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. candlepally's Avatar
    Squish then paladins can wear T2 and be compeitive with folks in current 346 heroic gear, Thunderfury suddenly becomes awesome again, and Sunwell epics = T12 lol
  1. Lobstarrr's Avatar
    Can't say i have a solution myself but this just feels like one big mega nerf, i don't really give a damn if i ''still do the same damage output but with lower numbers''. I geared my character up for 6 years trough each expansion and i really felt like i became stronger, and now we'll just jump right back into vanilla?
  1. lrntoplay's Avatar
    New expansion, fix it all in one hit. Reduce the numbers to reasonable levels and allow room for future xpacs, bite the bullet. People are smart enough to realise its not a nerf.
  1. zingar's Avatar
    pc limitations with big numbers? seriously? i love to solo old world stuff what will they do about that? theyre gonna change all the damage, health of every mob and skill/spell in the game ? that doesnt sound too easy, just use K and M and its all fixed
  1. Vaem's Avatar
    This problem is so easilly solved...

    Keep everything as it is now. ONLY 1 CHANGE IS NEEDED!

    Item budgets should not increase by %, but by a STATIC VALUE!

    Tier 12 --> Tier 13, +400 strenght (or any other vary of stats)
    Tier 13 --> Tier 14 +400 strenght (or any other vary of stats)

    Result 1: After cataclysm the items would have had their stats increased by 1200
    Result 2: After Pandaria the items would have had their stats increased by 2400
    Result 3: After expansion X the items would have had their stats increased by 3600

    INSTEAD OF THE 39k stats at the end of 95.

    In other words: Make the item budget LINEAR NOT EXPONENTIAL

    -Vaem/Varox/Astion w/e
  1. lrntoplay's Avatar
    divide EVERYTHING by 10, fixed.
  1. Holofernes's Avatar
    actually i sometimes thought of this. how far will it go? will we have a million hp once? this doesnt make sense to me, a player who has more hp than ragnaros, the big boss he killed only 6 years ago with 39 other people.i also hope this will happen. back than, at the very first mc raid, my huntress made 300 dps and had 3,2 k life raidbuffed. a 2400 crit was astonishing. and we alle were really impressed when our mage screamed in ts "omg 5 k frostbolt crit" on frost-senstive trashmob in blackwing, at the current state of wow, the huntress would do 30k dps, the awesome crit would be 500 k , and so on.cutting the zeros in the numbers is i think a good way to deal with this big inflation, i thought about it several times before, (was too lazy to do a proposal in forums) and i find myself absolutely wanting blizz to do this.
  1. tielknight's Avatar
    As long as i get to hear a voice saying " M-M-M-M-MEGA DAMAGE-amage-amage" the way the voice in Quake 3 arena is, i'll be fine with it

    Quote Originally Posted by lrntoplay View Post
    divide EVERYTHING by 10, fixed.
    You made the same post in a similar thread.
  1. ultima9's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Topdog View Post
    Items Squishing stats in my opinion would be the best way to move forward, yes you will have to get used to not seing big numbers like 140k mind blast crits but its something that needs sorting. Do you really want to have tanks with 1 million HP in raids. If numbers keep going up, some players will notice a difference while playing and may affect there gameplay by lowering fps, not everyone can afford to have High end gaming systems :P

    Before Squish:-

    If Mind Blast crits for 141,500 damage on a Boss with 26,350,000 health it takes off 0.00537% of the bosses health.

    After Squish:-

    If Mind Blast hits for 1,415 damage on a Boss with 263,500 health it takes off 0.00537% of the bosses health.

    It hits for exactly the same amount in %. Do people really just drool at big numbers and use big numbers to increase how much epeen they can brag about. If this is the case then your all beyond help tbh. I don't care how much damage I do or how big the numbers are, has long has I can see i'm within +/- 2% of the best dps in the raid then i'm happy. Numbers are just numbers, they don't give people superiority.
    Couldn't agree more.
  1. Melanieshaman's Avatar
    GAWD don't use mega damage! Kevin Siembieda of Palladium books may try and sue you! (he tries to sue everyone he THINKS are stealing his ideas.
  1. subanark's Avatar
    I'd rather go for something more extreme. All items have a power stat, with all other stats adding up to the same values regardless of item level. When you do damage or healing, your power value is compared to your targets power value, and you do more damage or healing if your value is larger, and less if it is smaller. So, yes, healers will heal for less if their target has a higher power value, but that target also takes less damage to compensate. In PvP, resilience is used instead to prevent healers from out healing damage as resilience is increased.
  1. Bysen's Avatar
    Please Squish, I don't want to be crit for 12 mega damagwe!
  1. Aemos's Avatar
    I vote for MEGA DAMAGE.
  1. mittacc's Avatar
    my vote is on mega damage!
  1. Kansen's Avatar
    Meh want to hit for some millions :< Over 1 million hp sounds tempting aswell! We're becoming the titans lol!
  1. Tybudd33's Avatar
    I agree with all that they said pretty much, and even though I know what they are trying to do, yes if all of a sudden I'm maxing at 2.7k dps at level 95 per say, like I was in bc, of course I'm going to feel nerfed, even if everything is scaled down, you get excited, and feel a since of accomplishment and progress to reach numbers you never reached before. Of the 2 options I believe the Mega Damage Type theory is the best option.But for some reason I really really fear, they are going to scale us down
  1. Dorfadin's Avatar
    I think the mega damage will fit in just nicely with the wowpokemon and the teenager playerbase they are targeting in MOP, hate it tbh, squish them numbers
  1. conjohnson6's Avatar
    I, too, am in favor of squishing ilvl and stats all together. I understand that doing this will prevent solo'ing old content, but honestly do you guys think being able to solo a whole raid is rational? I feel like its more of a failed game mechanic than a rightful privilege all high levels should have. It was also mentioned that people will not feel like they are progressing without inflating the item stats but with so much min/max'ing we would still feel like we are progressing. Or if that doesn't work, allow privileges that go along with higher level such as the ability to ride flying mount, ground mount. We as players are not after the stats, we're after the exclusivity of the items. If Blizzard can somehow follow this philosophy no one would mind the item squish.
  1. Cloux's Avatar
    Bring down the stats seriously, I think everything stat wise was fine in BC, we did need new talent systems though. Then we went to WotLK and they were ok but still a little much near the end, then Cata hit and things got outrageous, I think cloth classes should have the least health but more survivability like CC and kiting, leather classes should have a little more hp than cloth but a little less CC, so on and so on, basically what I'm saying is it should be more like vanilla or BC stat wise not everybody has the same health and every class has tons of CC, I mean cloth classes in most cases have more health than plate classes, it just seems like everything is becoming the same.

    ---------- Post added 2011-11-04 at 09:00 PM ----------

    Squish, squish, squish!!
  1. Onscreen1's Avatar
    Squish the whole thing. I know transmoggers will cry but its the best thing to do. I don't like soloing neferian nowadays. Its not the way it should be. Not even for a lvl 95.

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