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. isendims's Avatar
    I like the squish method exactly how its portrayed in the graph, ilvl has been increasing alot and gaps between tiers have been crazy they dont need to separate the tiers with that much stat difference. How BC was to vanilla is how every xpac should be.
  1. willowe's Avatar
    I'd say Squish.Mega Damage seems just, silly. Think about it if you're changing 6million to '6 mega damage' you're not gonna fit 'mega damage' on the screen. So you're stuck with a 'crit' of 6 damage.You're DPS would be something silly, like 4dps. Yeah it's 4 MILLION DPS, but you prolly would see it in recount as a whopping 4DPS. Woot! I feel totally useless/silly now!Squish is the slightly-better option of the two. By the chart you'd bring Cata gear to BC ilvl/stat weights, then we'd go back into Wrath gearing for Mists. I liked Wrath ilvl/gearing.
  1. Facedesk's Avatar
    Please dear god, squish the living hell out of the stats. I honestly have felt this would be a good idea ever since the start of cataclysm, and i'm real glad that blizzard are looking into this problem. To me it just feels real awkward rolling around with 150k hp, and i'd be more than happy with going back to 20k as a tank.
  1. Deatheryn's Avatar
    They did this shit to themselves when they thought it wise to jump HP from roughly 30k in WotLK to 130k in Cata, and w/ that stat increases needed buffed to compensate for the ridiculous amount of HP the bosses have. IMO we should have been sitting @ about 50-60k HP @ 85, top end rather than 130-200k. I am for the Squish, but the QQs are going to be flying! It is all you are going to hear because 99% of ppl won't understand that you are ultimately doing the same amount of damage % wise and I will guarantee that they lose a shitload of subs for something just that stupid!
  1. mikencarly's Avatar
    if it aint broke dont fix it you will just make it worse anyways blizzard.
  1. Ausr's Avatar
    Anyone else laughing at the people getting mad because instead of seeing a 50k crit on a million health mob, they'd see a 5k on a 100k mob? Oh please guys, rage more because you won't have a super mega crit number.
  1. Kosic's Avatar
    Honestly, i'd like to have my items squished, so my hp isn't over 100,000. I found it silly going from a steady 16k at the start of WOTLK, to 24k, and then ended up at 32k because of the HP buff towards the launch of Cata.Back in Vanilla we had about 3.8-4.2k health, then in TBC it was somewhere near 8-13k HP. Then Wotlk wa 16-23k. Now we go from 23k-120/140k Health. It's such a huge number which i disliked. It was a change that ruined a part of WoW for me. Also, it's the reason we got this problem now. I don't wanna see 2 Xpacs down the road, people running around with 2-4 million health.Smaller numbers seem to be easier to manage. But will people like being brought down to a smaller amount of stats, compared to what they've been used too for the past year?
  1. isendims's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ganush View Post
    Ok, so I just looked at the graph and it's not giving any data. It's plotting character level vs. ilevel, but ilevel isn't a measure of damage or health, its a randomly assigned number by Blizzard. I'm all for a gear reset, but please show some meaningful data, not some random graph that is void of any real data. The growth of the curve is thrown even more by the fact that we went from 10 levels an xpac to 5 lvls in Cata. If Blizzard wants community imput on the decision, please trust the community enough to give us real data on gear escalation and some real numbers regarding what a squish would mean.
    Well, all gear with the same ilvl (and gem sockets) have the same stam, agil/str/int, and total ratings as any other piece of the same slot of the same ilvl. That there gives you an idea and plenty of information
  1. Deatheryn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Ausr View Post
    Anyone else laughing at the people getting mad because instead of seeing a 50k crit on a million health mob, they'd see a 5k on a 100k mob? Oh please guys, rage more because you won't have a super mega crit number.
    Yep, and the show has only just begun, so grab some popcorn and a comfy seat because the main event of QQ is about to begin! lmfao!
  1. DBZMerciter2005's Avatar
    I'm for the squish. It's the only halfway decent, viable long term idea they have.
  1. Xenofreak's Avatar
    And this brings me to what has bugged the hell out of me about Blizzard for years now. They have absolutely no foresight. None. At all.
  1. Xinia's Avatar
    People say they want to see big numbers and support the mega way yet with that way all they would see is 300M instead of lets say 3000.
  1. Rizzan's Avatar
    I hope they will choose the second option.
  1. Arganaut's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by malletin View Post
    well this won't deflate stat value which means you will still hit for extreme numbers and have a high health pool.. i dont get why the numbers are such a big deal to me it sounds like " i dont want 1000 str on my chest piece make it 1k instead! despite the fact that its the exact same thing!!"
    Mega numbers just delay the problem. Seeing 1k or 11k or 111k or 1m is just silly.

