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. The Ogdru Jahad's Avatar
    100% for the ilevel squish. It would feel weird for all of a week or two, everyone would get used to it and it would be fine. Totally hope that blizzard just rips the bandaid off fast and squishes the numbers a bit. It would also show that they actually DO care about what happens in the game. Props to them!
  1. LeCalinours's Avatar
    I can't believe how many people have a hard time reading, or understanding this. How some people can post so retarded stuff. YES YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SOLO OLD CONTENT. If they squish the stats, it's for ALL THE GAMES. All boss in the game, items, stats will be changed. And how retarded you have to be to think that, because they post this NOW, it's because they just realized it or noticed this ? They might have been talking about this for YEARS, but just decided it was the moment to share with us the info they have about it. They know that's a problem. SQUISH is the right answer. The challenge after will be to decide of "how much" they squish the number. By 2, by 5... 10 ? That's another story.
  1. Gardakan18's Avatar
    Squish it. We will feel like we are somewhat back in Vanilla.
  1. akiho's Avatar
    Squish it, please. Thanks!
  1. Cygne's Avatar
    First it was the Mega Desk, now it's the Mega Damage.
  1. Fullgore's Avatar
    I prefer the squish.
  1. TheTrueM4gg0t's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by WoodMcChuck View Post
    No it wouldn't, the 6 ilvl increase between tiers would net you a whole 4 more strength and 8 more stamina. HUGE UPGRADE CHECK OUT THEM NUMBERS.
    well yes it would be a big increase, because something like 4 crit would then give you 0.25% crit, as does 45 crit rating now.
    and 8 more stamina (dunno, over 100HP) is significant if you sit at 10k HP (if its an increase from one item)
    thats the whole point
  1. Black's Avatar
    How long will it actually take to get used to lower crit numbers? Ok for autistic ppl it will take long. And for ppl with a theatrical personality disorder it will be major drama. But c'mon for normal and high intelligent ppl squeaking down the numbers won't be dramatical at all. And I think it will be the better solution in the end. You can have numbers lowered every expansion again.
  1. Slummish's Avatar
    Squish is the only viable long term solution. What would you do in 4 years with the first option? Super Mega Ultra Damage?
  1. Teasy's Avatar
    Squish it, for the love of god, pleas do it! dear god, damage and hp in cataclysm already overwhelms me, and i dont even want to think about scaling in another expansions... please do it !
  1. angpsy's Avatar
    Maybe they should think of it in terms of the stats that you have in old school tabletop RPG's. Each point in a core stat meant something. For example, in old school D&D if you had a 14 strength that meant you were the equivalent of a real world athlete, able to do things that much of the population couldn't. If you found a means to raise that stat by 1 it was a huge bonus to anything strength related, an almost 5% increase to anything applicable.

    Or take another approach. Many other systems had a 1-10 rating for each stat, with 2 being average, 5 being the best that can be achieved naturally, and 10 being godlike. Each point in those systems was considered an exponential boost.

    What I'm essentially saying is that maybe they should consider making each point count, not on a miniscule, albeit critical, level like it is now. Make each time you get a stat increase noticable and relevant.
  1. Nurlock's Avatar
    One of the most interesting threads I've read in a while.In my opinion just rip the bandaid off, be done with it and start over. I can see how this subject is prone to controversy, but on the other hand with the next expansion people doing 200+300+400 k hits? will seem beyond ridiculous (numbers are assuming it will keep increasing exponentially).It felt more realistic with the increase in numbers from vanilla > tbc and throughout tbc from tier to tier. Also, less numbers = more comprehensable for the average player.
  1. markdall's Avatar
    I don't think I would enjoy being squished much, but it sounds like I'm one of very few. I mean, if I wanted to have low stats, I could just delete all my characters and reroll level 1s. Squishing feels like I'd be negating all those years of progress.
  1. Fleckenviech's Avatar
    to reduce the sheer size of numbers an option would aswell be to divide all numbers /100 and add an option to display them with a factor the user prefers. I don´t think anyone would care if he crit for 65300 or 65324. Make it 653 and choose if you want it displayed as 653, 6530, 65300 or 653000. That would limit the complex number calculation quite a bit //Fleck
  1. Barreveler's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by TheTrueM4gg0t View Post
    well yes it would be a big increase, because something like 4 crit would then give you 0.25% crit, as does 45 crit rating now.
    and 8 more stamina (dunno, over 100HP) is significant if you sit at 10k HP (if its an increase from one item)
    thats the whole point
    Well yeah, the theorycrafters would immidately figure out that that extra +4 strength is an 8% DPS increase and tell everyone it's the new BIS.

    But a lot of the people who don't read MMO or EJ may still be like "man, that piece of gear only has +4 more strength than my old one, that's not very much."
  1. lukyl's Avatar
    I fully support the squish. Apart from a slight nostalgia feel of low damage and HP, it would feel more "realistic".
  1. Eldanir's Avatar
    The situation is such today because GC is bad at math and the only figure he is able to draw is when someone else computes it for him. He is the guy in charge and it is since wotlk that the inflation has gotten so much worse than before, with the item level taking that exponential curve.

    GC trying to justify the big gaps in item level because he does not want people to skip gear to tackle higher level content is completely irrelevant, as most of what he writes usually. Just take a look at all the people who arrive in level 85 dungeons in greens and blues, or even wotlk epics. How so? It's not because of the item level, it's because the talent and skills coefficient are so badly tuned that everyone is stomping the content whatever their gear is, until level 85 heroics.

    In classic, the levelling was much harder and the numbers were better tuned, but then GC wasn't working for Blizzard then.

    I am all for the big squish, as it is necessary, but it won't help if GC is still in charge and unable to balance talents and numbers appropriately with the levelling content.

    Two entire expansions (wotlk and cataclysm) have proven that this guy does neither play the game nor understand any of the core game mechanics. Have you heard his answers during the General MoP Q&A? 80% of his answers did not actually address the question, and very either deliberately vague while trying to be funny so that he can get away with not answering the actual question...
  1. SleepySlug's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Crashdummy View Post
    Why cant they start growing linear from now on? and leave the past as it is? That would make a lot mroe sense than this without nerfing the toons.

    I mean, they could jump from linear mana cost untill 80 to another desing from 80 to 85...
    I get the impression that they like the current exponential growth model within the CURRENT expansion. I mean, look at that Cata curve on the end of the 2nd proposed graph. It's just been slid down and is relatively unchanged otherwise. It's just that when you start stacking exponential growth on top of exponential growth again and again things start to fly away on you which is what we're experiencing now.

    Also, for everyone who's all worried about MoP and how this is terrible. I wouldn't anticipate a squish or anything being put through any time soon. A squish would be a seriously tremendous undertaking and I don't think is likely to come about in 5.X at all. Stats on gear don't seem to be QUITE at that level just yet, but I feel it's an issue that's very quickly coming and I think that's kind of the point of the post itself. Still a bit to go before the boiling point.
  1. TheTrueM4gg0t's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by WoodMcChuck View Post
    Nope, we've already been through the tiny ilvl increase, my damage hardly changed from MC to BWL.
    they still want to keep the exponential increase in stats in an expansion but tune down the increase from expac to expac.
    all depends on how they tune it!!

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