In light of the recent news on “the great MoP item level squish” of 2012 I thought I’d take a look at just what we’ve gotten ourselves into (or blizzard I should say) this far into the game. There are some interesting observations to make about how leveling gear is staggered versus progression end game gear and what allowances have been made based on raid gear versus someone leveling through the content from 1 to 85.
First let us take a look at what we have for an overall item level progression through all content in wow. There are some assumptions made for certain tier’s ilevel as the older raids actually had a noticeable spread between early and end gear within the same dungeon. This is somewhat similar to the weapons in ulduar having a higher ilevel or the end bosses in Cataclysm being half a tier higher but slightly harder to discount. Allowances were made for these ranges.
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Its immediately evident that the rate of increase in ilevel has gone up as we move from expansion to expansion. With this push for item level inflation we’ve seen an increase in the rate of ilevel change at the raiding level as well. Let’s take a look at the item range through each expansion’s max level play.
While technically wrath had a larger growth in ilevel that Cataclysm it was only due to it having one additional tier over the course of end game play. Both wrath and cata introduced a steadily increasing item level progression that has outstripped previous tiers by a healthy margin. Couple this with the fact that the weight of our major throughput stats has evolved (and become more efficient) over time such that pound for pound our gear is that much better. This additional hidden form of inflation is what magnifies our power level over previous expansion’s content. As an example, a made up chest piece at ilevel 403 will have roughly 520 intellect (assuming a moderate 20 int per open socket), compare that to a sunwell chest piece that had on average 94 intellect (assuming the use of 12 intellect gems in each slot). The heroic dragon soul chest has 5.53 times the intellect on it compared to only having 2.62 times the ilevel (1.22 int/ilevel versus .61 int/ilevel). It really isn’t any wonder that character strength inflation has been growing so steadily given everything that is contributing to it.
Aside from stat inflation, this need for end game gear to always feel like a significant increase over each previous tier of content has put leveling gear in a rather strange place. They insist that folks in max tier epic items should be replacing their gear part way through the next expansion. In order to accomplish this they stagger the start point of the next tier’s leveling items in order to make sure the line formed by its rate of increase crosses that of the previous expansion’s max item level at whatever point is convenient for them. Given that leveling gear is generally green and of poorer item quality its item level has to surpass epic quality by a bit in order to be worth it. I’m digging deep in my memory banks here but I believe in TBC I wasn’t replacing my Naxx gear until maybe 66-68? In Wrath gear was replaced starting at 75 or 76 but some rather good items made it all the way to early 80 heroic dungeons. In Cataclysm they were forcing our raid gear off as early as level 82 in Deephome.
If you were to pull the raiding gear out of the equation entirely this is what the leveling gear progression would look like. Take note of the gaps and how they get larger with each expansion transition.
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There’s 165 item levels skipped throughout the course of our leveling gear from the start to finish of a character at this time. That’s 165 level skipped out of 1 through 325 or roughly 51%. The lion’s share of this ‘skip’ occurs in the transition into Cataclysm which throws everything for a loop with its 5 character levels versus 10.
Before I propose a “what if” scenario I want to say that I do support an ‘item squish’ scenario because I think power level has grown at far too high a rate. I trust that they will maintain the scaled numbers for everything, be it health, player damage, or mob damage and I don’t really care whether or not it makes me weaker relative to older content. I don’t think that us being gods among men doing Burning Crusade content is a luxury or right that needs to be maintained. If someone can no longer solo Sethekk Halls heroic with ease then so be it honestly.
The What If
If Blizzard made the conceit that raiders who had achieved the highest level of gear would continue to wear that gear until they reached max level of the next expansion be it entry raids or heroics as well as compressed the item level progression of wrath and cataclysm things would have turned out a lot differently. You will still have inflation of course but things would be slightly less out of control. Here is one way they could have progressed gear:
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Note that Vanilla Naxx, Sunwell BC, and ICC Heroic Wrath gear compares favorably up until max level gear from the next expansion. Once dungeon and heroic dungeon gear go into effect though the previous expansions gear becomes obsolete. While some of us wore Naxx gear into Karazhan and brute forced our way through easier Wrath heroics using tier 6 or 6.5 gear this would have made that a slightly easier task. If you remove the raid gear from the equation this is what the leveling green gear progression would have looked like:
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If you took this moderate scaling approach to gear and added in a more consistent stat weight for throughput stats, in this case intellect, things would have changed even more drastically. As we state earlier a piece of T13 heroic gear has 5.53 times the intellect than a piece of of T6.5 gear. If you kept the intellect per point of ilevel consistent at .61 (BC levels) then the rate of power increase further changes. If you used the old numbers a piece of T13 heroic gear with this progression rate would have roughly 351 intellect (with gems) and a piece of T6.5 gear would have 94 or 3.73 times as much. If you kept the weight the same the T13 heroic gear would only have 176 intellect or 1.87 times as much. In this model, the strength of a chest piece would have grown 42% from BC endgame to Wrath endgame and 87% from BC endgame to Cata endgame. While those amounts seem small the percentage increases between tiers would be smaller as well and the definition of a “big increase” in stats would be less outlandish than it is now.
Now that I’ve rambled on a bit and threw out some numbers i’m curious what everyone else thinks on the matter. Clearly the squish is going to be needed, but I like looking back and seeing just how we got to where we are and how it could have been handled differently.