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. DarkPChan's Avatar
    LOL if they do Mega Damage, I want them to include the Glitter Boy class :P First thing that popped up in my head was the RIFTS pen and paper RPG
  1. Designer's Avatar
    Why not introduce new kinds of crits? For example the mob could loose a hand in a fight due to a crit. But yes, there is no point of being able to hit for gigatons of damage, because that would be like the player is some kind of a god. In pen & paper games there are max level. After that players get more power instead of more skill. By power I mean players become landlords, then earls, then kings... And then they die! A human can reach only so much in his life. You can't live forever and train all the time and gather muscles of an ore carrier truck. And you can't get muscles of an ore carrier truck in like 50 years either. So make the rewards be something else than better items or levels. Otherwise you do end up squishing things / having those massive numbers. Warriors could gather land, buildings, settlements, and an army. Mages could gather land, mage tower, mystical caves, and golems. And so on. Propably we won't see most of these other approaches in Wow, because "Wow is not meant to be all-in-one-game". But there you have the options.
  1. Barreveler's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Crucialus View Post
    So, like, say I just finished soloing the Shattered Halls heroic, most mobs there have 20-100k HP, would that go down if my character's health was reverted from 120k to 20k?
    Yes.

    Theoretically the proportions should remain the same. If mobs in Heroic Shattered Halls are 70 elites and have 20k health, and you're 85 and have 120k health. Assume a 90% proportional reduction of all stats (which would be extreme) you would have 12,000 health at 85 and the mobs would have 2000 health.

    Likewise, if you were doing 30k DPS at 85, you'd do about 3k dps post squish. You'd still one or two shot mobs in Heroic Shattered Halls, but everything would be scaled lower.

    However, gear introduces scaling problems. Suppose we take 1 Burning Crusade weapon that has +20 strength, and another that has +26 strength. Reducing that by 90% you run into the problem that if the gear has "whole stats," you now have a gear with +2 strength and a piece of gear with ?? what? + 3 strength? the scaling issue just made that piece much more powerful.

    This is the problem that would make old instances incrementally harder and content higher than you would be incrementally easier.
  1. Arnoror's Avatar
    Again, GC stated "The Mists of Pandaria gear would still grow exponentially". In MoP you aren't going to solo much with lvl 85 but with lvl 90 so the gap would be closed again.
  1. orderschvank's Avatar
    ya im all for squishing just squish down all the old tier bosses so i can still solo or 3 man them lol
  1. Vital's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Moshic View Post
    Don't agree with deflation.
    Solid argument you have there.
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiru View Post
    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.
    It wouldn't be a flat %. Again, look at the proposed graph. Now I know this isn't exact numbers or anything, but if you want to squish things into a closer curve, the things furthest out are going to change the most. What this means in English: TBC gear will change the least, Wrath gear would experience a larger change than that, Cata gear would experience and even bigger change, etc. until they reached current content which would just be slid on top of it with a more familiar curve that we're used to seeing within a current expansion.
  1. markdall's Avatar
    I so very badly want to hit something for 6 MEGA DAMAGE. I will macro in an MP3 of the first 4.5 seconds or so of "Don't want to change the World" by Ozzy Osbourne. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDtvzuG5Maw
  1. tohyatvc's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Barreveler View Post
    Yes.

    Theoretically the proportions should remain the same. If mobs in Heroic Shattered Halls are 70 elites and have 20k health, and you're 85 and have 120k health. Assume a 90% proportional reduction of all stats (which would be extreme) you would have 12,000 health at 85 and the mobs would have 2000 health.

    Likewise, if you were doing 30k DPS at 85, you'd do about 3k dps post squish. You'd still one or two shot mobs in Heroic Shattered Halls, but everything would be scaled lower.

