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. terrih91's Avatar
    well why make it a huge jump in the first place? why not make its lets say 200+ in the stat difference or 500 or something reasonable and scale it up slowly i for one don't wanna feel weaker even though im not (derp) its ridiculous really. i for one am against both i dont want this game to feel like an arcade game off the internet where i can run around and hit 5 billion dmg and lol at the numbers but i also dont want to go back as far as player progression which anyway you look at it you still are going backwards because everything is getting nerfed to be at our item level. blizz just made a giant error with wotlk to cata numbers and now the way of trying to fix it is just dumb. i don't like the idea of seeing my tanks health pool go back to tbc and wotlk days. it just feels like well get to a certain point then wash, rinse and repeat the cycle because the number will get too high and the slight upgrade of stats wont feel as epic. i for one think that an upgrade of 50-100 in any stat is enough when going from a 353->359 ivl (exagerating but read between the lines) is more than enough. when you level up and get the greens and blues from quests yes you want them to feel like an upgrade but they will be gone once you hit the new zone there again is no reason to make the stat jumps from green to green massive like they are now. make the boosts where it counts (the raids pvp and heroics). i understand that at some point the numbers blizz proposed during that massive jump they spoke of are a high possibility of happening if we just creep our way up towards it but by then well be level 100+ and it might just feel right to be hitting 400ks regularly but the only issue i see with that is for a new comer to the game the difference from 1-100 might be strange for them since they will not be used to it where as the people who have been playing for some time will understand the jump in damage. for this they could try boosting the numbers up for the lowbies as well? at some points i agree with the squishing. its just toning things down so the numbers aren't ridiculous and i have more HP than 25HM LK and i can go back and solo him in a few minutes and farm legendarys on 5 alts. but do we as a community want to take steps backwards and do it all again like its a daily quest? i for one dont want to see that happen to WoW.
  1. Hammerbro's Avatar
    I'm also on the idea of "Item Squishing" because I believe the numbers are becoming too inflated. Even though the big numbers are always great to see, I speak for myself when I say whether I crit for 90k or 10k, if it's a big crit for that expansion, then I'll be excited for it. It's all about %'s anyway. For the people who are worried about soloing old content my only response is, it's an mmorpg. The idea would be for you to start becoming social and get friends to do the content with. It will bring back the social aspect of the game knowing that you'll need more people to do old content and not just become anti-social. Not to mention I play a warlock. It's not fair that I can solo old content up to a certain point and then a deathknight just blows thru most of old content (and some this expac old content *see atramedes*). Everyone has their own opinion, but mine is this is a game focused on a community of people doing stuff. Squish the items and bring back the community in WoW.
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Crucialus View Post
    I don't think I get you? If they squish everything (not a nerf), then a boss that would do, say, 3k damage per second would start doing much less (300?) so wouldn't that be the exact same when it comes to soloing?

    Really just trying to understand this.
    Look at the first graph. See that HUGE difference between the gear at the end of one expansion and the gear in the next? Okay, now look at the 2nd graph. See how those are a LOT closer together now? That means that relative to the previous content, your gear (and therefore your character) won't be ridiculously more powerful, meaning that that older content will be more difficult than it is today. It'll have the same difficulty AT LEVEL as it did originally, but going back and trying to solo it later will be much more difficult since you're not scaling as quickly past it as you get newer and newer gear.
  1. Charagon'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.
    Why are you assuming they'd nerf the 1-60 game? That's not even close to what they're proposing.
  1. PHOENIXZERO's Avatar
    A huge item squish isn't the answer IMO, whatever tweaks and adjustments they make should be to smooth things out. Most people like big numbers, the bigger the better, your character should feel significantly more powerful at max level than it did and the previous max level and they know they run the risk of losing A LOT of people if they were to knock everyone back down significantly, I don't care what anyone says, it would simply feel wrong being at Wrath level stats/DPS at 90. They should just smooth the scaling out a bit. Besides, it's Blizzard's fault, they brought up the problem in Wrath and then released Cataclysm with the biggest leap in stats in the game, partially because they compressed 10 levels into five, they also made changes that were supposedly for PVP in the huge HP inflation and also partially because they inflated item levels too much. They could have made upgrades upgrades without big stat differences if they just stuck with making new items simply better itemized with each tier.
  1. Mooindathor's Avatar
    Squish it down!
  1. eevee's Avatar
    You guys have it all wrong with wanting to squish stats. 1) it well make you feel like returning to vanilla... you'll have the feeling you didn't progress at all in 6 years. 2) Most IMPORTANT : check both figs, and compare the difference of power beetwin cata and lv60 stats. This will mean only one thing : BIG NERF ! forget solo (or mini grouping) old content to farm mounts or transmo armor. BT would need 10 people minimum at least. Also, I don't get it, what you have against big numbers. I think it is fun to hit for 600k dmg. I don't have any prob with that. But GC is smart and made a ridiculous picture to ensure you think that squish stats is the only good way to go... mass controle, easy when people can't even read a curve.
  1. Kiru's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Noetical View Post
    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?
    You explained it just fine. When you cut everything down by a flat % (Like most people in this thread seem to think Blizzard will do), the difference in those numbers is still the same % wise, but the real difference is much smaller, 10 is 50% of 20, 100k is 50% of 200k.

