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. Office's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Simca View Post
    I'm so glad they could finally admit this is a problem. I support the item squish personally and want them to do it for 5.0.
    Agree totally...
  1. Civil's Avatar
    Absolutely in favor of squish. The current numbers are a bit ridiculous to be honest.
  1. Bageera's Avatar
    Simly divide every single stat (and Healthpool) by 10.
  1. Bageera's Avatar
    Simply divide every single stat and healthpool by 10.
  1. Grumar's Avatar
    squish is needed if we don't wanna end up with items like those fake ones in post, seriously people, what WoW player would be agianst this?
  1. magria's Avatar
    i am personally in favor of the squish. ive been wondering for a while how the stats could have gotten so high and ridiculous and what would be done about it. alot of ppl will probably be mad that their stats and dps aren't as eeping as it once was, but they need to understand that consolidation is a good thing in that it allows for more goodies and reasonable upgrades to come.
  1. Cibek's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Dejohn View Post
    The biggest problem I see is that they waste too much ilvl on the leveling and pre raiding gear available. ICC heroic gear was 277 gear, the first Tier of Raiding in Cata was 359. Did they really need to jump 82ilvl on quest greens and pre raid garbage gear? I dont think so. If they just tempered the amount of jumps they made for 5 levels and we were sitting at maybe 333 for Firelands now it wouldnt be as bad. The examples they gave were exactly the reason they are in this mess. 5.3 gear is going to be ilvl 600. Why is that? Why are they jumping from say 397-403ilvl in the Dragon Soul raid to 200 ilvl higher in the 3rd patch of MOP. Should do the standard 6 ilvl jump.

    If they followed 277 + 6 = 283 LVL81
    289 82
    295 83
    301 84
    307 85
    313 Pre Raid gear
    319 1st Tier of Raiding
    325 1st Tier Heroic
    331 2nd Tier of Raiding
    337 2nd Tier Heroic
    343 3rd Tier of Raiding
    349 3rd Tier Heroic
    355 Lvl 86

    So even if we swallow the screw up that they made this xpac

    403 3rd Tier Heroic
    409 Lvl 86
    415 Lvl 87
    421 Lvl 88
    427 Lvl 89
    433 Lvl 90
    439 Pre Raiding Gear
    445 1st Tier
    451 1st Tier Heroic
    457 2nd Tier
    463 2nd Tier Heroic
    469 3rd Tier
    475 3rd Tier Heroic

    So that is 125-131 ilvl lower than the ridiculous 600ilvl they are proposing for 5.3 because it has a proper and non wasteful ilvl progression.
    Quote Blizzard Blue post:
    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!)

    Dude, they aren't going to raise the item levels to 600...
  1. Crashdummy's Avatar
    Squishing the stats is the worst idea Blizzard has made in the past months (there had been worse idead in cataclysm, but that's because this expansion is full of crappy ideas).

    It would ruin soloing content, it will create a bad armosphere in the game, it will give millons of people the feeling that have been severely nerfed (even when they wont be nerfed to current content) and will cause a lot of people unsubbing.

    What they need to do is keep the numbers as they are and start a linear gear progression from now on. If they start growing linearly they will never reach the problem they are having.

