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. Notos'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.
    It's pretty obvious why they switched to ratings and why they decay as you level. Let's say that by the end of vanilla, you had enough +hit/crit % items to get you to the hit cap and 30% or so crit. If they continued to use flat percentages for BC gear, the percentages would quickly get to absurdly high levels as gear improved and it would be incredibly easy to hit the hit and even the crit cap. As an example, the heroic t12 dps DK chest has 304 crit rating on it. Going by the level 60 rating conversion (14 crit rating is 1% crit at level 60), that's 21.7% crit chance. So if there had never been a percentage to rating change or rating decay implemented after vanilla, the item's tooltip would literally read "Equip: Improves your chance to get a critical strike by 21%." In other words, itemization would be incredibly broken.
  1. Jokerfiend's Avatar
    Right after Wrath came out, had this discussion. I said when will the madness stop. There has to be a cut off point when are the numbers just TOO big. Yeah cool a million damage, but how is that any different then a 5k crit in Vanilla? It's not. 1 million or 10,000 as long as it feels powerful and meaningful then what is the difference? Some people will complain about anything.
  1. Kryogenesi's Avatar
    I agree with the "squish" solution too,it will be pretty good if the numbers could be "fixed"...the huge amounts of damage,healing,health,ecc.,it's one of the things i still don't like,expecially playing a new expansion.I play this game since the vanilla beta,and like a lot of the customers that still play this game,i miss when you could see 4-cyphred numbers as a good result,in any aspect of the game,even talking about golds.I feel that i can talk for thousands of gamers,if i say that i don't care if i see 2000 damage crits or 100k damage crits,the important thing it's just about seeing the improvements you're building your characters with,the rest are just useless 00000's.
  1. Lumocolor's Avatar
    I'd rather have 20,000 hit points and crit for 5000 again than have the stupid numbers that fill the whole screen in the game now. "Why the fuck were you standing in fire you dumb n00b?" "Sorry i got a crit and couldn't see anything else on my screen but the 1500000000000000000000"
  1. Strakha's Avatar
    Just remove all ilvl distinctions, have all armor and weapons function like BoA gear, where they are wearable to a certain level and then not wearable, also growing in strength to a certain level, that way you never have to buff up the stats to ridiculous amounts. They seem to concentrate on doing the most ridiculous wastes of time these days, I wonder what direction they even have beyond MoP.
  1. zingar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Lumocolor View Post
    I'd rather have 20,000 hit points and crit for 5000 again than have the stupid numbers that fill the whole screen in the game now. "Why the fuck were you standing in fire you dumb n00b?" "Sorry i got a crit and couldn't see anything else on my screen but the 1500000000000000000000"
    thats why another solution is to add K or M so that you wouldnt see so many numbers. anyways im sure even addons right now are able to do that or have those numbers a little bit smaller so that that doesnt happen
  1. Gwynedd's Avatar
    So how about that 12 MEGA DAMAGE image in a wallpaper-sized version?
  1. tuna69's Avatar
    In my opinion, adjust all the numbers and do it sooner rather than later. Just like you said, "it’s better just to pull the Band-Aid off fast and fix everything at once."
  1. ObiRedKenobi's Avatar
    I don't want to go back to 2k dps. I understand and think something needs to be done to curb the inflation but there needs to be something better than just rolling everything back. I read somewhere here or in another blue post that even the developers felt a little weird dropping back in dps. And they wrote the code They KNOW the numbers and still stated it felt weird. Will people get used to it? Sure if they stick around long enough to. I don't care how well they sell it there will still be backlash.
  1. bumrush's Avatar
    See I don't think damage needs to go up. I think at this point they could just scale up our health pools to ridiculous levels, as this fixes a few problems, the burst that is possible in pvp is getting back to wrathlolglobal levels. Since most fights are getting to be more about the mechanics and survivability, you could just have damage coming in go up in raids, and leave damage stats alone, with only slight upgrades here or there. Obviously it still has to go up, since we do want our characters to increase in power rather then decrease, but damage scaling tends to get stupid when defensive stats tend to scale more slowly. I think if this was flipped on its head we would be good to go.
  1. meadatron's Avatar
    I can't help but several of the,
    WTF why you squish game on me folks are the same type of folks who played FF7 and thought

    9999 max damage hit, wtf is that BS.

    there is another option besides squish and MEGA, they still don't see it though.
  1. palladish's Avatar
    if they can do it right, then I'm all for the squish, not the mega damage thing that's just gay
  1. Wolfie of Medivh's Avatar
    What if we just include Classic Raid bosses to the nerf as well? have the base of the curve be 60 leveling gear and then curve up from there. That'd end any problems related to people being afraid they can't solo old raid bosses.
  1. Chin Music's Avatar
    Squish the numbers, Blizzard. If anyone is so stupid that they actually get upset just because their numbers went down, then they aren't worth keeping around anyway.

