I’m going to take a break from upsetting people today, and concentrate on a less emotive topic that came up recently. I’ve had in game chats with a friend of mine, Hiratha, about this topic many times and it’s one that’s puzzled me for a long time; namely, the ever increasing numbers that we see in World of Warcraft and exactly how they’re dealt with.
As if by magic, Ghostcrawler then pops up with his blog regarding the great item squish (or not) of Pandaria, and tries to address this very topic. I should add that I consider the ever-increasing numbers a problem in more than just DPS or gear, and some of you may recall my recent posting about the ability laundry list that needed culling, or even my attempt to address the “arms race” that the developers wanted to move away from (another Cataclysm failure).
Hell, we’re all about to hit level 90 and that’s a pretty big number looking from the ground up.
But when it comes down to it, trying to deal with the problem of stat inflation on gear is bizarre when it was a stated intention in Cataclysm. The reason things have jumped so alarmingly from Mount Hyjal to the Twilight Highland is because Blizzard chose to do it. I was reading Children of Wrath recently and, though the entry is interesting and correct to a point, the jump in Cataclysm didn’t happen by accident – it was a response to two things:
1) Bosses were having to hit harder than planned in order to threaten tanks with high levels of avoidance.
2) Players in PvP were being blown up far too easily.
This item level surge was specifically implemented to boost health pools to the point where these two problems could more readily be solved. The laughable part is that it was an ugly solution that didn’t work, and didn’t have to happen; there were far simpler and more sophisticated ways of dealing with those problems that didn’t involve a huge jump in gear power, accompanied by a truncated levelling experience that exaggerated the issue.
You want to know the most absurd part? Blizzard tried solving a problem caused by stat inflation by… /Drumroll… Inflating stats.
It’s a bit like implementing Vengeance to stack from stamina, then devaluing stamina itself. Seriously, you couldn’t make it up. This type of muddled thinking has dogged this expansion to the point where solutions are only compounding the problems they were implemented to solve. Take a look at the warrior and paladin block model in the Firelands. Full hits weren’t the only thing pushed off the table here, as death knight tanks also took a leap off the edge because they were the only tanks frequently suffering the full-in-the-face hits that their shield toting counterparts weren’t worrying about. So, for 4.3, we get the latest version of the Icewell Radiance debuff in the form of passive buffs for the tank falling behind.
Of course, let’s not forget the part reforging has had to play in all this. Yet another feature designed to do one thing, yet ended up doing another. Sure, it was a noble goal to create a way of opening up spec-specific gear to more widely acceptable use. What actually happened was that players found out what their strongest stat was and then stacked it into oblivion (with the exception of a few “caps”). What’s surprising isn’t the fact that this happened – what’s surprising is the fact the developers couldn’t predict it was going to happen.
I’m not ashamed to admit that the item level squish doesn’t worry me in principle. What worries me is that the solutions are going to come from, and be implemented by, a development team that has proven itself incapable of solving problems of their own design. They’ve proven they can identify a problem (assuming the community guides them by the hand), but I can’t think of a single example where they’ve successfully solved one.
As it turns out, I happen to think that the item squish is the simplest way to address the ludicrous gear inflation. Assuming the remainder of the content itself is adjusted accordingly, the actual effect on players should be negligible. The problem, as usual, is that the community simply doesn’t understand the intent and only read far enough along to mix it up. This is NOT a nerf in any way shape or form and, as such, anyone treating it as one is missing the point. Hell, Ghostcrawler’s post even pointed out that you should think of it as a graphical change and not much else. The percentage of damage you do to a player or mob isn’t going to change; if you’re killing Ragnaros in the Molten Core in about 90 seconds, you’re still going to kill him in roughly 90 seconds after the squish.
Naturally, we’re about to end up with exactly the same questions we had at the end of WotLK with regard to PvP – how are Blizzard intending to solve the problem of players being blown up quickly once they shrink all of the health pools again? It could be argued that the answer is obvious; after all, worse gear means far less damage. Fair enough. Maybe the idea of “base resilience” is part of the solution to this problem but, if so, why wasn’t this properly investigated prior to the launch of Cataclysm instead of exasperating the gear inflation problem in order to iron it out?
When push comes to shove, I think the item squish is a good idea because it will solve a multitude of problems. My concern is that it’s being done by a team that’s shown little other than ineptitude in the realms of both successfully identifying the cause (as opposed to the effect) of a problem, and then identifying an elegant solution to said problem.