Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Couldn't we just devaluate our stats?

I remember back in Vanilla when 200 spellpower was considered awesome, epics where actually epic and a really good tank had nearly 10k hp. 10k was the magic number. If you could get that much you probably were among the best geared tanks on the server. I remember when BC came and Love bought a green staff for like 100g because it had so much stats on it. More stats than anyone had seen on any one item before. And stamina jumped from the average 5k to 13k. I remember that you had to have around 15k as a caster to survive Malacrass in Zul'aman. A really good bear tank could have crazy 30k in hp.

My numbers could be off (and probably are). In fact considering how much stats have jumped over the last expansions, I find it hard to believe that 10k on a tank once used to be insanely high. The point is though that today 80k is considered a good endgame tank hp pool, 8 times the amount we had back in vanilla. An endgame caster should have close to 4k spellpower. I remember how much I struggled to get up to 2k back in BC and more than a 100 was considered very good back in Vanilla.

The funny thing is, this cycle of improvement is completely imaginary. I don't kill an endgame boss 10 times faster today than I did back in vanilla. I kill the old vanilla bosses 10 times faster sure, but as we have grown stronger, so has everything around us. So do we really need all these stats? Eventhough I might have a really nice gear on my main by now, I will have a hard time against the regular mobs when Cataclysm comes. If I have understood beta-testers correctly, pulling too many mobs when questing will become very troublesome, and your cool ICC gear will be replaced with greens in the first couple of levels. Just as back in BC and Wrath, the greens will have better stats than your epic ICC gear.

But if everything around us becomes better along with us, why do we even bother? I mean why can't we just stay where we are? Our stats are only for show anyway. What can we expect to have in Cataclysm? 10k spellpower? 100k hp on a caster? It might sound ridiculous now, but I'm quite sure these are numbers we'll be working with soon. Will it make us twice as good as we are now? No. Theoretically yes, but practically no, since we'll be fighting content twice as difficult. And the funny thing is, eventhough the feeling of improvement is imaginary, we still seem to think that we need it. It doesn't matter if all the mobs around me become better and better along with me, what I really need is the kick of adding those extra stats to my character, although those stats don't actually change anything. Cataclysm will have my character just as good/bad compared to the npcs as all the other expansions have. In fact we're rebooting ourselves. Come Cataclysm even those with über ICC gear will have to start out fresh again and start dressing up in greens, struggling in instances and become overjoyed when some "cool" blue item drops. Doing the first raids and getting that first really good epic item, until we're all epic geared again and start replacing epic items with epic items and... Wrath and BC all over again.

I don't mind doing all these things all over again. It got me hooked once and it will keep me hooked again. But is stats really the most important aspect of a new expansion? Aren't more of us actually looking forward to new talents, skills and ways of playing our class?

What would happen if Blizzard actually put our stats back to Vanilla?

It's basically what they're doing with each new expansion anyway, so would it be so horrible if Blizzard said that to cut some zeros of our stats, they've simply devaluated all stats to the value of one tenth. 4000 spellpower would be 400, but equally good. Do we really need all those zeros? I'd love it if Blizzard could invent some system that didn't just increase all the time, but that was static. In some way. Once upon a time they had to revamp the usage of percentages into rating, because  percentages could be capped too easily. Percentages couldn't handle the constant increase of stats that was inevitable. Rating is a good solution, because it fools us into believing we're constantly getting better without making us improve at all. 10 hit rating at level 1 is like 50% hit. At level 80 it's like 0,5% hit (just rough numbers as an example). So even if we got 50 more hit rating on our way to level 80, we'd actually have less hit than we did on level 1. I'm not saying Blizzard is eviler than Skeletor in "fooling" us this way. They're just giving us what we want. But again, do we really need it?

One might think "well what does it matter anyway?". Nothing of course. If the stats are equally valuable, no matter the actual number, it doesn't actually matter. But where will it end? Come expansion number 16 and we have one million hp? Why not just reset it with each expansion?

There is one problem though, what to do with the midlevel gear? If we put our stats back to level 60 it would make level 60 gear really good right? And level 80 gear completely awesome? What if gear worked like inverted BoA - the further away from it's required level you are, the less stats it gives. That means only the gear with the right level requirement for you will be really good. So level 60 gear will be really good, but only around those levels and then you have to switch it. Yeah I clearly haven't thought this trough the whole way as you notice ^^ I don't have all the solutions! Just the whine ;)

It is clear we need something to differentiate good gear from bad gear. And some sense of individual progression is obviously a really important part of mmorpgs. Maybe numbers really is the only way to make that in an easy to understand way. 10 strength is better than 5 strength (or in WoW rather; epic color is better than blue color). Easy maths. And now Blizzard are trying the new "Mastery Rating" which works differently for all classes and therefor can be used on any kind of gear. Yet again they're trying to consolidate stats by making them more available to as many classes as possible. This also makes it alot easier for them to itemize gear. In BC we had separate spellpower types between healers and casters which then turned into one spellpower type for all casters, and this is just one example of many. But the problem of the ever increasing stat seems to be difficult to get away from. So why not just cut our stats back to Vanilla! We're going there anyway, might as well go "Cataclysm" all over our character sheets too.

