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. Ownofdeath's Avatar
    I think the stat squish sounds like the best plan to do. I'm sorry for anyone who disagree's but the numbers in stats have gone way to out of hand, especially in cata. Squishing the ilvl stats wouldn't necessarily change how long it takes you to kill a creature or a boss, your DPS output and damage output would be lower, but the health on the creature or boss would be much lower to even out the stat change. It's going to be frustrating to try and get use to, i agree on that, but like in their diagram pictures, if the game ever got to those numbers in MoP or the expansion after that, It would just be way to crazy. The squish wouldn't effect how you perform, or how fast you kill something, it would still be the same % of damage you put out, even if your fireball for say is only hitting for 2k instead of 25k, the health on the mob may be only 10k instead of 75-100k.
  1. kaid's Avatar
    The biggest problem I see with the item squishing is it does not really fix the underlying issue it just delays them. So we do an item squish now but they keep the same methodology of always wanting each tier level to be big enough that you won't bottom feed or skip item levels and each expansion pack being a gear reset you just delay mega damage by an expansion or two.

    To really fix the issue would require stuff I don't think they are willing to do which would be to both squish the items and flatten out the curve without big gear resets between expansions. This gives you something like eq1 where hard core raiders do the current contents raids and the non hard core raiders wind up doing the previous expansions raids to gear up.

    The plus side of this is you get more content being used but the downside is the content most people are doing will be pretty "stale" and causals would have little reason to buy the latest expansions since they will be an expansion behind. This may work if you can crank out expansions every 7 to 9 months like eq but I don't see wow doing that.

    The really silly thing about the whole item squishing is if cata had not inflated the numbers in such a silly fashion in the first place this whole discussion would have not been an issue for at least another expansion maybe two. Blizz in some ways appears to not be able to look at the logical conclusion of their item level decisions.
  1. jayremy's Avatar
    If Blizzard cared or paid attention to it, old raids can be tuned as leveling raids, open to large level ranges and they would get some use again or at least toned for some end game (not like Z'G or ZA, but merely a presence). LFR for old raids would actually get people doing them, also toning most of the longer ones down to 10 man groups and trimming some "fat" aka unimportant trash mobs.


    I myself was a big time soloer but I would love this change. I may not find myself being able to solo WotLK stuff in MoP, if playing then (SWTOR, GW2, TSW and KoA look mighty tasty) but still if MoP is designed right I should have compelling solo stuff for the current content as well as likely able to do vanilla and TBC stuff, which is more than enough to be happy.

    Its not like duo content is that much harder for a 2nd person to coordinate, it usually and especially if you have a healer makes the content super easy, not a challenge at that point. Even so us soloers have a been a rare breed... or up until people start bandwagoning after seeing DKs solo all the WotLK content, now everybody likes it, but back when I was making posts asking for end level solo stuff (TBC, WOTLK, til very early Cata), no.
  1. ZeroWashu's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by valknut View Post
    Nope Nope Nope. Part of the allure of WoW is seeing your character grow in power, health, etc. All stats are increased. I don't care if at level 100 I have 1,000,000 health. I think this is a part of growing stronger. Not to nerf the numbers so the Dev's don't have as much work to do. Sorry, I want my sword to have 10,000 strength on it for the pure aesthetics. I don't care if the item squish will yield the same effect with a world-wide nerf. Keep it going the way it is, please. I'll subscribe for another 5 years.

    I would normally agree with this but Cata blew it big time. When I realized I was going to have over 100k health on a mage and 180k on my tank I just realized that WOW jumped the shark. We have been heading there a long time. I remember the jokes about +999 spell damage items and they showed up.

    The numbers are just stupid looking, its like a bunch of eight year olds are playing Gods and Galaxies. You have a +5000 Vorpal Sword? WELL WELL, I have a phaser and yeah, its and in my bag of holding there is a battleship, the houston astrodome, and some Kix.
  1. Blacksmithking's Avatar
    I'd like a number squish, and I'd like to see the mudflation rate adjusted so that no additional squishes are needed in the near future--additional raid tiers can be linear instead of exponential.

    A squish does mean I won't be able to solo MC, and characters 5 levels lower than my paladin will no longer be the buzzing of flies to Vigo, but I'll accept that if it means I'm not doing 12 mega ultra damage by the next expansion pack.

    If Blizzard wants to prevent people from skipping content, put up some road blocks. Must be level 90 to enter this instance. Must be this ilevel. Must have completed this normal dungeon 10 times.
  1. Gwynedd's Avatar
    I vote for item level squish to save the life of my computer, but I still want to crit for 12 MEGA DAMAGE. Perhaps we should just omit damage and call it MEGA DAMAGE.
  1. Arril's Avatar
    Why the logarithmic scaling? Why does a 25% increase in item level (600 to 750) mean a 400% increase in stats like Strength? Wouldn't it still be desirable if it were say, a 50% increase in strength?

    I can understand you don't want a geared 85 to be beating raid bosses in level 90 raids, but you can take care of all that with hit rating alone.

