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. Ohforfsake's Avatar
    @ "soloing old content crowd" ----- convert the old bosses into regular level mobs, rather than skull mobs, problem solved. Easy as *bleep*.. Really. C'thun lvl63 mob, Illidan lvl 73, Lich King, lvl83.. That way you'd still have the required upper hand to solo or small scale group the old content. I myself think they should just let the numbers go into "ludicruos" for at least MoP.. While a lot of you here agree it's just numbers, there are a LOT, and i mean, *ton of people that play this game and arent quite as reasonable. And even those that are reasonable would feel frustration when seeing the low numbers. The cold mind and logic would tell them it's all good but the heart would tell otherwise, it wont be as much fun anymore. And "fun" has never been driven by cold logic. In the next xpack after MoP they could introduce new stats, like 1000 strength = 1 (insert whatever word resembles super strength or is just a synonim of it)
  1. Kathranis's Avatar
    People complaining about "not being able to solo" obviously didn't read the article, or have no common sense. If they scale back the items, they scale back EVERYTHING. Enemy health and damage included. You can solo level 40 mobs at level 60, right? This is no different than that change. And level 90 gear is still going to be exponentially better than level 85 gear. It's just level 61-85 that gets squished down.
  1. WrathDksCataFrostPandaFtl's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyyrr View Post
    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.
    What have they done with Cataclysm and now Pandarium that isn't preposterous, per say?

    1. Instanced/linear quest zones that hold your hand the entire way

    2. Inflated HP with same burst as Wotlk- the exact same thing they said they were fixing.

    3. Made up story, over one drunken night at the local Irvine pub.

    4. Instead of previous expansions, choose a race that was a joke (worgen aside, obviously they are more part of lore than pandas are).

    5. Preventing PvP'ers from getting their weapons for weeks after the announced date because of "not being happy with PvE progression", so that "PvEers are not forced to PvP"; while PvPers were FORCED to participate in PvE just to stay competitive.

    "We don't like large gear inflation" (which they also said after Ulduar and during TOTC FYI) and yet they still went through with it for Cata.
    This isn't a case of "we made a problem and we want to fix it" it's a case of "we don't want to do our jobs consistently, so we'd rather ask you for
    a suggestion, even though we'll just do what we had planned in the first place".

    The items they show, aren't even properly linear, nor is the chart. It's meant to be misleading, just like many of the things this d**3 says.

    Although if they do go through with a stat reduction change in Pandarium, I won't be mad. Bobby Kotick will be, with his stock going down even more after the extra few thousand subs they'll lose.

    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.
    If they actually do that, which I doubt, like level 1-60 revamp, it will just be another one of their excuses for the lack of "real" content. They already have two rehashed dungeons planned, it's become clear that their modus is "less work, more play". And by that, I mean they play, and we have to work harder and harder to actually enjoy this game.

    Let's see, what's actual new content. New class which will be either OP or UP for months, while they complain "but we only made it this year, it will take years to balance this class like the others". Two rehashed dungeons. Rehashed stats, probably not rehashed BC/Vanilla/Wotlk content. Maybe Cata. Lots more pets/mounts/etc. By the end of the next expansion, this game is going to be very close to being F2P, as they won't be able to keep as many people as the one's who are leaving.

    Blizzard knows this, internally, they just won't say it publicly, for obvious reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by ihyln View Post
    I have an idea. How about they think longer than 10 minutes on ideas? Seeing that worked so well for cata.

    Item squish is going to confuse the shit out of players just like wotlk to cata difficulty level. They clearly have lost touch. Everything they have done to make the game easier to develop has been to their detriment. Homogeneity of classes, raid lockout, loot, etc
    This is so true. If only they thought like you, we'd have a much better game in our hands.

    Homogenizing was clearly for their benefit- less spells to balance encounters around (lazy).

    Raid lockout (forcing people to play longer to get gear- wow it was fun in Wotlk, but doing 4 raids a week just isn't possible anymore)

    Same loot, was just a terrible idea. 25 mans were always harder, and almost prestigious. Now everything is just a joke.

    Also, look at BC heroics, to Wotlk and Cata. Not only is icon (and ARTWORK reusing rampant) I remember like 3 different versions of plate leveling up in Wotlk, and in Cata almost all the pre raid shields look exactly the same, healing or tanking. The breadth of their lazyness is astounding, and incredibly apparent.
  1. ihyln's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Prag View Post
    Consumer studies to improve your product make the guy a joke?

    Hi, next exit for Reality 1 mile. Your Low Fuel light is blinking. It's advised you take the next exit.
    I have an idea. How about they think longer than 10 minutes on ideas? Seeing that worked so well for cata.

