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. strafefaster's Avatar
    Item squish sounds amazing as long as the pulled it off right. That'd be a lot of stuff they'd have to scale down.
  1. Racerover's Avatar
    Squish it!
  1. Solidito's Avatar
    If they squished it so we had the health etc we have now and do a bit more damage then it's fine, but going down to 20k or so like they said and hitting for hardly anything would be very annoying and quite depressing in a way to a lot of other people.
  1. tohyatvc's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by JebJoya View Post
    I realise it's only a mockup of a potential solution, but Fig 5 certainly implies that T3 epics of lv60 will be ~= ilvl to Lv75 items, and an epic from the end of Burning Crusade should take you through to level 85 - anyone else find that a little odd? Feels like running a couple of raids while levelling will just remove the gear progression for a couple of expansions... :S Meh.
    It's a tiny mock up of the scaling. Don't take that exact image 100% seriously, but it is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.
  1. Bad Messiah's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by StayTuned View Post
    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.
    I know Blizzard, and you too: in our hearts we know that this is what we are expecting, but the reality will be a lot different. Blizzard will be unable to retune all contents in that, perfectly way: everything will gone messy, soloing old content will be impossible.

    Blizzard had lost his mind from Wrath. I seriously don't trust Blizzard anymore when he talks about "changes" like those. If they will go for the "squishy" solution, I really think that this game will be gone, for good.
  1. Isadora985's Avatar
    My feelings are pretty much the same as Hoggs. It's much easer to number crunch when the number is smaller than larger as long as you are doing the same % of damage, who cares how much damage you are actually doing? Remember when doing 200 dps was badass? I do and I always thought the HUGE jump in numbers was absurd. Bring on the squish!
  1. lix's Avatar
    Squish them. I think you get a lot of additional benefits from 'normalizing' the growth, as more people can be competitive along the journey in pvp, world pvp, etc. Normalization closes the gaps and thus creates a larger pool of players to interact in all situations.Nice to put the options out here for discussion. The numbers are already feeling absurd and comical. I really hope they squish them.
  1. think309's Avatar
    If the squish did happen, they would lose a *lot* more subscribers. The vast, vast majority of players do not read any sort of gaming forum. They would just see a nerf and say "Screw this game."
  1. Prothall's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Alenarien View Post
    This has the potential to make old content much less soloable, and therein lies the potential to loose my monopoly on gear that might drop in having to depend on people. While at higher levels it might make sense, in other aspects of the game such as this, I have a foreboding. Do not want? Potentially.
    But you'd still be doing the same amount of damage - the article says that. It would only be the numbers you're seeing that have changed. If I'm reading it right.

    This part here:

    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.
  1. MarriageAuch's Avatar
    It's a completely relative concept. It could be measured on a banana scale, or in cubic feet. As long as the item you have is of sufficient 'weighting' for the content you face then it really doesn't matter. The best solution is to equip everyone at lvl 1 with full heirloom items, and allow them to grow up to cap with a modifier +n on each stat, never change look, design or sets. Very very boring.
  1. StayTuned's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiru View Post
    I did get it. I understand everything is relative.

    But without huge, gigantic ilevel jumps between expansions, Old Content will become more difficult, they even mentioned this in their own FAQ

    I don't think you're right. They're talking about leveling and that the difference between level 49 and 50 will be less significant than it was before.

    If you jump from itelevel 400 to 410 today, it will be the same relative increase as 500 to 501 because the boss HP won't increase at the old rate, but at the new rate. Only the numbers are going to be lower.
  1. Zemin's Avatar
    Indeed I'm with the majority and would love the squish.
  1. Kassina's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by I Knew It View Post
    I support the item level squish. Its needed.
    This, that with Mega Damage and that sounds weird ;8
  1. Morvandus's Avatar
    Boubouille, pollyfy this thing. I'm really interested in the results. I fully support the item squish. It's just weird critting for like 1 million, isn't it?
  1. Skutch's Avatar
    It's the same e-peen folks, they just changed how they measure it, move along.
  1. Zagash's Avatar
    My vote is on 2nd solution. Cata players may be feel nerfed but it'll just a while they get familiar. Vanilla or BC players will agree sofast because most of us not just only know but we live the ilvl/stats problem. Needless to say fresh players are unconcerned at all in this issue.
  1. WyrdUp's Avatar
    SQUISH! Honestly though, and then Blizz could just make stat values actually be the stats on the piece... You know, like: Expertise 9656 ...and then make 9656 Expertise ACTUALLY WORTH 9656 Expertise... /gasp! No math to just figure out what stats give in their respective stats? Sooner the better, IMO...
  1. Ivirus's Avatar
    I don't support this item squish. But Blizzard will do what Blizzard wants to do.....I'm going to miss my big numbers
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by B1adebreaker View Post
    One thing they could do i just not scale gear so drastically every expansion, i get you have to make gear enough of and upgrade that people will actually use it but do you really have to go as far as making stats on greens at the beginning of an expansion twices as much as the end game gear from the previous one? I saw just keep the stats on a consistant increase without any MAJOR jumps like they do every expansion.
    They HAVE to do that though or else the first tier(s) of raid content are complete jokes to anyone who completed the final tier of the previous expansion.

    Example: Heroic LK dropped 271 gear. First tier of Cata raiding dropped 359. That's 88 ilvl difference. Now, imagine you just cut that difference in half. That would mean that the first tier of raiding would be 44 ilvls above that of the final tier of the expansion before. You'd end up with ilvl 315 gear being dropped in this hypothetical first tier raid. Now, let's look at what that equates to in-game. That's about 2nd tier dungeons (Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle). Now, I don't know how many of you had Heroic ICC gear, but you didn't replace that very quickly AT ALL. Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle were jokes for most if you had that much gear. To make this gap between expansions smaller than it already is would severely drop the difficulty and satisfaction of raiding at the beginning of an expansion, an issue that was ALREADY a problem in Cataclysm.
  1. coltsown's Avatar
    I am having a lot of trouble understanding why people think old content would be harder. They needed to squish number pre-Cata. No surprise they are having this issue, I am just surprised they didn't talk about it when the players did(or make a plan.) I remember having conversations about this when BC first came out.

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