I searched the forums looking far and wide for a similar discussion, and didn't find one; leaving me to ask myself if my thoughts are my own or if others shared my feelings.
This post is intended to seek input on the structure of Trials, and how it impacts development of the community. One of the things I focus on when assembling a trial run is to be open minded, and bring in players of all skill levels. In my opinion, if we don't take the time to educate the community and bring in 'new comers', we'll never see good community growth and development.
Specific points that will be addressed are:
1) Lack of Loot Progression
2) 'DPS Check' Fights that Hinder the ESO Community Build Creativity
3) Designed with the Elite in Mind
Lack of Loot Progression
Craglorn boasts a lot of neat loot, and the two trials bring specific key sets at VR12 ranking that you can't get anywhere else. Specifically AA offers the ever coveted VR12 Warlock Set, and Hel Ra boasts the VR12 Unassailable set. Both are fairly sought after by different builds, but in terms of 'progression, offer very little.
Raid progression is generally seen as building up to the completion of a raid. Meaning you will start by attempting the first boss of a raid, eventually defeat it, move on to the next, and the cycle rinses and repeats as you learn the mechanics. In doing so, the initial bosses should be dropping loot that will help you become successful as you encounter the bosses later in the trial. Unfortunately with AA and HR, this is not the case. The vas majority of the drops are blue, and can't hold a candle to player crafted VR12 Legendary gear (nor should they). However, it does set the stage for one to think that this 'Blue' and sometimes ' Purple' gear is what is needed to advance to and successfully complete the trial; so you can begin farming the entire trial; eventually collecting all of the gear from the final encounter and then improving trial times.
I think ESO is lost on this one. The loot rewards do not provide the means to a proper progression end; which leads into the next point of this posting...
TLDR: Loot needs to be a reward based system where efforts for completing an encounter reward and prepare you for the next encounter. Though it may take multiple attempts to gather the loot needed to advance, it should be there.
DPS Check Fights Hinder the ESO Community Build Creativity
I like a good DPS gut check as much as the next guy... why? Well, as primarily DPS focused player, I like to see how big my DPS E-peen is. However, as a barrier to raid progression so early in an MMOs launch where much imbalance exists, it's hard to stay positive. ESO is an Elder Scrolls game. A community that thrives on D&D based methodology where each character is truly a unique build. A Heavy Armor wearing 2-handed mage. The stealthy ninja rogue, the Sorc Tank. All of these builds are a core piece of the fun and community that ESO has at its base. However, when it comes to trials; specifically when a DPS check is introduced, the fun is snuffed out like a gale force wind against a meager candle.
The truth is, if you look at top trial time (or just plain trial completion in general), groups consist primarily of Magicka and Light Armor builds. I know this is a whole sub discussion of how Stamina builds are severely gimped blah blah; but the point that I'm trying to make here is the creativity and diversity of builds that we have all played with as we leveled have been torn asunder by the need to present the highest DPS possible to complete DPS check fights.
I'm sure about everyone is familiar with the Wisp Mother encounter in AA. This is a fantastic fight! I love the mechanics of the encounter, but despise the fact that it's a DPS race to the finish. A race, that unfortunately, many players can't complete. Personally, I've used builds that have ranged from 300 - 850 DPS on this boss. The most fun I've ever had was with a mid-range dual wield build. However, even this build needed me to 'exploit' cast animations by weaving light attacks in to animation cancel. Yea; that's another problem with the game. When you have to be skilled at animation canceling, and not just understanding and maneuvering your character, you're creating a barrier for the community.
TLDR: In general, the community isn't filled with raiding elitists. I believe that EVERYONE with their own creative build should be able to enter into a raid and complete it. If that's too easy, make different 'modes' of raids. Normal and Elite. Let the community enjoy the wonderful content and story that you have created; don't hinder them because they want to enjoy the class they have created.
Designed with the Elite in Mind
I hinted on this slightly in my last post that the trials were designed with the elite in mind.
Now before we all get too bent out of shape with this comment, let me explain that I've been successful with a 4/4 in AA, and 3/4 (technically 2/4 as I've only done one side in the split) in HR. I do not consider myself an elitist at all; as I refuse to conform to 'forced specs' to achieve the greatest DPS. I want to have fun in the game, and specifically choose a DPS spec that is fun to me (medium armor/dual wield) that doesn't bring the greatest DPS, but is fun for me to play.
When we look at the raid teams that have the 'best' trial times, we see specific builds and classes with great preference over others. We also see a very interesting swing with PvP skills being centered as CORE PvE Trial skills above and beyond those skills that are attained through PvE content. While this doesn't specifically lean towards the 'Elite' by thought process it does in the general progression for PvE oriented players.
Let's say that you love playing a 2-handed, heavy armor night blade mage guild centered character (side note; this isn't my build; just an example). You've progressed through the content of Level 1 through VR12 by means of questing, and have been very successful throughout the game. You've grouped for dungeons, completed delves and dark anchors. Now it's time for Craglorn. You're now super excited about entering into Trials with your guild. You've got your character fully decked in VR12 Legendary gear for your spec, only to find out that your spec doesn't have enough DPS for some of the fights. What do you do? Trash your gear, well the elitists will. They'll completely trash a build, gear, etc., and replace it with a different build and gear that gives them better DPS, tank'age or heals. Why? Where is the fun in that? You're no longer a 'unique' class, you're now a cookie cutter spec.
I'd love to get some more input from you all on what your thoughts are. I hope that ESO/Zenimax employees are monitoring the threads, and will read into this more. I'd love an official response on what they really want to give to the community. Do they want to make content that forces you to spec and play a specific way, or do they want to keep the game open-ended where you can play your character your way.