Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

You won't FEEL nerfed, you will be!

Ghostcrawler posted about the item inflation. In short: the strength of items grow exponentially, not only between expansions (first lvl 81 quest reward = LK25HC), but also between content patches. The result is not only ridiculous but also risks the operation of the program as it works with 32 bit numbers.

As a solution he offers two: the first is simply writing "M" instead of 000000. This can be easily proven to be wrong: you could already do it with an addon. Recount already writes Ks and Ms (and soon Bs in Mist of Pandaria).

The other solution is more interesting: "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. ... 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."

The problem is that Ghostcrawler is plain wrong. Such item squish doesn't "feel" nerfing, it is nerfing, even if the relevant monsters are equally nerfed too. Let me explain: Currently there is about 40% DPS difference between a 378 geared and a fresh lvl 85. The field monsters (like the Baradin peninsula quest ghosts) are designed to be defeatable by a fresh lvl 85. A full geared guy can massacre them if he cares to do it. If we squish the item levels the way he suggests, the difference between a fully geared guy and a fresh 85 or field monster will decrease to 5-8%. An item denomination would equally effect everyone and possibly no one would care if the DPS and HP of everything would be cut to 1/100. The few who would care could get an addon that writes the old numbers. The item squish decreases the power of geared players compared to ungeared ones significantly. Decreasing relative player strength is by definition a nerf.

It would mostly affect PvP, as full geared PvE players rarely do Baradin Peninsula quests, but fully geared PvP-ers often encounter fresh lvl 85s in random BGs and in "World PvP". They would notice a huge power decrease overnight. Yesterday your 2v2 team could GY camp 5 noobs at WSG GY, today 3 of them defeats you. Since PvP-ers are competitive bunch, they won't take that lightly. It also affects competitive PvE players who run for quick leveling. Their whole year of gear farming will be nullified, they start the leveling at the same strength as the guy who dinged 85 yesterday.

Obviously something has to be done, because soon we outgrow the numerical capacities of computer processors (large number operations are emulated, therefore very slow compared to 32/64 bit processor operations). Also, the current system doesn't "feel" right. The lvl 84 who is nearing the end of his journey is nowhere in strength compared to a geared lvl 85. He is not just "weaker", he is AoE-able.

The solution is recognizing that the original reason why the numbers got out of hand is wrong: "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." - he says.

Well, I currently have 5.1K intellect in full PvP gear. 1 strength is 2% of 51 strength while 40 intellect is just 0.78% of my total intellect, so increasing my intellect by 40 would not be an "exciting reward" and could drive me do skip it. Yet, if I would show up in a rated BG with a gem slot empty, people would consider me a lazy moron and refused to play with me, just like I refuse to play with anyone doing that. What Ghostcrawler totally ignores in his idea is that the gear has signalling value mostly. The Undergeared project clearly shown that gear is not needed and several levels of content can be skipped already, despite the exponential growth of gear. We raided ICC (WotLK tier 4) in tier 0 (dungeon blue) gear, and this was before "World of dancecraft" where gear is totally irrelevant. I did not even bother to try "undergeared in Firelands", because it would be quite obviously doable and no one would care.

The value of gear comes mostly from being a signal to other players. For morons, the ilvl matters, for good players the itemization, gemming, enchanting, reforges. While these are not needed and often irrelevant increases (reforging crit to haste in one item is in the 0.1% range), they prove that one understands his class mechanics and cares to set up his character properly. Therefore the actual item values are irrelevant as long as they have some effect. Having ilvl 84 gear from lvl 84 quests (currently 317), ilvl 85 from dungeons (currently 333), 86 from heroics (currently 346), 87 from BWD normal (currently 359), 88 from BWD HC and FL normal (372/378), 89 from FL HC, Deathwing normal and 90 from DW HC is just as good for these purposes. The ilvl 88.4 moron would still demand ilvl 88.3 for a BWD achievement run, while the good players would still look at the enchants, gems. The peacocking kiddies could just as well show off their "l33t" stuff even if they are just 1% better than the "crap of teh n00bz" and the below-healer arch-idiot would be just as sure that he needs to replace that last pair of 88 items to 89 for being #1 as sure he is now that having 378 placeholders instead of 378 BiS causes his low DPS.

