I will start off by saying that gated content makes sense, as long as there’s a catch up mechanism and that it is not obtuse. Burning Crusade was neither of these things and had one of the most convoluted key-ing structures, so much so that it required a large guide to get through.
FF14 isn’t a whole lot better, as you must go through every single group event to get to the recent content. Not so bad for people that have been away, but for new players it’s a massive slosh through content that people are facerolling through (yay relevant groupfinder!). It’s not complicated or difficult, just long.
The old-TSW had a gating mechanism where you needed to beat a single boss given, with a given role (tank/heals/dps) in order to enter group content with that role. I thought it worked rather well, as it was a test that you have both the proper gear, skills and situational awareness to do more than just press 1-2-3.
Mists of Pandaria brought the proving grounds. A tiered challenge system where you fought waves of enemies, using a specific role (tank/heal/dps) and received a rank at the end. Bronze was to check if you had a pulse, silver that you were paying attention, and gold that you understood all your class abilities. It’s been in the game since, though more as an afterthought in order to allow people to test more than just combat dummies.
Since this goes away on Tuesday.
There are good things and bad things about the Mage Tower, and that changes depending on your personal view. It was very challenging, requiring a high level of skill or a high item level (sometimes both). It was time gated, so that you only had a limited time to try it out, until the next window appeared. It rewarded cosmetic weapon upgrades (of varying quality). It required a significant investment of time to even scratch the surface. It was 100% solo, so you were left to your own devices to improvise.
If you think about it, this was really Proving Grounds 2.0. Can you play your class and role at top tier levels? The rewards couldn’t be power, since you needed power to actually beat the challenges – cosmetics are a great alternative.
And it was a pretty solid success, all told.
BfA does not have class-specific raid gear. All plate wearers are going to look the same. Which is a bit of an odd one, since top-tier raiders often pride themselves on the look of gear others cannot acquire, and the class that they picked.
Still, it’s an option for a new Proving Grounds mechanic to offer cosmetic rewards. It’s a further opportunity for these proving grounds to be used as a gating mechanism for group content (LFG/LFR), and allow the difficulty of group content to be pushed up a tad.
The downside to this is that it doesn’t allow for coordination between real people. But at least it brings up the skill floor to something past “just breathing”, and can help people better understand their class and overall game mechanics.
I think the issue with Mage Tower was also that they had the same scenarios for packs of classes – ie: The tanking one was for all tanks. Monks have abilities that make it completely easy (the real challenging aspect is not getting knocked off the island) and the Monk Ox statue actually tanks the boss for you when it is up. So the challenge really was there was no real easy way to balance the encounters for all the different toolkits out there.
I only did one. I probably would have done more if I was still playing Legion, but the same old grind got me down until I quit, only rushing back to get the one look that matters.
Proving grounds are interesting and something that would be a neat gateway to LFR – both raids and 5 mans. You have to get a certain “score” in a proving ground to be able to Queue up for a specific role at various levels in various dungeons/raids.
The 5 mans were absolute jokes at the end. I usually heal and ended up going full on DPS. The DPS and tanking was so strong by the end that you didn’t need a healer. LAst bosses (Odyn, for example) were droppoing in under 15 seconds – before any special mechanics happened. It was strange!
I find myself very interested to buy BfA and go through though it. Not sure why since WoW has been off my mind so much lately, especially with summer here.
There’s a fundamental issue with the way dungeons scale in WoW. I’m a bit surprised timewalking isn’t a more widespread mechanic so that dungeons at the launch of an expansion are actually relevant near the end. But that would require a better ilvl management strategy from Blizz, since it goes off the rails every 2 expansions.