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It’s been a lengthy time due to the fact Path of Exile was the new outcast (so to speak) on the Diablo island. I 1st saw it in 2010, and it came out of beta in October 2013. Since then, Grinding Gear Games has released 30 updates and expansions. And with that has come a lot of energy creep and mechanics that, as common manager Chris Wilson mentioned, have resulted in players pursuing unfun tactics and facing much less challenge than the studio and the neighborhood would like.
So following Wilson announced the upcoming Expedition expansion, he also dove into a series of balance adjustments and additions to address Path of Exile’s metagame and difficulty, like a rework of Act One. The 3.15 expansion, along with these adjustments, comes July 23 to Computer and July 28 for consoles.
Path of Exile, like a lot of on the net games, has been riding higher when it comes to player numbers in the course of the pandemic. But the Ultimatum expansion didn’t hold on to the momentum, for a range motives, like a rocky launch.
“Our Day One Ultimatum result, as in the number of players turning out for launch day, was 99% of our previous record. And the reason why it was just 99% is we had a day of terrible, terrible server problems. Worst day ever,” Wilson mentioned in a video interview Tuesday. “And so I think we would have got to about 104% of our previous record for launch day, if we hadn’t had those server problems.”
But Grinding Gear also discovered that the mechanics for this expansion didn’t sit will with players.
“Retention during the league was poor. I would say it was in the bottom 40% of leagues, a bit below average. And this is partly because for the league, both its combat was a bit spammy and its item rewards were a bit spammy,” mentioned Wilson [no relation to the writer — Ed.]. “These are two factors we hadn’t ascertain in the course of playtesting that became apparent more than the course of the league. And so the truth that it was really heavy with its reward systems meant that players played it for much less time than they commonly would, and this was really valuable to find out from.
“So overall player numbers dipped a little more than they would have done by the third month, which is disappointing, but it’s a consequence of the way that Ultimatum was designed. ”
This is an essential point. Even although Path of Exile has been live for almost 8 years now, Grinding Gear learns anything new about its players and how it tends to make game with every single expansion. And Ultimatum had some superior lessons for the studio.
“And the good news about having four releases a year is you can do it better the next time,” Wilson mentioned.
Expedition is just one way Path of Exile is displaying off the lessons that Grinding Gear Games has discovered more than the year.
“If you’re really generous with stuff, and if the combat is a little uninteresting, then the players kind of feel finished earlier. They finish the characters quicker, they feel that there’s less to experience than they’re still looking for,” Wilson mentioned. “And so with Expedition we’ve tried very hard to hide a lot of cool secret stuff and give them cool locations to go to, and to be more careful with the pacing of the rewards so they don’t get everything they want in the first couple of days.”
For a complete rundown, please see the above video. You can also verify the 3.15 patch notes coming next week, Wilson mentioned. This interview is more about the pondering behind the adjustments coming with Expedition, not a listing of every single adjustment and nerf.
Change now, prior to Path of Exile 2 launches
The adjustments that Grinding Gear are introducing with Expedition address challenges the studio has seen with Path of Exile more than the years. It’s acquiring 19 new talent and help gems, with a distinctive method to adding these skills than with other expansions. Balance adjustments will address energy creep from help gems. The campaign will obtain a comprehensive rebalance as nicely, beginning with Act One out of Expedition’s gate (these of you who played Path of Exile in beta may possibly recall just how lethal roas as soon as had been and shudder). Grinding Gear will nerf help gems so that you do not choose harm-dealing gems more than utility gems that could bring about new, intriguing character builds. You will not be capable to trigger spells by way of gems devoid of paying the mana expense for them. And movement expertise have been changed so that they do not bypass monster attacks.
Flasks will alter as nicely, enabling playstyles in which you can take benefit of the positive aspects of these things devoid of making use of the so-referred to as “flask piano,” in which players would tap with each other their fingers or use weird contraptions in order to hit several keys at as soon as for their flasks. Wilson even showed a flask-only create that turns characters into mad bombers … as lengthy as they do not use weapons.
As for the timing, this feels a lot like anything Grinding Gear knew it had to do but also knew could be a hard sell to its players, akin to a hairy particular person searching at a bandage and being aware of it is much easier to just rip it off and take the discomfort than to take it off gradually and prolong the hurt.
“Well, it’s always tricky with the timing of this, because the changes are going to be controversial with players. And we realize to some extent we’re being slightly held hostage by players opinions, as in, we knew that if we say we’re making this change, there’ll be enough players vocally who say, ‘I don’t like that change; you’re a bad person for making it,’ that it would feel bad to do that. And we didn’t want to upset the players and disappoint them and change something that they loved in its current form,” Wilson mentioned. “And so it is been simple to just say, oh, we’ll do it later. But [Path of Exile 2] is approaching, so there’s no later. We have to do it now so we get sufficient time to iterate on it and make it superior.
“I was also confident with the level of changes we want that this is a pretty safe set to make. They do improve the game pretty objectively. Our bar here that we had to cross was, we’ll make a change if we know it’s the right change. If there’s uncertainty, we’ll revert that and do it later with a bit more think. And so we’re pretty confident in the set, but it’s certainly needed doing now so that players can give us feedback. Before we get too close to the sequel.”
Grinding Gear has been working on these adjustments for some time now.
