MMO-Champion - The Great Item Squish (or Not) of Pandaria
The Great Item Squish (or Not) of Pandaria
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
The lead designers were originally going to talk about this topic at BlizzCon, but it didn’t really match the content of the rest of our “Intro to Pandaria” presentation, and seeing as how we finished our 90-minute slot with 93 seconds remaining, there wouldn’t have been room for it anyway. But several of us did bring up the issue with players and media we talked to, and it even ended up in at least one FAQ, so we figured we’d go ahead and get the information out there. Note that unlike much of what we presented for the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion, this is not an announcement. It’s more of a problem we’d like to address, and a couple of ways we potentially might do so. Feedback is certainly appreciated.

Big Number Syndrome
Hey, our stats are growing exponentially. If you look at everything from the Strength on a weapon to the damage being done by a Fireball crit or the amount of health the Morchok boss has, they look downright absurd compared to the numbers for level 60 characters in the original shipping version of World of Warcraft. It’s not exactly a surprise that we were going to end up here, and we knew where we were going every step of the way, yet regardless, here we are.


Fig. 1. Item level vs. character level. Brown = vanilla. Green = BC. Blue = LK. Red = Cat.

The numbers grew so much primarily because we wanted rewards to be compelling. Upgrading from a chestpiece that has 50 Strength into one that has 51 Strength is undeniably a DPS increase for the appropriate user, but it’s not a very exciting reward. Such negligible increases can drive players to do some weird things, such as skipping over tiers of gear or entire levels of content. This is particularly relevant when we’re talking about a new expansion. We don’t want level-85 players to have a reasonable shot at level-90 dungeons and raids (or PvP opponents) just because that content is balanced for gear that isn’t much better than what the level-85 players have.

So we arrived at this point in a logical fashion, and we don’t really think we should have handled things any differently. However, it’s still a weird place to be, and it’s about to get weirder. These aren’t real items, in that we don’t know for sure what the item levels will be in patch 5.3 and patch 6.3 (if only we planned that far ahead!) but they are reasonable guesses, and you can see just how ridiculous the items look.


Fig. 2. A theoretical item from patch 5.3.


Fig. 3. A theoretical item from patch 6.3.

So what do we do about it? There are two general categories of solutions. The first is to make the numbers appear more manageable and the second is to actually change the numbers.

Mega Damage
The first solution could include changes like adding commas and the like to large numbers. We could also compress all of those 1000s to Ks and all of those 1,000,000s to Ms, much like we do with boss health today. Internally, we have been calling this the “Mega Damage solution” because instead of your Fireball hitting for 6,000,000 damage, it would hit for 6 MEGA DAMAGE (queue the Arcanite Ripper guitar solo).


Fig. 4. Mega Damage. Name/screenshot not to be taken seriously.

If we can make numbers such as floating combat text and boss health and item stats a little easier to read at a glance, then maybe we can endure numbers increasing exponentially for many digits to come. Now there are some very real computational limitations. PCs just can’t quickly perform math on very large numbers, so we’d have to solve all of those problems as well. Even today, tanks can hit the ten digit threat cap on some encounters.

Item Level Squish
The second solution actually involves compressing item levels, which is why we call it the “item level squish solution.” If we can lower stats on items, then we can lower every other number in the game as well, such as how much damage a Fireball does or how much health a gronn has. If you look at the item level curves, you can see that most of the growth occurs at the maximum character levels for the various expansions. This is because we keep rewarding more and more powerful gear to make the new raid tier and PvP season in an expansion reward significantly better gear than the previous one. However, those huge item level jumps don’t accomplish a lot once the character level has increased again. Very few players notice or care how much of an upgrade the Black Temple loot is over the Serpentshrine Cavern loot when their characters are level 80.

With that in mind, we could go back and compress the big item level increases that occur at level 60, 70, 80 and 85. The Mists of Pandaria gear would still grow exponentially from patch to patch, but the baselines would be a lot lower. Health could go from 150,000 back down to something like 20,000. The big risk of this approach is that players will log into the new expansion and feel nerfed… even if all the other numbers are compressed as well.

In other words, your Fireball will still do the same percentage damage to a player or a creature that it does today, but the number would be smaller. Logically, this seems like it would work, and it does. But it feels weird. When we tried this internally, everyone agreed that it just felt off throwing a spell for hundreds of damage when you are used to it doing thousands of damage.