    However, gear introduces scaling problems. Suppose we take 1 Burning Crusade weapon that has +20 strength, and another that has +26 strength. Reducing that by 90% you run into the problem that if the gear has "whole stats," you now have a gear with +2 strength and a piece of gear with ?? what? + 3 strength? the scaling issue just made that piece much more powerful.

    This is the problem that would make old instances incrementally harder and content higher than you would be incrementally easier.
    You've fundamentally misunderstood this problem and the solution.
    The reductions will NOT BE LINEAR. Level 70 mobs WILL be harder for you to kill at 85 than they are now. That's the whole point. This isn't just to reduce big numbers, this is to smooth out the game scaling, so older content isn't as trivial. The increases in power have NOT BEEN LINEAR. 0-60 is almost completely LINEAR, with the exception of T3 where we spiked up to ilvl 90 for some things.

    Since then we have spiked up insanely. It's these reductions that will be reduced, and your overall relative power will be reduced. Thinking it will be a flat 90% reduction is completely wrong. NO FLAT REDUCTIONS.
  1. maccaruso's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Foreverlad View Post
    The thing is, older raids and such would become more difficult.

    Let's say a 40 man raid boss at level 60 had 1 million health, and a baseline level 60 player had 5000 hp, and they're doing, say 600dps. there's a major difference between player and boss, despite both being at 100% stat power. Once a player reaches level 85, they've got 150k hp and they're doing 30k dps. That level 60 boss has only 6.66x the hp of the player, and produces negligible damage.

    Once the Squish occurs, the level 85 player only has 20k hp (1/50th of the boss) and puts out 3k dps. The Vanilla raid boss's damage/HP wouldn't likely change any, as they were implemented into a linear system and wouldn't need to be adjusted.

    40 man raid bosses would be difficult (or at the least, very time consuming) at almost any character level, simply due to the character to boss ratio (40:1). 25 man bosses would be more difficult to guess at, as they were all produced under the exponential model.
    That's a bit incorrect. The "squish" would happen to mobs as well. Using your given example above the player's health is reduced rougly 7.5x (150 K to 20K) which mens Ragnaros would go from 1 million health to roughly 133.3K health (1 million/7.5).

    Blizzard would have to keep everything relative.
  1. LegendsnDreamz's Avatar
    I find it funny, who a lot of people find the smallest most ludicrous thing to gripe about and say they are taking dev time away from more important things...like more raids. Then you have a lot of people saying they preffer the squish model, which would be a ton of work and more on top of that to balance/perfect it. Honestly the abbreviation model (mega damage) is a simple fix and makes sense.
  1. ZenX's Avatar
    "Or you can adapt the style of having the larger health pools and numbers with reducing the digits to an abbreviated form(K for 1000, or 2^10 to be more precise) for where you just ignore the lower digits for the sake of reducing the needed effort of calculation... For example, suppose in the case of that ilvl 750 piece of item, assuming a player wearing gear on par with it will have around 366K attack power, or 0,36M attack power, now at this point suppose I am to crit with an ability outputting something 4xtimes more than this number of 1.830K or 1,83M. However, this is similar to how we had and attack power of 366 and did 1.830 or 1,83K damage, hence, my proposal would be to keep the big numbers in terms of the player sees it(omg 1M crit) whereas adapting a notation where digits below 1K are truncated(essentially zeros), and similarly 1M count when we are on the order of those numbers. Some may ask whether how can this be handled with lower level gear and transitions? There are two alternatives to it: 1 - This would require the player to be more aware : Any item used that has its required equip level smaller than the character's current level by 5 levels will act as a gray quality item. 2 - This may be a harder modification to be done on the engine, and a bit more fancier to handle: Change the items’ stat representation with an equation of “Stat = Modifier*ilvl”, and otherwise it is a case of displaying the stats, the engine responsible for the calculation will be only concerned with the modifier and will handle the calculation with this modifier parameter, though, I need to make some serious calculations to how to list this modifier and its growth level. TL;DR: Trick us into doing billions or zillions of damage, while handling the computing with numbers of 3 or 4 orders smaller than them, aka always deal with number of 4 significant figures or 4 digits(1,234 or 4321 etc.) for the calculations. Edit: In addition, for the prevention of players one-shotting bosses, apply the modifier of challenge mode for anyone who's entering the raid instances of past expansions with them being tuned for 10-man mode, and player tuned to be on the appropriate level(e.g t11 heroic gear on lvl 80 for ICC), thought this may not be viewed well by many people(sorry mione) So no more soloing of raids..."
  1. Chromathos's Avatar
    I'm very very very much for the item squish! I dislike the current model of people having 100k+ heath and critting for 40+ all the time, While I know it's just numbers and would essentially be the same if we went back to 20k health, I much prefer that. Seems kind of silly with so much health and damage, but might just be me.
  1. Charagon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Yobtar View Post
    Why are people thinking they won't be able to solo old content? Everything (stats, health pools, damage & healing down) is cut down by the same amount, so it would just like loving the decimal one place to the left. You going from having 100,000 health hitting a target with 1,000,000 for 25,000 to something like 10,000 health hitting a target with 1000,000 for 2,500. I'm sure people will make an addon to add an extra 0 or two to the combat log to make you feel more powerful.
    You do not understand what is happening.


