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. kerghan's Avatar
    There are 38 pages here, I did not read them all. If this has been said before, I'm sorry.

    first off - ilvl Squish, PLEASElooking at the graph, this essentially makes a continuous thru-leveling progression of gear up to the end of the most recent expansion, and then allows the exponential gear system* to return to normal for the current xpac. This eliminates the "new continent greens" scenario and makes leveling 1-max a smooth, natural progression. IF they can make the Lore smooth too (hah!) then it'd be completely ideal. The story progresses, you progress. boom.

    The Downside: If you're level 80, BT will still be a bitch. Or rather, it will take a full roster of people, but be less bitchy than content. Ish.
    The Counterpoint: Since max levels still have the exponential system*, once you hit raid-gear you should break out of the "leveling scale" fairly quickly, and then old content will be rofl-fun just like it is now. Ish.

    This all makes sense 100% by the numbers and if you just close your eyes and open them in a parallel universe where this was always the case, then there's no problem. But that's just it. It requires you to reset your mental WoW world to "post patch" standards each time a new xpac comes out. Arguably we do this all the time when talent / spell changes come out, since they dont only change for max level. A new warlock today, will never understand the term 'shard farming'.

    Having said all this, it makes sense. They nerfbat xp requirements to thru-level. They offer less-than-previous-max profession recipes so you dont have to farm drop patterns to skill up. Level 58 / 68 / 80 zones exist in new xpacs and are watered down compared to mid-leveling zones to allow progression. Players in raid-purps always sped through the first zone and never got any gear-ups anyway. What they CANNOT do is allow MoP to exponential* and then stack another set of raid tiers on top of it for 6.0 without equivalently nerfbatting the 5.0 stuff. Welcome to the new "adjustment" of the pre-xpac adjustment phase / world event. Getting used to the ilvl reset.-- As a sub argument of this, let's also consider this a good thing. DPS will be normalized. Bosses tuned for spells that dont behave how they should anymore and dps numbers that dont exist anymore create odd discrepancies. People pulled teens-k dps in ICC all the time. Then 4.0 came, and it took a while to get back up to that double-digit K again. Not... a long time... but some.

    *The Exponential: As it stands, ilvl is an actual scale by which gear stats are determined. It has NOTHING to do with gear color. Think of it like Heirloom gear -- as the lvl goes up, so goe the stats. It's on a fixed scale. That's how they can predict the ilvl600 item in the blue post. They just moved the slider up. The reason we got huge health pools in Cata isn't because they sat down and said "Hey, let's break WoW completely!" (well, they may have said this, but not purely in an ilvl context) it's because that's just what happens when stam scales that high.
  1. Krysler's Avatar
    Being a vanilla player and having breaks here and there, I've been aware of this issue since wotlk datamining. Seeing (tank) health pools raise from the 25kish to 60+ was something i was worried about. How much stats could you end up with from a single item? -annotated in the figs.The easiest way and the probable way it will change would be the number changes. Players already talk in "k" when hitting or the dps theyre doing. Even on players hp, theyre not too bothered about the extra 100hp beyond the 100k mark at lvl85, unless it totals an extra 1k on their avatar hp.I knew it would have to be adressed, even in MOP we're gonna be geeting closer to the 1k stats on items. Having them with a 2.4k str for instance with more detail on hover could help, but we shall inevitably see.
  1. Nraktja's Avatar
    I like big crits and I cannot lie..
  1. Cold_Shadow's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Beyn View Post
    I personally thought about cata that it scaled too much already- big stats and numbers,milions of health - lal WTF and crossed my mind how would that look like in future. Its easy to see upgrade when u have to choose from 100 stats or rating, think it would be too much to calculate in thousands, we are used to smaller numbers, would be ridiculous to ditch 800 stamina and 600 haste rating to gain 1100 crit and 650 strength in one item- itemisation hits the sky and that would feel as nerf again to me at least- rather would Like to squish the stats to make it reasonable again and havin to choose again ur upgrades in between of 30 stats again. Doin 12 milion with aimed shot and a boss with 10 000 bilion hp would feel Like god mode cheat on private server i guess
    or you could be doing 12M damage to something with 10T health. it's really not that bad... just move the decimal.
  1. Beyn's Avatar
    Guys stop dreaming and suggest solutions for big numbers - if u dont see how bad that would be for teh game in teh future sit Down plx and try hard to think about it !
  1. Vook's Avatar
    TBH I'd love to go back to smaller numbers. I remember back in TBC, seeing a tank with 20k HP and going "HOLY SHIT THAT TANK HAS A FUCKTON OF HEALTH". Or seeing that I had 7k mana and thinking that was a lot.

