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. Brettshock's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Tricsun View Post
    6,000,000 damage on a 600,000,000 health boss isn't much different than 600 damage on a 60,000 health boss. Who cares if people solo old content? It's old, the only reason you're doing it is for transmog/mount drops/boredom anyways.
    A LARGE percentage of the people I know in this game are still playing this game just because they can solo old stuff. It makes good money, it's fun as hell, and it's something to do. Even if you don't enjoy it, you have to respect how many people actually solo stuff.
  1. Hesp's Avatar
    So is this confirmation that they intend to follow the three tier plan for future expansions?
  1. sam010301's Avatar
    I wonder if Blizz had thought about a "Call of Duty" style PRESTIGE system. Raid content requires a certain "prestige" level to enter. Gear that is awarded in that instance has a prestige level and possibly an iLvl. Damage wouldn't have to increase from raid level to raid level...but the prestige level of the gear would act as some type of multiplier/divisor (depending on your point of view).There would have to be some scaling built into the system in order to allow prestige gear to behave accordingly in regards to lower mobs.
  1. Xinia's Avatar
    A easy way to keep the soloing still being viable is to fix the old bosses actual lvl so it just is +3 levels of what the content is made for. Not always let them be 3 lvls above us no matter our lvl. I always found that very strange anyway.
  1. Lockula's Avatar
    I am against the squish. Think about it how much work would be required to adjust each mob, item, and boss ability from roughly BC to Cata. That is if they squish that much.
  1. Marema's Avatar
    Squish it. I could care less. My ego doesn't get inflated when I see a 'omgijujsthitsthebossfor10192394882damagelololol' Figure 5 pretty much sums up that a squish is a non issue on how "powerful" you'll be.I thought it was absurd how much of an increase from vanilla to BC was. I just got my priest to level 55 and can't even random bg since the 58's and 59's are in BC greens are just outrageous.Squish it! I play the game because its fun, not because I want to see mega numbers.
  1. Nerraw's Avatar
    I wouldn't mind a squish at all. The stat inflation has really gotten out of hand.
  1. Cæli'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...
    From what I understood, there will be no "difference of power", the power of items would be compressed, as well as the stat of creatures that drops those compressed items... you will still be able to solo old content, but your numbers will just be smaller, as well as the damage/health of npcs

    is that right ?

    Also, maybe they should think about lowering the amount of gold that also became imo really high
    Dividing every single value of money by the same number should be quite easy
  1. Ser Arthur Dayne's Avatar
    This is wrong..people would stop doing old content if this happened...we would need 40 man to down molten core/bwl/AQ etc cuz 1 person wants a transmog? Good luck getting 39 other people for that.. leave old content alone! And for F sake, don't give us more Vanilla 5-mans as "new" Heroics..just leave old content alone..
  1. Vlinx's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Aedail View Post
    If the problem is big numbers and computers not being able to handle larger and larger numbers (eventually there's a cap of what number a computer can handle based on the data type used), why not normalize the computational numbers while leaving the display numbers alone? Much like a z-score in statistics, this would reduce the computational part of the game, where your "Fireball" hits from anywhere between 1.00-1.50. A number is randomized, and output as the "display value" of 1,000,000-1,500,000 coming from a lookup table or something similar.

    Blizz gets a more efficient computation, we keep our ginormous numbers. Win-win.
    Computer technology advances exponentially. It has been since the 90s
  1. Denstrict's Avatar
    I like the idea of diminishing returns on gear. This idea would also revitalize old dungeons all in one concept. Image a spectrum ranging from 0% effectiveness to 200%. Where a level 5 warrior would have 0% effectiveness against the Lich King for example but a lvl 95 character would only have a maximum of a 200% effectiveness against old bosses. This way bosses would maintain relatively the same hit points through the expansions but the characters effectiveness against that boss needs to grow through initially their level then gear until he is performing 100% or higher against the boss. Here is the equation:

    If boss level is > character level then (1/(boss level – character level-1)*100) = A
    If boss level is < or = character level then A = 100

    Then you take a boss’ hidden diminishing return variable (DRV) versus gear:
    Boss’ DRV – iLvL * -.5 = B
    A + B = damage modifier against the boss.

    A similar equation would apply to boss damage against the character.

