We know Blizzard isn’t exactly a font of new ideas. When they find something that works, they like to re-use it, to hone it, and to stick it in completely unexpected and inappropriate situations. We have had the stats squish twice already, and what essentially adds up to a server squish on retail. (They don’t merge servers like failing games! But suddenly two servers now behave like one.) At BlizzCon we were told that the level squish is coming coming with the Shadowlands expansion next year. So squishing is clearly a thing at Blizz.
As it turns out, there was a leak recently that showed some of the other things that Blizzard has been considering squishing as part of an attempt to revitalize the game. A few of them have made their way to me.
- Gold Squish
The economy has been a big concern for Blizzard. They put in easy gold faucets so that casual players can obtain enough gold to stay afloat, but hardcore players exploit and farm every such faucet. Even after boosting the cap on gold, more and more players are ending up at the 10 million mark. The various sinks do not absorb enough gold as most of them tend to be one-time purchases and players with maximum gold tend to distort the auction house.
So the idea of a “gold squish” was floated. The plan was to simply cut the amount of gold on every character by 50%. The whole thing was easy to understand and affected everybody equally.
However the idea was scrapped when feedback from focus groups indicated that reinstating Blitzchung’s original year long suspension, taking his prize money away again, and incorporating the flag of the People’s Republic of China into the Blizzard logo would be more popular with fans than taking any of their gold away.
- Alt Squish
Name usage and database size are big issues when it comes to a game the size of WoW. People make alts, roll up on multiple servers, and generally use up all the names and hoard stuff in their banks until the database tables runneth over and a new player cannot show up and roll up a new toon without putting special characters in their name.
A management consultant group came up with the idea of “squishing” player alts that had been idle for a specific amount of time into a special “conglomerate” character that would total up all the currency, experience, and inventory into a single meta character. If a player returned, they could activate that meta character, selecting sex, race, and class and collect all of the combined assets into one new character. Names would be freed up and the idea of being able to get a new, revitalized character might bring people back to the game.
However, somebody pointed out that this might cut into level boost sales while the database team complained that there wasn’t a lot of benefit to them unless there was also something like an inventory squish as well, so the whole idea was scrapped.
- Guild Squish
As with alts, there are many idle guilds with inactive membership roles littering Azeroth. Similar to the alt squish, the plan was to create something like an unnamed meta guild and push together sets of inactive guilds on individual servers into them. Which ever member of any of the guilds logged on first got the meta guild, could name it, and was named leader, after which they could do with it as they pleased.
After much discussion it was decided that it was easier to just stick to the current plan where the database team would just delete inactive guilds and if anybody called customer support about such a guild, a flag would come up to prompt the agent to tell the caller that it looked like one of the member accounts got hacked, took over the guild, then was deleted for suspicious activity, then lecture them about the importance of account security.
- Battle Pet Squish
In a little over nine years Blizzard cranked out almost 1,250 battle pets in WoW. Nintendo and Game Freak have been at Pokemon for more than 20 years and across eight game generations still haven’t crossed into four digits. Some at Blizz were starting to feel that maybe they had gone too fast and that, perhaps, some of the battle pets were not very… special.
A proposal was made to tighten up the battle pet roles by doing what was at one point called “the bug squish,” largely because the roach and moth battle pet population were two of the main targets.
The idea was to squish down the number of battle pets who share the same model and abilities (and have nearly the same name in many cases) to a more discreet number. Who needs, for example, a dozen variations on the cockroach? Roaches, moths, frogs, and a few other common model/ability families were facing the squish.
And then the Shadowlands art team spoke up and said that there was no way they were going to be able to produce 200+ new battle pets for the expansion and meet their schedule if they all had to be unique. Already pressed for time, the idea was dropped. Expect some new, yet very familiar, roaches, moths, frogs, and whatnot in the next expansion.
- Expansion Squish
We heard at BlizzCon that the the company felt the path to level cap was too circuitous and confusing.
Before they decided to go the Chromie route, allowing players the initial plan was to mash the expansions together to make the path through to the current expansion more clear. However, the whole idea fell apart when the group looking into it could not come to a consensus as to which expansions to mash up.
For example, the group seemed fine with Pandaclysm. However, the strict orderist faction felt that meant you had to either mash up the base game and the first expansion, giving you something like The Vanilla Crusade, or leave the original game alone (good plan) and end up with Wrath of the Burning Crusade.
More radical suggestions included lumping together the three Draenor/Burning Legion related expansions into Legion of the Burning Crusade Warlords, though there was a strong argument made for just disappearing Warlords of Draenor altogether.
At one extreme point towards the end of the life of the working group it was being proposed that they mash ALL the expansions together into something like Wrath of the Burning Panda Cataclysmic Vanilla Warlord Legion of Azeroth when one wag at the back of the room suggested that maybe they shouldn’t mash any of the expansions together and just make them all scale across the the same range of levels so the player could decide.
The idea was accepted, the working group was disbanded, and we got the result at BlizzCon. It was an expansion squish of a different color, but one all the same.