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. Mediansoft's Avatar
    They could do the squish thing and then just make it so if you enter older content that was designed for 10+ levers lower then your current amount, it will buff you for 30, 40 or 50 whatever is needed %... they can motivate this with "the enemy cowers in fear by your mere presence...", call the buff "overpowering" or something dunno
  1. Iosif's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Coldkil View Post
    I was expecting a post like this. In fact, i was expecting it at the end of WotLK, since it was clear that stats, hp, damage and numbers in general were goin up wild. Every expansion should be a reset of gear, since we get new content, new items, and so on. Big nerfbat on old content should be a decent solution, since the problem is confined on how steep is the growth. Anyway this brings on the table lots of problems, let's see what they have in mind.
    This was unavoidable with Blizzard's the insistence of "gear resets" every content patch, to much emphasis the be placed on the gear and less on the content/design. I would have liked to seen "gear overlap" vs "gear reset" this desire for the developers to force people to upgrade is misguided at best and completely wrong/destructive at worse.

    Gear overlap is were the top level gear from the previous tier is slight better then the normal level gear from the current tier within expansions and the Top level tier of the Previous expansion is still viable as entry level gear in the current expansion. Gear overlap would allow players catch up by buying previous tier armor from Badge vendors while not forcing anyone to upgrade merely based on iLevel and controlling the explosion of stats.

    Example... (iLevel are NOT Accurate for current game content, this is an example)
    - Entry Gear: iLevel 55-60
    --- Tier 1 (N) : iLevel 65
    --- Tier 1 (H) : iLevel 72
    --- Tier 2 (N) : iLevel 70
    --- Tier 2 (H) : iLevel 77
    --- Tier 3 (N) : iLevel 75
    --- Tier 3 (H) : iLevel 82
    Burning Crusade:
    - Entry Gear: iLevel 80-85
    --- Tier 1 (N) : iLevel 90
    --- Tier 1 (H) : iLevel 97
    --- Tier 2 (N) : iLevel 95
    --- Tier 2 (H) : iLevel 102
    --- Tier 3 (N) : iLevel 100
    --- Tier 3 (H) : iLevel 107
    - Entry Gear: iLevel 105-110
    --- Tier 1 (N) : iLevel 115
    --- Tier 1 (H) : iLevel 122
    --- Tier 2 (N) : iLevel 120
    --- Tier 2 (H) : iLevel 127
    --- Tier 3 (N) : iLevel 125
    --- Tier 3 (H) : iLevel 132
    .... Cont....
  1. mordras's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Prothall View Post
    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:
    The issue for "old content" is not the players as they level, it is the players that are at max level and hitting old content. Take a look at level 60 on the chart. The gear really isn't changing at that level. Thus in Molten Core the loot that drops there and the tuning of the bosses will not change one bit. BWL/AQ might get slight tweaks but not much if any. So a level 60 today would see zero change as there is nothing to change.

    However as a level 85, I would see a change in my run through that instance. My gear is easily going to drop 200 ilvls. So yeah I'll have less health and do less damage. So therefore, the difficulty of Molten Core is going to increase. Will it be tough? Not likely. But I might not be able to solo it like I could today.

    This is something that will happen up the chain. TBC bosses will start seeing nerfs to their health, but a Cata player is going to get nerfed significantly more than those bosses were so therefore they would be harder than they are today. Things should feel more inline with Wrath content, but I would argue it will still be slightly more difficult. The Cata content should have the same degree of difficulty.

