The lead designers were originally going to talk about this topic at BlizzCon, but it didnât really match the content of the rest of our âIntro to Pandariaâ presentation, and seeing as how we finished our 90-minute slot with 93 seconds remaining, there wouldnât 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 weâd 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. Itâs more of a problem weâd 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. Itâs 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 itâs 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 weâre talking about a new expansion. We donât 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 isnât much better than what the level-85 players have.
So we arrived at this point in a logical fashion, and we donât really think we should have handled things any differently. However, itâs still a weird place to be, and itâs about to get weirder. These arenât real items, in that we donât 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 âMega Damage solutionâ 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 canât quickly perform math on very large numbers, so weâd 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 âitem level squish solution.â 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 donât 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 nerfedâŚ 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 wouldnât 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 âsquishâ. Brown = vanilla. Green = BC. Blue = LK. Red = Cat
So Now What?
As I type this today, we havenât decided on which if either solution we want to try. Maybe weâll come up with yet another solution. Maybe itâs the kind of thing we can put off for another expansion so that players donât have to adjust to the new talent system and a drastic item level compression at the same time. Or maybe itâs 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 donât think there is a problem. There is. Weâre just not sure of the best solution yet. If your answer is that stat budgets donât 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 âGhostcrawlerâ Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. The last time he used âFig. 5â 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 youâll find frequent updates to the official patch 4.3 notes as development continues. You can find a list of the major features weâve discussed thus far on our official forums.
If youâll 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 masterâs crit and spell penetration stats.
Dungeons & Raids
General Bug Fixes
I really hope they go through with this. Even if it's something like changing all the stats/figures in the game to 10% of their original value, people would still be left with a solid 15-20k health, and that's something I'm more than ok with.
The squish is probably the way to go with this, they mention people ignoring content and such and the only way thats ever going to change is if the gearing is smoothed out, just how many people now days level through shadowmoon or netherstorm? did your last alt even DO a level 70 heroic? no? exactly. cause its easier and more worthwhile to just go to northrend. As long as these large jumps in gear are existant, people are going to be skiping content left and right. They mention that a level 80 doesnt care about the jump between serpent shrine cavern gear and black temple gear, which is very relevant, but i would also like to add that a level 68-70 character SHOULD care, and right now they dont. As for the spike at the end being necessary, im willing to admit it possible, but I still think it could be smaller than it has been in the past. I know I know they directly said "If your answer is that stat budgets donât have to grow so much in order for players to still want the gear, our experience says otherwise" But i have to question, exactly what experience was that? their chart personifies the fact that every expansion has followed the same gear jump model, so when/where exactly did they test this theory that people need giant leaps in gear to care? Beyond that though I would like to point out that even if its true (and it probably is) it only holds relevance to the current high end gear. What i mean by this is that while it may be necessary to give good jumps between normal dungeon gear and heroic dungeon gear, and also good jumps from heroic gear to raid gear, ect. That doesnt necessarily mean that you have to make such huge jumps right out of the gate of a new expansion. Ask yourself, did we really need to jump from a 284 Tip top Legendary in Lich king to 272 minimum level greens in Cata? Beginning ICC raids only offered 251 gear, which meant unless you were doing 25 man heroics when cata came out you were getting vastly superior gear right out of the gate. I understand they dont want people who ARE 25 man heroic geared to feel like their doing the new content for nothing but i think it can stand to stretch a little more. Instead of people having all of their old top tier gear replaced by 81 or 82 stretch it to 82 or 83 with 84 being Superior but not vastly so, then let your 85 gear make your large jumps. Anything That is not 85 is going to be replaced quickly anyway, so why not let people hang onto things they have more attachment to a little longer? I doubt that anyone who spent weeks or months getting 25 man heroic raid geared in one expansion is going to cry over getting to use it a little longer. If anything It makes being at the pinnacle of content more rewarding! I know i cant be the only one who winced and sighed at exchanging my shiny lich king epics with hyjal greens and wondered why i bothered. Its even worse for people who are only now leveling their characters through the content, they find themselves jumping from Ancient Royal Legguards to Alpheus Legguards thats a HUGE gear leap that i think should be unnecessary, even for moving into the "current" tierIn summary Im for the squish and also for a smaller squish to the "current" content too. Instead of jumping 100 (or more) item levels from the end of one expansion to the next why not make it 60? You really think people arent going to raid because the new raid gear doesnt have 3 X the stats of the old one? Im pretty sure double would do fine.