    And really, right now in Cata, it feels really awkward...the gap between 1 and 85 is gigantic. Going from 300 hp at level 10 to 160k at level 85. Whereas back in Vanilla, 1-60 felt somewhat balanced in terms of numbers, going from 300hp at level 10 to 4k hp at level 60. (no, I am not a vanilla fanboy.)
  1. MusashiX's Avatar
    I'm for the item squish all the way. There's so many useless upgrades in old raid content now and I never understood why from vanilla to BC avg player health went from 6-8k to maybe 12k, in wrath 20-30k. cata 120-200k. That's a pretty extreme curve. May want to tone it done a bit lol.
  1. Kumashy's Avatar
    I just read about 20 pages of comments and I have to say, what is wrong with some of you people? Did you completely skipped school or something? Never managed to learn how to read or what the f...?There's a SINGLE phrase in the entire post that answers what a lot of people fear, not being able to faceroll old content...

    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.
    That in and of itself includes: PvP, PvE both old and new. You will do the same damage/healing to EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING IN THE GAME RIGHT NOW. ONLY THE NUMBER DISPLAYED WILL CHANGE IN GEAR/DMG METERS/HEALTH/ETC. He just didn't elaborate and broke down piece by piece what would change, but he's pretty much saying everything will be the same as it is today, just a shrink in numbers across the board.Why is that notion so difficult to understand, does Greg need to highlight it and explain it like he was talking to a bunch of 5 years old for you people to understand it?

    I took one read at it and I got his point. Enough with the chart example already, it's just that, a theoretical chart to better explain how the ilvl increase would look like come release. Stop doing your weird math and being hell bent on not being able to solo X content because they are not nerfing 60 and lower content, and yada yada yada.

    And YES, scale everything back to classic levels and start from there again. Sure, it's gonna be a tad weird at first, but like many people have said, we will adapt for sure after a couple of weeks. Right now, the situation is ridiculous and it's only going to get worst if you keep this ilvl inflation up thoughtout yet another expansion.
  1. Shadefire's Avatar
    The numbers might be getting ridiculous but wouldn't you rather that the developers went for the mega damage option and spent their time working on new content rather than working on old content? Personally I'd much rather have mega damage and new content than everything being squished and a lack of new content. Out of interest how many people voting for the squish would complain about the lack of new content due to the developer's time being spent on old content (again)? Would you rather have the squish or new content?
  1. Puntar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Vaem View Post
    This problem is so easilly solved...

    Keep everything as it is now. ONLY 1 CHANGE IS NEEDED!

    Item budgets should not increase by %, but by a STATIC VALUE!


    Example:
    Tier 12 --> Tier 13, +400 strenght (or any other vary of stats)
    Tier 13 --> Tier 14 +400 strenght (or any other vary of stats)

    Result 1: After cataclysm the items would have had their stats increased by 1200
    Result 2: After Pandaria the items would have had their stats increased by 2400
    Result 3: After expansion X the items would have had their stats increased by 3600

    INSTEAD OF THE 39k stats at the end of 95.

    In other words: Make the item budget LINEAR NOT EXPONENTIAL


    -Vaem/Varox/Astion w/e
    NOT POSSIBLE AS ILEVEL FORMULA USED NOW FOR ITEM STATS IS EXPONENTIAL!

    They won't squish items! Blizz will certanily lower ilevel power on all expansion gear.

    Instead of 85 - 115 ilvl BC blues, LK 135 - 200 ilvl bues, I can certainly predict that in WoW 5.0 if they follow the "classic" formula we will have

    61 - 70 blues for BC
    71 - 80 blues for LK
    and

    81 - 85 blues for Cata

    Gratz we are now back in BC in terms of numbers!