    The stats are out of hand. Squish them and scale them more sensibly from MOP so it can be sensible for the remainder of Wow.

    Right off Cata as the joke it is.

    Mop is a new beginning.
  1. marty096's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Ausr View Post
    Anyone else laughing at the people getting mad because instead of seeing a 50k crit on a million health mob, they'd see a 5k on a 100k mob? Oh please guys, rage more because you won't have a super mega crit number.
    I think more people are upset about the actual gameplay impact it will have. The graph really makes it look like all that matters is max level. People also don't want to have to find nearly full raid groups for Vanilla/BC raids. Twinking would also take a major hit.
  1. DarkOni's Avatar
    Makes me remember a discussion I had at the end of Vanilla: "If our damage keeps rising like this and Blizz wants to keep PvE and PvP in line we will run around with 12k HP in the Burning Crusade" ... (which should've been a joke, but we all how that went^^) I actually prefer the downscaling idea. You still see rising damage numbers (2.9k Crits getting to 3.1k Crits when starting a new Tier for example), while the DPS Numbers stay relatively low. Should improve balance if there aren't DPS spikes ranging from 22k to 30k.
  1. malletin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Arganaut View Post
    Mega numbers just delay the problem. Seeing 1k or 11k or 111k or 1m is just silly.

    The stats are out of hand. Squish them and scale them more sensibly from MOP so it can be sensible for the remainder of Wow.

    Right off Cata as the joke it is.

    Mop is a new beginning.
    well of course.. though in my own opinion i absolutely love the numbers in cata, maybe im a big number guy but i get the same feeling then i do a 40k crit as i get then i see a fat paycheck roll in.
  1. Deatheryn's Avatar
    What my question would be, is what would lvl1-5 gear look like post-squish? Would a lvl 5 str chest have 0.002 Str, 0.0021 Stam,..etc?,or would it stay the same as it is now but it just wouldn't rise as much from 1 level to the next? I would guess the latter!
  1. Toastythetoasted's Avatar
    i wouldnt mind a squish..though doing signifcantly less damage than i am now isnt right..though at the same time critting for over 1 million isnt right either.
  1. Elgar's Avatar
    But I genuinely don't think that stat budgets need to grow as much as they do - regardless of what your experience says. I think that having budgets much closer is good for several reasons:

    1) It keeps content relevant for longer. I realize that you want everyone to be able to raid every tier; that's fine. But under the current system, old content is completely worthless, it may as well never have existed. In addition to the rewards remaining competitive, the content itself would remain competitive longer. I think lots of players would welcome the ability to introduce some variety to their raid nights, and get something out of it as well (other than more mount reskins!)

    2) It leads to more thoughtful itemization. I realize you don't want people to be making "bad" choices when it comes to gear, but really, there are NO choices really anymore. Even if a new item's stats arent ideal, the higher stat budget and reforging means that its almost always the right choice. Gear may still have about 10 possible stats overall, but there's only one number that really matters. It would keep things interesting if that number mattered less, and you had to genuinely think about your stats a bit more; and it wouldn't kill the game if you didn't have a new BiS item for every slot every tier.

    3) It solves the exponential growth problem!

    In many ways, its just a problem of escalation. When you're throwing purples around like disco lights, casual players want something else that differentiates them. Like a number. "359 is better than 353!" they cry. Yes it is. It is six better; look, it says so right there.

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