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
I really dont see where the problem is with the size of the numbers but I am willing to play along, that said just add a bunch of K''s and M's done and done.
I like the "rip off the bandage" approach of squishing the numbers back down to a linear progression instead of the current exponential. If I were the developers, I would also take the opportunity to 'fix' a few other things. Make it one big overhaul (not unreasonable in a game as old as WoW).First on my list would be dropping stats from Trinkets and focusing them back on their original purpose which was to have "interesting" or unique (or fun) effects. I realize that's a bit of a pipe-dream at this point, given how many existing trinkets would need to have new effects created for them - although some, like the Brewmaiden trinkets, would start to have playable value and not require a change beyond dropping the stat.Blizzard did the big landscape and talents overhauls for Cata, so a major reworking of items (and another overhaul of talents) for Pandaria does not seem unreasonable to me.
I was waiting blizzard finally realize that number was growing a way too fast, and what about a new loot sistem more rewarding for dedicated raider instead of be the random madness where you cannot see an item for a whole espansion?
Another official quote from wowheadnews :
Oh yes please GregItem Level Squish all the way!And please don't make MoP similair to Cataclysm, because that was just.. awfull...
i think that the number lowering thing is a good idea just not so drastically maybe 50%or 40%. also if it is done then it should be done to lvls 1-95 not just 60-95. it will in-fact be a Nerf if the 1-60 content is not cut down as well. i like going over old raids with 4 or 5 people. for instance MC is so fun with 4 people an i would like to continue doing it that way. so if u cut the stats back which i do agree with. all stats should be cut back from 1-95 an beyond.
They're finally fixing DK pets, yay!
Squish squish squish. And while they're at it, they should squish XP too.Cheers.
Yay Unholy fixes!
If you want to see what the Mega Damage aspect looks like, youtube the keywords Disgaea Baal Fight. If you want to know what it feels like, spend the 80 some hours needed to get that far in the game. Having played Disgaea 1-4 (though never far enough to reach the levels in those videos), I say go for the squish. Damage late in the Disgaea games is insane!
Both the Megadamage and ILS are theoretical at this time. That being said, please do the squish, I would be perfectly happy with a Bear tank rockin' 30,000 HPs.
The truth is, it is always way more difficult to fix something, than it is to not screw it up in the first place. Issues like this are what Ghostcrawler, and the other Big Boys at Blizz get "paid the big bucks" NOT to have happen. Everything actually seemed to be working fine, even through Wrath. As you progressed, your gear progressed pretty normally with you. But then came Cata, and the insane stat changes. How (or better yet, why) did we need to go from having tanks with 30-40k HP, to cloth DPS with 130K? Why did we need to go from 2k total spellpower to 2k+ spellpower on just a weapon alone? And now that the bar has been set, it is going to be hell to try and undo what has already been done. Sure, it should seem reasonable that if you decrease EVERYTHING in the game by an equal power, that everything stays the same, only the numbers change. But with the way the WoW community works, you will have yet another F5 &*!@storm if you go dump every stat by 80%. Hell, you will have a !@#$storm if you reduce ANY stat by ANY amount. IMHO, the best answer isn't to "squish" anything, its just to not do in MoP what they did with Cata. Tune the content so that an additional 10-30% increase in stats is whats needed to progress. This would put us with tanks in the 250k HP range, and DPS at around 50k. The only negative result would be Cata content would not be a complete, one shot, solo faceroll for MoP geared players. TL:DR. You will have a lot less QQ from "only" getting a 10% stat increase than you will from "squishing" 50% of our stats down the drain.
While it would seem everyone is in favor of the squish, personally I love seeing my character getting stronger and stronger. While it may be disgusting how high the numbers would be getting, if they simply put the "k" or "m" in the right places it should work out fine imo. But hey, what do I know.The only definitive problem I'm seeing here is if the gear is giving such small increases when you upgrade to the next tier, players might end up skipping entire tiers simply because the gear they currently have is good enough in comparison to the increase they would recieve.For example, an 85 with full t11 gear skipping right up to t13 because the increase would be so small upgrading from t11 to t12.