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. Spoonman's Avatar
    Mega damage sounds lame, myself Im aware of this and I dont think its wrong that gear got 5000 of a stat on it. The gap is like the same amount of gear from Vanilla compared too to days game. At first were all like, HOLY SHIT. But after weve gotten used to it shit runs smooth.
  1. The Darkener's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by anyaka21 View Post
    Item squish would actually benefit in a couple of different ways. First, it will make older bosses relevant again. You just can't/won't be able to solo an older tier of bosses because the latest tier or e/pansion serioly trivalizes them. It could potentially add a more balanced progression path into the game. Much more like the old EQ model where you had guilds constantly at different levels of progression. The drawback is that a to on wouldn't be able to go back and solo older content.Secondly, it would bring a more linear balance to the game. It would add value to tier gear and make them usable longer. No more 5 mins into the next expansion and you've replaced half you gear with quest greens.Finally, the whole Mega damage thingseems/feels cheesy. More like Pokemon than an mmorpg
    People need to understand that this will not make people want to do old raids again, the only thing that this could do is make older raids more useless. Since you won't be able to find 40 people to wipe on AQ40 bosses.

    Sure they can change numbers, but if they want to scale as they show on their graphs. Well then, we won't be able to solo old stuff as we do now, which means those raids will never be touched again.
  1. dragconus's Avatar
    i still say do a lil of both ....but not the "megadamage" do the k's.....cause when a number like 12M pop's up it leaves a huge amount of room for other missing numbers....where saying 12,000k can also be like 12,999k...not quite 13 million but pretty close and visable. A small item squish can make it better...but i do mean small...atm we are doing at most 70k on a huge aoe add going up into the lower 100k's is the millions is least for now.Appeal to both idea's can better more people then by just doing one..
    • " Change in moderation "Ghostcrawler i believe, once wrote . What we need here is doing both at much lower lvl's for a medium change to make better for all players...despite what we want or side with.
  1. Vaem's Avatar
    The true problem lies within the % power increase each tier. They should change this to a FLAT AMOUNT OF STATS per tierifference between T11 and T12 should be (for example) 100 strenght, varied in any way stats can.Difference between T12 and T13 should be (for example) 100 strenght, varied in any way stats can.TADAAA a steady clime in stats, and you wont end up having ridicule numbers
  1. gums's Avatar
    I said this on the official forums...will just leave this here... I am all for the band-aid approach. Do it all at once, everyone will get used to it in 1-2 weeks.

    However, you could also implement both approaches.

    Mists of Pandaria could implement the first part: the "Mega Damage".

    However, I would suggest something like this:

    All gear from 86-90 goes like...

    Intelligence = Wisdom

    Agility = Dexterity

    Strength = Brawn

    Armor = Defense

    etc, etc, etc.

    What this will do is all gear you get from 86 to 90 will have the new 'stat'. With this stat you can have a conversion of say, 50 INT = 1 WIS. So when people get new gear, they know anything with Wisdom will be better than the old gear. But it also gets us used to the smaller numbers.

    With the new expansion after MoP, you have 2 options:

    1) Now that we are used to small numbers, change all old stats to read like the new names for stats

    2) Now that we are used to small numbers, go back to the old names for stats but do the 'squish'.

    Obviously you will be introducing a whole new problem for players to get used to with the implementation of 'new stat names'.

    Either way, you will be introducing new things to players, whether it is the squish or mega damage. The best approach will be an all at once approach.

    Players will get it, after 1-2 weeks of normal play, everything will fall in line.

    **As a side note, Blizzard, you should be moving forward with a plan to 'squish' all numbers from 2 expansions ago. So with the introduction of MoP, you should 'squish' all numbers from Wrath backwards. That way players who are a little behind will get the 'epic' feel of grinding gear/killing bosses through Cata and can still have the new expansion character growth feel. So when the next next expac comes out after MoP, you would 'squish' the Cata numbers and adjust everything else accordingly.

