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.
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.
Updates to the patch notes below can be found in red. Last updated Nov. 4, 10:00 AM PDT.
The time for testing out many of the upcoming patch 4.3 features is upon us. In this article you’ll find frequent updates to the official patch 4.3 notes as development continues. You can find a list of the major features we’ve discussed thus far on our official forums.
If you’ll be testing this major content patch, be sure to visit the PTR Discussion forum often to share your thoughts with the community. We also recommend visiting the PTR Bug Report forum to document any issues you come across.
World of Warcraft PTR Patch 4.3.0
Notes for all World of Warcraft patches can be found here.
These notes will be updated through the course of the testing process. Please be aware some changes may not go live until a new PTR build is released."
Table of Contents
Click a link to be taken directly to the corresponding section of the patch notes.
The achievement Tol Barad Veteran now requires 25 victories in Tol Barad, down from 100.
Death Knight pets now properly inherit their master’s crit and spell penetration stats.
Dungeons & Raids
General Bug Fixes
His analogy seems to suggest that the compression is the way to go. You get used to driving on the other side of the road. It's weird for a couple months, but then you get so used to it it's weird to go back and readjust to how you used to drive.The fact that players will temporarily feel a little weird about losing a whole bunch of digits on the end of some numbers seems so trivial to me that it doesn't even count as a proper objection to that solution.
I think that sound great! It will be to overpowered with like "yeeh my highest crit is 9128512"And back in vanilla it was like "yeh my highest crit is 2000" Good job!
The Ilvl squish is a good idea, but i don't think that it should be done so drastically (nerfing stats by 30-50% would be enough)
Awww, I was looking forward to one shotting vanilla raid bosses in MoP. Oh well, times must change.
For me, this all depends on if they're going to adjust the numbers of mobs and bosses too. I'm fine with the squish if it happens across the board.Otherwise I want the mega damage.
while going back to smaller numbers would feel like a nerf, it would also just be ridiculous to see someone having 800,000 health. I hope they can come up with a solution soon. But either way, people are still going to QQ
The item level squish would be much better solution I think but then 12 mega damage is making me think otherwise. PvP, Shield of the Righteous for 20 Mega Damage? drool =D
Squish, please.Pealing off "big numbers" is all relative. Buddy of mine mentioned how he crit something in DnD for like 97 dmg and that was a big deal. For the context of the environment, it was.I'd much rather analyze fewer numbers than more. It changes literally nothing if hp/dmg of everything is a % shift down.The concern about players feeling nerfed should be inconsequential. Anyone who thinks they are nerfed because of a global stat squish failed 5th grade math. Plus people will get used to it.
I say go ahead and rip the Band-Aid off... Or... go with your MegaDamage graphic above, but it has to have audio with it in the style of Scott Pilgrim... LOL.
I agree with the idea of the squish, my only concern is how it will translate to lower level gear. Would you apply a 50% reduction in stats across the board for ALL gear? Or would this be a reduction in the severity of the stat increase as an item's ilvl increases?
P.S. Just rip the band-aid off. That way the QQ may be more severe for a short while, but the sting will go away sooner.
ilvl squish for the win. Yes, it will be weird at first. There are changes on every expansion anyways, plus new expansions should be like starting fresh =
I realy liked the sixty two thousand and four armour. lol
I'm in favor of the number squish. From what I could tell from the article not only would item, and spell stat numbers change, but so would the bosses and healths of other things. I think smaller numbers are nice, I personally liked it where 8-10k dps was amazing if you could do it, to me being able to do 20k dps is outrageous. Even if you were to continue to go higher on numbers people would still have to adjust for what the new "max" best dps, or hps would be, this way it might seem a bit more familiar and comfortable using smaller, easier to calculate, numbers. People I've talked to about the new expansion have mixed feelings, and the most common I hear is "silly", I think if the mega damage thing would be implemented then it would truly be considered as silly. It would make me feel like I was playing more of a children's game, and I feel it would drive away more of the logical players that play because they can calculate those numbers to get their dps just right, or what have you. It'd be kinda hard to calculate MEGA damage lol.
Ah, the Mega Damage component. Gonna take a page from Palladium Entertainment were we?For those of you wondering, Palladium Entertainment makes the PnP Role playing Game called RIFTS, a Post Apocalyptic Sci-Fi theme. Damage levels in that game got so out of control that they came up with a new category called Mega Damage Capacity (MDC) and renamed the old one to Structural Damage Capacity (SDC).In terms of raw numbers, 1 MDC equals 1000 SDC and if a weapon hits a like categorized target (MDc to MDC or SDC to SDC) then the damage is calculated normally. When it crosses over though, that's where it gets fun. you see, it's not just about raw numbers. SDC targets being hit by MDC weapons would be instantly vaporized and SDC weapons striking MDC targets might as well be shooting spitballs (has the same effect, aka zilch)The fun part about this? most non-military structures are SDC structures while most players and their adversaries tend to be equipped with MDC armor and weapons. Urban and indoor battles took on whole new levels of meaning.