30 September 2013

A Non-statistical Argument for "Stat Squish"

So I was running around on the Timeless Isle and I was once again struck by what remains for me the primary reason why World of Warcraft needs a "stat squish."  Now this is an issue that Blizzard has "danced around" for several years now.  There were rumblings about it before Cataclysm launched, but it took a backseat to the old-world revamp and other features.  There were more rumblings about it before Mists of Pandaria, but again Blizzard decided not to pull the trigger, more than likely because of the massive overhaul to the talent system that came with that expansion.  Now as we near BlizzCon and the (hopefully) inevitable unveiling of the next expansion, the rumblings have begun again.  This time Ghostcrawler is all but promising the "squish" saying that WoW's combat engine is reaching its limits in terms of the current gear inflation and associated statistics.  It is at the point where either a total rewrite of the combat code will be required, or a "stat squish." 

While there are arguments against such a "squish," and such a thing will definitely have to be applied carefully, I am fully in favor of it, and in fact even before the next expansion's theme is even announced, it is already a factor in my decision to continue playing the game.  The "numbers" associated with WoW's combat are simply becoming ridiculous.  And I know, our inner epeen absolutely loves those crazy million damage crits we can get with some bizarre combination of buffs or specific boss mechanics, but for me it is passing the point of enjoyable and just becoming silly.  The main reason really has little to do with the numbers themselves, but more about how I interact with the game world itself.  As a long time player, as someone who raided Molten Core when it was "cutting edge" content, the fact that I am now butchering sea turtles with MORE hit points than the manifestation of Ragnaros had........... "breaks" the game world for me.

Now don't misunderstand, I fully realize the need for game mechanics to trump things like lore, continuity, and internal consistency.  I know that intuitively, the game is not trying to tell me that a sea turtle is more powerful than a fire god.  But at the same time, that is how it feels.  And if you've been reading my posts for very long, you know that "feel" is something that is very important to me.  A game just has to "feel" right in order for me to get the most enjoyment out of it.  In almost every way, WoW nails this "feeling" for me.  But this is one of the few ways it falls short.  The rampant gear inflation that has taken place since the later stages of Wrath of the Lich King and continuing to the present has turned the game into an avalanche of exponentially increasing numbers without any increase in satisfaction.  It is a system driven purely BY the numbers for the sake of the numbers.  And again, I understand that is a consequence of a "gear treadmill" type of game that WoW is, but even that can be "tamed" to a degree, and that is what the "stat squish" will do.

I won't feel any less powerful when my attacks hit for 1000 damage as opposed to 100,000 damage.  The size of the numbers don't really mean anything to me.  But the game world itself will "feel" a little more consistent to me.  Items won't have thousands of stat points.  Monsters won't have millions of hit points.  And to me, that is all worthwhile.  I know there are a lot of people who disagree with me and have become accustomed to the massive stat values and huge damage numbers.  I know that for many of those people a "stat squish" is going to feel like a "nerf."  And in their defense, if Blizzard does not apply the "squish" properly, it certainly could turn out to be a nerf.  But considering this is something Blizzard has been studying internally for several years now, I am fairly confident that when the time comes to apply it, it will be done in such a way as to not actually change the relative power curve, just the numbers behind that curve.  I also trust Blizzard to know that if they do it wrong it will piss off a lot of people, and they need the WoW "cash cow" to continue for at least a couple more years.  It is definitely in their best interest to get it right the first time.


So regardless of what new frontier we go trekking off to in the next expansion, so long as Blizzard follows through this time and does the "stat squish" as planned, I'll be along for the ride.  I really think it will be a good thing for the game in the long term, and even those who are uncomfortable about it at first will probably "come around" when they realize that it will actually simplify things to a degree.  And then Rag can go back to being more powerful than a sea turtle....

2 comments:

  1. The only flaw in your argument is that post-squish, the turtle will STILL be more powerful than Rag... Blizz has been pretty consistent in saying that all content will be squished to the same relative level, running old content won't become harder post-squish. That could change but if they end up doing a K squish, expect that Rag will then have 1K health instead of 1M health.

    Still, I look forward to the smaller numbers...

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  2. I hate the big numbers. A part of my brain just switches off and says nooooopppppppeeeeee when the numbers get too large.

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