    Item squish is going to confuse the shit out of players just like wotlk to cata difficulty level. They clearly have lost touch. Everything they have done to make the game easier to develop has been to their detriment. Homogeneity of classes, raid lockout, loot, etc
  1. palladiamors's Avatar
    Eh, this seemed very manipulative to me. On the one hand, they tossed out the idea of changing damaging numbers to just stand for roughly the damage you did, 12k in the example. Then for some reason they gave it a silly name, mega damage, and proceeded to make it sound like a sub-optimal solution. Nevermind that you wouldn't be able to tell how much you actually did under that sytem, since most of your numbers will just be a letter or a symbol. Then they give the other solution, and proceed to more or less say how it's the superior choice, without saying it in those words. "BUT! This would solve this, and this, and that." Then tossed in that they weren't sure of it. They more or less said "Which of these two sounds better?" after throwing out a biased argument. And anyone who has been around Blizzard for any length of times knows that they are NOT going to actually listen to suggestions for something THAT major.Personally? Squish it. Stats have been going insane lately, and the advent of MoP would have just made that situation even worse. Yes, I understand that I will be doing 1/4th or 1/10th of the damage I was doing before, but things are still going to be dying at the same speed. Not that I don't go "WOW!" when I hit big numbers, it's just that you'll still be hitting those numbers. They'll just be smaller. Doesn't make them any less impressive in context, unless you are just insistent on hitting for 1,000,000 damage and seeing all the zeros fly.
  1. Elrid's Avatar
    I vote for iLevel squish
  1. Liliris's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Jawstrock View Post
    Persoanlly, I never got why they were so adamant about having greens of new expension replacing all epics of the previous one."
    I agree with this statement 100%. I started playing in TBC and when Wrath came out I actually clung to my tier gear as long as I could for the simple reason that I'd put in SO much time to get them that 3 green quest rewards into Wrath when a bigger upgrade came along I just couldn't do it. I like the idea of using tier to level with, especially since the leveling gear hasn't been bumped up to 85.

    As far as the changes being discussed, I fully support the squish. My guild mates and I have spoken about this a few times so it's good to see that it's not just us that see the issue but also those that actually make a difference to this game. It will be weird to see everything shift to lower numbers but the idea of the millions of people playing now having to learn new fancy lingo simply because your afraid of the QQing about a nerf seems even more ridiculous to me. Either way it's going to be a large jump for everyone. I personally would much rather see 20k health pools and crits for 500 rather then have to retrain my brain to recognize what Mega Damage or Mega Monster Damage is.
  1. davep's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ihyln View Post
    I have an idea. How about they think longer than 10 minutes on ideas? Seeing that worked so well for cata.

