awaited feature to the game: Proving Grounds!  Proving Grounds are solo scenarios where a level 90 player can test their skill in their chosen role against wave after wave of enemies that get progressively harder.

•  As a DPS, your job is to kill the mobs before the next wave spawns.  It’s just you and your toolbox of spells and abilities to burn them down, interrupt their heals, and keep yourself alive.

•  As a tank, your job is to protect your NPC healer by picking up the mobs as best you can, interrupting them, and using your own cooldowns to survive.

•  As a healer, your job is to keep your party alive.  Your party is a team of NPCs – a warrior tank, an assassination rogue, a hunter and a mage.  The AI is pretty smart — they are good about interrupting and focus firing — while still being realistic in the sense that they are occasionally being slow to get out of fire or meandering out of your healing range.  You’ll need to do a lot of healing and dispelling here.

If you fail in your role objective, you get a failure message and the mobs despawn and you have to talk to the NPC to start again at wave 1.  If you get “killed,” you are actually just reduced to 1 healthpoint – so no death repair bills!  You do take wear-and-tear durability damage, though, and there is an NPC inside the instance who can repair you.

Healer PG

Goals

Proving Grounds can serve several useful functions:

  • First and foremost: it is something fun to do!
  • It gives new players a safe but real-time environment to practice their skills and improve their play.  Whether you’re new to the game or just new to a role, PGs are a wonderful place to hone your skills without worrying about irritating or — worse — killing four other players in the process.
  • If gives players a place to test out particular talents, glyphs, as well as fiddle with their addons and keybinds.

Gear Scaling

To make sure Proving Grounds are a challenge of skill and not of who simply has the best gear, all equipment is scaled down in a similar fashion to Challenge Modes.

  • Gear scales to 463
  • Gems do not scale
  • Set bonuses do not count

Unlike Brawler’s Guild where players can hit a ceiling on their success because their gear is subpar (or get further because great gear gives them more margin for error), the equalised equipment means ranking accurately reflects true skill.  Of course, if you’re exclusively a tank or healer, you can’t do Brawler’s Guild at all!

You can use flasks and foods, but not potions; they didn’t want you to have to bring stacks and stacks of pots just to make it through.  There is a soulwell for health cookies, though!

There is also a reforger NPC in case you need to make any gear tweaks, and a vendor who sells  Tomes of the Clear Mind so you can tweak your talents and glyphs as much as you need.

Tuning

First the obligatory disclaimer – All of this can change!  Proving Grounds are a brand new feature and it’s possible Blizzard may shift their goals with what they want with them.  Additionally, right now the tuning on the PTR is really easy — far below what I was told was intended (and what I outlined below). It is likely untuned right now, but being the PTR I imagine they will be tweaking them quiet a bit over the next month or so.  Give them a try, leave feedback on the tuning whether you prefer it harder or easier!

You begin with bronze mode.  The plan is for bronze to be tuned to a player ready to step into heroic 5-mans, so this should be easy for just about everyone.

After you beat bronze, you can step into Silver.  If you’re a normal mode raider, you should be able to make it through this level, with maybe some difficulties in the final waves.

After that comes Gold.  Beating gold is intended to reflect comparable skills to a player that is ready to raid heroics.  Expect to use your whole toolbox to make it through Gold.

After you beat Gold, you are eligible to try Endless mode.  Endless mode, as the name implies, has unlimited waves of increasing difficulty.  Each wave does a percentage more damage and has an equal percentage more health than the one before it.

Your furthest wave will be tracked so you can come back try to beat your high score later, and so you can compete with your friends.  Although there are no in-game leaderboards like for Challenge modes, this information is tracked in your character statistics and can be pulled up in the armory, so expect third party sites to run rankings eventually.

Rewards

There are achievements for reaching each rank in each role, as well as surviving 20 waves into Endless.  There will be titles, as well.  “[Name] the Proven [Healer / Tank / Damage Dealer]” probably earned by completing Gold for a given role.

Perhaps later other rewards will be implemented, but that’s it for now.

I got the opportunity to test Proving Grounds a couple weeks early thanks to an awesome dev, but now they are a little more polished and available for everyone to try.  Just speak to your class trainer* or the NPC in the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun Lai Summit to be sent in.

 

* NYI this build – go to Kun Lai

Outside Resources

 

Jul 16 2013

Fansite Mixer!