    Just my 2 cents. TLR - SQUISH!!!
  1. Sigil's Avatar
    "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 could be a problem, even though I agree with the squish solution. It represents a change on what some of us consider a "solid" upgrade is. I can already see tons of players saying "why the hell would I wipe for two weeks for a robe that gives me 1int more than what I got?"Also, people complaining about not being able to solo old raids and whatnot, all numbers go down, not just ours, which is why this is a massive undertaking; you'd have to somehow balance the old bosses HP so that they have the "old content" feel, not just the new bosses and player's numbers. And even then, it's clear this is the "easy" part of the problem. (We can only hope Blizzard doesn't drop the ball on this)

    It's one of those changes that some will like, some will hate, and most will just get used to IF they make it work. Got to remember that heavy competition is underway, and the last thing you want to do is throw your playerbase off with too many changes. Hell, if I come back and my dots start ticking for way less i'll deal with it, because I know my enemy won't have as much HP either, but i'm not sure some of my other friends will like coming back to the game just to see they hit for 2k instead of the 20k they're used to. Shit, it's hard enough to try and get them out of the "fuk pandaz lol" phase they're in right now :P

    I still think they'll go through with this (whatever option they chose) on this expansion, precisely because of the competition. They have to make BIG changes if they want to keep their customers interested in their product.
  1. Recid's Avatar
    I'm in favor of the squish 100%. Don't think I could deal with mega damage.
  1. Ershiin's Avatar
    I really dont see the problem with the stat squishing.. By now i'm fairly used to seeing my dmg getting cut almost by half every time I enter a BG, so the transition thing wont really be anything new.
    In PvE I usually view everything in % tbh.. Nobody cares if a 129m boss has lost 400 or 600k, but every 1% counts. Besides its easier to predict phase changes that way.
    And all healers heal in little boxes anyway.. They dont care if you're at 80k or 800k, only that the Tanks are Green and nobody is Red.

    Most importantly.. After the fixation of gear resets every patch, the only thing that matters is that a t12 rogue does the amount of dmg a t12 rogue should do. What that amount is, is completely irrelevant outside of personal epeen and flashy youtube movies.
    And even then you can argue that what the numbers are is still irrelevant as long as they're HIGHER than the other guy's!

    I'll close by saying that I feel way more awesome when I 2shot a mob on my lvl 9 alt with a couple crits doing around 50dmg each than I do when I chug a 11k Shadowbolt at a mob and i'm still nowhere near killing it off.
  1. greg098's Avatar
    i think blizzard nerfing the numbers will make players leave because it will feel like they have been nerfed. if you remember back in wotlk when they changed the stats on all our gear to fit in with the cataclysm, everyone complained because they were nerfed and we was but we also gained more health because of it.
  1. Deadanon's Avatar
    The real issue here is because BLizzard did not solve the problem long time ago. Its not that hard to fix and its related to itemlvls and mob levels. The item level gives X% of stats depending on lvl of the boss you are fighting.

    We will go back to many other issues with flat nerf of stats. Including stamina and mana issues that dont scale correctly with flat %. Not to mention things like base mana.

    This is ofc the biggest issue that Blizzard have. It has been there for the past 3 expansions and they did not adress it at all. Any "fix" they make now will be very negative.
  1. Hoticehunter's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Freezeframe View Post
    I don't want them to compress the item level back down to TBC or Wrath amounts. It's so perfect as of right now imo.
    No. It's really not. The numbers right now are rather absurd.

    I'm all for squishing the item levels, and for doing it for MoP.
  1. Araella's Avatar
    It might have been said already somewhere in these 29 pages, but while stats certainly ARE inflated, it should also be rather obvious that you can't scale item level linearly.

    20 agi + 1 = 5% increase
    200 agi +1 = 0.5% increase
    In order to keep the %increase the same, the gap between ilevels needs to be greater at higher levels.

    (assuming that ilevel is a proportional reflection of gear stats - don't know how it is now but the vendor stuff mid cata seemed rather arbitrary, in which case it doesn't matter what the ilevel number is because in the world of Blizzard the stats could be anything)
  1. scubistacy's Avatar
    Bringing the stats in a "reasonable" increasing line without the massive stat inflation we have had in the last x-pacs sounds great.
    But - I don't think it can be implemented properly. And, what's more important - if it will be done properly, then the old content will die out.

    So, I will never get the Ashes of Al'ar. With my drop luck, even if I'm alone, I have still not seen Anzu; and if I'm not alone, than I'm losing every single roll on mounts. This happend once with the Ashes, this happend more than once with the old Zul Gurub tiger and the Karazhan mount. The Deathcharger, I could farm solo, and after quite a time, I got one. The one and only exception to the rule, that luck is not on my side.

    In the future, not even the numbers will be on my side. F*** that.

