It's an exciting time for many MMO players. The air is fresh with buzz about Trion Games new MMO Archeage, The Elder Scrolls Online was just released and players are grinding through some of their favorite zones in Elder Scroll games, and Blizzard is releasing day by day information on the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft. Something sticks out to me a lot that I think people are still quite confused and concerned about. I'm talking about the controversial and highly talked about item squish for Warlords of Draenor. Many players are still wondering how this will help or hurt them in their daily adventures in Azeroth. Lucky for you I have the answers, or what I think are the answers.
If you are unfamiliar with what the item squish is, let me give you a rundown. Blizzard is basically taking every item that is currently in the game that requires a level of 60 or higher to equip and reducing the statistics on it. That means that each piece of gear that a player acquires or currently has equipped will have the stamina, intellect, spirit, spell power, and attack power reduced by a certain percentage. Once the item squish goes live on servers, players will all have a substantially reduced amount of health, mana, mana regeneration, spell damage, and attack damage.
Let’s go ahead and say that you play a Mage with the fire specialization as your primary spec for dealing damage. You love fireball. It’s your favorite spell to cast and with your gear in game right now it hits for 46,928. Since the item squish is reducing everyone’s intellect, which in turn reduces the amount of spell damage, your fireball will now only hit for 2209 as you can see in the example chart below from Blizzcon. Every player will have their stats changed by the item squish and the outcome will be a little different for every player. Everyone won’t log in on the day the squish goes live and have the same amount health or the same of any other statistic. Player A may have 500,000 health now and player B may have 600,000. After the squish player A may have 30,000 and player B may have 40,000. Tank classes will have less health and defensive statistics, healers will be doing less healing for each spell they cast, and damage dealers will see drastically reduced output from the amount of damage they are doing now. From what we have seen in early Warlords of Draenor alpha images it looks like all items will have their stats reduced by around 95 percent. However, Blizzard has made sure that everything balances out properly.
The image from Blizzcon above helps you get a better understanding of how the average player would change the day before and after the item squish went live. Item level is a number assigned to every item in the game that reflects how useful it is for you and how powerful the item is to your character. As you can see the item level doesn’t change on any item currently in the game and only the stats on the item do. The big question that a lot of people will have is how this will all affect the way they play the game and the experience they have in Azeroth. Well, it’s going to do a few different things.
At first, your character will seem less powerful than it was the day the day before the item squish went live. However the item squish hasn’t only affected players. Every bad guy you can attack or friendly non-player character (NPC) that you can heal in the game will also have its stats reduced. That means that things you have to kill while questing, dungeon and raid bosses, and even the computer controlled faction leaders will have less health and damage. Things in Azeroth won’t take longer to die and you won’t spend 30 minutes trying to heal the tank of your dungeon group to full health. Blizzard has made sure the game is balanced in every aspect so that the item squish will actually work once it hits servers.
Personally I see the item change as a great leap forward for Blizzard for a few reasons. As Blizzard explains in this official blog the power spike that players will see when leveling from expansion to expansion is something that’s not necessary anymore. The way new content was designed was that all the enemies health and damage were increased so subsequently players health and damage/healing also had to be increased. Also, try to think how boring the game would be if you did the same amount of damage and healing for the last ten years. If there is no incentive to level up, become stronger, and get new gear why would you play the game in the first place? Hitting that power spike for older content isn’t something that matters anymore since you are only playing through a previous expansions content so you can level up your character or your character’s professions.
Now I know there is a large player base (including myself) that likes to run an older expansions dungeons or raids either as a group or by themselves to acquire old gear for transmogrification (the ability to make the gear you are wearing look like another different piece of gear) and to experience the content those expansions had to offer. These players had a moment of panic when Blizzard first announced the item squish because they thought it would ruin their ability to run these old raids and dungeons by themselves or in small groups of people. Well Blizzard has addressed those players concerns. As you can see in this quote from Blizzard community manager Rygarius if you are currently able to solo an older raid or dungeon, the item squish will not change that.
Players have been becoming increasingly confused because the numbers were getting so out of control. Looking up how much of what statistic you had to have, a thing called breakpoints in the game, was becoming a complete burden on players when you spent more time in the game crunching numbers than actually playing it. While an important part of the game for players looking to do max level content and squeeze every bit of damage or healing out of their character the amount of information can be overwhelming at times even for experienced players. Minimizing the amount of math you have to do is something that will make the game feel less like a homework assignment and more like an actual video game.
The game has also suffered a performance decline for many people. Having too many players on screen doing so much damage and healing has caused combat logs to explode and many computers even with a good amount of RAM can’t handle all that going on at once. Having the numbers simplified back down will cause many people with capable PC’s to see a performance increase while playing the game in very large groups. This is something I have experienced myself first hand, and one of my most looked forward to changes.
From a person such as myself who has played World of Warcraft since its release, I welcome all of these changes. I continue today to play the game at a competitive level and I think a lot of MMO’s can take a good example from Blizzard when thinking about how to design future content updates. MMO’s are a game that are never going to be perfect but if something is working and people are still playing it try to listen to the community and make it better. Not everything needs a sequel, and WoW is a perfect example of that. It’s a game that seven million people still have a ton of fun playing and I don’t think one player would say they don’t welcome change to it. Updates like this are something that will continue to push WoW into the future as the king of MMO’s. Every player should be excited about where the game is going and that Blizzard is still concerned about delivering us the best experience the genre has to offer.