    Furthermore what's with the "gear for a higher level must instantly always be more powerful" mindset. It doesn't make any sense, you could have kept the numbers so much simpler if you didn't insist that next-level greens HAVE to replace the highest level epics of the previous expansion. Let the raiders keep their good gear for a few levels, what possible harm could it do? In fact most people would probably be happier on the whole if their Ultimate Sword of Impending Doom gotten from slaying a huge boss wasn't instantly replaced by a Better-Textured Rock-on-a-Stick gotten from collecting poo or something equally mundane. All this whole thing does is reinforce that gear is World of Warcraft's sole method of character progression.
  1. Meholy's Avatar
    MOAR MOAR DAMAGE ! **** Squishing. I want to do hundreds of K dmg !!!! I dont care, the problem is they dont wanna work with high numbers, it isnt easy. I go for BIG numbers tho. It gives you a special feeling.
  1. Trigunflame's Avatar
    As long as the squishing doesn't hamper our ability to do previous expansions content (for achieves, transmog purposes, etc) easily (as in solo, or a few people).
    That's the only true "negative" I can see this having - and reducing our health back down to "20k" would be a step in the wrong direction for those purposes.

    That being said, I would much prefer abbreviation (ie. 200k).
    All of the relevant number crunching is done server side anyway (to hamper cheaters).
    Blizzard has the cash, the hardware and the programmers to easily account for any additional processing needed - the impact on the client itself is marginal if not nil.
  1. Princess Lushiris's Avatar
    I am definetly in the favor of the squish. It was way more fun (even if we ignore practical/logical) to have your character grows slowly between levels from 42 HP at lv1 to 4.5k HP at lv60 8k HP in lv70 12k HP in lv80 (accounting in questing gear roughly)... And then retarded to jump to 80k HP at lv85. It stole the feeling of your character developement and forced you to feel that this was only a figure for a gaming mechanic rather than indication to how your character became.

    I personally say it will make alot of sense if during MoP tanks will have 70k health maybe at max, while dpsers and healers run around in 40k to 45k. I really hope this works like that.
  1. segoplout's Avatar
    Read this hoping it was going to be : "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, but it has come to our attention that flying mounts allow players to actually fly over our content, and as such there is no world in the world of warcraft.." (sneaky face).. Ok this sounds like a good idea - item squish but also don't forget monies blizz! Also out of hand or at least soon to be.
  1. Gaiwyn's Avatar
    So long as they don't go with the squish method, we should be fine for all our old content soloing and challenges. But from the sounds of things, I get the feeling that's the route they are planning to take. Despite what they say, it really sounds like they've already decided to do that.

    Lower numbers would take some getting used to, but the biggest kicker is that there becomes much less of a gap between the levels. It's probably been hashed to death since the announcement - I'm late to the party, I know - but surely they are aware of just how many people love both big numbers and the feeling of over-power when you do previous content?

    We are supposed to be HEROES, who have killed every dragon, demon hunter and undead control freak that has come along. Why strip us of what we have become - and overcome?

    A better solution is the mega damage thing, where they just abbreviate the numbers. So instead of critting for 105,445 you crit for 105.4k (or even 1.05MD or something - hell, they should give us that awesome graphic whenever we crit!!). Health and mana would show as shorter, abbreviated numbers, too, much like many unit frame mods already do. Keep everyone happy - that's what they should be thinking about (although however they "scale it back", they are going to upset a certain number of players anyway).

    My biggest fear is that we will no longer be able to solo the previous expansion's content, or even vanilla raids, like we can now. Mind you, if they did it in such a way that level 60/70/80/85 bosses were less powerful than they are now and by the time we hit level 90 we were on par with how we were when we first hit level 85, it would actually be an improvement.
  1. Notos's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Chin Music View Post
    It doesn't make any sense, you could have kept the numbers so much simpler if you didn't insist that next-level greens HAVE to replace the highest level epics of the previous expansion. Let the raiders keep their good gear for a few levels, what possible harm could it do? In fact most people would probably be happier on the whole if their Ultimate Sword of Impending Doom gotten from slaying a huge boss wasn't instantly replaced by a Better-Textured Rock-on-a-Stick gotten from collecting poo or something equally mundane. All this whole thing does is reinforce that gear is World of Warcraft's sole method of character progression.
    The whole "epics are instantly replaced with greens" thing was only a real problem in Cata imo. I know when BC hit, t3 was still better than even some Kara epics, to the point that they had to buff the Kara loot to make it more appealing (and an actual upgrade), and the greens didn't even come close. In wrath, upgrades to Sunwell stuff didn't really start appearing until 187 blues. I know I healed Naxx on my priest while he was still in his Sunwell gear. But yes, they went a bit overboard with the gear in Cata.

Site Navigation