    Item squish is going to confuse the shit out of players just like wotlk to cata difficulty level. They clearly have lost touch. Everything they have done to make the game easier to develop has been to their detriment. Homogeneity of classes, raid lockout, loot, etc
    How would lowering stats on all current items confuse people? They do it now when they accidentally over budget an item, the difference is they would do it with every single piece of gear now and it really wouldn't be something people would worry about.
  1. dragconus's Avatar
    This may seem dumb and smart at the same time...and it involves a much smaller part, but the secondary stats...there huge and then translated to a pecentage and makes it a little diffecult to reforge for some because they don't understand what thier losing or gaining sometimes.
    • So instead of having 5000+ haste on an item why not just translate that to percentage gained on the gear. so if 5463 haste granted us 1% haste (idk what it'll really be) why not just put 1% on the gear instead of 5463 ...so when reforged we under stand .4% just got transfered into lets say crit and .6% haste still remains from the reforge. Just saying..that would crunch down num's alot at least there and prob help players alot.
    the main stats i like big. no reason to crunch those at all imo. but i'm a holy pali that stacks intel..so i want to see lots of intel
  1. Jotaday's Avatar
    Squish the whole dam thing. And I'm not saying this as an ignorant idiot who thinks it would nerf or buff content. Obviously, if percentages stay the same, the game doesn't change, just our perception of it. But think about it, our perception of WoW changes with every expansion and I can barely even remember how Org or SW used to look, and that was just a couple years ago. The truth is the numbers have been too large for far too long and anyone with a brain has seen this day coming. Just slice the numbers and get us back to something functional and do it on the old content with every expansion from here on out.
  1. Alenarien's Avatar
    If the squishing is linear and proportional, no one would have any problems with it as nothing would change as the game is now, save for the numbers.Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be what Blizzard is suggesting.
  1. rickastlee's Avatar
    i vote for allowing the numbers to inflate exponentially to stupid levels... the "mega damage" idea is dumb. just let noobs who hit 90 feel like titans when they do 300k crits... the bosses health pool will always be relative. if you're a min/maxer and you see a crit stick above the boss's head, you're not going to confuse a 500k crit for a 5mil crit. yes, the numbers seem ridiculous when you look at the damage done in vanilla or bc, but so does the lore and the boss fights on illidan and old world bosses.
  1. endersblade's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dragconus View Post
    This may seem dumb and smart at the same time...and it involves a much smaller part, but the secondary stats...there huge and then translated to a pecentage and makes it a little diffecult to reforge for some because they don't understand what thier losing or gaining sometimes.
    • So instead of having 5000+ haste on an item why not just translate that to percentage gained on the gear. so if 5463 haste granted us 1% haste (idk what it'll really be) why not just put 1% on the gear instead of 5463 ...so when reforged we under stand .4% just got transfered into lets say crit and .6% haste still remains from the reforge. Just saying..that would crunch down num's alot at least there and prob help players alot.
    the main stats i like big. no reason to crunch those at all imo. but i'm a holy pali that stacks intel..so i want to see lots of intel
    You must not've played in Vanilla/BC. Gear USED to have percents on them; they changed it, so they could more accurately add stats to gear. Instead of (at the time) having a minimum cap of 1% to add to gear, they can now give you, say, 1.37% with the current rating system. We'll say that translates into 530 rating. As you level, that 1% rating will ALWAYS be 1%; however, that 530 rating that started at 1.37% will drop as you level. Since they for some reason want us to need MORE of a stat to hit 1% each level, they chose to go this route. I personally think it's stupid, but that's just me.
  1. rickastlee's Avatar
    also, to the people saying it won't make soloing harder: if they manipulate the defense values on gear to allow old tier bosses to land more hits on current tier players, wouldn't it make soloing harder?
  1. Pogs's Avatar
    Please, please, please, do the "second solution". Outrageous numbers are outrageous and it gets to a point to where the numbers are so big that it actually doesn't feel epic anymore; it just feels ridiculous. Yes it would be a strange adjustment and everyone would feel that they're getting nerfed but I believe that after a couple weeks people would adjust and appreciate it.
  1. dragconus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by endersblade View Post
    You must not've played in Vanilla/BC. Gear USED to have percents on them; they changed it, so they could more accurately add stats to gear. Instead of (at the time) having a minimum cap of 1% to add to gear, they can now give you, say, 1.37% with the current rating system. We'll say that translates into 530 rating. As you level, that 1% rating will ALWAYS be 1%; however, that 530 rating that started at 1.37% will drop as you level. Since they for some reason want us to need MORE of a stat to hit 1% each level, they chose to go this route. I personally think it's stupid, but that's just me.
    i did play in BC but right at the end so i don't remember it very well...your right though it does seem a little stupid to have rating because even though it gives the mind frame that we are gaining more we're really not. They can break a percent into a decimal to make up for the in-between percent like 1.37% and then when reforge just have 40% of that reduced. Plus as we lvl a percent stays a percent so 1% of a stat will not lose it's value thus really reducing those numbers for the extent of thye game...just up to blizz how much total to put across the gear and make available to us. It just seems to me if they want to reduce the total numbers without destroying it then just break it down like that...yeah at lvl 80 u may have the same percentage of haste as lvl 90 but thats the reality of now anyway. It would just re-simplify it , and make it far easier to balance for blizz and the players.
  1. Syce's Avatar
    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.
    almost sounds like they would be forced to squish item levels or increase their pc requirements to run the game as everyone would need faster processors to run the game decently enough.
  1. kaijyuu's Avatar
    My worthless opinion: I prefer the item squishing. Big numbers don't make things awesome. The only valid argument I can see against it is indeed the old content soloing. That's something I wouldn't really want to lose... but then again most of vanilla and BC would be soloable after this change anyway. It's the wrath stuff that wouldn't.
  1. dulci5's Avatar
    Item squish, definately!
    Why are people so concerned about not getting bigger and bigger crits? As long as they are relative to mob/player health, it'll feel the same after a few days/weeks of playing.. Sure it might be awkward for a while but people will get used to it, I personally would (If I still played that is..).
    This is one of the changes (along with redoing every vanilla race, graphically) that could potentially bring me back to the game.. So if any Blizzard devs are tuning in to this discussion (I doubt it, but you never know, sneaky bastards!), you could potentially regain ONE WHOLE SUBSCRIBER(!) by going through with "The Great Squish" as I shall call it!

    My 2 cents!
  1. Flaks's Avatar
    As much as I love the squish solution I absolutely DO NOT agree with Blizzard that a level 85 should have literally no effect whatsoever on a level 90 in PvP. Level 30-48 could contribute plenty back in the day when 60 was max during a Tarren Mill fight. Now, if you're a level 80 next to a level 85 you're likely to get two shotted and have every one of your spells resisted or every one of your attacks miss. The curve is too enormous between levels. Hell, it gets even worse because a level 85 in 4.0 gear has literally no chance in competing with someone in 4.2 gear. Ilvl scaling across the board has to be reduced as well.

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