I came up with an analogy -- even though I know logically that people drive on the left side of the street in the UK (we drive on the right side of the street in the US) and wouldn’t be surprised to see it, it would still feel really disorienting if I was driving in the UK and had to make a right-hand turn.


Fig. 5. Item level vs. character level before and after ‘squish’. Brown = vanilla. Green = BC. Blue = LK. Red = Cat

So Now What?
As I type this today, we haven’t decided on which if either solution we want to try. Maybe we’ll come up with yet another solution. Maybe it’s the kind of thing we can put off for another expansion so that players don’t have to adjust to the new talent system and a drastic item level compression at the same time. Or maybe it’s better just to pull the Band-Aid off fast and fix everything at once. Time will tell. I did, however, want to outline the problem lest any of you believe we don’t think there is a problem. There is. We’re just not sure of the best solution yet. If your answer is that stat budgets don’t have to grow so much in order for players to still want the gear, our experience says otherwise, and thus these proposed solutions exist. Your thoughts on the matter are valuable.

Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. The last time he used “Fig. 5” in an article, it related fish predation to estuarine hydrocarbon contamination.
This article was originally published in forum thread: The Great Item Squish (or Not) of Pandaria started by Boubouille View original post
Comments 851 Comments
  1. Liha's Avatar
    The main problem with this for me is the scaling of lower level mobs. For example if we reduce from 120k to 20k, that means everything is going down to approx 17% of what it is currently. Lets take Mekgineer Thurmaplugg for an example. He has his hp reduced to 17% of what it is, therefore has 1173 hp (originally 6900). Now he his mean to take about 1 min to kill (ish). So 1173/60 so 19.55. 19.55 is the group dps required to make the encounter last long enough. Split that between 4 players (tanks do same as dps at this level) then that's 4.88 dps per damage dealer. At a dungeon level advised to be 24-34. That's just rediculous. That would mean that from 1-24 you'd be doing less than 4.5 dps... They're gonna have to do something about that.
  1. Jinna's Avatar
    I would put good money on the item squish having already been done, and now it's up to Greg to sell it to us. While not a bad thing in and of itself, it is a little devious.

    Step:
    1. Explain the problem
    2. Give Ludicrous solution, include funny screenshot
    3. Give implemented solution, make it seem like the more rational approach
    4. ???
    5. Pandas!!!!

    It's still just a band aid on a deeply inherent problem.

    "Were finding it harder to create more an more addictive versions of crack to sell our junkies"
    "I know, tell them that all the crack they had before was actually all the same crack, and that in the NEW expansion, the crack's going to be EVEN better!"

    The game needs to be less about trading up on pixels, and more about doing things that are actually entertaining. Can an MMO as big as WoW, with as much momentum as it has, actually change direction?
  1. lopane's Avatar
    ......... !
  1. Hb's Avatar
    man i just critted that dude for 6.0043.3430.3403 no thanks..
  1. Rhey's Avatar
    Ghostcrawler says: "The big risk of this approach is that players will log into the new expansion and feel nerfed…"
    We healers start ever expansion bearing the brunt of a new nerf just to make the game funny for the DPS/Tanks, and Blizzard never gave a s*it about our feelings, getting blamed/kicked/insulted/harassed. Those are real nerf, not just "a feeling". Nerf for real the dps/tanks at the begin of the next expansion, Welcome to the Club !
  1. Moosie's Avatar
    Im totally in favour of the item level squash, aslong as its done RIGHT. Its a lot of work for blizzard to do this but i do believe it would work.