    In any case I am in favor of the shrinking thing. Do it every patch before each expansion to keep the silly inflation in line.
  1. Shamgar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Rhey View Post
    We healers start ever expansion bearing the brunt of a new nerf just to make the game funny for the DPS/Tanks, and Blizzard never gave a s*it about our feelings, getting blamed/kicked/insulted/harassed. Those are real nerf, not just "a feeling". Nerf for real the dps/tanks at the begin of the next expansion, Welcome to the Club !
    Do you really think tanks care what spells they are healed with? The healing changes was for healers, no one else. You know why? Because healing was completely and utterly broken. You had to heal with 1 spell, and you had to have paladins heal with that spell, else you could not succeed. It forced weird gameplay, weird gearing and anything that counted was throughput, throughput, throughput. Yes, it affected tanks, but only because the healing mechanics was so broken, that it made tank itemization useless. Avoidance might as well not have existed in WotLK.
  1. elmachino's Avatar
    i can see the trade chat being spammed with "WHY IS ME HEALT SO LOWWW =!!=!1!?!1" if they squish it
  1. Vehemence's Avatar
  1. Rorcanna's Avatar
    And so it comes..the final nail in the coffin for my WoW gaming. I was looking forward to having insane amounts of HP in MoP compared to older content, and doing crazy damage compared to other content...with squishing and whatnot, they're basically gonna put us back at level 80 again with 30k being a lot of health and 7k being a rather mighty crit?I don't want that..especially not since I was hoping to solo even greater WOTLK content and TBC raids come MoP.
  1. eevee's Avatar
    the issue with soloing is that they want to make an exponential curve (non linear) into a linear cuvre. This would make for exemple solo ragnaros 10 time hard, even impossible.
  1. Averice's Avatar
    Mega damage idea doesn't provide exact enough #'s. Definitely squish it down, and soon. Too bad there's no good time to make the change, since they don't want to turn players off by making them feel weaker, who knows what people will do when confronted with such a change.
  1. Arnoror's Avatar
    I'm for squishing. And if I understand it correct MoP itemlvl's would again explode so at least with the first MoP raid gear you should be able to solo everything again. Soloing would only be a problem at the x.0 stage after old gear gets "normalized" and before the new expansions gear is avaliable.
  1. Charagon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Yiest View Post
    Seriously. Did you guys even read the post ? Soloing old content will be perfectly viable.
    How much WoLK content can you solo now?

    How much BC content could you solo in Wrath?

    How much Vanilla content could you solo in BC?

    THAT'S what we'll be going back to.
  1. Malphaz's Avatar
    Squish it please. Its going to get ridonculous.
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Doombringer View Post
    Neither solution is particularly elegant. As he highlights in the article, a level 80 piece of gear will not be a great jump from level 60, let alone 70. It can lead to people holding onto old gear and bypassing content, etc, etc, as he also mentioned. To put it into perspective, imagine if the gear you got in Tier 11 at the start of Cata was only a mite bit less powerful than the newest and latest in 4.3?
    Please take into account the current expansion section of that 2nd graph. This is an issue they've already thought of and the solution is not to include current expansion content in the squish. So while older gear will have ilvls that differ by less, rate of growth within the current expansion would remain relatively unchanged. 4.3 gear would still be a good upgrade over 4.1 gear.

    I'd also assume that if a squish solution was adopted that it'd also be taken into account that it would be a process that would be repeated on a semi-regular basis. Although, keep in mind that further iterations of squishes would not need to take older content into account, only that of that newly replaced xpac.
  1. Shefu's Avatar
    Mega numbers sounds like something out of a Japan made RPG. SQUISH IT DOWN TO THE LAST DECIMAL YARR
  1. pocky_rin's Avatar
    instead of squishing they could just go ahead and make 90 gear weaker, and just think about ways to force u to wear it rather than u trying to cheat by wearing 85 gear. For instance (just a off my head example) you could have a buff thats only present when you are wearing all ilvl 600 gear, like the buffs u get now for wearing all leather. Like maybe the new bosses require less dps but they require a resistance or so, thats not present on the gear itself but that you get when you are wearing a full set. If you didnt have the full set you'd die every boss move. I understand its kinda pointless to give every boss the same buff though its just an idea to work along those lines, if you HAD to wear level 90 gear to do level 90 dungeons some how, then ud still be able to solo old content because those raids wouldnt have the restrictions so you could wear lvl 85 gear for those.
  1. Accaris's Avatar
    They'll lose so many accounts if they squish item values too much. People will do the first tier of raiding in MOP and then never feel the need to raid again, because their gear will be viable for the whole length of the expansion.
  1. reve's Avatar
    I say the ilvl squish is the way to go. The 1st solution is, frankly, retarded - it would probably be better to just have 8000str on chest.
  1. Illitti's Avatar
    The whole reason why numbers are out of place is because of exponential growth. They throw an example like "if we only increase primary stat by one, people would not upgrade their gear", but they don't realize that given this reasoning, there's absolutely no need to increase stats by goddamn 100 per tier. There's surely middle ground between those.
  1. Goretex's Avatar
    E=MC2 numbers are just numbers right? as long as we see them big we're good? but too big we're not? lol
  1. Steineri's Avatar
    how about making gears to buff skills directly?

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