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
The squish solution would be a blessing for border brackets in PvP (55–60, 65–70, 75–80), as well as for leveling, where gear that is obtained would not be rendered useless just by entering another expansion's zone.I really hope they go for this change.
So wait, now we wont be able to solo old raid bosses?
The one problem I have with the numbers mechanics is that it makes mortality seem trivial in-game. So what...is Sargeras going to have 20 trillion life? It just seems like the numbers are getting out of control.
There goes my paladin tank health pool (again). Looks like stamina makes it's way back to the top of the important stats list for tanks. <sigh>Anything to get us tanks to reforg, regem, regear for yet another round of changes. Make up your mind Blizzard; do you want tanks to be more in line with survival or threat?
I also REALLY LIKE the "squishing" of stats at the beginning of MoP. Also, consider that for DPS, a DK doing 30k on H. Baleroc gets incredible praise for being great, however a warlock doing 27k might make the rest of the group feel like they really need to step it up. That 3000 DPS isn't terribly huge, relatively speaking, but for years, the idea of "3000 DPS" has been an enormous amount of DPS and continues to have a huge psychological impact.In other words, looking back in WOLK or even BC, that same ratio could have the top DPS (for example that DK) in raids doing 8k DPS (considered awesome in MoP) and the warlock could do 7,200 DPS. The ratio of their dmg output would be similar, however the perceived difference in "powerful DPS" terms would be a lot less, and would ease a LOT of the frustration of classes that are consistently 8-10% behind other classes/specs in a lot of encounters. Suddenly they're lagging by a matter of a few hundred DPS rather than a few thousand DPS.Also, I think the constriction of stats would reign in the feeling that gear just gets arbitrarily more powerful and pointlessly bigger every year.I'd argue that it won't even feel weird, especially if the relative power over lower level content is kept roughly the same as it is now. It'll feel more under control, like each stat upgrade is more meaningful, and think of the environmental factor of saving quadrillions of CPU instructions by calculating smaller numbers rather than numbers that run into the near-millions for every action.
I'd like to add. They can squish all stats on items and such until level 85 and then offer a high progress to level 90 making it slightly higher than the current stats. So if now we, say, have 150k hp and deal 40k damage on average, after the squish we'll be at 85k hp and deal 20k damage. But after levelling to 90 we'll have 160k hp and deal 45k damage.
I personally love the idea of the item level squish. Yeah at first it's gonna feel weird since you're not used to it. Honestly it felt weird when I went from 80 and 60k health to Cata and breaching 200k but you get used to it. I feel like the item level inflation in the game makes me feel like I'm playing one of those asian F2P MMOs where you hit for 2589 damage at level one and millions at max, it's just pretty and for show and annoying when making calculations. :-p
What's funny is, it felt really weird for me, when the BIG STAT BONUS came in Cataclysm. I would love for the "Great Item Squish" to take place. Though they really should call it the "Great Overall Squish" so players aren't mislead into thinking only our items would be affected (I read quite a few posts above... read, people! TL;DR is so 00's!).
I like the compression idea. In general I'm more concerned if my rotation will drop the guy I'm fighting by the time I get to it's end that how much DPS I'm doing. If I get to the end and he's fallen down, then I'm doing it right and everything is working fine. I vote for the band-aid solution and just fix everything in one fell swoop. You may loose a couple of players who will just come back when they realize that WoW is actually the best game out there still, but for the most part I think it will be better.It's nice to feel epic, but when you get to the point where one level is the difference between pure domination and a fair fight then that's just horrible.
Do people really not understand that if they compressed stats it would compress literally every number in the game? They aren't going to just forget or skip bosses/stats/armor/whatever.Personally I'd prefer a % model. Obviously Blizzard could still compress to their heart's content if they felt the need to do so, but all the players would see is percentages, which imo, would be an easier shift for players than watching their 62k Fireball crits turn to 6.2k crits.Edit: Actually now that I think about it, it would be odd having all spells as percentages because you would never have a static knowledge of how hard you're hitting. Sure, you might hit for 20% of that Orc Warrior's health, but your fireball only hit the boss for .01%. You'll never feel like you're doing more damage with upgrades.I guess that makes compression the way to go.
Squish is really the only way to go. The big numbers will eventually start dragging down game performance, or even making it impossible to do certain things. This is one were Blizzard is just gonna have to suck it up and do the work.
I feel the need to chime in again after reading all of the posts. There is some talk about the Vanilla Raid Bosses and such and their difficulty. The way it will work is more like this. (as I understand it)Vanilla Raid Bosses - Don't change.BC Raid Bosses - Have a drop in stats so that they would be the equal of a 10 level boost from Vanilla Raid Bosses.LK Raid Bosses - Have a drop in stats so that they would be the equal of a 20 level boost from Vanilla Raid Bosses.Cat Raid Bosses - Have a drop in stats so that they would be the equal of a 25(30?) level boost from Vanilla Raid Bosses.So when you hit L90/100/whatever you still won't be one-shotting the Vanilla Raid Bosses... or 10 shotting... or probably even 100 shotting. The idea is that they want to make this content relevant once again. Currently when you roll up to Level 60, you simply move on to Outlands. But if you happend to see a group that was going to hit the raids, then you could join up with them and actually participate instead of just watching them out DPS what you did in the last ten levels in two fights.Another fun idea would be to make it so that the stat bonuses work on a % system (set from base stats) and then show the players what the number is from the %. That way when you go into a Vanilla/BC/LK/Cat raid, your stats can drop down to that of someone at that level range, which would totally rule IMHO. So your starting gear will give you a 1-5% boost and by the time you're up to the Cat range you're somewhere around a 75-80% boost (Make it so the iLvL is the max stat % or something). Then when you do the Heroic instances instead of making it harder it makes them the max level for that expansion while you are 5-10 levels lower. Could be something to check out.ADDITION: Another good point with the % system would be that you would no longer be forced to upgrade your gear as you level. Currently as you level up you have to keep getting better gear because it's not improving with you. If you had gear that had a 20% int boost, then the urge to get one that's a 25% boost is nice, but not really required. Currently when you hit around L60-70 the stat change goes from 40-120, which is just crazy. The % system would really improve QOL for leveling characters.