Wouldn't you love to log into WoW and find you characters in stats as if they were level 60?


  1. The thing I am looking forward the most with cata is the environments. I am exited to see how they will change the world. I am looking forward to new interesting questlines and stories.

    As for the inflation of stats, I don't have à sulotion or even an idea on how it might be solved. But it feels a bit off thinking back on what stats my healing priest had back in vanilla 4k hp and that was very good considering I raided 5-6 times a week.

    I am looking forward to the new expansion and all the new challanges we will face.


  2. "What if gear worked like inverted BoA - the further away from it's required level you are, the less stats it gives. That means only the gear with the right level requirement for you will be really good. So level 60 gear will be really good, but only around those levels and then you have to switch it. Yeah I clearly haven't thought this trough the whole way as you notice ^^ I don't have all the solutions! Just the whine ;)"

    This is actually an intriguing idea. Lets say that the basic difference between a lvl 10 and 60 weapon mainly comes down to damage. Then I would propose that if a lvl 10 character is using a lvl 60 sword, it should do the same amount of damage as its lvl 10 counterpart. The same could be true for armour and def. The theory would be that higher level gear carries more potential then the lower level stuff and that it requires more of the character to fully utilize this.
    But then gear levels would become an inherent level in the item, not an "requirement". In terms of immersion this would be aweseome. The first plain weapons might be lvl 50 but gives no significant secondary or magical benefits, while the first magical dagger might just be lvl 10 but with significant secondary stats. This makes quality stuff, well, qualitative. And magical stuff, well, more special.
    I don't know how this would work out in WoW but its perhaps a fine idea for something "different".

    Oh, and the inflation of stats is also a general issue with games. The only solution is to allow hard encounters to become easier but never easy (as a game designer). (The result would probably be that bosses "cheat". Damage counting in % maybe?) You remember Koudelka, right? It's as far as I know one of the few games that actually accomplishes this. The progression and difficulty level is actually somewhat Linear. The best play though I've done was madly off-balanced, and it worked like a charm. That meant that I made it thought the game by only increasing the main characters magical stats, and generally ignoring her hit points. Ah, well, there is a whole other game mechanics discussion behind this game, but it works, that' my point.

    Well, good luck with cataclysm. It sounds as if qualitative changes are on the way when it comes to stats, so even if they only get bigger they might get a different meaning.

  3. @Hartland
    Yeah there is potential in it, but I don't think it's something they'd implement in WoW. Blizzard are trying to make WoW as gamer friendly as possible and this would be a trickier system to keep track of and understand than the regular 10 is better than 5 etc.

    Yeah I remember Koudelka! And about bosses cheating, I remember one boss they had in Burning Crusade (Malacrass) who changed depending on raid setup. And I've suggested before that they could make boss encounters easier/harder depending on what gear people in the raid are currently wearing. Which on the other hand might make stats even less useful ^^

    It's not easy...

    Yeah me too, getting to learn how to play healer all over again is always what excites me the most! (and then all the other classes of course ^^)

  4. Great article! It really is interesting how no matter how shiny our purples are, they're always relative to the current content.

    Heck, there's people predicting we'll see endgame tanks in Cataclysm hitting 140-180k health. Ridiculous! As you said, it makes you wonder how much further things will spiral out of control in later expansions. "LFM tank for Argus 5 man heroics, 1.2m health req, pst!"

    In the end, there's a certain segment of gamers who just really, REALLY enjoy big numbers, and increasing them every expansion helps keep those people hooked, I feel.

  5. A possible solution would be to have fixed lvl on the items:

    "This a lvl 60 item", meaning that its stats will fully benefit a lvl 60 player. Each lvl would decrease the bonus of the items by 10% (or better by a variable amount, like 4% if you're lvl 59 or 61, 10% if you're lvl 58 or 62, 16% if you're lvl 57 or 63, 23% if you're lvl 56 or 64).

    So this item gives a +5% hit rating, would really increase your hit rating by 5% at lvl 60, but only 5*0.96% at lvl 59 or 61, 5*0.90 at lvl 58 or 62, etc, etc...

    Do you like it?