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. Solidito's Avatar
    I don't want small upgrades tbh, i like my upgrades being big and noticable!
  1. Ultima's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sokolas View Post
    "We know that we have something to do but we can't decide what".
    Are you saying it's stupid they explain the situation (that most of us already know) to their customers and ask what we want?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solidito View Post
    I don't want small upgrades tbh, i like my upgrades being big and noticable!
    How very un-British of you! Boo to you, sir.
  1. Gurbz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by DAV_76 View Post
    The Further Adventures of Greg and his Needless Meddling.
    Did you even bother reading the article? I thought this was actually one of the best they have done.

    I'm sorry but I personally don't want to see tanks with 1 million HP (with the rest of us floating around 800k) and average DPS numbers in the 100k-150k+ range because bosses have close to 1 billion health. I understand that it could technically work, assuming the content scales at the same pace we do. But it would feel somewhat stupid.

    They need to find a way to fix this curve, and fix it quickly, or in 2-3 expansions we'll see priests with 100 million hp soloing heroic Ragnaros.
  1. btlyger's Avatar
    Yeah I think it would be a good idea to squish it. This problem really came up with cataclysm, and I still don't like the "150k" etc. health pools. It just doesn't feel right. SQUISH THAT CRAP!
  1. Dispirit's Avatar
    i approve of the squish...numbers were jumping too fast. going from from 25k hp to 100k hp in cataclysm always felt wrong for just 5 levels in advancement.
  1. Thyr's Avatar
    squish! definitely!
  1. mrinvisable2's Avatar
    second solution is better
  1. Vital's Avatar
    I would love to see it squished, although I quit at the end of 4.1 this kind of change might entice me back, I'd love to experience what it was like in BC and pre-BC as I only started playing in Wrath.
  1. Shawaam's Avatar
    This squish sounds awesome. Numbers are far too big right now.
  1. Sinystra's Avatar
    Wouldn't compression make the diff between level 10 gear and level 40 gear tiny in comparison? Makes the leveling experience a little wonky.
  1. deztruction's Avatar
    What happens to all of the old content due to the squish then lol...
  1. jonte912's Avatar
    don't care which solution they go for, just as long as we can still do old contant exactly like we are currently
  1. B1adebreaker's Avatar
    Item squish is a decent idea but i don't see majority of the people liking it, escpecially people that play dps and love to see high numbers. I would feel really wierd to go from hitting for like 60-70k crit at the end of an expansion to hitting for only say 10k crits next expansion. One thing they could do i just not scale gear so drastically every expansion, i get you have to make gear enough of and upgrade that people will actually use it but do you really have to go as far as making stats on greens at the beginning of an expansion twices as much as the end game gear from the previous one? I saw just keep the stats on a consistant increase without any MAJOR jumps like they do every expansion.
  1. Ganimah's Avatar
    Nice to see the devs think the playerbase are still a bunch of morons that can't handle so many drastic changes. they're really changing that much. More like re-skinning half of their "new" features/dungeons. Devs seriously need to stop patronizing the community. Just nerf the stats on the gear and make an appropriate slider with every expansion. Hire a bunch of interns to fix the database numbers and move on. Not that hard and players will thank you for it, later, because you won't be patronizing them at every turn.
  1. Amsden's Avatar
    I really like that squish option. It will have to happen someday anyway better to just pull off the band aid now, like the blue said and get it over with. People will complain regardless, so make it happen!!
  1. wilcox1232's Avatar
    If they squish it would the squish be retoroactive to current raid bosses. I love being able to 2 man old raids like malygos and nax every week and its a big part of the game that a group does do. If they squish things 4 or 5 mann firelands for mounts would not be happening
  1. Crucialus's Avatar
    I'm not sure if I agree with the squishing idea. Mostly when it comes to Soloing content and raids/whatnot? (Might be understanding it wrong?) We'll still do as much (relative) damage as we do now, but as of now, soloing old content is something I enjoy doing because I'm not about to die within 2-3 hits (playing a non-plate character), how will our health scale? Also, if we start doing 3000 damage versus 30000 (or 300), will the bosses health also go down from 50 millions to the 3-4million of TBC? *confused*
  1. Ripentine's Avatar
    I like to see Tanks with 2.700. Hit Points onehitting Deathwing for in Patch 7.3.
  1. Gurbz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sinystra View Post
    Wouldn't compression make the diff between level 10 gear and level 40 gear tiny in comparison? Makes the leveling experience a little wonky.
    If you look at the example graph provided, the level 1-60 curve would not be changed at all. I would, however, mean that there would be substantially less difference between level 60 gear and level 80 gear.
  1. Eme's Avatar
    Just use a 64 number system like in india 1000 years ago. 1=1 2=2 ... 10=A (same concept as hex) ... 16=G ... 37=a ... 63=zz 64=10 easy going!

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