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. Brewskee's Avatar
    WTB ADDON FOR MEGA DAMAGE POP UP ON CRITS. Srsly.


    Anyways, I support the item squish.
  1. dragon171's Avatar
    Big numbers please, really don't want to climb up and up from each expansion, only for it to now just plumit to the ground with tiny numbers...
  1. Seregon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Seref View Post
    I vote for MEGA DAMAGE!

    If they "squish" it, a level 90 wouldn't even be able to solo AQ40... >_<
    So it'd still feel like a nerf, since 80s and 85s could solo it. And achievement hunting IS a part of the game for some people...

    I only play to solo old content, do achievements, dailies, quests/lore, pvp, and collect vanity items...

    I don't want to not be able to solo Ragnaros at level 90 <_<
    My main concern would be for soloing low level stuff as well... Soloing old world raids and dungeons isn't really something they should be supporting, but doing the item squish kinda throws that whole scene up in the air. Not sure I'd like that...
  1. laxbrah's Avatar
    i had this question cross my mind several times but was never ever able to come up with a real "solution" except for the fact of blizzards idea of the Item level squish. yes i know we all want to see big numbers blah blah blah along with big crits. If it is still the same % damage you are doing now, then who cares. people [i feel] shouldn't thrive off of BIG numbers and a crit for 80k, yeah its sweet but with the way everything is going and potentially growing to the point where our computers and their servers are not going to be able to handle everything all at once. with stat reduction it makes it feel "not right" but i mean, its not about us, its about what works as a whole. and in my opinion, i think item level squish would suffice the problem that they are running into.
  1. Penguirrel's Avatar
    i'll be fine if this still allows me to solo older content stuff as I can today with my incoming health drop
  1. Narshe's Avatar
    Sad part is they literally talk about this at the end of every expansion so far and still havent found a solution. Inflating health values in Cata was great on paper, because supposedly it would make pvp battles last a longer period of time, but it didnt work out when the dmg output of players was raised so high that the extra health wasnt any different than in wotlk. Players need large health pools but low dmg and healing output. They blamed wotlk ilvls being messed up because of adding hard modes in Ulduar, but here we are again, especially with the upcoming looking for raid adding yet another tier of ilvl they have to add in. I dont really understand why they cant do simple math to understand where gear ilvl will be 3 patches down the line in an expac.
  1. laxbrah's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Simca View Post
    I'm so glad they could finally admit this is a problem. I support the item squish personally and want them to do it for 5.0.
    i definitely support it!
  1. Dili's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Seref View Post
    I vote for MEGA DAMAGE!

    If they "squish" it, a level 90 wouldn't even be able to solo AQ40... >_<
    So it'd still feel like a nerf, since 80s and 85s could solo it. And achievement hunting IS a part of the game for some people...

    I only play to solo old content, do achievements, dailies, quests/lore, pvp, and collect vanity items...

    I don't want to not be able to solo Ragnaros at level 90 <_<
    Not!
    Read this again:
    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.
  1. deadarmour's Avatar
    SQUISH THAT SHSS! I want to go back to the old WoW! All that matters is that you hit the hardest.. not how big the number actually is so SQUISH IT BLIZZ!
  1. Tricsun's Avatar
    6,000,000 damage on a 600,000,000 health boss isn't much different than 600 damage on a 60,000 health boss. Who cares if people solo old content? It's old, the only reason you're doing it is for transmog/mount drops/boredom anyways.
  1. phai's Avatar
    This is the first post since LOONG that I actually like. I don't know why, but it's good to see that these insane amounts of stats are going to die ... well, hopefully. I hate it to look at items now. Just too many of everything.
  1. venus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Seref View Post

    If they "squish" it, a level 90 wouldn't even be able to solo AQ40... >_<
    If they squish it, they will undoublty squish mob health and stats too.
  1. Crashdummy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Charagon View Post
    Because they want to make the lv 60-85 power scale relative to the 1-60 power scale.

    No they dont. That's just one solution they gave. They algo gave the mega damage solution which doesnt "make the lv 60-85 power scale relative to the 1-60 power scale".

    Using a linear progression from now on would solve the problem without nerfing the toons.
  1. Asooka's Avatar
    How about a Hybrid of the squished Idea. When a new xpac is released everything prior to the most recent xpac gets a 50% squash, most recent gets 25%

    :Example: Pandaria is released Vanilla-Wrath gets 50% squish, cata gets 25%.
    Starting stats for Pandaria would be about 5% above the now squished cata stats and at the end of the Xpac be about 30% up.
    This leads to only a 5% increase in numbers per Xpac vs what happened after Wrath. I think both sides could come to like this format. You wouldn't go from 30K dps to 5-7k dps. It would be more like 30K to 20K then at the end of the Xpac be doing 40K(these are examples I know there are classes doing more than 40K atm on some fights.)

    This solution would slow the stat inflation, but preserve the ability to go back and solo or take small groups into older raids. The across the board squash might break that(though that would be fine to me honestly). I only suggest this to try and appease both sides.
  1. dragconus's Avatar
    i kinda see a problem with both ..and a solution to both...and the reason is i think u guy's need to do both..just not to the extreme of either solution that was provided..i think crunching down numbers into k's and we could still handle that very well...into millions would be a bit ruffer and prob a bad idea. seeing something hit for 200 and seeing siomething else hit for 12M is going to be just as weird...so the solution here should be 12,000K to repersent 12 million( the 200 was from item lvl squish). the other prob is that with "ilvl squish" you run a huge risk of misbalancing and making it impossible for people to progress...or making it even more easy then it already is . I still think a little ilvl squish is needed to balance out with any changes in Pandora but no where near the extreme of what was mentioned. Stats will be the biggest challange....the higher the stat the weird the % the harder to balance. i think here the base stats should be left on gear as is..i know it's weird but we can't mess with those too much any way. But the other stats (haste,crit,mastery ect.) need a way to go from 1000's to 100's to better handle percentages. if not i think players can still handle that part very well...( in fact i love big numbers on gear) it was just a suggestion to let computers get a less work load....soon we will approach lvl "100" which in any other game that cut off is 99. so....maybe at that point we can use a refresher? yea?....say we become heroic lvl 1 or H1 and get a x-pac that caps at H20...that would be nice...but then again....bringing back the titans so i can kill them would be pretty tight too.
  1. TheRevenantHero's Avatar
    I'm in favor of megadamage. The Rifts RPG player in me craves it.
  1. Reta's Avatar
    Squish please !
  1. Narshe's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Simca View Post
    I'm so glad they could finally admit this is a problem. I support the item squish personally and want them to do it for 5.0.
    They "admit" this is an issue every single expansion so far, and havent found a solution. TBC has a aura nerf when you raided Sunwell. WOTLK introduced hard modes in ulduar and the ilvl's skyrocketed, and now we have more ilvl because of looking for raids.

    2 prepatches now too btw where they "normalized" gear levels and its still an issue, such shortsightedness on their part.
  1. Tricsun's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dragconus View Post
    bringing back the titans so i can kill them would be pretty tight too.
    Unless they all suddenly went insane like sargeras, probably not happening.
  1. Mongoose19's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Tricsun View Post
    6,000,000 damage on a 600,000,000 health boss isn't much different than 600 damage on a 60,000 health boss. Who cares if people solo old content? It's old, the only reason you're doing it is for transmog/mount drops/boredom anyways.
    And that being only thing to do nowadays after raid is over, tut tut...

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