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. 6kle's Avatar
    Simple people are against the item squish because they relate power so heavily to numbers and can't understand the concept of relativity. They will cry if their spell does 100 damage instead of 10 000 even if both chop the same percentage off. This reminds me of a kid in my class back in the 90's who couldn't understand the concept of huge inflation. The history teacher tried to explain how something trivial like a piece of bread cost millions during the huge inflation in germany after the first world war. The kid just kept saying "but it could not have cost millions because that's way too expensive". The same simple minded people are having a hard time understanding that they are not being nerfed even if their damage and health numbers go down.
  1. Vanaline's Avatar
    I don't see the problem myself, but I do realize dumb people have an adverse reaction to large numbers and calculations, so whatever. It's not really of any import.
  1. topitopi's Avatar
    Am I the only one that doesn't care about gigantic stats? Proportionally, yes it is the same. I just like the feel of seeing my toons get exponentially stronger as time goes on. I'm in the minority here, but they could just let the stats keep growing bigger and change the presentation. I think it would be too much work to go back and change everything. It would also make players feel a lot weaker.
  1. Bogrim's Avatar
    I don't see squishing as the solution either. You're just putting off the problem for a couple of expansions, then it'll return. But instead of climbing up to new numbers, we'll climb back to the numbers we were used to dealing - which won't feel like progression. A mixed solution would be to categorize damage (but not in lines with "Mega damage") and nerf it, e.g. you'd have "Cataclysmic damage" for this expansion and simply make getting new expansion gear transcend your damage output to a new type of damage while the old damage type would become less and less effective against creatures from the new expansion pack with each new level (e.g. level 90 creatures would take 50% less damage from Cataclysm gear). With other words, acquiring gear from a new continent would teach you how to better damage creatures from that continent and remove the need for stat inflation.
  1. Localmotion's Avatar
    I have wanted a squish ever since Wrath came out...and dont even get me started on Cata...the numbers are wayyyy to high. Squish it and it may feel weird for a few weeks, but after that I believe it will be alot better.
  1. Snowy's Avatar
    Just from the reading the article, Blizzard already decided to "item squish" before posting that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zole_Zole_Zole View Post
    I am appalled the amount of people in favour of the item squish idea.
    Don't be, Blizzard pushed for such responses with their post. Notice how Blizzard jumped to talking about exaggerated numbers for the next expansion and the one after it such as 6,000,000 damage with 12,000,000 and the use of insanely high stats on gear for the examples. They also used examples consisting of term "MEGA DAMAGE" and the like to make other options seem less appealing. It's all a simply ploy to sway people to their side of things. It's a method used by politicians, special interest groups, and the media all the time with great success because the majority of people fall for it all the time. It's just sad to see how many people are always so gullible to fall for such simple forms of manipulation every time.
    I'm just curious how people would have reacted if Blizzard would have posted with honest numbers and strictly factual evaluation of their options rather than giving an overly biased post that worked to sway the reader away from one option and into liking the other option that the writer likes.
  1. Accaris's Avatar
    The question here is character progression. How will characters progress with this change? The answer is: not much. Your character will not be significantly more powerful at level 90 than at level 85. This begs the question: if you're critting for 5k in full Tier 13, and you go up to 6k in full Tier 14 (that's exactly what linear progression means,) then why even buy the expansion? There's no feeling of progression.
  1. Higg's Avatar
    I lol'd @ the mega crit picture
  1. Jerot's Avatar
    The people against the squish don't seem to understand everything would change. Yes you would technically be doing less damage... To mobs with proportionately less health.

    It's like if you got your paycheck in pennies, yes its a larger number. No, your not getting payed more.

