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. Steineri's Avatar
    how about making gears to buff skills directly?
  1. Isrozzis's Avatar
    I think the squish would probably be a good solution, but they do make a good point that it just feels weird.

    It would certainly scale down ridiculous item level jumps and stuff. Maybe they should ptr it sometime for feedback.
  1. Klatar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiru View Post
    This would be a good thing, but most people (even myself a little, though I understand everything is relative) will not appreciate being 'nerfed' to such a ridiculous degree. MMOs are supposed to be about constant progression, yet if this went through we'd be back to TBC Numbers.

    As I said, I personally think it's a good idea (Though I'd be sad to lose my big numbers), the backlash from it would be insane.

    One thing I do immensely dislike about it is, it will make Old Content challenging again. Some people might like this, but personally I like the fact that I can faceroll my way through TBC and WoTLK raids with a small number of people to get Transmog gear.
    I'm sure it's weird in the beginning, but we will adept like we did with all those item levels. There was a time were 20 strength was much, now it's less than the difference between normal and heroic version.

    It's the only way and i hope they go for the squish.
  1. Aurimas's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kendeura View Post
    They could write the stats as 6(10e4) or something, looks less fancy, but that allows for numbers up to the trillions without much clutter.
    Acutally from your example it's (6x10^4) or (6e4). I point this out not to be a prick, only because lots of people WoW age end up bombing science tests based simply on not knowing how to use a calculator, while knowing how to do the actual math correctly.

    On topic: Squish!

    Funny how people have been telling them this for a couple expansions, and in the past it's been "big numbers are just big, we can still make the math work out", now they finally admit they have a problem.
  1. Yobtar's Avatar
    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.
  1. ElDoorO's Avatar
    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.
  1. Graedahl's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by blarwick View Post
    Actually, another thought I just had...What about squishing before each xpac? Allow the same increased curve for the next xpac, so that you are getting rewarded strong with ilvl jumps. But then before an xpac launches, squish the numbers down and decrease the disparity between a fresh max level and a fully-raided max level right before the level grind of the next xpac.
    That is precisely what the item squish mechanic was outlined to do. Note the cata jump (as we are still in cata) in the final graph.
  1. AlarStormbringer's Avatar
    That screenshot is EXACTLY what they need to implement. I want to crit for 12 MEGAAA DAMAAAAGE!!!!
  1. zeock's Avatar
    what's wrong with big numbers? why are people so afraid to see big numbers? you level up, get more powerful items, you get more stats and do more damage, what's wrong with that?
  1. Raztalin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by RedDragon4275 View Post
    If they end up doing this, it's going to feel really weird. I also feel it will be EXTREMELY buggy because they'll have to rework the health of pretty much everything.
    Can't see it being buggy ...

    Applying a percentage decrease keeps everything in line
  1. pocky_rin's Avatar
    Is it really actually an issue? Tbh when I think about my damage in icc hcs with the 30% buff, it was liek around 30k, when I think about the nicest raid boss now my dmg is liek 30k, so wrath -> cata was only a 30% buff in dmg? Just adding on something tiny like cata -> Pandas 10% dmg buff people will still notice and be ok with, we dont have to go from 30k - 30million dps surely. Depending on how many expansions theyre thinking of it would have to be done later but I don't think it's much of a problem now.
  1. Rorcanna's Avatar
    For example.Today we can solo for the blue proto-drake in Utgarde Pinnacle without much difficulty. If we get squished, then they either have to nerf that boss down to do insanely low damage, OR simply let it be and have level 95 chars struggle with it....I'm all AGAINST the squish. Rather let us be really elite and fix the display of the numbers. Player characters should be powerful and it would follow the progression so far in stats and power.
  1. Bad Messiah'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 miss the point.
    The "squishy" solution is great and works very well.
    But the pratice will be different from the (perfect) theory due to Blizzard's incompetence on making changes in WoW the way they should be made. ^^
  1. Black Rider's Avatar
    Item squish is better solution!
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by StayTuned View Post
    But you do know that the stonecore and vortex items would have lowered stats as well thus being again in the exactly same situation as you were before the squish?

    The problem with cataclysm was that the old content remained the same while the new content wasnt adjusted perfectly
    It's an issue of relativity. I mention the Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle instances as examples for what a RAID'S difficulty would be if those differences were cut in half, not of the difficulty of those instances. Obviously those would be even EASIER.
  1. Acquiesce of Telara's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by StayTuned View Post
    But you do know that the stonecore and vortex items would have lowered stats as well thus being again in the exactly same situation as you were before the squish?

    The problem with cataclysm was that the old content remained the same while the new content wasnt adjusted perfectly
    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.
  1. Lucofthewind's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Mionelol View Post
    My answer on the Blizz blog post:.....
    Well thought out and hits the nail on the head, please tell me you posted that on the official blog too ^_^
  1. ArbeeRB's Avatar
    Mionel says exactly what the issue is with all the proposed methods. I hope they read her posts over there.
  1. Patcarnig's Avatar
    I'd love to see small numbers again, thr current situation is getting way out of hand.
  1. Vargur's Avatar
    Don't agree with deflation.

Site Navigation