    Vanilla raids were designed for lv. 60 players.
    Level 70 players are roughly three times stronger than level 60 players.
    Level 80 players are roughly three times stronger than level 70 players.
    Level 85 players are roughly three times stronger than level 85 players.

    You can solo Molten Core, because you equal about thirty level 60 players all by yourself.

    What the item squish would do, would be to get rid of the massive increases between lv 60 and lv 80.
    Lv 70 characters won't be vastly superior to lv. 60s. Level 80 characters won't be vastly superior to 70s.

    However, the raids will still be tuned to their appropriate level.


    Right now, the difference between lv 60 and lv. 70 is about the same difference between lv. 1 and lv.60. The same goes for 70 to 80.
    What the item squish does is change it so the difference between lv. 60 and lv. 70 is the same as the difference between lv. 50 and lv. 60.



    Basically, don't expect to solo anything you couldn't solo one expansion earlier.
  1. Ryme's Avatar
    Right now, they just need a simple piecewise function to allow gear to increase from expansion to expansion but at a linear rate, or perhaps you could get away with some slight exponential growth depending on how much effort you want to put into the function.

    The discontinuity from each point just needs to be sufficient enough that gear from old expansions still sucks when we change to the new one.
  1. Crashdummy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mackenzie View Post
    I demand a graphic for "You healed for 2 Mega HealDamage."
    Not anymore, not since Cataclysm, at least not in term of percentage of target healed.
  1. Kiru's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SleepySlug View Post
    It wouldn't be a flat %.
    I know it wouldn't be a flat % change, but the people arguing about Old Content are saying "Oh it's fine just cut Illidans Health, Your Health and Damage to 10%, IT'S ALL THE SAME WITH SMALLER NUMBERS" when this is nothing like it would be.

    At the end of my post I said it wouldn't be a flat % change.
  1. wiIdi's Avatar
    here is my crappy idea: remove the last digit on every item, do something similar with hp and dmg
  1. terrih91's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LegendsnDreamz View Post
    I find it funny, who a lot of people find the smallest most ludicrous thing to gripe about and say they are taking dev time away from more important things...like more raids. Then you have a lot of people saying they preffer the squish model, which would be a ton of work and more on top of that to balance/perfect it. Honestly the abbreviation model (mega damage) is a simple fix and makes sense.
    a simpler fix would be to just scale up to that point slowly. if they rush into it then they are burying themselves to jst get up to ludicrous amounts of stats like in the second picture. why do we need a massive jump or a reset on our stats?
  1. CheeseSandwich's Avatar
    my only question is, if they "squish" the itmes for MoP, will previous tiers still be soloable?

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