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. Drogotaar's Avatar
    Squish seems very reasonable to me, go for it!
  1. Jawstrock's Avatar
    Persoanlly, I never got why they were so adamant about having greens of new expension replacing all epics of the previous one. They should of let previous epics still be good for the leveling duration, and not have to inflate numbers so much every new X.0 :/As for the two choices. I like big numbers, they are fun to watch... specially with my druid tank's health (BC was fun for that, more health then everyone ^^). But I also get the server load bigger number imposes on the servers, so might as well have a nice "RESET" button for the 5.0 pre-patch, and just start fresh from there, and be damned if there is QQ(cause let's face it, there will always be QQ everyone about anything and everything!). The main concern is, what about the next expension? in the graph it shows cata with a huge jump.. woudl they nerf all epics from raids by then so it feels more in check with their new model?"MY EPICS HAVE BECOME GrEENS!"
  1. Bad Messiah's Avatar
    Item Level Squish = Soloing Old Content gone for good.
  1. StayTuned's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiru View Post
    This would be a good thing, but most people (even myself a little, though I understand everything is relative) will not appreciate being 'nerfed' to such a ridiculous degree. MMOs are supposed to be about constant progression, yet if this went through we'd be back to TBC Numbers.

    As I said, I personally think it's a good idea (Though I'd be sad to lose my big numbers), the backlash from it would be insane.

    One thing I do immensely dislike about it is, it will make Old Content challenging again. Some people might like this, but personally I like the fact that I can faceroll my way through TBC and WoTLK raids with a small number of people to get Transmog gear.
    You didnt get it at all.

    They would squish everything in the game. from your itemlevel to the hp of a boss. it would be totaly the same as it is right now in all aspects. only the numbers would be lower.

    this being said, i prefer squishing
  1. Flimsy's Avatar
    Id support the squish!The numbers are getting crazy, people will seen get used to the new number system if its implemented.
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    It'd have to be the squish as Mega Damage is really only a small stopgap, as stated in the OP. Even with that whole Mega Damage idea, or anything similar, our systems will still have to compute ridiculously large and increasing complex numbers, which becomes a serious technical problem very quickly.It will be really weird to experience the squish but it's really the only way to go. My largest concern regarding it is actually the leveling process though, not anything endgame. Endgame will be built and balanced extensively with this in mind when it happens, so there's nothing to worry about there at all. But going back through all the 90 lvls (as I don't really see this being a task that would feasibly be completed for 5.x) of leveling content and making sure it all works is a seriously daunting task (which is why I don't think it'll happen in 5.x). But if anyone can do it, I'm sure Blizz can. The biggest concern after that will be forum backlash of "Y I duz only 2k dps nao?"
  1. Berri's Avatar
    I don't get the issue with big numbers; I would actually HATE to get all my stats reduced in the way that they describe for solution 2; I'm more interested in solution 1: with these changes, mobs in Vanilla zones would have to go down to something like 50 health or something... I don't think it's good. The current number system is good, maybe when we go into thousands of stats they can add K's or something as suggestion in solution 1.

    I don't think people have a big issue with the numbers - just with the ratio of health pools to damage done in PvP. I was hoping that would be changed to a model where it's more like Wrath than it is like Cata.

    Anyway, I would be majorly disappointed with an item crunch like solution 2 seems to suggest. I don't wanna go back to doing WotLK type damage that I was doing two years ago.

    Also I don't understand what's wrong with small increases on item level stats: they don't want people to be able to use gear they worked hard for in the future expansion? It's stupid... yeah, I never understood why there was such a huge ilvl jump; it's probably what I hate most about WoW and what I dread most about every new expansion.

    I also think it's weird that these are the people that consider it 'too much work' to rework Outland and Northrend to fit current lore, but are now suggesting they rework how every spell and health pool in the game scales. Stupid.

