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. Goatfish's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Rorcanna View Post
    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.
    Good, please leave if they do this. This is one of the things they can do to get me to come back to the game since it felt like absolute crap trying to get used to having 150k health when my entire previous raiding career was between 8 and 20k health.

    Gear progression should happen through the levels, but they have had it at a rate far far higher than it needed to be. Going from the top tier of one expansion to the top tier of the next should be around a 2x-2.5x increase in stats, and they kept that up right until cataclysm. Where they decided "durr we are going to try to balance the game around pvp even though that has never worked in the past and always screws something up" and gave us a 5x-7x increase in stats. I personally wouldn't even mind numbers being crunched as far as they say even though I think it might be a bit much, because these people holding onto these ridiculously bloated numbers need a reminder of the past.
  1. Kryos's Avatar
    I don't see the problem except too long numbers that are hard to read. Solution. Remove 3 Zeros and add a k, remove 6 zeros and add a m. We did that with memory in computers already and all are fine. You guys really want to log in and do 92 fireball damage when before the patch you did 85000?
  1. Shriekbat's Avatar
    I say they should do the squish the last Cataclysm patch. I think if they can't decide what to do and wait to 5.X, somewhere after MoP has been released and most people are 90, it would feel a bit disappointing. However, if the lower numbers are presented at 85, you get some time to get used to it and then get to level from 85-90 feeling your power rise and everything's cool.
  1. DiabloCanyonOne's Avatar
    I'm in favor of the item squish, but it could make soloing old content more difficult. For example if the numbers worked out like so: Currently: BC Raid - ilvl 125 Cata Raid - ilvl 350 Difference - Cata 280% higher Post Squish: BC Raid - ilvl 75 Cata Raid - ilvl 125 Difference - Cata 166% higher So you'd have less of an advantage after the squish.
  1. Trogburn's Avatar
    SQUISH. Plain and simple. I have always been a huge opponent to the exponential model that Blizz developed and decided they didn't know how to fix. At the end of the day, the game should be based on skill and not gear. If gear is what makes you destroy someone in pvp or something in pve then the game has failed in my opinion. More or less normalizing gear, rewarding players with slight increases for their 'performance', and and focusing on content... what a crazy idea.

    As stated by Blizz, this will reduce the extensive amount of large numbers that the game has to compute during play, and therefore will reduce overall requirements needed to play the game on max settings. System/video lag will be reduced as a result, which of course they will fill up with more graphics but still, it will help overall. Yes, the transition may feel clunky or like a huge slap to the junk with dead fish, buttttttt it will be worth it.

    Rip that bandaid off as fast as possible, you have my vote!
  1. Wuwei's Avatar
    I think the best solution is to implement The Squish, but give max level players a buff in old instances/raids that scales relative to the expansion that instance or raid was featured in. The earlier the raid (e.g., Molten Core) the larger the buff, which would give an approximation of exponentially scaled power levels, while keeping The Squish working as intended in current content. The values should be easy to figure out (not that they're vital to the game's integrity anyway), and that seems like it should solve the issue of soloing old content while being easy to implement and maintain through future expansions.On the other hand, Mega Damage sounds awfully cool.
  1. Eiffeltower's Avatar
    why do i get super angry every time i read a dev watercooler post.It's always along the lines of 'we fucked up countless times; this is why we change stuff'.Get items to increase 1 point of strength at a time, and it WILL be a compelling reward, since that will be the standard. I really couldn't care less whether my char has 10 or 20k intellect, all that matters is end result. IT's like they make changes for people whining, and then explain why they have to pedal back. No firemage should ever be close to 90% crit anyways, let alone 70%
  1. Zazey's Avatar
    They even said it themselves in the article : "squishing it seems logical, and works, it just feels weird." .. Squish it. It makes perfect sense and it WORKS. Not to mention some people forget the fact that from vanilla-bc-wrath they lost, while it may not be a significant amount but a loss none the less, players to the fact that they didn't want to see themselves just scaling so high with 150k hp. This can bring some players back. It also gives the game that old feel where stats actually matter, not oh hey I have 5k strength and this gem gives me 40... ok.. that 40 is near meaningless in 5k... Whereas say you have 500 strength and a gem gives you 8 .. that is is significantly higher then that 40 in your massive pool. Plus it will make stat choosing/gearing much much much simpler when your dealing with 10s instead of 1000s, not because of math but because when you need say 789 expertise to be at cap, and your gear will put you at 830 with the best reforging/gemming, you have a chunk of expertise wasted. Implementing the squish will make it easier to get the actual cap without wasting stats. BTW for all of you idiots who fail to read their actual post and instead just look at the graphs and colors and say " WELL NOW I CANT SOLO RAG WTFBBQPL0X!~!!!!11!1" Pro tip: read.. they specifically state that your squished fireball will still hit the mob for the same percentages as it does now meaning that they will also squish the mobs health/dmg output. If this post is TLDR.. heres the short story: Squishing will make it easier to stat balance Squishing will bring back players that quit because they didn't like to see themselves scale ridiculously, though this argument can be turned around. Squishing will STILL ALLOW YOU TO SOLO BOSSES BECAUSE THEY WILL BE SQUISHED AS WELL! Personally I hate seeing myself with more health then a boss that took 40 people to kill. And for all you people who want the mega crit thing... how about I make an addon that does that anyway and you can feel cool and go brag to the mage next to you that doesn't honestly care that you just "Mega crit" something. 100% in favor of the squish and just thinking about it makes the game fun again.
  1. Scyth's Avatar
    If I were to chose between the "Mega dmg" and item squish I'd definitely go with the item squish.. Numbers on items have indeed grown a lot not that I care for that but still. The mega damage idea sounds retarded to me.. I would much rather feel nerfed at the beginning of MoP because they have tuned the numbers on items down than to see, for example my Mangle doing.. 1 damage I'm sorry but that idea is plain stupid. Tuning items down is the way to go for me. (And yeah I'm one of those guys who likes to see big crits!)
  1. ganush's Avatar
    Ok, so I just looked at the graph and it's not giving any data. It's plotting character level vs. ilevel, but ilevel isn't a measure of damage or health, its a randomly assigned number by Blizzard. I'm all for a gear reset, but please show some meaningful data, not some random graph that is void of any real data. The growth of the curve is thrown even more by the fact that we went from 10 levels an xpac to 5 lvls in Cata. If Blizzard wants community imput on the decision, please trust the community enough to give us real data on gear escalation and some real numbers regarding what a squish would mean.
  1. Zole_Zole_Zole's Avatar
    I am appalled the amount of people in favour of the item squish idea.
  1. redocdlab's Avatar
    It's kind of funny that I have see other posts where people complain that old content is so easy that it's no fun. They want scaled instances so old content doesn't get forgotten. Now all is see is people complaining that if they squish the numbers, they can't solo old content... some one needs to make up their mind!
  1. tsi9383's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Seregon View Post
    My main concern would be for soloing low level stuff as well... Soloing old world raids and dungeons isn't really something they should be supporting, but doing the item squish kinda throws that whole scene up in the air. Not sure I'd like that...

