World of Warcraft has changed how enemies scale, and players are very angry (Updated)

Update: In a new post, Blizzard acknowledged that "it's clear that we need to make some changes here," and listed its plans to address player complaints.

  • We’re removing the increase to damage dealt by creatures in the world. Our overall goal with this change is to keep the amount of time it takes to kill a creature from getting ridiculously short, and increasing the damage they deal is unnecessary for that goal. Instead, this was making you feel like they were becoming more dangerous, which was not our intent.
  • We’re significantly reducing the rate at which creature health scales with your item level. Again, all we’re trying to do here is prevent cases where monsters die too quickly for players to react to their presence, particularly around World Quests. Our initial tuning was far more aggressive than it needed to be, which could make it feel like your upgrades weren't actually helping. This change will make it very clear that you are still becoming noticeably stronger than your enemies as your gear improves.
  • (Those two changes are already live, and you should be seeing them in-game now.)
  • Later today [and possibly live by the time you read this], we’ll be correcting a separate issue that’s causing unequipping an item to drastically alter the power of enemies you’re facing. The above changes make it so that’s never the right thing to do anyway, but this is still a strange/buggy interaction that needs to be fixed.

Blizzard also repeated that it didn't make mention of the new scaling system in the 7.2 patch notes because it wanted "raw and honest feedback" from players, without any external influences. "When that feedback never came, we assumed that meant it was an acceptable change—i.e., those who hadn’t noticed it weren’t bothered by it, and those who had noticed it thought it was fine," it wrote. "Clearly that was a false assumption, and we should have drawn attention to it later in the PTR cycle, so that we could have caught these issues before Patch 7.2 went live." 

Original story:

The big World of Warcraft 7.2 patch that went live yesterday made some significant changes to the game, many of which we touched on here. One we didn't discuss, however—because Blizzard didn't mention it in the patch notes—is a change to the way mob scaling works. Instead of scaling to a player's level, enemies now scale to item levels, and based on the reactions in this forum thread, people are not happy about it. 

It took awhile, but game director Ion Hazzikostas eventually confirmed the change in a forum post of his own. "Yes, this reflects a deliberate change, but it's also not working exactly as we intended," he wrote. "The scaling may be too steep, and the fact that unequipping a piece of gear can ever be helpful is a bug in the system. We'll be looking into making changes to correct this in the very near future." 

"Power progression is an essential part of the WoW endgame, and the last thing we want is to undermine that. We stressed the importance of that progression when discussing how the level-scaling system worked in Legion around the time of the expansion's launch, and explained why we then had no plans to scale foes' power based on gear," he continued. "But as we've watched Legion unfold, we've come to observe some side-effects of our endgame content plan and the associated rewards structure that made us reconsider." 

Hazzikostas said WoW's core mechanics "start to break down" once players move past a certain threshold, because they simply become too powerful for the game world to handle. They'll spend more time traveling and cleaning up than actually questing, and instead of using core class abilities, the focus shifts to "spamming instants to tap mobs as quickly as possible before they die." He also explained, very approximately, how the new system will slow, but not halt, the powerleveling process: "Perhaps instead of getting 400 percent stronger over the course of the expansion relative to the outdoor world, you only get 250 percent stronger. But you should always be getting more powerful in relative terms, and upgrades should always matter," he wrote. 

As for why the change wasn't listed in the patch notes, that's where things get a little dicey. Hazzikostas said the new system "was meant to feel largely transparent and subtle," and Blizzard wanted players to experience it "organically" at first, instead of focusing solely on the before-and-after differences.

Unsurprisingly, that explanation has not gone over very well. His post is on page 26 of the thread; less than 12 hours later, the thread has exploded past 125 pages, and while I don't have time to read them all, the most recent post at time of writing seems just as unhappy as the first: "This might be the stupidest idea since removing PvP vendors."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.