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. Zole_Zole_Zole's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by rockdontroll View Post
    they'll never turn wow into a 64-bit application to address these issues, mainly because most people still run 32 bit windows on their 64-enabled cpus. Its just not the same as simply adding in a dx11 option for those running win7
    Don't be so sure, a while back I saw something to do with 64 bit code for wow.
  1. bbr's Avatar
    But we like big numbers... and at the same time,, ridiculous numbers make it a lot harder to really consider / crunch anything. it makes big items THAT much better that there is simply no point at all in having old gear around - you are a LOT weaker without new items. Its the diablo effect really. Giant item, with giant stats... might seem fun, but it really just isnt good to have an item with crazy stats. manageable numbers are great - small upgrades.
  1. Vlinx's Avatar
    Why don't we just instead of crunching numbers, adapt a more linear approach. by 4.3 GEARED dps would have 160-170k and Like next expansion MOP dps would have 210K HP. Isn't that a possible solution?
  1. willtron's Avatar
    heres another idea... why does it matter if fireball crits for 6000000, or a peice of armour has 60000 armour? Just leave it.
  1. TanAxys's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by willtron View Post
    heres another idea... why does it matter if fireball crits for 6000000, or a peice of armour has 60000 armour? Just leave it.
    well, having a fireball critting for 6M isn't a big deal..,

    having 5 fireballs, a few mind blasts and chaos bolts and a thousand auto attacks all in the neighborhood of 6 million, isn't an especially optimum situation

    then on the other end... every monster, bad guy and boss doing that as incoming damage... which the fearless raiders are taking... which the fearless raid healers have to heal

    and that's one raid

    think about all of that with x numbers of raids going on at any one time...

    all of that math is strain on the servers, not to mention everyone's computers which boosts minimum system requirements and reduces effect of eye candy and effects without computer upgrades

    smaller numbers with less meaningless 0's would be better for everyone

    what would be nice, would be a separate number system that shrinks itself down when fighting Skull bosses

    like use the mega damage model, only when really needed... on the toughest fights with the most players involved

    ... also maybe in pvp when there's 80 of the highest geared players running around on a fairly small map where the action is completely unscripted
  1. Haaz's Avatar
    Item sqish seems, to me, the only real sollution.. megadamage is a delay of the issue and nothing more, scaling it all down is a better long term sollution, some say give more new content and stop redoing old. I say sort a proper squish now in pandaria, and forget it in the next, maybe 2 expansions, how far it goes is left to see, but honestly imo, I see it going forther with a squish than with megadmg and whatnot having to be implemented.
  1. Rude Hero's Avatar
    The squish isn't going to solve anything, only delay it, and that second graph is ridiculous. Apparently the best level 60 raid gear is going to be better than the best level 70 raid gear. I realize it's not meant to be taken literally, but it's cheating the facts to try and paint a more appealing picture.
  1. Trassk's Avatar
    so in short there going to nerf all damage and health in the game, but make it seem to the player like there doing awesome damage with gimmicky messages onscreen to convince them its all ok.Well I've heard worse things tbh.
  1. Envoy1's Avatar
    -- From the 2 options that Blizzard has put on the table, I would definitely side with the “squish” rather than the “MEGA DAMAGE” because it just seems like a better long term solution and the numbers won’t be so drastic.

    --However, the fear that players will feel “underpowered” is a very real threat. Some players will feel underpowered and not like the new feel of the game, and so they might quit. Other players could get used to the “squish” and will continue playing just as they have been. Obviously, letting the stat inflation go this far was a mistake in the design of the tiers. First thing I compared the the chart on Fig. 5 to, was the chart of population growth over the last 400 years or so :P. Starts off slow then increases drastically by the end. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that Blizzard has realized they need to make a change because they can’t keep going with the system they currently have. Now, the choice is picking the route which will keep most players happy, because obviously not every single person is going to be happy with either choice.

    --I have read both options, and like I said, I believe that the “squish” is the better choice. However, I would like to put forth some sort of new idea and see if what the community thinks. Obviously, I haven’t thought this out all the way and there may be many flaws in the system, but I will share my general idea and maybe some portions could be useful or someone else can take my thoughts one step further.

    Proposed System:

    --Before I start, I want to make clear that the numbers I use won’t be accurate but I am using them just as a demonstration. The numbers shouldn’t be taken literally, but the comparison between the numbers I use, should be looked at.

    --The flaw that I see from expansion to expansion is the exponential growth of stats which leads to the big jumps in damage/healing. So I was thinking, if it’s possible, maybe make the jump from the end tier in one expansion to the beginning tier of the next expansion equal to the jump between one tier of raiding to the next. For example, the jump from Dragon Soul to the first tier of raiding in MoP equal to the jump from Firelands to the Dragon Soul. (By “jump” I mean stat inflation and damage/healing increase.)

    --If players are doing 30k DPS in Firelands, then players will be doing 40k DPS in Dragon Soul. If players are doing about 40k DPS in Dragon Soul, they will be doing about 50k in the first tier of raids in MoP. So, if a piece of Firelands gear has 450 intellect, then a piece of Dragon Soul gear will have 500 intellect. Then if a piece of Dragon Soul gear has 500 intellect, then a piece from the first tier in MoP will have 550 intellect.