    If they squish the stats but keep the exponential growth like they proposed they will have to repeat this squishing soon.
  1. Cows For Life's Avatar
    Heh. Remember this thread on the forums from a few months ago? It discussed this very subject. You can see a lot of the usual people leaping to the defense of Blizzard. Guess what? Look at who was right!
  1. Redlokyldoreifanggore's Avatar
    I suppose in all realistic practicality, we wouldn't be making such great advances by grabbing a sword from a quest or off a dead guy, but since when was WoW really that realistic?I like being able to solo Heroic BC instances to get transmog and rep easily, however if they squish the stats down, I feel as though little Redlo wouldn't be able to whirlwind 300 orcs to death in H ramps to get to his possible prize in a matter of 3 minutes...Besides, the enormous numbers are also your prize. The bigger the number, the better you are. Theres an 80-some difference between the Zandalari dps plate shoulders and the normal VP dps shoulders, and while I may get the snot beat out of me by someone with those crazy numbers, I'm completely content with it because I know that somehow he deserved that, whether it was him being a lucky SOB or a vigilant raider. Also, being able to kill something at 1mil hp with 5 people that used to take 40 people a lot of long raid hours to kill is a good ego boost. The 50-85k crits every few seconds make my whole day a little brighter.I don't really support the crunch, but then again I'm also the only guy who doesn't seem to like warriors dressed up as Deathwing. I like the idea of the theoretical items much more. Then again, I'm a bit of a number whore...
  1. Morceli's Avatar
    Read carefully what blue posted.
    The huge ilvl jump was premeditated and i guess they will stick with the idea. ( i can totaly understand that )
    Huge ilvl jumps is what players want. You want to feel 10 times more powerfull in that "next expansion". Its not about new content as it is about bigger numbers.
    Rising ilvl by 5 would make ppl quit as you dont play 6 months and wait for the next patch just to get 2 more stamina and 2 more spellpower.
    They should focus on current content and not worry about ppl who qq as they can't solo Molten Core no more.
    Stats should be squished at the start of a new expansion to make room for noticeable grow from patch to patch.
  1. croana's Avatar
    Honestly, if numbers were to continue growing exponentially, I'm sure that even if the game didn't start presenting information in terms of kilostrength and Megadamage, there would be plenty of addons out there willing to convert stats into quick-to-read scientific notation. If it hasn't happened already, at that point, numbers will almost certainly stop being intrinsicly understandable to the average player. Worrying about word prefixes and rounding errors in game (i.e. 52590 str = 52.6 kilostr = 5.3e4 str) does not really make for compelling gameplay.

    Damage meters have already started expressing our damage in kilodamage (I'm doing 30k guys!), so even as numbers grow exponentially, our way to express them will pretty much stay the same (I'm doing 30M guys!). Ghostcrawler brings up a good point that computers work badly with new numbers, and honestly, I don't know if I need to have my damage computed with a 8 or 11 number accuracy just so that I can announce the existance of those 8 to 11 numbers (which my computer is calculating precisely, but are really only a placeholder to make the number larger).

    People have been saying that they wouldn't like a big squish, as it would make their numbers smaller. I would argue that a big squish wouldn't actually change much of anything at all. 30M damage looks the same as 30k damage if you don't know what the prefixes mean, so honestly it makes no difference between doing 30,000,000 damage or 30,000 damage, at least from a damage meter's perspective.