If gear is already irrelevant, it's time to make it that way officially. They should do the one-time item squish and get rid of the exponential item level increase. Since there are no more than 3 tiers now between expansion, even the ilvl 90 DW HC gear would be worse than Mist of Pandaria HC-5man rewards, so besides the very top HC guilds no one would use these when step in the new raid.

This setup would also make the weirdest feature, the "challenge mode gear normalization" unneeded. I'm sure that challenge mode dungeons will be deserted, players may do them once for gold medal and forget them forever, exactly because they would have to put up with significant power (= run time) loss for only cosmetic rewards.

Of course my suggestion would be a nerf too, but only a one-time nerf and a well-justified one. Players would accept it more easily than "we'll give you gear now, but will take it back at the end of the expansion every time". The linear system would be an incentive to do last tier hard modes even a day before expansion as a loot from here would increase your leveling power... a bit.


Carighan said...

I understood his suggestion as squishing the non-current tiers of gear.

See the graph, to me it seems as if the most current X-Pack would still have the current level of gear-improvement or similar, but the non-current X-Packs are squished to fit into a line.

Wouldn't that alleviate your problem?

NMB said...

I don't think you've understood Ghostcrawler correctly. He suggested squishing item levels down to a linear increase except from fresh-85 to BiS-85.

Actually, since this is being suggested for MoP: Linear increase from 1 to fresh-level-90 gear, followed by exponential increase until BiS-at-end-of-MoP gear.

Then, when WoW 6.0 comes out, fresh-90 to BiS-MoP would be flattened to linear, and growth would remain linear until fresh-95. Then, it would grow exponentially until BiS-at-end-of-WoW6 gear. And so on.

At least, that is how I interpreted it. Have I made a mistake?

Anonymous said...

Gear isn't about stats, ilvl or looking good. It's about dishing out bigger numbers. That's why gear upgrades need to be substantial.

One reason why this is good, is that it naturally nerfs the content over time as people get more and more gear (which is a lot better than those huge 15% one-time nerfs).

You're comparison of 40 int / all of your int with 1 int / int of one piece is also quite ridiculous. Assuming you wear even 10 items with 50 int, that 1 int upgrade would only provide a 0.2% buff. As you noted, a single gem already provides a nearly 1% buff to your dps.

Gevlon said...

@Carighan: but at every new expansion the current becomes non-current. So when MoP comes out, your "hardly earned" gear will be squished and you'll be near equal to a fresh 85

Jesus said...

Every X-pac has been a big gear reset. How is this different?

I agree, when MoP hits the shelves people geared in 410-416 Ilvl will be equal to fresh 85 after a couple of quests.

How is the item level squishing changing anything?

Anonymous said...

It isn't just pride that requires gear in a given tier to be better than that of a previous tier.
Gear of a current tier needs to be significantly more powerful than a previous tier.
Otherwise an item from the previous tier which is itemized well may become superior to one from the current tier which has less than optimal itemization.
In addition tier set bonuses or procs may cause this issue as well.

Vegard said...


But when MoP comes out, the gear you got in Cata won't matter anyway. Squish or not, you will replace it within a couple of levels (which equals just a few hours)

Andru said...


And no one will care. Do you care now that BiS LK HC gear can be gotten as greens in Vasjir? More importantly does anyone care? I've never ever heard of anyone say that.

If MoP will hit and this compression will take place, everyone at 85 will be busy exploring the Forest of Forgotten Pandas and getting Deathwing-level eq as greens, regardless of their previous gear.

Your "but your gear will be squished" argument is about 4 years late. It already happened 3 times until now.

Imakulata said...

@Gevlon, I don't think they said if and when they were going to do the squish again so it's quite possible that the HC raiders will have an advantage in the beginning of MoP and I actually think they'll do it like that. Yes, a "former main" character will be nerfed when one decides to switch back two expansions later but I think there will not be enough people like that to make a significant fuss.

Péter Zoltán said...