    They could fix the scaling issue to make it such that we wouldn't get to super insane numbers in our lifetimes - but not if it continues on it's exponential growth path. Just make it more linear. Linear growth would also make it much easier to squish sometime in the distant future.
  1. Lylyth's Avatar
    I'd love the level squishing. Mega damage sounds childish.
  1. Landuril's Avatar
    Didn't they intentionally inflate stats in Cataclysm to be in line with a number of their new design philosophies such as damage shouldn't be as spikey, healing should be less effective against health pools, PvP should be less bursty, etc? Ghostcrawler seems to be treating stat inflation as akin to some inevitable economic force that they have to take drastic action against. Maybe they should have thought about that before quadrupling the average health pool from level 80 to level 85. Stat inflation in Vanilla, TBC and Wrath was just about fine, it was Cataclysm where it really (and intentionally on the part of the developers) went out of control.
  1. Roudene's Avatar
    Hmm actually I can't test that so I don't know if it is good or no. But overall I think it is. One thing that I wonder about is... will it be harder to kill bosses? Same gear , same bosses but after squish (I think it is logcial that they will squish bosses dmg and hp too xd) .. harder or not?
  1. Mascotte's Avatar
    How about changing the way we know gear entirely? Whatever way you go you'll end up with the same exact problem a year from now. The technology to limit gears effectiveness at a certain point is already there in heirlooms, use that? Example: DW HC gear gets a tag added to it 'This gear does jack shit for you at lvl87 and above' Problem solved? Old gear just lost its use into future expansions. No need for expansion stat jumps anymore.
  1. jasimpson12's Avatar
    Why not do a little of both and squish the obvious issue here which is cata. Cata was to large of a stat jump and its what has caused the biggest issue. It also wouldnt affect old content soloing except wotlk but i dont think not able to solo the expansion before the current will cause as much QQ. And we would only feel a "nerf for basically the end of an xpansion if they do it soon.
  1. Weirdbear's Avatar
    I can just imagine the bashings on DPS in MoP on end lvl instances if the numbers get compressed. "When I was playing Cata I did 30k dps! And you cant even pull 10k now? REPLACE!" Though the compression of the old nrs on stats and so on sounds great. Everything is starting to get to high. But the whole reward feeling he was talking about that you lose if the increase between the diff tiers wasn't as high as they were is something I don't really care about. To me just a slight increase in base stats(agi, str, int, stam, spi) and then different combination of secondary stats, resistance and maybe even proqs is what makes the new tier more exciting.
  1. mklovin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Lylyth View Post
    I'd love the level squishing. Mega damage sounds childish.
    Squish the numbers and just add a K to the end of everything. That way it will at least feel like we are getting bigger numbers still.
  1. Honeyprime's Avatar
    I prefer the squish. I have been thinking for awhile that the ilevel jumps just seemed to wide.
  1. cerbdog's Avatar
    Get to squishing! SQUISH!
  1. Azalu's Avatar
    I actually really enjoyed this article. Makes a lot of sense and the picture was lulzy =P

    I dunno why people would be bothered about DPS drops anyway, that happened at the start of Cata if people didn't remember. People were doing 12-13k DPS at 80 in ICC and then at 85 in greens and blues were pulling only around 7-8k

    We've been here before so the squish should be no problem
  1. SomberAngel's Avatar
    The problem I see with the item squish is that the devs would basically have to go back and rework all the dungeons, all the raids, all the zones, etc, etc... Which would mean more work, I think and more potentials for bugs... Granted, I do not feel that the two items they posted are great either. I just don't want to have less health then a lvl 50 dungeon boss at 90. It would just make no sense at all. I'm seriously hoping if they decide to item squish us, they don't take away all the fun in soloing past dungeons and raids
  1. Feldoom's Avatar
    Squish pleeeeeeeease.
  1. Meakel's Avatar
    I really think this is funny that Blizzard has finally mentioned the "NUMBER" problem with WoW. I've been seeing it as a problem for a while, and I meant to get their forums last night and post something about it, but hey they beat me to it.First off. I say fix the number issue before/with release of MoP. I am all for making the numbers smaller. And yeah people will QQ over the great. my Tier 14 gear only gives me like +1 str more than my tier 13. but I say. PEOPLE WILL QQ over anything they can.Blizzard, you seem to be trying to figure out ways to still keep things balanced from lvl cap to lvl cap 60 70 80 85 90 etc.The way I have been looking at it, and working out a way in my mind would to be do thisilvl = char lvl. this might seem sort of blah or lacking.so say I have my hunter I lvl up to 85, all the green gear i would be getting at lvl 85 with a ilvl of 85 would be so. but a blue would be 85.05 (heroic blue lvl), heroic purples/first tier of expansion could be 85.1, heroic version of first tier could be 85.15 and so on and so forth. To check dungeon abilities you could just use the currentish system u have for checking gear lvl on people for the Heroic Zul or raids. A player would need to have an average ilvl.I just had a 2nd idea that might work better. Set up a range of ilvls based on every 5 lvls of the hero. so a lvl 60-64 hero would have items ranging from 120-129 a lvl 65-69 would have 130-139 etc. This would drop the big ilvl numbers down a lot for you, but still provide a range of numbers for blue, purple, tiers and such. You would also have a little more give and take for requirements on dungeons and raids (or at least a better way to judge them)Also, I would love to see a smarter hybrid hero set up for tier gear. I love playing my pally, I love tanking with her (most of the time), but I would love to be able to swap over to healing or dos, but I hate the fact that hybrids have to farm twice as much to get two sets of tier gear over a standard single purpose class.My idea would to have something in the back ground of the hybrid armor sets that looks at their current spec, and sets stats accordingly. It would also be able to handle changes for a spec swap in that the gear could have multiple chants and gems set to them, and they change when the person changes specs. So I could have one set of tier gear. Chant and gem it for tanking, swap to healing/dps and have a different chant and gem set up. I know this could be a complex system, but I think it is something you might be able to put into the equipment manager system of Wow and really get people using it. You might even all spec swaps of dos only classes to change and have different gems and chants. b/c I know depending on spec your chants and/or gems change.so those are my two ideas for making the item numbers smaller. I hope you guys like them.

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