Call to Arms again and WoW’s proving grounds

It’s Call to Arms time again in Neverwinter, which means a weekend of repeating the same level-scaled skirmish to try to get some rare loot rewards. This time around I’ve played some bouts of the Orc Assault skirmish with my partner, last time I was soloing them on my wizard for the most part. Since my duo-play character is my cleric that meant healing random groups in scaled level 60 content for the first time. Some of the early battles were pretty hectic, we even wiped once when it started with a suicidal level 20 guardian fighter pulling all the groups at once.

Erm, how do I pick out healing targets in the scrum?

Erm, how do I pick out healing targets in the scrum?

It’s been an interesting and instructional weekend from the perspective of seeing how cleric’s actually function in group play in Neverwinter. To date I’ve not run any dungeons on this character and possibly two skirmishes (one time each for the relevant quest).

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I also spent an evening doing some guild runs of the same skirmish on my wizard character and that was instructional. The timing when a group should go for the bonus chests that appear during the skirmish was new to me, I’ve vaguely noticed them before but usually missed them as you can’t open them if the group is in combat and most random groups won’t wait for you to find them for the first time. The great warrior of our group was a pro at these events and taught us all some good tips!

The difference between these two experiences is pretty stark. Playing with a guild group was a dream – well organised, patient and polite. The two of us playing with pugs saw a wide range of ability and a general lack of any communication. We saw a second wizard casting ice storm (wiki link; a burst spell it hits only things around you) when no monsters were nearby several times! The very first run started with an over-pull and wipe followed by almost a second wipe. The level 20 warrior tank was suddenly replaced (I guess they rage-quit the group), thankfully the new and competent tank got things under control quickly and I could keep people healed.

These thoughts of occasional grouping issues link to the recent announcement for WoW’s upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion. This article on WoW Insider has the details:

if you want to join the dungeon finder queue for level 100 heroic dungeons, you will need to get a silver medal in the proving grounds for the role you want to queue for.

Proving grounds in WoW try to teach you import lessons about your chosen trinity role (tank, healer, damage) while also including some typical raid-mechanics such as a fire on the ground to move out of or enemy abilities you must interrupt. I can’t help feeling that Neverwinter desperately needs a similar system as the game is complex enough that people will come into group content pretty under-prepared.

Since I have years of MMO experience I have a large amount of knowledge about common game elements to draw on. It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes, but I know not to run around setting off extra groups of monsters for example. Such a system wouldn’t guarantee a good group, or a patient or friendly one either. But I do think it could go some small way to improving the random group experience in the game.

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