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 850 Comments
  1. ElementalThreat's Avatar
    I support the squish.
  1. Rockmahparty's Avatar
    Mega damage... Please go for the item squish!
  1. Dewote's Avatar
    wait what /lol'd
  1. Ultima's Avatar
    Nerf us. I'm pro-Item Squish. Considering they want to bring a 'Vanilla feel' back into the game, this is the perfect time to introduce this.
  1. Sokolas's Avatar
    "We know that we have something to do but we can't decide what".
  1. Kpal11's Avatar
    Dont bother nerfing us seriously :L do the 5000M DAMAGEEEE!!!
  1. Eein's Avatar
    Item squish plz.

    Make the epeens shrink a bit, and crappier computers happier for not having to calculate crazy numbers. ty
  1. Kiru's Avatar
    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.
  1. 4KhazModan's Avatar
    Honestly, what did they expect? They incresed health pools sooo much for cata. Tanks went from 50k to 160k +. They didn't need to inflate them that much and if they had just kept the increase in health pools from wrath to cata like it was tbc to wrath, the numbers wouldn't be so ridiculous.
  1. floater6's Avatar
    Gogo squish. Do not want scientific notation on my screen!!!
  1. Imhullu's Avatar
    It is a problem, stuffs become so incredibly inflated. If it means we end up being weaker overall then so be it, gaining 5 levels of gear shouldnt have completely made old content absolutely derp faceroll.
  1. blarwick's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Burritaco View Post
    This would be a good thing for them to do for 4.4, so they can balance it before mists.
    Squish it. It might feel weird at first, but so would thousands of a stat on an item.

    Just make sure to rebalance all mobs health & damage at the same time, or its going to get crazy.

    It will also could bring back a little less disparity between classes and specs.
  1. Cairm's Avatar
    Wtb more mega damage. I like mega damage.
  1. Criptos's Avatar
    So long as I can still solo everything that I can now (old raids) I don't care. I see that changing though with ilvl squish, honestly I prefer the "mega damage" Or if they did the ilvl squish, keep Vanilla -> cata lower, then put MoP where Cata items are today, so we still are strong relative to the old shit, and the numbers won't be foreign.
  1. Xanthurial's Avatar
    Okay I'm just going to come out and say it, I want to see Mega Damage, with that picture and all LOL
  1. Onshava's Avatar
    One of the biggest problems with number notations is younger players may have a hard time grasping the concept. Sure, my 28 year old brain knows that 6k is 6000 and 6(10e3) is 6000, but could a seven year old brain wrap around that? What about a 14 year old? Adults aren't the only people playing this game. My name is Clinton, and I support the item squish.
  1. blarwick's Avatar
    Actually, another thought I just had...What about squishing before each xpac? Allow the same increased curve for the next xpac, so that you are getting rewarded strong with ilvl jumps. But then before an xpac launches, squish the numbers down and decrease the disparity between a fresh max level and a fully-raided max level right before the level grind of the next xpac.
  1. Radioactive Hobo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kragragh View Post
    We need a poll on which option we'd prefer!
    aye a poll would be lovely but I imagine we can all see what way it'll go already.

    I amglad they've seen the silly that stats were getting to and how dumb it was to massively inflate stats at the end of Wrath. I'll be glad that it won't be such a big ilvl jump between areas as well. I mean, when you finish Northrend, you immediately have to go up from ilvl 174s and whatever to 272s. It's a huge jump and always has me worried on a new char how long it's gonna be before I'm in good enough gear to do the new dungeons for the area. My only concern here is how capable we will be when solo'ing old content afterwards. At 90 will I still be able to do my weekly Attumen solo? What about MGT or BWL?
  1. tobokke's Avatar
    This was more or like predictable that we would arrive at this dilemma with more and more gear and expansions. It's pretty much the same problem with the world today: exponential growth of money, resource consumption, population, etc... On the topic: I think a mix between both solutions would probably be the best decision. Nerfing everything down ma feel awkward but it makes much more sense than a single nobody doing 3 million damage with an auto-attack. Other type restrictions could be implemented such as: you need more strength to bypass some sort of defense but you end up doing the same damage; implementing a mob resilience in which it reduces the critical strike chance against the mob, so you need to stack more than for lower level content; same for hit rating which already is in play. There is so many ways blizzard can workaround this that presenting these two only "solutions" makes me feel that they're being lazy about the issue... Just sayin'.
  1. Shiftyshifty's Avatar
    I too am with (what seems to be for now) the majority in saying that the "squish" solution is best. The only problem becomes how to you balance the leveling content and old raids/leveling dungeons. With less of an increase in stats, the lower level dungeons will fall into that category of "skippable" meaning that, because the gear improves at a much slower rate, you can feasibly succeed in a dungeon "tuned" for levels much higher than you would previously. That said, I like the idea and think that it would be a good proving ground to weed out the mature players who understand what is going on and the immature ones who cry "NERF!!".

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