    The only thing a big squish would change is the way we experience older content. Soloing old content is fun, and a big squish would probably make them significantly more difficult to solo. It would be strange and obvious to players if the new "WoW norm" changed so that soloable content at the end of an expansion is suddently no longer soloable due to the squish. If new gear continues groing exponentially, however, then old content will probably be managable after one or two tiers of new gear.
  1. TitanG545's Avatar
    I don't care what they do I just hope they fix the damage you incur from jumping down a ways. OK in Wrath if I jumped down off this ledge I would take 600 damage, for some reason now in Cata with my 124K health I jump off the same ledge and I incur 12K damage. Does gravity work differently in Northrend or what why does falling damage seem to be so high now? Please adjust that while you are at it.
  1. brrobid's Avatar
    Honestly a squish doesn't have to be catastrophic (cataclysmic? oy). But it does require a re-balancing act on related content. Classic provides the baseline, and leveling needs a smooth progression even between expansions. By squishing previous expansion leveling content (and green/blue gear) onto the baseline, you allow yourself a smooth run through previous expansions. While the current expansion leveling content can experience more exponential stat growth (starting at the baseline).With that, T gear (and S gear for that matter) and their associated raids, can be normalized as well. Normalized tier gear can be incrementally above their associated greens/blues so that they are indeed more powerful, as they should be, but not obscenely so. The current expansion with it "normal" exponential stat growth also means that current T gear also experiences that exponetial growth, to make it compelling as intended.But the previous tiers drop in player interest level exponentially themselves, so squishing them (targeting the established baseline) shouldn't be a problem. The current tier 'T' is the shiny new gear, current raid. The T-1 gear is now more easily accessible (heroic tokens), because it's supposed to be the entry requirement into tier T. Squish that anywhere from 'not at all' to say 10% towards the baseline. Not much, but enough to provide some room if needed. T-2 is largely irrelevant and can be squished rather heavily (say to half-way between T and baseline numbers). The associated content needs to be adjusted accordingly as well. Finally T-3 (and below, and related content) can be completely normalized.Again, when I say normalized, in regards to tier gear the baseline is provided by leveling greens/blues and Tier/Raid/Arena gear are incrementally better than associated leveling gear at baseline, while still exponentially better as you approach current content.A squish is definitely in order. And doing that without upsetting someone is impossible. But by gradually moving previously inflated tiers onto the baseline established by classic you minimize the disruption. By modifying the related content, you also keep the ability for players to solo previous content. It's a lot of work, no doubt, but it solves the problem, and minimizes player disruption. Logging on one day and seeing your 5000 point hits drop to 500 would be annoying, at the least. But seeing it drop to 4500, then getting the new upgraded gear and seeing 5500 would go over much better. In contrast to WotLK where my 5000 point hits jumped to 7000-8000 hits when I moved to the shiny new Tier.
  1. goldaar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by TitanG545 View Post
    I don't care what they do I just hope they fix the damage you incur from jumping down a ways. OK in Wrath if I jumped down off this ledge I would take 600 damage, for some reason now in Cata with my 124K health I jump off the same ledge and I incur 12K damage. Does gravity work differently in Northrend or what why does falling damage seem to be so high now? Please adjust that while you are at it.
    Fall damage is based on a percentage of health....
  1. Saved's Avatar
    i was hoping that after deathwing we got some kind of event or even the result of his dead that make azeroth being afected by outside effects or was turned upside down (think of planet earth the north pole being on south now) that create a negative force over all the creatures of azeroth reducing their stats to half ... its just an idea
  1. midazolam's Avatar
    It's all relative. That said, there are a few drawbacks to the item level squish:
    1.) Soloing old content will be significantly harder. This may not be a high issue for most of us, but for some it's a big drawback. It's something a lot of us to for giggles when we're bored, and this will make it far far harder to do that. While the squish will make us relatively the same for current content, it will make our stats far closer to older content, and thus far less powerful relative to that old content.
    2.) Depending on how far they go with this, there will be some slight numerical issues with damage and healing numbers, i.e. Your 54,449 starfire crit reduced closer to Vanilla damage numbers (assuming a larger squish than I actually expect, for the purpose of illustration) becomes say 544.49 or 544 effective damage. The rounding will have an (albeit very small) effect on the output. This, of course, grows cumulatively over time. This may be minor, but with small numbers is something that does need to be considered when calculating a solution.
    3.) This is a LOT of time that Blizzard has to spend basically redesigning the health and damage of every mob ever put into the game. That is a lot of time that they are spending not creating new content. Given that the rate of content releases has been pretty meager, and the quantity of content per expansion is on a MASSIVE decline, this could be a big problem when it comes to retaining players.
    4.) It's a temporary solution. Assuming WoW is around for a few more expansions, the same trend will continue, and the squish will have to happen again, recreating all the same issues with time over again.

    I agree that something needs to be done, and I don't think mega damage is a good solution, but I think this has plenty of drawbacks too.

    Maybe instead of redesigning the whole game, they just stop increasing the level cap. I for one hate the process of leveling, and would welcome new content at my current level. They could still release expansions, they could still design new story lines, and new content; by raising the level cap they force the increase in item levels. They could skip that completely by maintaining the same cap indefinitely.
  1. Makeemum's Avatar
    I think the example of those chest pieces is a little exaggerated, That theoritical 5.3 gear has x15 the armor rating of what we got now o_O and over x5 the stats, 6000-7000 Armor rating with near 1000 to low 1X00 stats for a top end MoP chestplate
  1. Fixup's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by TitanG545 View Post
    I don't care what they do I just hope they fix the damage you incur from jumping down a ways. OK in Wrath if I jumped down off this ledge I would take 600 damage, for some reason now in Cata with my 124K health I jump off the same ledge and I incur 12K damage. Does gravity work differently in Northrend or what why does falling damage seem to be so high now? Please adjust that while you are at it.
    You absolute tard! Or most likely Troll
  1. Glov's Avatar
    Blizzard, please, PLEASE squish the numbers.WoW started to break its original proportions during LK, but things were still manageable. However, on Cataclysm, the game started to destroy itself - in mere 5 lvls my HP increased from 30k to rhoughly 150k. The Lich King had something near 22m HP - Morchok, the easiest raid boss in 4.3, has ~53m.Please, Blizzard. Mists of Pandaria is suposed to be a "renovation" for the destroyed Azeroth. Talents are also being renewed. Let it be a complete renovation to the game by revising the ilvl system - Let MoP bring back your old players and make WoW shine once more.

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