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. Onscreen1's Avatar
    Squish the whole thing. I know transmoggers will cry but its the best thing to do. I don't like soloing neferian nowadays. Its not the way it should be. Not even for a lvl 95.
  1. themightysven's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Menedude View Post
    pff 12 mega damage is weak I can do 14 MEGA DAMAGE
    14 MEGA DAMAGE? Casual.

    LF DPS, must pull 2000 MEGA DAMAGE, Full on Hunters
  1. Xodiac's Avatar
    Honestly to all those saying "Leave the huge numbers, i wanna hit for a meeelion". That fun will last for a week, then it becomes status quo. Some kind of stat squish is needed or this becomes a ridiculous version of digimon. Honestly this is one thing I trust blizzard in actually getting right(as in squishing everything in the game from 1-90 to keep the feel the same). I do miss reasonable numbers. The bigger numbers were fun in BC, then a bit amusing in WotLK. Now its getting way past the silly stage.
  1. Venius's Avatar
    I am in favor of the item lvl squish.

    -The way I see it, gear should become more powerful as shown in the Figure 5 graph (linear) for all outdated content, and then the raid / pvp gear for the current expansion can still grow in the same way as it traditionally has (exponentially), so that as you go from tier to tier / pvp season to season, you will still earn worthwhile upgrades. Once a new expansion comes out, the last expansion would then be normalized into the linear equation of the graph, and the new expansion's gear would now grow in an traditional (exponential) way. This system would keep item levels in check as new expansions roll out, while still allowing players to progress their power throughout current content.

    -As for the issue of old content: I understand that because of the item level squish, it isn't as simple as dropping the numbers of everything by X%, because you can't simply convert an exponential curve into a linear one by dropping all values by X%. Old content from (lvl 60+) to (whatever the last expansion is) would have to have all values manually rebalanced. The reason for this is that content after level 60 was designed with the exponential curve growth in mind, whereas content up to and at 60 was linear. Even if you drop 60+ content numbers (hp, damage, etc of NPCs and players) by X%, it is still exponentially higher up the curve, just with smaller values. The situation this creates is that a max level player would still be able to faceroll old content, however perhaps not quite as easily as it is now, because the current expansion would still grow exponentially like it traditionally has, except the player wouldn't be hundreds of item levels overpowered like it is now. A player who is not max level, but is also a higher level than what the old raid content was designed for (for example, a lvl 80 player trying to go through lvl 70 black temple), would have a much more difficult time and would likely need a group, because all past expansions would be normalized into the linear equation.

    -My proposed solution would be simply to give a zone buff to players who are higher levels than the content they are doing. This way a player who is the appropriate level for old raid content would be able to do that content normally as intended, and a player who is a much higher level than that content would be buffed to replicate (perhaps not to the same extent as right now) having gear that is many item levels more powerful, making old content much easier for them.
  1. themightysven's Avatar
    Alot of people seem to be assuming that Le Squish would make soloing or two manning old content untenable.Why would that be so? Lvl 60s still need to be able to run a Lvl 60 raid, clearly bosses would get squished too...because if they didn't, can you imagine doing LK at 25 million with slightly better gear than taking down Ragnaros (hipster edition) at 1 million?
  1. Holycola's Avatar
    If they made a small arcanite solo animation after every crit i'd give them money
  1. retpally's Avatar
    squish dem numbers!
  1. Rioo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Gwynedd View Post
    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.
    Your computer won't die because the game needs to handle a few more digits. It's all handled on server side anyways and just sent to your computer to show up on the screen.

    And you know what grows faster then our ilvl? The computer power. We're not gonna reach a point where the servers can't calculate the damage when a warrior hits you. The game would need a lot more expansions before a int, double or whatever variable they use to represent a player's HP isn't enough anymore.

