Possible Item Level Rescaling Happening in Dragonflight - Smoother Scaling from 1-60
During a recent Beta build, Blizzard seems to have started the process of rescaling item levels across the level curve, smoothing out the distribution all the way to level 60.
This change is not fully implemented yet, so leveling characters will feel weak currently on Dragonflight Beta until they reach level 60. You visualize the change below, with rewards' item levels distributed smoothly over the 1-60 level range.
What Does This Mean in Practice?
If the rescaling happens without issues, nothing should be felt by players when leveling. The only impact it should have is that gear acquired at lower levels should not lose as much value when you level after level 50. Currently, gear loses a LOT of value as you level up from 50-60, due to the item level inflation from gear progression in Battle for Azeroth.
Current Situation in Dragonflight Beta
Currently, while there are new scaling values on Beta, Blizzard hasn't done the complete swap to them, so scaling for quest rewards, heirlooms, and other items is way lower than intended. This means that if you copy a leveling toon, you'll find yourself way weaker than intended.
Note that this happens in part due to fewer secondary stats, since you're supposed to have more stat rating than you do, and mobs will have way higher HP relative to Shadowlands since you're supposed to have way more primary stat than you do.
Note that this
should not stay this way for long
. As soon as Blizzard finishes polishing the item level scaling, the change should be mostly invisible, as in, it will take you the same time to kill an enemy given the same level in Dragonflight as in Shadowlands.
The reduction in stats on pieces of gear happens due to the new item level allocation. For instance, in Shadowlands, a level 30 will receive item level 35 gear from quest rewards. In Dragonflight, this item level 35 gear is intended for level 17 characters instead. In both Shadowlands and Dragonflight, this piece of gear is intended to give 1% critical strike, for instance, which, in Shadowlands, is 12 crit rating for a level 30 character, but only 5 rating for a level 17 character, which is the target in Dragonflight, thus the same item at the same item level will have different stats when comparing live with beta.
Why is this Rescaling Happening?
This rescaling is happening in order to smooth out the item level curve up to level 60. This is mostly a quality-of-life improvement for leveling. This change is made necessary due to the nature of tiers, or as it has been called recently, seasons on WoW.
Every Season tends to increase player power by around 30%, which is done by increasing gear item level by 26. In a vacuum, this change is almost invisible to players. However, the impact comes when leveling to the next expansion.
With 3 to 4 Seasons happening per expansion, that means that the Item level at the start of the expansion is increased by more than 100 by the end of it. This increase means that leveling gear needs to quickly catch up to the previous expansion's endgame item level while leveling to the next expansion.
To give an example, during the Shadowlands level and item level squish, the gear scaling was defined so each level would increase the item level of the gear you received by 1, sometimes 2, so when doing a given quest at level 30, your reward would be item level 35, if you happened to do this same quest at level 33, the reward would instead be item level 38. This smooth increase goes all the way to level 45, which then changes the scaling to increase by 2 item levels per level instead of 1, which is still linear enough and not really noticeable. However, it all changes at level 51.
Since this scaling was done during the transition to Shadowlands, the first leveling range that must address the item level gap is level 50-60. In this span of 10 levels, the item level curve must cross all item levels earned during Battle for Azeroth's raids, which start at item level 60 and end at 145 with Mythic Nya'lotha loot. This means that the smooth increase of 1 or 2 item levels per level now needs to be increased by more than 9 item levels per level, meaning gear from earlier levels loses value exponentially faster.
Having this situation, comes in the item level curve rescaling, that instead redistributes item levels smoothly all the way from level 1 to 60. However, in order to preserve the balance of power between Shadowlands' gear during Dragonflight pre-patch, the final item level must be the same. The result is that in Dragonflight, each level will increase your quest rewards by 3 item levels, instead of the current values.
Epilogue: Item Level, Rewards, and Scaling in World of Warcraft
The impact of having an unbalanced item level scaling in WoW is mostly derived from the changes added in Patch 9.0: Expansion Scaling and Chromie Time.
Ever since Patch 9.0, most leveling content in WoW will scale, meaning you're free to level wherever you so desire. This is something that happens naturally up until the level cap of a given expansion, meaning, for instance, that all Wrath level content scales naturally from level 10 to 30. To go beyond that, players can activate Chromie Time, which makes all expansions scale all the way to the level cap of the previous expansion, currently 50.
Rewards in a Scaling World
To support this freedom, all quests and their rewards scale based on your character level the moment you complete a quest or kill a rare. With this, having a smooth scaling helps a lot in the feeling of leveling. If this increase isn't smooth, it means your gear quickly loses a lot of value and there are benefits in randomly saving certain quests to turn in later just to have important rewards like weapons at a higher item level.
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