    1. A level 20 character (iLvL 100) fighting a lvl 80 boss (DRV 400) would be:
    A = 1.69, B = -150
    That character would be -148.31% effective against that boss or basically a 1,000 dps attack would do no damage

    2. A level 40 character (iLvL 200) fighting a lvl 55 boss (DRV 275) would be:
    A = 7.14, B = -37.5
    That character would be -30.36% effective against that boss

    3. A lvl 45 character (iLvL 225) fighting a lvl 48 boss (DRV 240) would be:
    A = 33.3, B = -7.5
    That character would be 25.8% effective against that boss – A 1,000 damage fireball would do 258 damage.

    4. A lvl 60 character (iLvL 300) fighting a lvl 40 boss (DRV 200) would be:
    A = 100, B = 50
    That character would be 150% effective against that boss – A 1,000 damage fireball would do 1,500 damage

    All of these numbers would have to be weighed out so the transition is smooth but the process is simple. The iLvLs shown would be base level for a character of that level. So in example #3 a highly geared lvl 45 character may have a iLvL of 280 instead of 225 doing instead of 25.8% damage, 53.3% damage. Obviously the numbers would need to be adjusted a bit but you see the direction this goes and the determination of the iLvL is easily determined based on the amount of damage intended. This wouldn’t be the only stat on the gear, there is still haste, crit, etc. but it becomes an important new stat that determines a players effectiveness in a fight. The key to all of this is the bosses will maintain similar hit point levels from one expansion to the next as well as the players and the damage of the spell itself doesn’t really change but the effect it has in the fight is subject to a new variable.
  1. Brettshock's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Cæli View Post
    From what I understood, there will be no "difference of power", the power of items would be compressed, as well as the stat of creatures that drops those compressed items... you will still be able to solo old content, but your numbers will just be smaller, as well as the damage/health of npcs

    is that right ?
    Nope, old bosses will be just as strong as they are now, but we'll be significantly weaker than we are now.
  1. Xinia's Avatar
    They could fix the soloing issue with letting bosses be +3 lvl of the content the boss was made for. Instead of how it currently works now, a lvl 60 boss is same lvl as a 85 boss.
  1. Marema's Avatar
    lol at ppl who say you won't be able to solo old content. Apparently you don't know how to read graphs.L2graph.
  1. daggereye's Avatar
    oh god I hope they don't use the MEGA solution, just freaking squish it, I'm sick of numbers going up each expansion by a huge amount. I know they'll use the mega solution cause everybody will cry, why do I have so little health, bla bla bla, oh but old content should still be soloable .
  1. Crashdummy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SleepySlug View Post
    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.
    But if they keep the explnential growth they will have to squish it again in two expacs? That would just be stupid. Or woujld they squish the numbers after each expansion from now on? That would also be stupid.
  1. Thunderpants's Avatar
    I dont think it would take long to adjust to the squish solution.Numbers are too big already imo.
  1. SupaCoolDudeGuy's Avatar
    I hope they nerf item levels and everything down, it is easily the best solution. Will it seem weird at first? Yeah, but it'll essentially be the same thing as it is now percentage wise. Soloing old content would most likely still be possible, you'd still be in the same spot DPS wise (Theoretically) the numbers would just not be so outrageous. I've had this idea in my head since Zarhym hinted at some ideas to address stat inflation, and it really seems to be the best and most elegant solution. "Mega Damage"? "Put k's and m's on it"? For one, making it say "101k Strength" and having your ability to 1,039k damage is the same as having a piece of equipment with 101 strength and damage doing 1,039 damage. The difference is in the display. It makes it look ugly as well. And all the people saying that nerfing all item levels, stats, bosses, etc. would be too much work do not realize that it would seriously be worth it. Stats are getting WAY out of control. The only other solution I could think of was on top of the item squish, is make lower item level items give you less stats the higher your level is the same way stat ratings work so that you don't have to make huge item level increases every expansion and it doesn't get out of control again.
  1. Tricsun's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Brettshock View Post
    Nope, old bosses will be just as strong as they are now, but we'll be significantly weaker than we are now.
    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.
  1. Opheliac666's Avatar
    Hell no, fuck that man, keep the Mega Damage, I LOVE seeing those big numbers. Item Squish is fuckin stupid

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