    One thing im curious about, how would this work for people such as myself that strive on hitting mitigation cap?
  1. StenchSlash's Avatar
    I love the idea of squishing item levels. And the MEGADEATH made me lol.
  1. coltsown's Avatar
    6,004,334,303,403*
  1. Voyager's Avatar
    I don't want this.
    Everyone getting nerfed and weaker compared to the previous expansion is inacceptable. And soloing old content, which is an integral part of the game, would become impossible due to that.
  1. Randomerror's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Yakuchin View Post
    I won't mind as long as I can keep soloing old content.
    I second this. However, they mentioned before that this change would make it so that mobs 5-10 levels below you would be much more difficult then they would be currently due to the slope of the curve. So I think in general it will make old content harder to solo.
  1. MarriageAuch's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Liha View Post
    The main problem with this for me is the scaling of lower level mobs. For example if we reduce from 120k to 20k, that means everything is going down to approx 17% of what it is currently. Lets take Mekgineer Thurmaplugg for an example. He has his hp reduced to 17% of what it is, therefore has 1173 hp (originally 6900). Now he his mean to take about 1 min to kill (ish). So 1173/60 so 19.55. 19.55 is the group dps required to make the encounter last long enough. Split that between 4 players (tanks do same as dps at this level) then that's 4.88 dps per damage dealer. At a dungeon level advised to be 24-34. That's just rediculous. That would mean that from 1-24 you'd be doing less than 4.5 dps... They're gonna have to do something about that.
    But if you read thaey are squishing 60+. The graph itself shows the same line on pre and post squish. 0-60 will be 0-60 as it always is, then 60+ will be more in line with that level of 'growth'
  1. Faithshield's Avatar
    Its not like they weren't told by intelligent players. ilevel inflation took off in Wrath and also led to most normal content becoming tediously easy and boring.
  1. StayTuned's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SleepySlug View Post
    They HAVE to do that though or else the first tier(s) of raid content are complete jokes to anyone who completed the final tier of the previous expansion.

    Example: Heroic LK dropped 271 gear. First tier of Cata raiding dropped 359. That's 88 ilvl difference. Now, imagine you just cut that difference in half. That would mean that the first tier of raiding would be 44 ilvls above that of the final tier of the expansion before. You'd end up with ilvl 315 gear being dropped in this hypothetical first tier raid. Now, let's look at what that equates to in-game. That's about 2nd tier dungeons (Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle). Now, I don't know how many of you had Heroic ICC gear, but you didn't replace that very quickly AT ALL. Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle were jokes for most if you had that much gear. To make this gap between expansions smaller than it already is would severely drop the difficulty and satisfaction of raiding at the beginning of an expansion, an issue that was ALREADY a problem in Cataclysm.
    But you do know that the stonecore and vortex items would have lowered stats as well thus being again in the exactly same situation as you were before the squish?

    The problem with cataclysm was that the old content remained the same while the new content wasnt adjusted perfectly
  1. Rakog's Avatar
    Squishing team
  1. Noetical's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by coltsown View Post
    I am having a lot of trouble understanding why people think old content would be harder. They needed to squish number pre-Cata. No surprise they are having this issue, I am just surprised they didn't talk about it when the players did(or make a plan.) I remember having conversations about this when BC first came out.
    Old content is easy to solo now because of the VAST difference in ilvl eg 200 ilvls if you reduced that to 20 ilvls then you would only have say 20 more str over a char doing it as current content. Even with the nerf to %s of health and armor etc its still going to be a LOT harder to solo stuff.

    Its pretty hard to explain tbh, but the people QQing about soloing stuff are indeed correct.

    May someone else can take a whack at explaining better?
  1. dkakito's Avatar
    Im all for the Squish. People may be uncomfortable with it for a while, but they will get used to it. Also, The squish would make some of the old world content feel [I]more[I]rewarding as well, as our stats wont be 8 (or more) times higher then they were. Plus, many people I know thought that Cata gear looked rediculous with the numbers it had to start with anyway.
  1. TheFoxTail's Avatar
    As much as I love to see the big numbers, the stats and health pools are getting out of hand and as their theoretical pieces show, it will only get worse.SQUISH IT ALL!Especially since I started in vanilla, seeing increases in gear on a more shallow curve would please me, despite not seeing the big number splash across my screen, because even if my aimed shot goes from 30+K crit to 2k crit but watching the mobs health drop the same percentage, I would still be happy.
  1. TyrianFC's Avatar
    And soloing old content, which is an integral part of the game,
    Soloing old content is not an 'integral' part of the game. Its a small part a minority enjoy, and good for them because it is fun. I do it sometimes too. But its not an 'integral' part of the game lol.
  1. chwhitby's Avatar
    Squish it and keep making use of iLevel for dungeon and raids. This way it will still force people to upgrade their armor from teir to teir even if it seems like only a minimal upgrade. It really doesn't matter if we go from doing 1,000,000 dps to 1,000 dps.
  1. dissip's Avatar
    Would rather have everything squished than this "mega damage" solution.

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