    It WOULD NOT affect soloing old content in any measurable way, assuming ofcoarse the stat squish is across the board and nothing is left out. I mean, if they didn't change mobs, it would be impossible to finish the current tier of raiding after the change, even with top gear. So I mean why wouldn't they?
  1. Tinykong's Avatar
    Oh Blizzard how soon you forget why we got here in the first place. Tanks need avoidance and mitigation to survive a boss encounter, and regardless of point values for tanks, if their overall percentages don't go up, then the boss in tier 1 does the same amount of damage as tier 3 or 4, thereby negating the need to have better gear in the first place. If a tank has 20% total miss at the first tier, and 25% at the last, the difference in overall boss damage is very minor. However, if the tank goes from 25% to 40% the boss hits harder, and then the tank needs a bigger HP pool to protect against being two shot, or it will become a wrath spam your biggest heal till oom fest again. Leave the stats alone, and scale linearly from this point forward, and rather than having bosses who hit like trucks, make mechanics that require thinking and coordination, not raw numbers to bring down.
  1. marty096's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Accaris View Post
    The question here is character progression. How will characters progress with this change? The answer is: not much. Your character will not be significantly more powerful at level 90 than at level 85. This begs the question: if you're critting for 5k in full Tier 13, and you go up to 6k in full Tier 14 (that's exactly what linear progression means,) then why even buy the expansion? There's no feeling of progression.
    This isn't true. 60-84 will be fairly close then stats will explode at 85, new xpac upgrades will be significant.
  1. Rigrot's Avatar
    Inc "mega damage" add-on. Dat squish man, it be like bc then only now, it would be a lot of work balancing everything to work around that, but it would makes things even-ish. Though people love big numbers, but those stats are ridiculous.
  1. Deatheryn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sny View Post
    Gear from 1 - 59 wouldn't change at all, looking at the chart it's pretty easy to tell.
    Well, If they did reduce it from level one up, reducing the increases from one level to the next, it would better insure that they do not have to address the same reoccurring issue in another couple xpacs!
  1. Mawnix's Avatar
    LOL. Mega Damage. I lawl'd. I'd like it if the damage was squished.
  1. Skwisgaar's Avatar
    Don't squish the items. Nobody wants to feel like they're moving backwards. I was pulling 30k in Cataclysm now I'm pulling 5k in Pandaria. Not to mention you're going to have to rework all the numbers in the game instead of just moving forward. Seems like more work than its worth.
  1. darlissa's Avatar
    the difference between the 2 solutions is the M's and K's. we will still see lower numbers, be it with M's and K's or without. so they might as well go for squish, and that's also what i'd vote for. the long numbers are both ridiculous and hard to read..
  1. alexs's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Skwisgaar View Post
    Don't squish the items. Nobody wants to feel like they're moving backwards. I was pulling 30k in Cataclysm now I'm pulling 5k in Pandaria. Not to mention you're going to have to rework all the numbers in the game instead of just moving forward. Seems like more work than its worth.
    I totally agree with you. If they squish the items, they have to rework almost everything which indeed is a pain in the a**. I highly doubt the developers choose this path, then the x-pack would be delayed alot which they can't afford. I'm guessing they aren't gonna add that much more stats like we have on cata on the newer items which comes in the new x-pack. You'll prob see a 50-150 stat increase but not much.
  1. ganush's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by isendims View Post
    Well, all gear with the same ilvl (and gem sockets) have the same stam, agil/str/int, and total ratings as any other piece of the same slot of the same ilvl. That there gives you an idea and plenty of information
    Nope, the graph is meaningless on so many levels. A far more interesting graph would be avg iLvl vs. theoretical damage. I'd be far more interested in how that looks. Here's how I see this article. Blizzard wants to do a gear reset. They know that there would be a ton of backlash if they just did it, so they release an Ask the Devs with some selective, but meaningless examples to try to show how necessary a gear reset is. I truly believe that a gear reset is necessary, but give me some credit and show me some real information on why Blizzard also thinks so. I'm so tired of Blizzard putting a spin on everything they do and flat out lying to their customer base over and over and over again. You want examples, look at the blue posts surrounding 4.1 and the reason you're getting only 2 remodeled dungeons is that they wanted to start a model of more smaller patches. How'd that play out? Thing was, I knew it was a lie at the time. Personally, I prefer to support companies that respect their customer base, which I don't think Blizzard does anymore. I'll put part of that on the customer base though, because if they offered honest information, the backlash would be even worse.
  1. dirkaah's Avatar
    I support the squish fully. These numbers are getting fairly out of hand as it is.
  1. Raincrow's Avatar
    There are some other ways which might satisfy both parties, but they are harder.For instance, you can make spells interact differently between bosses and players, and have them work on completely different scaling. THis works in a lot of single player RPGs, where a player can often dish out more damage in a single hit than their entire health pool, but only take a fraction of it from bosses. This allows DPS and boss health numbers to remain inflated, while allowing player health pools and stats to be deflated. You would have to change the way damage works in PvP, however. Perhaps build in inherent damage reduction versus other player spells rather than making each spell work differently against players.

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