|Generated courtesy of wowitemcreator.com|
You know what we're going to talk about today? See that large gray mammal over there?
Yup, that'll be the Item Stats 'issue.'
Back in August, Wow Insider got the best indication for some time that 'stat inflation' on gear is now enough of an issue that Blizzard will need to deal with it. Where TC is Game Director Tom Chilton and CS is lead Content Designer Cory Stockton, here from that article is the conversation in question:
TC: "If we don't do the item squish it's going to require a lot of re-engineering of our combat code to actually support bigger numbers. We're getting really close to the point where the code can't..."
CS: "Yeah, the code can't compile the numbers"
TC: "Yeah it can't compile the numbers, so we are testing the item squish internally with the expansion, and I think a good time to launch it would be right before the next expansion so people are already used to it by the time the expansion launches. So, that's the current plan, but we'll see how it works out. I hope we can."
That was the end of August, and we're now in October... and there is still no indicator that the 'issue' has either been addressed or not. It's not a surprise, if you think about it, because this one mechanic underpins any part of the game that focusses on combat (and that's pretty much everything.) Blizzard aren't exactly going to throw up their hands and have a hissy fit if they can't make things work... they have to, because if they don't, everything suffers and frankly, we have no game. That means this silence is (I'd suspect) both planned and deliberate. This is one thing I don't see us hearing anything about until Blizzcon either... and possibly for some time afterwards, depending on the severity of the problem. Remember, this won't just be the new expansion that's affected: every item, every mob, every instance is influenced by these numbers. Even if old content isn't being changed, it will need to be checked, and that's eight years plus worth of output to parse.
There are mutterings in the Community, of course there are, because the longer we hear nothing the bigger the Elephant grows. I'm aware of some people who've tried to work out a regression path back to smaller numbers but can't make the sums add up. There are various problems: knowing where Blizzard will pitch the rollback, because there's no indicator of how long the gaming environment will be used after this point, and the reaction of the community to the new numbers when they come. However, this was a problem Blizzard considered before Cataclysm. We even have a graph of what item inflation looked like back then from a Dev Watercooler:
|Item level vs. character level. Brown = vanilla. Green = BC. Blue = LK. Red = Cat.|
Ghostcrawler was even so good as to provide us with an item that we'd see in the new Expansion if this trend continued:
|Yes, we get the point.|
Blizzard knew this was coming, before Pandaria, but decided that 'squishing' the numbers was not the path they'd take. As Mr G. Crawler quite astutely points out in the linked article above, '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.' Blizzard was aware enough of the problem an expansion ago and chose not to do it, and that is a key point to consider as we go forward. If the technology now becomes physically incapable of dealing with the computations required, that's going to involve some fairly major changes somewhere. However, stats are only part of this equation: gear itself has stopped being necessarily about what's on it. For many people, trying to enter instances and progress through the End Game, the iLevel of your item is far more important, and that's also an issue it might be time to address.
|...and you thought the elephant was large...|
If you get five minutes today, go look up the Wowpedia article on iLevel, and get utterly staggered at the complexity of the system. Every item of some use that you equip has a level, and that influences pretty much all content in some way or another. If you lived through the nightmare that was Gear Score you'll know that giving people a label is all well and good, but it can easily be used to hide a multitude of sins. 'Cheesing' your score even now is simply a case of stealing a few high level BoE's from the Guild Bank: this won't make you a better player or teach you what to do, but if the restriction to an instance is a number, that's all it takes. As I said yesterday, if you dangle carrots at people they'll find any way to eat them, even if they're not capable of digesting the reward successfully. If Blizzard are taking this opportunity to re-engineer the stats, I have to hope they'll be doing the same with the iLevels. That's likely to seem like even more of a nerf for some players for whom only one factor seems to matter.
|Small numbers ARE NOT OPTIMAL ^^|
I think we can all agree that something, somewhere has to give in the Expansion. What that is, and how Blizzard deal with the numbers isn't probably nearly as important as how they dress up the PR *when* it happens, because there is a weight of expectation on gear that really shouldn't be there, but it is. It should NOT be about a constant treadmill of equip, outgrow and re-assess. We should not be forced to constantly review what we wear on often a daily basis, or need external third-party websites to do so. The expansion would be the perfect opportunity to clean a very confusing and dirty slate once and for all. The question then comes what people now consider as an acceptable number to represent their achievement.
Perhaps it is time for a different measurement system altogether.