    I agree here, but if they changed the item levels they could then change the boss levels as well. If they do that I'm all for the squish but I've never been one to care about meters in raids, just that the boss falls over dead and stuff drops. If you really need to see those beg crits mod a current floating text to add 00 to the end of all damage as it floats up.

    The only problem I see with the whole thing is move from one range to another when leveling a new toon. Right now moving from one expac to another via questing there is a item gap which causes issues. I'd really would like to see the squish happen and then stay that way. so yes you don't see a 50 agi bump from one piece of gear to another a bump of 8-10 can be just as good as long as the rest of the game is balanced around it and that jump FEELS like a big upgrade.

    As for itemization going forward instead of big numbers they could use smaller numbers staying with the squish but adding more fun proc based or on use.
  1. Tricsun's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Eiffeltower View Post
    why do i get super angry every time i read a dev watercooler post.It's always along the lines of 'we fucked up countless times; this is why we change stuff'.Get items to increase 1 point of strength at a time, and it WILL be a compelling reward, since that will be the standard. I really couldn't care less whether my char has 10 or 20k intellect, all that matters is end result. IT's like they make changes for people whining, and then explain why they have to pedal back. No firemage should ever be close to 90% crit anyways, let alone 70%
    It would have been fine if they had done it all from the beginning, but like you said, they fucked up. Right in the post, they said that everyone that tested the squish said it felt "wrong". You'll get a lot of people leaving on just that alone, the whole feeling of being nerfed into oblivion, no longer being able to do the big numbers that they like to do. To all the people that say "Fine let them leave", get over yourself. More people leaving is ALWAYS a bad thing, and blizzard is in this to make money, not lose it. Something should definitely be done, but whatever they do, it's entirely possible that their sub numbers may not survive the change, that's why they have to do it carefully.
  1. Naethanus's Avatar
    It was bound to happen one day, and now we're approaching some ridiculous numbers, I say go for it!
  1. marty096's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Tricsun View Post
    Wrong, everything will be "squished" down, mob HP, mob Damage, everything. It said right in the post, you'll still be doing the same % of damage to a mob, so their stats will be reduced by roughly the same amount as player stats would.
    People don't seem to be understanding this. Please look at the graph again. Cataclysm mobs would be scaled down, so we won't notice a difference when fighting EQUAL level mobs. Since our gear won't be exponentially better than lower levels, bosses in any raid will be impossible to solo. Currently we are about 300 item levels higher than level 60 raids. We would be about 100 higher according to the graph, in the best gear available at 85. The mobs are being adjusted for equal level players. They aren't going to adjust MC so 85s can roflpwn bosses there.
  1. Crashdummy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by redocdlab View Post
    It's kind of funny that I have see other posts where people complain that old content is so easy that it's no fun. They want scaled instances so old content doesn't get forgotten. Now all is see is people complaining that if they squish the numbers, they can't solo old content... some one needs to make up their mind!
    Maybe, i dont know just an idea, those post were made by different people?
  1. Donald Hellscream's Avatar
    well this won't deflate stat value which means you will still hit for extreme numbers and have a high health pool.. i dont get why the numbers are such a big deal to me it sounds like " i dont want 1000 str on my chest piece make it 1k instead! despite the fact that its the exact same thing!!"
  1. Shidare's Avatar
    I vote for the squish down thingy... The numbers will decrease but they wont be as ridiculous as some gear was from 80-85!
  1. isendims's Avatar
    I like the squish method exactly how its portrayed in the graph, ilvl has been increasing alot and gaps between tiers have been crazy they dont need to separate the tiers with that much stat difference. How BC was to vanilla is how every xpac should be.

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