    Sorry, but I think that we should have the right to experience old content on our own. Because there are only few people left, who truly can appreciate the beauty of it.
  1. Isilbêth's Avatar
    I am in favour of the squish, but if Blizzard decides to squish the item level, and to avoid making it more difficult for higher level characters to solo old raids, they should introduce at the same time a mechanism that: 1. Makes it more difficult for lower level bosses to hit the higher level characters (avoidance/parry which is not linked to the gear but to the level of the character); 2. Diminishes the damage made by these bosses on higher level characters; 3. And finally multiplies the damage made by higher level characters on lower level bosses/characters. As it has been said, squish will have a negative effect on players, who will immediately notice a huge difference in the gameplay. Furthermore, any solution that would also cause more difficulties than before to high level characters to handle lower level characters in game could create serious side effects. A lot of players would probably leave massively the game. I seriously doubt that Blizzard, which is a profit making company, will take such a risk. But, isn’t inflation of items going to kill WoW in the future? The conception of the progress in game would be the cause of its own dead…
  1. ForrestAnthony's Avatar
    I am fully, 100% in favour of this 'Item Squish' funnily enough I actually suggested this to my friend a couple months ago, since I played in vanilla, I thought it was retarded how a well geared tank had about 6k hp, and now, a well geared tank has over 200k.What people don't understand is not that Blizz will be making all our toons weaker, it'll literally be a global numerical 'nerf' of EVERYTHING, to make the numbers go down, but damage, boss HP, stats will ALL be in the same ratio as it was prior.I love the idea! and I really hope they do it.
  1. Menedude's Avatar
    pff 12 mega damage is weak I can do 14 MEGA DAMAGE
  1. Ikthaleron's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by hamsterbom View Post
    That 12 mega damage picture made me giggle. ;p
    I use it now as a wallpaper.

    (._. )... (._. )... (._o )... (0_o )...( ._.)
  1. ultima9's Avatar
    Quite frankly, who cares if you're doing 100k dps or 100 dps? If the others in your group are doing 75 dps to your 100, then you're on top. Plain and simple. Does having the letter "k" after your dps meter really mean that much to people? If the fights are balanced (or rebalanced) to be feasible, the number you're doing with each hit is negligible. I would welcome a change to go back to numbers that are more manageable. I can remember when i could track gear stats in my head... Then i had to have a piece of paper on hand to keep track... now it's more like requiring a graphics calculator with a spreadsheet - will the next patch require me to hire a math professor to help manage all the decimal places? The key to such a change would be in re-scaling the older content to make the older raids/instances trivial. As others have mentioned, it would be a shame to see all the older content no longer be soloable, and thus no longer touched. Many of us enjoy running through Khara just to see it again, and although several old school raid bosses aren't exactly trivial due to mechanics (a few AQ40 bosses pop to mind, hehe) a group of 5 can easily do what a group of 40 used to do. There are many ways blizz could address this tho, so as long as an effort is put into it it shouldn't be a major issue. As far as those saying that it would "imbalance older leveling gear" who really cares? If you're overpowered at level 20, does it matter? You'll be level 20 for all of 25 minutes, tops. As long as you can get through the content (gear isn't under-balanced) then it does not matter in the grand scheme of things. If there are a few items that are ridiculously overpowered, they can be tweaked w/ server patching. The only players it would affect anyways are twinks, and honestly, who cares except other twinks? Blizz has always said that non-max level toons are not going to be balanced perfectly anyways - there are just too many variables in place to prevent that from happening. There is nothing to prevent them from making the MoP tier gains as large as they always have been in the past, so people saying that a lvl 89 player will be able to do things that a lvl 90 player would do is just silly. That's like saying that a raid of lvl 59 players would be able to complete AQ40 even if they all had full world drop epics. Not gonna happen. I mean, how many players even have that achieve from ulduar where you down a boss with nothing but ilvl items just one tier lower? And as a side note, wth is up w/ all the panda hate? I don't see people hating on cow warriors... so why all the anger over panda monks? Seems more logical to have an asian panda monk than a native american cow holy paladin... lol
  1. fateswarm's Avatar
    The squishing solution destroys - further - the point of old raids and dungeons existing since it appears they would be either faceroll at their level or not doable at their level requiring a faceroll by end game level (most likely the former).In my opinion, just go with better printing. The first solution is not silly, it is consistent. You only need to work on art and presentation. You are not the art guys it seems, trust them.
  1. Venteus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Hoticehunter View Post
    No. It's really not. The numbers right now are rather absurd.

    I'm all for squishing the item levels, and for doing it for MoP.
    No. They're really not. The numbers right now are rather perfect.

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