Squishing only happens on past tiers, which are irrelevant. A top-decked character would still (sadly) have about the double or more of the potential of a freshly dinged max level one.

Gevlon said...

@Andru: but if no one cares losing the gear, why do anyone care getting it? I mean isn't the fact that people accept the obsolation of gear means that they do not WANT (as opposed to wish) the significantly stronger gear.

I do not talk against the squish. I want to make it permanent, making the current tier "squished" too.

Danthe said...

Blizzard is planning to do MoP and 1 more x-pac at max. There will be no more development of WoW after that point.

This change is only needed to make things easier to handle in MoP and possible 1 more x-pac. After that ... noone cares.

Andru said...


The reason has already been stated. In your solution, sometimes it would be beneficial to use last expansion's gear in the current expansion, something the developers do not want.

Taking your 50->51 strength example. The increase is of 2% which is huge for a gear tier. But how many tiers are in one expansion. 4-5? So you'd end up with a difference of 10%. If all tiers are squished the same way, it could be that some crafty people would wear gear from last expansion(who'd have 10% less stats) yet are desireable in another way.

This has already happened countless times, even with gear inflation. Tanks used Halion's armor trinket in T11 until Blizzard had to purposefully nerf it. There was a paladin necklace from Zandalari rewards that increased HoJ duration by 0.5 seconds and saw some use in level 70 PvP. Tier Set bonuses act as percentiles, and a particularily good tier set bonus would crawl up into the next expansion.

Right now, these things are curbed by being drawbacked by huge absolute number cuts. Level 70 gear has about 10% of the stats of level 85 gear so whatever mix-and match bonus you could get from L70 gear (for example) is compensated by this huge drawback.

If you linearily squish everything, you may suddenly see it as being 80% as effective as level 85 gear. And then someone would find some way to abuse level 70 gear sets in level 85 content.

Ulsaki said...

The problem GC fails to acknowledge is as you point out, it is a nerfing. Unless you shrink everything by the same amount which is impossible. At least unless you add higher degrees of precision (your fireball crit for 10.24 damage!)

If I have a guy with 150K health doing 40K DPS and shrink that by 20x, then you end up with a level 1 character with something like 3 health doing 0.5 damage per fireball. Just as bad.

One solution I see is to squash the numbers, and multiply damage based on level difference so that you get smaller numbers in general whilst keeping the same growth in power. However this does then result in certain numbers being inaccurate and misleading in certain contexts, and some people might feel weaker because Spell of Doom hits a level 1 player for 1M damage, but only does 10K to a level 93 boss.

On the other hand, this also would result in level 90+ players shrugging off the attacks of Arthas (a level 83 boss) as if they were nothing, so it does go both ways.

Dangphat said...

Perhaps you could square all numbers before dividing them by a set constant.

Imagine these three warriors A,B & C all at a theoretical max level with strength levels of
A=80, B=90 and C=100

A linear scaling of 0.1 would give
A=8, B=9 and C=10
which you would say is a flat nerf as it brings people closer in my system with a square then a set scaling let us say 1/1000

A=6.4 B=8.1, C=10

Ninahagen said...

It's true "hard earned items" will be nerfed at the end of expansions. But I don't care much, the levelling edge is not that valuable.

However, I think this "mandatory" move is a bad one, though pretty well displayed.

Relatively, we will be nerfed only at the beginning of the new expansion. But we will absolutely feel nerfed through the entire expansion, even if, relatively, we won't be. (for me the title of this article is bad: we will feel nerfed, AND on top of that, some will be while levelling).

Geometric inflation gives an artificial self progression feeling.
It's like a magic trick engulfing players.
For those who are used to crunch numbers, the magic trick never worked (much, because it's hard not to be affected, like advertising).
But, now, anyone reading the tidy and nicy Blizzard's blog is convinced the squish is necessary (the first solution is obviously and purposely inadequate to reinforce that feeling). Blizzard try really hard to explain it. People understand. Magic is gone.

So, Blizzard shoot at inflation and "self relative progression feeling through item" (SRPFTI ?).
Players have to rationalize it, they take distance with numbers (that's what rationalizing is). Progression becomes less emotionnal for those.
They'll have to eat it, when starting MoP. They will feel they'll have to "start again from 20 000 hp and shitty damage" (for instance), and go through that, and think it might happen again.