A few weeks ago, I had the very awesome opportunity to go visit the Blizzard campus for tons of fun and some great discussion with the WoW CMs and Devs.  Community Manager Zarhym planned the intimate fansite mixer (and did an amazing job).  Representatives from Curse, Wowhead, WoW Insider, podcast Convert to Raid, and Gamebreaker attended (nine of us total) for a chance to discuss the game and, more importantly, how Blizzard and fansites can work together to better serve the community.  I was there to represent Curse as an MMO-Champion and wowdb.com global moderator.


Community Discussion

My favourite part of the day, and also the reason we were there, was  the roundtable on Blizzard and fansites working together.

We were given insight into the internal process Blizzard has for official, blogs, patch notes, forum communication, and other community manager functions.  We talked about our own role as fansites, and discussed the opportunities and methods all of us can use in order to aid each other to the benefit of the community.  Unfortunately, I am unable to share any of the details at Blizzard’s request, so just trust me it was really interesting and particularly useful to me as someone involved with MMO-Champion and wowdb.com.

Oh yeah, and we also got surveyed in advance about the new transmog helms, purchasable-in-Korea XP buff, and other developments for the Blizzard store (now announced, which is why I can mention it).  We also got a very cool preview of the products that will be shown at ComicCon next month, including a bunch of snazzy exclusives only available to attendees.  If you’re into toys or collectables, you’ll probably want to check those out when they are shown this weekend!

We also enjoyed trivia for prizes (I won a TGC loot card), generous giftbags, and an all-around good time.  Oh, and we got to watch animated Zarhym serenade animated Ghostcrawler on the big screen.


Dev Q & A

We had an hour to talk to three WoW developers and ask questions related to the content coming in 5.4.  They had a lot of cool new information to share with us, most of which was not yet on the PTR at the time about the Timeless Isle, Legendary Cloaks, the awesomesounding new world boss,  flex raiding, arena changes, Proving Grounds and more.

For a detailed breakdown, check out chaud’s recap on MMO-Champion.  A lot of this is on the PTR now, but not all of it, and the overview is still interesting to read.


Hearthstone

We were given an opportunity to try out their new online card game, Hearthstone, which was announced at PAX earlier this year.  I was very enticed with the game and enjoyed it far more than I expected to.

The games are fun and relatively quick.  The rules are simple and very easy to pickup, but still has the potential for complexity and skill both in deck building and creating card synergies in play.  I was impressed that they designed a game that could be easily played on a phone or tablet but still was completely enjoyable on a PC without feeling like you’re playing a phone app on a desktop.

Unfortunately, I was pretty terrible at it, having lost all but one game I played!  I am going to just go ahead and blame bad RNG.  😉


Campus Tour

museum!One of the cool aspects of the day was a tour of the Blizzard grounds.  We got to visit the museum — currently mostly Starcraft II themed — and see a lot of models, concept art, videos, and other awesome relics.

But the cool stuff doesn’t end there — all over the campus are awesome statues, art pieces, and other displays.  There is the famous huge metal orc statue in the front of the main entrance, and the statues of Illidan, Kerrigan and other game characters that you see at Blizzcon were tucked in the various lobbies and common areas.orc statue

They have fan art on the walls, from the great stuff you see on the official website submitted by players, to the WoW themed comics done by Penny Arcade.  A lot of their various products from over the years (tee shirts, models, toys, posters, etc) were on display throughout the buildings.  It was also very cool to see things like the signature walls from Blizzcon hanging up and other.

We also got to see how some of the departments were decorated, as each gets to design their area in a very cool theme (the department we saw was zombie apocalypse!).  Their break rooms are also amazing; one we stepped inside looked like we had been teleported back in time to an old speakeasy.

My favourite part of the tour was getting to see Blizzard’s “mission control” room where they monitor their servers all over the world for problems.  No photographs allowed (many threatening signs reminding us as much), but let me tell you – it looked as awesome as it sounds!

And, no, we didn’t get to wander into any top secret areas and eavesdrop on any Titan discussion 😉

Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch of carne asada street tacos, grilled portobellos and peppers, rice, margaritas, and other fixin’s.  Bashiok’s skills as a grillmaster did not disappoint.


Many Many Many Thanks

Thank you very much to the Community Managers who made our day wonderful – Bashiok, Bornakk, Crithto, Daxxarri (raccoon-wrangler extraordinaire!), Lore, Nethaera, and Rygarius, and a special thanks to Zarhym for putting the whole thing together for us.  And thank you to the devs who also gave us their time to answer questions and give us insight and sneak peaks into the game!

(and sorry if I forgot anyone!)