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. wartywarlock's Avatar
    How about they d the nerf, but have an interface option so on your screen every damage/heal value is multiplied by 1463 for those that want to see stupid big numbers. Honestly though, I see the squish as the best way forwards. It needs to happen for the good of the game. Also the technical reasons given are valid, if every calculation starts needing to be done with 512bit numbers (ass number I know..) it will have a small effect on performance, not least on the servers, from calculation times to even just database load times.
  1. Shamgar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ElDoorO View Post
    If /everything/ is scaled down by, say, 80% -- this won't make older content harder. You do less damage, have less HP -- and so does the boss.If they scale only level's 60+ down -- then, and only then, will any content get harder.
    If you look at the graph they made, it clearly depicts vanilla at ilevel 60, BC at ilevel 70, and wotlk at ilevel 80, cata up to ilevel 170'ish at last tier. With a squish like that, yes, old content will be more challenging. You will have a 10 itemlevel difference between BC and WotLK, instead of 150. You would gain almost no stats from level 60 to 70, and a BC dungeon would not be soloable for a level 80 character.
  1. Dammpe's Avatar
    I realy miss tbc stats , they was so perfect....
  1. valenwood's Avatar
    the stats on items don't have to change with a squish, per se. you can keep every item in the game the same, and grow them the same, as the 6.3 example, even. but just make the damage those items produce go down, divide all damage, healing and health pools by 100. this way gear can increase at the same weight, we don't have to nerf all the old gear, and the solution of having large numbers in the threat stack, or damage stack, get relieved. like if i skill currently has a damage formula of something like

    damage = AP*1.20 + .4*weapon damage.

    this would now be:

    Damage = AP/100 * 1.20 + (.0004)* weapon damage

    the issue is less seeing 10000 str on a weapon (relatively small number for a computer to use), as it is having the servers compute trillions of threat points, that's a lot of significant figures. wrath gear would still be able to be 20 tr vrs 26 str, but all stats just affect things less. we would all have smaller health pools (some rounding here would occur, but on the order of 1 part in 100) and do less damage, but still not have to worry about fractions of a strength.
  1. Charagon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by CheeseSandwich View Post
    my only question is, if they "squish" the itmes for MoP, will previous tiers still be soloable?
    Not as much as they are now. That's kind of the point.
  1. Crashdummy's Avatar
    Why cant they start growing linear from now on? and leave the past as it is? That would make a lot mroe sense than this without nerfing the toons.

    I mean, they could jump from linear mana cost untill 80 to another desing from 80 to 85...
  1. xindykawai's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by eitjayar View Post
    Did he just splipped that next expansion will be 5 lvls only?95?
    i think we all already knew that hu?

    Squich solution for me!, just let me solo old content
  1. Auloria's Avatar
    Squishing would be fine. People would complain loudly for a week and then get over it.But I MUST HAVE MEGADAMAGE!
  1. Charagon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Crashdummy View Post
    Why cant they start growing linear from now on? and leave the past as it is? That would make a lot mroe sense than this without nerfing the toons.
    Because they want to make the lv 60-85 power scale relative to the 1-60 power scale.
  1. durgle's Avatar
    I think they should just do away with stats completely. have tiers of gear with hidden stats on the backend, and then do whatever you want with the numbers.
  1. TheTrueM4gg0t's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by CheeseSandwich View Post
    my only question is, if they "squish" the itmes for MoP, will previous tiers still be soloable?
    probably not, but that would be a welcomed sideeffect. I don't think soloing was ever really intended to be done, it's something that came (because of ilevel inflataion) and was accepted. (and nerfed if it was abused)

    I would very much appreciate a "squish"
    now really, whats the differance of getting used to having 200k HP more in the next expac, or 200k less?
    you have to get used to it. but thats all.
    people will be happy being on top of the dmgmeter, now matter what numbers it displays.

    go squish!!
  1. maccaruso's Avatar
    Maybe someone could help me understand this. I see many people sayng lower tier content would be more challenging with the "squish" but Ghostcrawler stated:

    "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."

    If attacks are still doing the same percentage of damage to a player/creature that woiuld indicate the player/creature has been compressed in accordance. Making the gap of 60-70-80-85-90 just as wide but with smaller numbers.

    Edit: It also seems highly unlikely Blizzard would make older content become more challenging out of the blue. It would alienate a fair percentage of their player base.
  1. Binki's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Chromathos View Post
    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.
    Me too.

    It might affect ability to solo old raids, but that will only make things more exciting. Having to gather 10 people to do Tempest Keep instead of soloing it will be much more fun.
  1. Baelic's Avatar
    Why not just stick to a more linear model of growth than exponential? You can still tweak it to give that same "omg powerful gear" feel, but without it going outof control.
  1. AvalonTLW's Avatar
    VANILLA? Are you F* joking?It is Classic!The classic days of WoW.F* everyone and their family who call it 'vanilla... vanilla.... Thats like calling [insert your favorite band name] for Justin Bieber. UGH!
  1. xindykawai's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by thetruem4gg0t View Post
    probably not, but that would be a welcomed sideeffect. I don't think soloing was ever really intended to be done, it's something that came (because of ilevel inflataion) and was accepted. (and nerfed if it was abused)

    i would very much appreciate a "squish"
    now really, whats the differance of getting used to having 200k hp more in the next expac, or 200k less?
    You have to get used to it. But thats all.
    People will be happy being on top of the dmgmeter, now matter what numbers it displays.

    Go squish!!
    ^^^^^^^ this !
  1. Dewote's Avatar
    I'll hope for squish. I feel silly running around with 140k health as a caster.
  1. Arnoror's Avatar
    Honestly, if they take lvl 85 as basis for squishing, lower tier of content would be easier for players that have the contents level and about the same for lvl 85, and don't forget that there will be again an itemlvl jump with MoP gear.
  1. Accaris's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Binki View Post
    Me too.

    It might affect ability to solo old raids, but that will only make things more exciting. Having to gather 10 people to do Tempest Keep instead of soloing it will be much more fun.
    The reason people form groups for things like Sunwell right now is because they're easy with a group. If Sunwell became impossible without 20+ people again, no one and I mean NO ONE will ever do this dungeon again. Guaranteed. Since the only reward is a slight chance at winning a roll on transmogrify gear. All old raids will be dead forever.

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