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. Swizzle's Avatar
    Just to clarify for people, they increased the HP pools as much as they did to keep PvP in check. If all other stats remained the same as they are now and HP pools only went up by 5-10k from WotLK...then the game would be very VERY stupid.
  1. Hoggs's Avatar
    When an item has 6357 hit rating on it and you need 115324 hit to cap it, it becomes very difficult to just eyeball it. I really don't want to be sitting with a calculator every time an item drops just to see if it will put me over or under the cap. The squish might make it feel like we've been nerfed, but it's all relevant. If your fireball did 15% of some random mob's health before the squish and it still does 15% after it, than there's absolutely no problem with it. Squish it imo
  1. Suprimus's Avatar
    Well, the solution is easy. If you look at Anarchy Online wich is/was a very advanced mmo in the matter of stats. Items dropped from a boss like now, but it wasnt always itemlvl 300, it may have been 288. Up from last expansions 250. And strenght went from say 250- 300. 50 up. But the big difference between wow and AO was: AO = most dps gets the loot. You didnt have as many instanced raid bosses, but rather groups from both factions went to the boss and had a dps competetition. So if 1 grp had 300 gear, and the other had 288, the 300 would win. But it wouldnt be by 50k damage, but something like 5k. So the differences was much smaller. This makes, best gear = win. not so good gear. = good enough to do shit, but not win. This sums something like this in wow= 250-290 ilvl gear = normal modes. 290-300= heroic raids. If your damn skilled. 275 - 300 = heroics. Then they wouldn't have to make the loot differences that big. Just go up by 25 by each patch and new raid.. Think a little about solutions and workarounds before you flame. This idea is not set in stone, but I think it could be a good one. And aswell, getting tokens in heroic would give you gear ilvl 300. so you got rewarded for the hassle. Problem with todays is its to much upgrade in each expansion. They have to make it so older content dose'nt get easy-mode, but rather a bit easier. But you have to get new SMALL upgrades to be relevnt in new raids... Hope you understand what I'm talking about.
  1. Coldkil's Avatar
    I was expecting a post like this. In fact, i was expecting it at the end of WotLK, since it was clear that stats, hp, damage and numbers in general were goin up wild. Every expansion should be a reset of gear, since we get new content, new items, and so on. Big nerfbat on old content should be a decent solution, since the problem is confined on how steep is the growth. Anyway this brings on the table lots of problems, let's see what they have in mind.
  1. Crucialus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Synche View Post
    I would be for the item squish, as cool as it is to have 200k HP etc it is getting out of hand now. Although it would "feel" weird at first, it would all scale proportionate to everything else in the game. Back in Vanilla, when you got an epic, it was actually epic and was a big upgrade (in most cases), with the Item Squish they could make it to that there is more of a difference between teirs, IE a ilvl 101 item would be a good upgrade over an ilvl 100.

    Sure there will be somewhat of a scaling issue, but it would be back to the Vanilla aspect where if you want the epic gear you would need to work for it, that is hoping that the content is still challenging anyways (but with the 3 difficulties, I would still say that HM will still be hard, atleast to most players)
    How would it make anything more epic than it is now? As far as I've understood, it'd be a squish of EVERYTHING in game, meaning, every single mob, etc. So you'd do less dps, but the boss would also have less health than they do now...

    At least if I'm reading everyone correctly.
  1. Yakuchin's Avatar
    I won't mind as long as I can keep soloing old content.
  1. Sharrel's Avatar
    i'd say go with squish. it's been blowing up stupidly high
  1. eitjayar's Avatar
    Did he just splipped that next expansion will be 5 lvls only?95?
  1. Gurbz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Crucialus View Post
    So, like, say I just finished soloing the Shattered Halls heroic, most mobs there have 20-100k HP, would that go down if my character's health was reverted from 120k to 20k?
    Yes. Though what part of "they would have to squish everything in the game" was difficult to understand escapes me.
  1. StayTuned's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Crucialus View Post
    So, like, say I just finished soloing the Shattered Halls heroic, most mobs there have 20-100k HP, would that go down if my character's health was reverted from 120k to 20k?

    Yep. Thats the logic behind it. You would have 20k hp, the mob would have lets say 5k instead of 50k.

    They are talking about a percentage decrease of all stats within the game. not just nerfing your char. geez
  1. merex760's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by d3v View Post
    Squish please, Mega Damage sounds retarded.
    It was a joke. Like the caption right under the image says.
  1. tohyatvc's Avatar
    Squish would make me consider playing again. So, that.
  1. Kiru's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by StayTuned View Post
    You didnt get it at all.
    I did get it. I understand everything is relative.

    But without huge, gigantic ilevel jumps between expansions, Old Content will become more difficult, they even mentioned this in their own FAQ

    However, this also means the difference between each level between 1 and 85 will be less significant, so you may find that an enemy 5 or 10 levels below your own will be a little tougher to deal with than it was before.
    Of course they will scale EVERYTHING down, but it's impossible for mobs to still be 'challenging' at 80 but 'faceroll take 20 of them on at the same time' at 85, when they are planning to cut down the huge jumps.
  1. Crucialus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Gurbz View Post
    It would make soloing old content harder, especially for non-plate wearing classes. But if they squished our stats, they would have to lower the stats of pretty much everything in the game by the same amount. The idea is it should feel the same as it does now if you are doing content relative to your level. Old raid bosses would be more difficult, relative to how they are now, and may keep non-plate wearing classes from soloing even Vanilla raids.
    I don't think I get you? If they squish everything (not a nerf), then a boss that would do, say, 3k damage per second would start doing much less (300?) so wouldn't that be the exact same when it comes to soloing?

    Really just trying to understand this.
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    I remember making a thread about this back on the old(pre forums. Can't believe they're not sure whether they're going to fix that or not. Should just fix it all at once, get it done and over with.
  1. Crashdummy's Avatar
    I find very funny that they are taking this so sriously and even showing the problem to the community, saying they dont know what they will do because the dps may feel gimped, when they alerady did this for healers in Cata.

    They didn't care about us feeling like bandaids (which we did). They didnt care about us feeling gimped. But god forbid that a DPS may feel gimped, the sky might fall....

    Saying that, gimping playes is not the solution, i didn't like it as a healer whwen they did that to me, and dps wouldn't like it either.
  1. StationaryHawk's Avatar
    As much as I like the idea of the item level squish, simply because those massive numbers on the theoretical gear look ridiculous, I really wouldn't mind having an epic arcanite ripper quitar solo each time I cast fireball.
  1. MarriageAuch's Avatar
    I find it scary how many people don't understand the concept of reducing ALL the numbers.
  1. Flimsy's Avatar
    Squash em!

    The numbers are getting out of control id be happy if they re worked em.
  1. mackenzie's Avatar
    I demand a graphic for "You healed for 2 Mega HealDamage."

Site Navigation