    Yeah, I'm a little angry with this idea.
  1. Findme's Avatar
    They introduced the higher item levels and with it the higher health pools to take the burst from pvp, now they aren't happy about their own fail? Lol, if they want to squish it, they need to change the health of maaaany mobs and bosses in old content. And with it they need to adjust the health pools too, since they can't cut the numbers without completely destroying pvp.
  1. Westlander's Avatar
    I agree on the squish.. BUT, let EVERYBODY ( so not only the MMo-champs) clearly know beforehand, because other wise 80% of WoW's population will just freak out the minute they start playing after the patch.
  1. Ripentine's Avatar
    Well even if I thought its stupid, as they implemented it, i think it would be stupid to de-implement it now! I dont want to get 2,5k DpS instead of 25k. :
  1. Effet's Avatar
    Squish it. Rogues, mog your head gear into Bloodfang hoods....ah yes, I can the past now!
  1. tuesday the paladin's Avatar
    If they squish it to that second graph wouldn't that remove any sort of gear wipe with each xpac. My guild and I could take our awesome deathwing gear and go straight into raiding the first tier of content in mop? Or instead of dealing with buggy/impossible fights in the heroic dungeons at 90 our guild could run through a lot of heroic deathwing fights for easier/faster gear upgrades. I know I'd find leveling from 85 to 90 a little boring if I only replaced one or two items along the way.
  1. Crucialus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by StayTuned View Post
    You didnt get it at all.

    They would squish everything in the game. from your itemlevel to the hp of a boss. it would be totaly the same as it is right now in all aspects. only the numbers would be lower.

    this being said, i prefer squishing
    So, like, say I just finished soloing the Shattered Halls heroic, most mobs there have 20-100k HP, would that go down if my character's health was reverted from 120k to 20k?
  1. d3v's Avatar
    Squish please, Mega Damage sounds retarded.
  1. I Knew It's Avatar
    I support the item level squish. Its needed.
  1. Taurenburger's Avatar
    I´d love it, health in the 100Ks is rediculous. Who cares if your dps goes from 40K to 400 if you're still topping every chart? I know I don't (not that I ever will top the charts).
  1. Synche's Avatar
    I would be for the item squish, as cool as it is to have 200k HP etc it is getting out of hand now. Although it would "feel" weird at first, it would all scale proportionate to everything else in the game. Back in Vanilla, when you got an epic, it was actually epic and was a big upgrade (in most cases), with the Item Squish they could make it to that there is more of a difference between teirs, IE a ilvl 101 item would be a good upgrade over an ilvl 100.

    Sure there will be somewhat of a scaling issue, but it would be back to the Vanilla aspect where if you want the epic gear you would need to work for it, that is hoping that the content is still challenging anyways (but with the 3 difficulties, I would still say that HM will still be hard, atleast to most players)
  1. Gurbz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Crucialus View Post
    I'm not sure if I agree with the squishing idea. Mostly when it comes to Soloing content and raids/whatnot? (Might be understanding it wrong?) We'll still do as much (relative) damage as we do now, but as of now, soloing old content is something I enjoy doing because I'm not about to die within 2-3 hits (playing a non-plate character), how will our health scale? Also, if we start doing 3000 damage versus 30000 (or 300), will the bosses health also go down from 50 millions to the 3-4million of TBC? *confused*
    It would make soloing old content harder, especially for non-plate wearing classes. But if they squished our stats, they would have to lower the stats of pretty much everything in the game by the same amount. The idea is it should feel the same as it does now if you are doing content relative to your level. Old raid bosses would be more difficult, relative to how they are now, and may keep non-plate wearing classes from soloing even Vanilla raids.
  1. Matutin's Avatar
    Well if someone knows a bit of programming, the problem is that bigger numbers > bigger variables to hold the data. bigger variables > moar resources needed.
  1. fears's Avatar
    I don't remember where they said it Wilcox, but they aren't going to remove mounts from the game anymore, there was an uproar over the Nax drake and such. I'm in the same boat as a paladin. I like to solo old raids for nostalgia and mounts and xmorg gear so I hope thats not taken away. As far as gear not growing, it would be weird to look @ old tiers and not see slightly larger numbers but as far as the combat text and hitting for a million and so forth I agree. That could get quite spammy on the screen width-wise

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