    Just adding a k and hiding the 3 last digits is the best and also most simple way IMO.
  1. Blackout15's Avatar
    Not sure how they didnt see this coming, it was kind of obvious just from vanilla to BC. I mean really, just compare health pools from expansion to expansion, vanilla was like 3-4k hp. Bc went up to about 10k-ish. Basically doubling the hp pools. Then WotLK came out and health pools exploded, doubling/tripling. And now we get to cata and you basically have to times all the numbers by 10, which was a retarded idea. But seriously, they should have seen this coming after they released wrath and scaled the numbers down. Half a year ago i told a friend, just wait till we get to the millions of hp lvls. And he was like, they'l never let that happen. Well.....here we are....
  1. zingar's Avatar
    why does everyone hate "big numbers" so much? are you an idiot that cant count past 10? theyre just numbers, and if they bother you because theyre too long, dont worry, theyll just add a K or M at the end and voila! dont really get the issue here. blizzard mentions computer power but that is one lame excuse because certainly thats not it
  1. Spammeister's Avatar
    Seriously, how Blizzard didn't see that this was going to happen is just laughable. I guess just by having a high turnover rate of peeps working on the game (not just GTFO out of Blizzard-Activision, but getting shoved into D3 or SC2), that the finer points of log-scales jsut got looked over.
    That, or Bobby Kotick really doesn't have a clue about anything.
    It's just easy enough when the next xpac to come out to just scale everything down by a factor of ten. Big numbers are just that, big numbers! Anything over 9000 is just overkill.
  1. yuca247's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Noctim View Post
    LOL the artwork ist hilarious!! CRIT FOR 12 MEGADAMAGE CRIT FOR 124 MO-MO-MONSTERDAMAGE!!!!
    With the Killer Instinct guy yelling it out = win
  1. Alayea's Avatar
    The "item squish" would be a better long-term policy, but I'll be darned if I have to like it. It's Blizzard's own fault.
  1. priestalisha's Avatar
    I'd really hate to lose my ability to solo old content, it's near impossible to find 5-10 people to run ulduar if I'm trying to get something out of there, I can't imagine having to do the same thing for ubrs or BC heroics. Just let the numbers get bigger I say.
  1. Harith's Avatar
    squish them numbers i asked for this back in WotLK, i do agree vanilla ilvls where simply to low that is why you got ppl skiping stuff sens there wasn't much of a jump so you could just do higher end bosses without the needed gear. while in TBC you had ppl doing T5 content sens there where a few parts that where BiS from T5 stuff and grabing the T5P2 set bouns could actually upp your dps (arcane mage).

    i personaly liked that system you had alot(when i say alot i mean 2-3 pices per person) of pices of gear from earlier tiers you needed to get combined with the lastest tier to get bis witch gave you alot of raiding to do, and better yet killing T5 bosses was still hard even in full T6 gear. i think the diffance in hp of a T5 tanks to a T6 tank was 10% or 2-3k witch was half a hit on a boss.

    for ex. the mallet of tides from the lurker below was BiS for fights where you needed hp while the brutalizer was better fights where you needed good threat (remeber those days?) you could live with only having say the brutalizer but it was in your best intrest to have both

    while on WotLK the only part where you wanted to do old content was sens of trinkets but then you over geard the fights so much it was a cake walk

    and look at cata now you don't even need the old trinkets i think only one is the sinestra trinket is still worth getting and that one got nerfed

    EDIT1: and honestly it isn't that much work sens everything is based on an ilvl even enemies and if you just slash down everything evenly it won't be an issue. also it is only TBC, WotLK and cata content that would be nefed not the redone 1-60 and an other bouns is that you won't have those horrible jumps in gear when you get into an exp pack
  1. Powerpuffed's Avatar
    This post was the reason why I made an MMO account to be able to reply on it, yet I was just checking the news Read through few first pages and found out that most of peeps think the way I do also but to gather that all up:guys, really, I'm no an RP player, but I like that blizz puts some shotr movie scens and dialogs that give some lore info even to non-rp player, but honestly, how many of you think that it is correct that some1 can solo Lich King for example, the most powerful dude on TFT, or Illidan, or C'Thun. Really? Any more peeps from Vanilla that have spent MOUTHES with 40 people, and every pull you got him for 4% or 5% more than previous pull gave you feeling that you're closer and closer, and recently, some dude SOLOED that with EVEN ANOTHER BOSS??? C'mon, I feel that is TOTALY WRONG, and I belive most players do.Players keep playing WoW even tho it becomes less and less fun with every expansion because there's no good alternative (really), or because they feel they've spent too many time on it to quit, but item squish will bring back that epic feeling imo!This game brought most joy for me when my mind flay did 316 dmg ticks
  1. felipelk's Avatar
    i have a solution... blow up this pandas and launch world of warcraft 2 ... with a fresh start
  1. Karnige's Avatar
    do it. most people don't solo that stuff anyways
  1. Hircine's Avatar
    I'm all in for small numbers, but what about soloing old content?This isn't going to be a game breaker for me.. but I do enjoy it sometimes.
  1. Kyyrr's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Onscreen1 View Post
    Squish the whole thing. I know transmoggers will cry but its the best thing to do. I don't like soloing neferian nowadays. Its not the way it should be. Not even for a lvl 95.
    They aren't going to nerf just the items and leave the bosses and npcs where they're at, that would be preposterous. They will nerf EVERYTHING, you will still be able to solo Nef.

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