    -------------------------

    For the sake of the game I do hope Blizz also changes the ilevel formula for stats! And make a shaking change to the itemization as well.

    Even if that means fiddling with stats on gear bellow lvl 60!!!

    -----------------
    Just and example of this. (ilevel of items is +50% of lvl - - end game gear for current expansion do not follow this rule"


    lvl ilevel
    20 30
    40 60
    60 90
    70 105
    80 120
    90 135
  1. Kumashy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Shadefire View Post
    The numbers might be getting ridiculous but wouldn't you rather that the developers went for the mega damage option and spent their time working on new content rather than working on old content? Personally I'd much rather have mega damage and new content than everything being squished and a lack of new content. Out of interest how many people voting for the squish would complain about the lack of new content due to the developer's time being spent on old content (again)? Would you rather have the squish or new content?
    I don't see it as time consuming as some people are making it out to be. You know what took developer time? Redoing pretty much every vanilla zone for Cata, that imvho while cool, was completely irrelevant. Sure, it was cool to level a new toon and see how zones changed from way back in 2004 when I leveled my first char, but besides that, pointless.

    Tweaking a bunch of numbers is hardly a 1-year job. I am sure they have the tech already to modify stats on massive content with ease. You think when they nerfed firelands they did it 1 by 1? I am sure they have a program around that lets them tweak the overall dmg/hp/stats on ANYTHING in the game, on multiple items/mobs at once. But we don't know for sure, do we? Besides, it doesn't take a team of a 100 people to do the job, and I'm sure a "content developer" is not going to be doing that job.
  1. spiderfish's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kumashy View Post
    I just read about 20 pages of comments and I have to say, what is wrong with some of you people? Did you completely skipped school or something? Never managed to learn how to read or what the f...?There's a SINGLE phrase in the entire post that answers what a lot of people fear, not being able to faceroll old content...
    I'm going to chalk your inability to grok this concept up to the american public school system.

    I want you, and the rest of the posters in this thread like you, to stare carefully at the two graphs posted in the article.

    Look at the difference between the end of Vanilla and the end of TBC in the first chart. Looks like roughly iLevel 95 and iLevel 170 to me.

    That's a ~79% increase in power from Vanilla to TBC.

    In the second graph we have iLevel 70 at the end of Vanilla, and iLevel 95 at the end of TBC. That's a ~36% increase in power.

    Now look at Vanilla vs Cataclysm in the first chart. 90 vs 410. 355% more powerful in Cataclysm.

    In the second chart? 70 vs 175. Only 150% more powerful. If this were a flat percentage squish you'd like to think it is, you'd still be 355% more powerful in Cataclysm than Vanilla--but doing less damage.

    Now you get it. Old content will, in fact, be almost twice as hard to solo after the proposed item squish.

    -- edit for typo
  1. Karnige's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Shadefire View Post
    The numbers might be getting ridiculous but wouldn't you rather that the developers went for the mega damage option and spent their time working on new content rather than working on old content? Personally I'd much rather have mega damage and new content than everything being squished and a lack of new content. Out of interest how many people voting for the squish would complain about the lack of new content due to the developer's time being spent on old content (again)? Would you rather have the squish or new content?
    they are a billion $ company they can do both. I'm in favor of the squishing but at the same time I don't really care because I don't solo old stuff
  1. Ralidyn's Avatar
    MUDflation = bad
  1. Dynamike's Avatar
    All this addition! Why not involve multiplication? On the item description include the "Item gear level" such as 376. Then have the STR DEX etc have a 1.257 for instance next to it to indicate how much strength or dexterity you're getting. I would of course highlight the 376 because that's what people will be looking at, not how much strength it really has. They want to know if it increases their haste as opposed to crit. And if they want to compare the lvl 376 item to a 375 to see which is better; grab a calculator or have the "true numbers" of the strength appear if you click a button on the item.

    That took me about 30 seconds to come up with. Its the most simple and logical answer which doesnt require changing tons of code.
  1. NSDragon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by spiderfish View Post
    I want you, and the rest of the posters in this thread like you, to stare carefully at the two graphs posted in the article.
    You didn't stare at the graphs carefully enough. They're about item level, not about overall character power. Item level by itself does nothing. It's just a way to determine the item's total stat budget.