I've been tossing this idea around for a while now... For much the same reasons the devs have been apparently.I was lamenting the idea of having a with 12000000000 agility on it, and simply shrugging and saying "Oh, it has 30k more agility than my current one, upgrade!" and being done with it...It gets to the point that, if you're already trimming the numbers down in your mind (30,000 becomes 30k for example), why can't the number just be 30?Hell, a lot of the addons people use for unit frames gives it in percentages, and people seem to like that... so its not even a matter of "bigger numbers are always better".I'm hoping they simply trim down the inflated numbers and go about business as usual... Because if I have 400k HP in MoP, it'll just desensitize me to any large numbers from there on out.
Another solution: you let everything be the way as it is now, but with patch 5.0 and further you just don't let it grow exponentionally. So you do the item squish on future items, with the level they are now as bottomline. This will simply cause players not to grow too fast, so the difference between levels is also not too big, and the numbers won't go in the millions. Think about it!
Imo the "Great squish" looks like a good idea. It would be nice lvl up from 85 - 90 with your end game epics from the current patch and change them for dungeon/raid rares/epics rather than a green item from next expansion and then go for the epics of the expansion. What i mean is that greens should be more focused for people who are starting to play the game or are leveling a new character. This idea really works for me, i find it interesting to "return to the normal curve" we had based on vanilla.
I think the item squish is a good idea myself. I have played since Burning Crusade and have to say there was still an immense gap between a fresh 70 and someone that came out of Black Temple with full epics; that margin, far smaller than the ones we experience today, made the undergeared players drool. Today, my warrior (after claiming most of the gear from the new heroics and Gurthalak from the Raid Finder) can do some seriously absurd damage. In fact, just from 4.2 to 4.3, my damage output has increased almost doubled on dummies. That feels great, of course, but when you get a friend who plays a more complicated class (warriors are cake and you know it) and is having trouble gearing up, they can look scrawny on Recount because other people's dps is through the roof. It's that kind of gap that is ridiculous and almost unfair to the undergeared. Back in BC, if your dps was a little lower, you still had to get better gear, but people were only doing a few hundred more dps. Now its several thousand. In theory, what will a fresh level 95 think when their guild master's warlock has dots crit more than half their rotation?The item squish is a good idea. It will help all of these numbers become more manageable and certainly less silly. I don't want to fight a boss that has a health bar that says "306Q" (Quadrillion for the mathematically impaired) because it seems unnecessary. And tanks are going to be having real problems if they hit the threat cap and dps approach it as well because their numbers are too high. Shrink this, squish it, flatten it with the hammer, I don't care. But this needs to be solved soon before the items at the top of the page happen.That being said, if you do squish everything in Pandaria, you should TOTALLY make a small patch for pre-Pandaria that has items like those for fun (and give them a 30min duration or something so we don't keep them) and through in artwork for the mega damage seen above too. I can't imagine the duels in Goldshire and at Ogrimmar's Gates!
Have to say I'm in favor with the squish. When I'm in my pally with nowhere near to tier gear critting for 120k plus damage without all damage boost buffs going, it might be time to dial it back.
It would pretty much kill any interest I'd ever have in going back and kicking over the old content for stuff to waste gold on to Transmog.Not that I've really had any interest in bothering with that anyway.
This squish will kill twinking. I compared gear and all the twinks I built with BiS gear is now barely better than BoA once you apply WoD mode to it. Not a Nerf = LIES. All my toons are barely better than a BoA outfiited toon now when before I had double or triple a full BoA toons stats. Every time I start having fun ,Blizz finds a way to destroy it. I worked too hard on my twinks and professions and was proud of them, more than the 90 lemmings. Canceled WoD pre-release and cancelled subscription. Got no more trust in Dev. Dislike how they sneak in nerfs on overgeared players when one point of the game is to obtain good gear. I guess with generic gear, all gear will just be transmog for BoA til u hit end level and get welfare epics. 6.0 will take the fun out of anything not end game. They are over-squishing levels 1-85 out of existence. Time for a new hobby.
...and 3 months later now that the patch has hit Logged onto battlet net and first thing i see in forums is "YOU COMPLETELY FAILED at stats squish " in forums and the list of people complaining goes on and on. Maybe now reset it and start squish with Cata and tune from there ?or just fail again I dont care