    --Of course the argument here is that players will be able to complete the first tier in MoP with the gear they have acquired in Dragon Soul. So here is my solution to this problem is a stat reduction in the previous expansions gear. Not a stat decrease for everyone, but a stat decrease as you level for all the gear from the previous expansion. For example, If a piece of Dragon Soul gear has 500 intellect, as the player hits level 88, that piece of Dragon Soul gear will be reduced from 500 intellect to 350 intellect. This prevents people from be being able to complete the first tier in MoP with the gear they have acquired in Cataclysm. However this will also allow players to utilize the gear they acquired in Cataclysm to level. I proposed level 88, assuming that 3 levels of questing in MoP will provide enough gear from quest rewards to replace all their Cataclysm gear. Or the other option is slowly reducing the stats from the previous expansion as you level. For example, as you hit 86, that piece of 500 intellect will drop to 450, then as you hit 87, it will drop to 400, then as you hit 88, it drops to 350 and so on. The point is dropping these stats on the gear from the previous expansion to the point where it will be impossible to use that gear to complete the first tier of raiding in the new expansion.

    --The argument to this is that as you level, the amount of stat rating (such as haste) to equal 1%, will also increase. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it takes 128 haste rating to equal 1% haste at level 85. 32.79 haste rating was equal to 1% 80. So the jump from Wotlk to Cataclysm was huge. I propose that, the amount of haste rating that it takes to get 1% haste, at level 90 is changed/selected to be higher than the one at 85. However it should not so high that you will need a huge stat increase on the gear. For example, 640 haste rating at 85 gives you 5% haste rating, so maybe at level 90, which is 128 haste rating per percentage (like mentioned above). So at level 90, make it so 160 haste rating is equal to 1%, so then 800 haste rating will be equal to 5%. I understand that my proposed numbers maybe not be rational, but the idea behind it is what counts. There are much more experienced people who can definitely come up with better numbers, but this is just an idea.

    --This system that I am proposing won't make players feel "underpowered" because their output will be greater than it currently is. It changes the current exponential growth stat system to a linear growth stat system.

    I have more details worked out, but this post is already pretty long and I don’t want to make it longer. It’s just a rough outline of the stat system that I propose. I understand that there are flaws in my idea, but like I said, maybe someone sees part of my idea that they like and that they can take develop it in their own way.
  1. lopane's Avatar
    Pokewow inc !
  1. Hellaciouss's Avatar
    So is this going to happen with every expansion? People will feel like they aren't actually getting anywhere if gear goes from 150k hp, down to 20k hp from "squish" only to go to 150k at end of expansion...that's not progression.I think you guys should take some tips from EQ and their progression system.
  1. Raqubor's Avatar
    I hope they go with the squish solution. Damage is starting to be come ridiculous. Players just need to get used to the new lower amount of damage/health points.
  1. Gron's Avatar
    Your thoughts on the matter are valuable.
    Ofcourse we want to make it feel valuable, however please note that we have proven in the past not to listen to forum posters, the vocal "minority" - we are the designers ofcourse, and we datamine the game, so we know much better what is good for the larger amount of playerbase.

    However until you feel your thoughts are valuable, we feel the same, just make sure you know that does not mean we will ever read them.
  1. Vallius's Avatar
    Maybe don't squish all of the previous content? Like, maybe only squish from the end of WotLK to the end of Cata? That way we can still go back and faceroll older content but the numbers could still be in line with the increase that happened between TBC and WotLK? I don't know. I'm hoping brighter minds than mine can come up with a solution that solves this. I think numbers in the thousands feels 'right', but I can't imagine numbers in the millions. That would just take up too much screen space and I don't care to crunch that much math for spreadsheets and whatnot. I don't want to feel gimped but I don't want these numbers to get out of hand, either.
  1. Grumm's Avatar
    I would very much like to see the squish happen. I've long felt health pools and damage had gotten to ridiculous. Scale everything back to 15k health-ish I say.
  1. Fixup's Avatar
    I'm thinking we can be okay for MoP, half the reason is precious time spending that can be used for a very full expansion(based on high level content), which we need after Cata, Cat is great don't get me wrong but for obvious reasons it wasn't like having TBC or WotLK, also I don't think the numbers are too insane yet and not that bothered even if they do start entering the m's, I enjoy the leveling process gaining lots of power at a vast rate, I don't feel like going down in numbers, I want them to keep climbing! I want to be able to kill Illidan Stormrage with 1 auto attack at some point!
  1. Keve's Avatar
    That upcoming damage output isn't realistic even for videogames anymore!
  1. Slyan's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by tohyatvc View Post
    There's no reason it should affect level 50 anything. The changes shouldn't happen until TBC and beyond. Even the graph clearly shows that. The uptick at the end of vanilla to ilvl 90 items is T3 which disappeared anyway...
    I didn't pay too much attention to the graph but yeah you're right. It does look like it wouldn't effect 50 and under but still, this is Bliz we're talking about so we wont know till it happens.
  1. eurobank's Avatar
    Nice. good job
  1. MoFalcon's Avatar
    Squish not sure how many expansions we have left, but its getting crazy!My only suggestion, dont squish it any more than you need to. Lvl 80 felt pretty good. Why not make the new lvl cap feel like lvl 80, if possible. Squish it over the next couple expansions gradually. might be less of a shock to the system(ours).

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