It's like a zoo with a lion, without barrier. Visitors are thrilled, but when the lion is coming too close, a guardian fires at it. Now, we have to watch a wounded lion (less impressive), and we know that if the lion comes too close again, it will be shot again.

This system is now a wobbly gazelle.

Any non-numbers-afficionado who will play MoP will feel the nerf. They will understand (a little more, at least) that inflation is meaningless. The game will be less motivating for people that relied on that feeling.

Blizzard seems to offer nothing to replace or repair that feeling. They just shoot it, and pretend everything will remain the same.

Is the wobbly gazelle good enough ?
I think they must capitalize on esthetics.

Anonymous said...

It's blizzard. They will sell you air, make you breathe and you'll be convinced it's a great idea!

TBH the only downside is you can't go own the last expansions that easily and alone. But don't despair, blizz will make a solo buff accesible. How do I know this? Other games have done and ppl have loved it ergo blizz will be the first to think of it!

Anonymous said...

Andru wrote:
And no one will care. Do you care now that BiS LK HC gear can be gotten as greens in Vasjir? More importantly does anyone care? I've never ever heard of anyone say that.

Well then you have not read the official forums before every expansion so far. There always was and always will be a shitstorm of "buuh fucking huuh my hard earned HC items are getting worthless". I never understood that, I love getting more powerful items even greens.

About the timeruns: actually that is the part of MoP I'm excited most about. Getting powerful items will be as trivial as ever before, fi Blizzard announced that the new heroics will be as "hard" as WotLK ones (let's hope at least Pit of Saron style). I think I will enjoy some ladder speedruns, please expand these to every 5man in the game!

Unknown said...

Your comparison of stats is flawed. You compare the 1 strength to the 50 strength of the armor while comparing the 40 intellect to total intellect. You have to compare it to an armor piece or strength to total strength for it to be relevant.

Lomez said...

The large ilevel gap between tiers is necessary because it allows for a greater variance in skill needed to clear content. The Undergeared project was successful because Normal modes were designed for average players in average gear. If your gear was below average, you could still clear content if your skill was above average. Similarly, players whose skill is below average could clear content with better gear. The problem is that the performance for the "average" player is so far below the performance of top players (20%-50%) that they need significantly better gear in order to compensate.

World-first guilds partake in their own Undergeared project in Heroic modes, by clearing bosses before they have the gear that would be required by lesser-skilled (but still above average) groups. Rather than beating Heroic Ragnaros with everyone wearing mostly Heroic Firelands gear, they are doing so while still wearing mostly Heroic T11 gear.

If the gear difference between tiers is only 1%, then the skill level needed to clear content would be too strict. Those whose skill level falls below the point at which content is balanced will always find it too hard, while those whose skill level is much higher will always find it trivial.

Side-Note: If Blizzard chooses to squish gear, they don't have to squish it at all stages. They could just remove the inflation from Vanilla, BC, and WotLK, and still bring stats back to manageable levels.

Pheredhel said...

@Gevlon: there is a simple reason why it's not a good idea to make the current tier linear:

Assume between two tiers at the beginning is a stat increase of 100%.
this means the next tier has only 50% bonus, then 33,25,...
after a few tiers, you are at a point, where player skill weights way more than gear. This means all gear becomes negligable. (a 0.0001% increase just can't be the reason why you suddenly down a boss)
it just can'T be balanced, or skill of a player has to become linear aswell. I.e. the better player does 100 more damage, not 10%.
In other words, skill will be become irrelevant as well, as soon everything is within the randomness margin (or the randomness becomes rather irrelevant cause it just adds a few points, not a few %)

So, making current gear-progress linear will not work from a gamedesing point of view, if gear is supposed to have any meaningful effect on the game.

Yaggle said...