    They can't just flip a switch and scale down everything, or Cataclysm will still have a ridiculous jump.
  1. Yiest's Avatar
    Seriously. Did you guys even read the post ? Soloing old content will be perfectly viable.

    If Illidan has say 5million HP now and you do 30k DPS

    He will have 500,000 HP then and you do 3k DPS.

    Nothing will change, as long as blizzard accurately apply the same relative scaling to all bosses HP and Damage right back to vanilla as they do to characters. Obviously if they only did this to players then things would be messy, but I doubt they would.

    Things only really got out of control in Icecrown imo. The gaps were much, much smaller until then. Then suddenly icecrown set a new precedent of increases with the 30% buff aswell, and then shit really hit the fan in cata. The damage and hp we were seeing at the end of icecrown should have been the dmg we get in cata now imo, but it got way out of hand somehow along the way.
  1. Hellsaimed's Avatar
    gogo squish plz
  1. Insidious's Avatar
    I love the idea of mega damage and putting 'k's and 'm's in front of damage to consolidate all those digits. It would be a lot like the Disgaea series of games, which are one of my favorite game series' of all time.
  1. Kazlehoff's Avatar
    Imo go with a Hybrid system. Squish the Ilvl a bit, but not as drasticly as shown in the example.Gonna be alot of Casuals crying there 20k DPS is gona be like 4k if they go the method shown above lol
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by fangless View Post
    No one thinks 30,000 is a bad number, when it's a HUGE increase from just a few expansions ago. Why would that suddenly change with 5 more levels?
    It's not 5 more levels. Though your character only gains 5 levels, that is actually paled in comparison to how much their stats grow from the 88 ilvls of gear they get while leveling.
  1. Yufie's Avatar
    Lets think about this from the RP standpoint; I started raiding in BC, so I'll start there. Illidan comes along and is THREATENING THE UNIVERSE WITH DOOM, he is pure evil and looks like NOONE can stop him. We get geared to the teeth, bring 24 other people along, and GASP, we kill him. Then Sunwell comes and OMG NOONE CAN STOP HIM EITHER, we gear a bit more, and kill him. We are the most powerful people in the universe. Then Wotlk comes out, and a level 71 player is doing more damage in greens than the crazy geared people at 70 were doing. Their power was INSTANTLY diminished to the point where the gear they got become negligible. The Lich King came along and now HE CANNOT BE STOPPED BY ANYONE AHHHHH. Thus far, WoW has taken the Dragonball Z standpoint, where every badguy is just a retarded amount more powerful than the last guy. Not saying theres anything wrong with it, but I do think that a players gear at 85 should at least make a decent leveling set until 90 with set bonuses and weird detailed trinkets. If a lvl 85 heroic 4.3 item has +500 int on it, the raiding stuff at 90 should start out with 600-650. It IS better, noone in their right mind will stick with their 85 gear, but it isnt THAT much better; going from +500 to +4,500 is just silly. I think a +40-60 itemlevel progression makes much more sense than a +200, and watching a clothies health go from 5k, to 10k, to 30k, to 150k just doesnt make sense, especially this expansion (seems like the jump from 30k to 150k is uh...a bit extreme). So yes, I vote squishing and I'd rather see it sooner than later to get used to it now and if people hate it well TOO BAD coz you all already made your WoW commitment for the free Diablo :P
  1. ZRebellion's Avatar
    everyone knew this day was coming and the squishing is the right solution,ofc it will be weird but ppl will adapt
  1. Trifande's Avatar
    I love this post by GC. He gets to the gist of the issue quickly and explains their thought processes and potential solutions with great clarity (and dare I say it, a welcome flair for the dramatic ).After reading the full post through I too am on the fence regarding Solution#1 & Solution#2. Whilst "The Squish" definitely seems like 'best' long-term solution, I think there should be (imho ofc) some compromise or added feature to the squish that retains a part of the awesomeness of the BIG numbers.My suggestion would be to obviously go with the squish for all internal data (server & client side) to reduce the pointless computation overhead that is inherent with large numbers. Along with the squish, they should still maintain - a simple mapping (f.ex. ) b/w- the 'squished' number format (f.ex. 20k HP) - and the current number format (f.ex. 200k HP)This means that the client could always display 20k-HP as something like 200!mega-HP (example copied fer teh lulz).A system of the above nature could solve the over inflation problem for the long-term, whilst still maintaining a positive momentum of character power progression between the time before the change and after the change.
  1. hiragana's Avatar
    i dont mind the squish so long as soloing old content is still possible. Otherwise that would cut out a massive amount of content, probably big enough to make me lose interest in the game in the long run.
  1. quikbunny's Avatar
    I would rather them just leave it as it is. The example on their site is so over the top it doesn't really provide anything. Health pools were increased by a lot for Cataclysm, doesn't mean in MoP we will quadruple our health again, it just needs to go up another 20k or so, no big deal really.

    Just seems like a lot of man hours will go into this, when they could be working on something else.
  1. Hobbyless's Avatar
    I support the squish.I miss the days of 10k health feeling like a lot back in BC (playing a lock). Hitting 100k HP at 85 on any class was a lot less satisfying. Sure, seeing huge crits is sort of fun, but we will still see them once the squish is done- our frames of reference will just need to change.
  1. Charagon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by razorback07 View Post
    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?
    It shouldn't matter in the slightest.

    What they're essentially talking about is changing the game so that there (Current Expansion) and then there's (Everything Else).

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