    What GC didn't say was how they were thinking of keeping relative character power, i.e. how to make your fireballs still one-shot that heroic 70 boss even after the squish. Which he mentioned as his goal in that same post, by the way.

    Your percentages also mean nothing. If a level 60 character at the end of vanilla had an ilvl of 90, then how is a current character with heroic gear (~380 ilvl) able to do what 40 of those vanilla players could, even though his ilvl is only about four times greater? That ~300% increase in ilvl translated to an increase of power of at least 3900%. Hell, some of us could even solo MC at level 80, with an ilvl cap of about 280.
  1. anyaka21's Avatar
    A linear path has been needed for a while because of the inflated stats as they are going. Something has to be done, and has needed to be done even when TBC came out. Heck, most people when TBC came out replaced half their gear in the 1st 20mins of questing.

    Linear progression also adds a more balanced raiding experience. As it is now, and has been since LK came out, you finish one tier and then no one does any of the other raids any more until either or nostalgic reasons, mount reasons, or soloable do people go back and do them again.

    Personally, I think this could be a good thing. One of the main things I do wonder though with what has seemingly been a mass exodus of players, is...will this work, will it bring back players to the game or will it drive more away.

    I think in terms of the hardcore crowd, they could care less. 50k dps or 5k dps doesn't matter to them as long as they are progressing. It will matter to the solo player who couldn't get in a group to do it him/herself before and as thus needs to massively outgear it to do it. It will matter to the vanity crowd who think they've been nerfed, who only want bigger and bigger numbers without seeing the big picture.
  1. axio's Avatar
    I don't know about the "squish" as they say it, but I agree with redoing all of the stats with a more linear approach... as long as the stats for the last tier in Cataclysm come out to be about the same. If they're just worried about displaying the numbers, then "k" and "m" are very common (especially for the new players coming from Runescape) so it shouldn't be a problem. I just don't think going back to doing 6,000 fireball crits and having 25k hp is going to help this game at all.But if they're worried about the technical aspect of it:"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."Computer's are getting more and more powerful. Technology also grows exponentially... so this shouldn't be a huge problem. A decent computer runs $500. My recently bought laptop for $750 plays WoW on max settings (aside from shadows being on low) no problem @ 1080p resolution.The problem will probably come in when they can only store numbers up to 2,147,483,647 effectively on 32 bit machines. A 64 bit machine however, can do up to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807. So maybe it's time that WoW goes 64 bit? It seems like they've been working on it: http://wow.mmosite.com/updates/wow_4...lient.shtmlHow many PC's that run WoW are still 32 bit? Surely if it's been bought within the last 5 years it's 64 bit, and anything older than that really can't be expected to play the latest games... There would be ways for Blizzard to maintain 32 bit support, but at a performance hit. Of course it's not like we're going to be hitting bosses for 2 billion yet anyway.
  1. niceguy17s's Avatar
    Ive seen some talk of linear models for gear. As great as that sounds in theory, that hurts what they are trying to do. Since they want gear to feel like an up grade to new content rather then moving stats little by little, which a linear model would do. The solution that I can up with since everything in the game is based on a percentage and is exponentially growing as content comes out is to decrease stats per expansion based on a percentage. For example; at lvl 60 is the stats were strength 75 stam 85 crit 30 haste 23 then for that lvl you could decrease stats by 10% they would then be 67.5, 76.5, 27, 20.7, then for content of lvl 70 you would decrease stats at 20% lvl 80 30% lvl 85 35% lvl 90 40%. Keep in mind this is just a thought and percentages to stat ratio was not thought out. Its just the general idea that since stats grow at a exponential rate that if you want to decrease them but still keep the feel that items are a rewards and "big" upgrade during expansions that you would would then decrease them based on a percentage that grows exponentially as well.
  1. rockdontroll's Avatar
    they'll never turn wow into a 64-bit application to address these issues, mainly because most people still run 32 bit windows on their 64-enabled cpus. Its just not the same as simply adding in a dx11 option for those running win7

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