I noticed way back in Everquest that people would go through great lengths to acquire gear with very small stat increases. A player would die many times and run dungeons for many hours only to get a few points of stats. So I never understood later in the game why they let players get exponential stat increases like you are saying. And I think the same goes for WoW, and for the same reasons. It's a signal that you are one of the best players, and that is by far good enough reason. There is just no reason to give huge stat increases to the best gear, I don't understand why they ever started this policy. To me they are basically saying they will make my e-peen larger so I want to keep playing.

Anonymous said...

I understand this as
"You don't need to be skilled, just play more and you can beat everyone"

Therefore a promise for to get better than others by just playing more.

This is good as it keeps them subbed compared to "that 0,1% won't make me kill him so why try to get it"

The whole point of making timeruns gear-independent is to state 100% this was acomplished by skill and not stats. It also assures that this content doesn't get easier as raiding tiers progress

Anonymous said...

A lot of comments here are correct. The huge stat increases are used as content gating. What needs to happen is to dump the ridiculous stat increases into temporary content-specific bonuses. I imagine something along the lines of a new stat, you could call it 'Heroism' or whatever, that increases your damage/healing/health (like 'Luck of the Draw') in the current raids and dungeons or lower only.

And I tend to agree that otherwise tiny stat increases are the way to go.

Anonymous said...

I also noticed in the original Ghostcrawler that he mentioned the theoretical patch 6.3 for level 95. This made me wonder if patch 5 (MoP) takes the level cap to 90, 6.0 to 95. then when which patch will give level 105 using this 5 level per xpac scheme? I'll tell you which, 8.0. This means that according to the new talent tree system, players won't get any new talent choices for 3 more xpacs, either that or they will completely overhaul it again, and again. What a mess. They should be honest and change the name to World of WTFcraft.

Anonymous said...

"@Andru: but if no one cares losing the gear, why do anyone care getting it? I mean isn't the fact that people accept the obsolation of gear means that they do not WANT (as opposed to wish) the significantly stronger gear."

They want stronger gear when it is within their reach (when they can do the HC content, when the new patch is out, when they got enough VP, and so on). The solution to your question is obvious: the gear from patch 4.2 belongs to 4.2 content, the gear from 4.3 to 4.3, and 5.0 to 5.0. Of course there are transitions. The transition from 3.3 to 4.0 was rather easy: you just had to do some dungeons and rep farming to get the BiS blues. Maybe be lucky with a BoE (or buy it).

Blizzard does not care much about how people enjoy raiding Black Temple or Naxx now. Those are old content, they are not balanced, and they want players to buy the latest expansion instead. So they'd flatten out the numbers (and they'd have to edit tons of previous items for this).

In current tier, gear is an important aspect to WoW. Together with skill and effort it can bring win. Without gear (properly itemized and such) it is harder to down content. Without skill and effort too. They work in synergy. If you remove the gear aspect from WoW you remove the stealth nerf which WoW always had, and which is vital to any RPG. If you don't like this aspect of an RPG I believe you are playing the wrong game. I've seen argued in other sports where gear went out of hand (swimming suits, formula 1 technics). Even there, the tools also get better and better; it is natural. The boundaries they're put it are to give all equal chance. In WoW that is quite easy: most epics are BoP, only a few are BoE. And you can have many WoW licenses at the same time (multiboxing) as you want, and there is no banned hardware yet. So the rules for the WoW esport are quite lenient.

As a final note it does not matter if you down content. Any moron is now 6/7 HC in FL. It matters when you down it! Since gear is a stealth nerf (and Blizzard nerfs content over time) as I just explained above. You keep belittleing the FL raid even though it is much easier for 10m than 25m in contrast to 4.0 raids (your progress does not reflect this though), and keep claiming Undergeared could've easily downed FL 7/7 HC with blues. With how much effort? 1000 tries? Before patch 4.3? I really doubt it. It took Paragon 500+ tries to kill Rag HC pre-nerf with ilvl 373 epics, and that is the best guild in the world. I took the liberty to check when you were doing ICC10HC in WotLK: you downed the content august 4 6/12 HC + crimson halls; no VDW, no Sindragosa, no Professor, no Lich King with a world rating inbetween 19869 and 32987. Hardly impressive, sorry. I remember people were PuGing ICC 11/12 HC 10m/25m for entire summer.