“Some of the changes here have been in the works for more than a year. We could have made them earlier. To some extent, doing many at once is a good thing because then it changes the game substantially enough that players enjoy the fact that is different, if you see what I mean,” Wilson mentioned. “If you say this is the game from before, it’s exactly the same but there’s one small change, they’ll work out what that means for them, and then they’ll just be annoyed about it. Whereas if you say look at all these changes, they will struggle to know which is the best build to plan over the exciting process of trying to find out the new best strategies to play the game.”
The large query about the adjustments, at least from my viewpoint, is regardless of whether they’d be taking place even if Path of Exile 2 weren’t on the horizon.
“I’d like to say yes. I would like to say that it will make the game better and that it’s better for the long term future of the game. If we cancel Path of Exile 2 tomorrow, then I would definitely still make all these changes now that I understand they’re necessary,” Wilson mentioned. “It might be the conversation about Path of Exile 2 design that made us realize we needed the systems to be in a different place.”
Wilson then employed an upcoming internal discussion on Path of Exile 2’s talent tree to reinforce this point.
“And so when we sit down and say, right, let’s talk Path of Exile’s passive skill tree,” Wilson mentioned. “Path of Exile 2’s passive skill tree, what crazy stuff are we doing? We may realize terrible problems with the existing Path of Exile 1 passive skill tree, and we may realize we were blind to those problems before. And actually, this makes the game a lot better.”
Wilson mentioned that Grinding Gear likes to employ prime players for its high-quality assurance group, and it ran the adjustments by some other individuals by way of Discord and its player neighborhood. But I got an unexpected answer when I asked Wilson the adjustments the studio has noticed about producing and playing games and player habits in the course of the pandemic. And what they discovered has been incorporated in just how painstakingly Wilson and his group are going into specifics about the adjustments coming in 3.15.
“The two changes that we noticed during the pandemic, honestly, were that people have a lot more free time, which is great. That means more gaming. And that, honestly, sentiments are running pretty hot. The general feedback is, not just with our game but all the other games that we play and enjoy, every other subreddit that I read, people were just angry at changes and stressed out about what’s happening to the world,” Wilson mentioned. “And so that kind of meant that communication with developers became a little bit more strained. ‘Companies became more evil during the pandemic’ is kind of the sentiment that players have. And so that’s been a bit difficult for us, because we’ve tried very hard to be friends with the players and the communications become strange during that time, and so we’re hoping that are very clear communication with us announcement of all of the rationale behind why we’re making changes, and so we’ll open a dialogue with the players so that we can, you know, have a better relationship with them.”
I asked if that hostility from the pandemic has continued.
“I would say that in Path of Exile and other gaming communities, the players are more unhappy with developers, even to this day, than they were before,” Wilson mentioned. “I play Magic cards, and I read the Magic card subreddit a lot, and it is just, it’s just as scary, right? So, it’s been concerning to the extent to which there is a negative sentiment about game developers, and even after the pandemic’s calmed down a little bit. But we feel, at the end of the day we can control what actions we make and as long as we make the right actions, then hopefully the players will respect that.”
I asked Wilson if this could be how a lot of players have been reacting to the loss of manage in their lives when the pandemic hit: from losing loved ones, jobs, or a sense of freedom.
“I do believe it’s just basically a lot of people being upset at the direction of their lives. There’s so many things to be concerned about in the real world that is hard for the games to completely act as a distraction there,” he mentioned. “I do genuinely believe that life became stressful. People lost their jobs, they lost family members, they lost the ability to travel. Social contacts got starved. All that kind of stuff is really sad. And so I can imagine people being a bit more frustrated. And then if their hobby that they love, their main distraction, the thing they’re living for, if that changes in a way that they don’t immediately love, I can see them being very upset and feeling betrayed at those changes. And so that’s why we’re trying to be very careful. But as I’ve said, we’ve stockpiled enough changes now that we can present them as a package and say this will make the game better.”
Diving into alter
During the press briefing, Wilson mentioned that the adjustments to help gems for some builds would work out to a “total of somewhere around 20%, potentially as high as 40%, damage reduction for a character using a fully six-linked skill with entirely damage support gems. There’s much less impact for characters that used utility support gems or who didn’t have a six-link setup.”
I wondered when Grinding Gear realized that such help gems had been a issue.
“So, we were having a look at ways in which we can reduce player damage on top-end characters, because we feel that there’s such a discrepancy between incredibly good characters and average characters, and we were looking at where they were getting their damage from. And we said, wow, that’s a lot from support gems,” Wilson mentioned. “What support gems are doing that? And we had a look, and it was like this shelf of these support gems are good, they add 50% more damage each, and these other support teams do cool stuff like blind to the enemy, but is blinding the enemy really worth not having 50% additional damage?”
So Wilson mentioned they “shaved” the prime off these numbers to get them back down. “The intention here is to make it so that people do consider the other ones slightly more because it opens up a lot more interesting build capabilities” like blinding, he mentioned.
I play a necromancer, so I asked if Grinding Gear’s target is to boost playstyles devoid of just adding raw harm.
“I really hope that we’re able to do that without the way that we buffed the minions, turning into just doing more damage, if you see what I mean. Because every single gem starts out with good intentions, ” he mentioned. “What about a support gem that dramatically reduces the area of effective skills and makes them really tiny, but in return, they do more damage? That’s a cool idea, except in the end, it’s just a damage gem, because the way that it reduces the area of impact can be mitigated in some other way. And that’s an example of what we mean by a damage gem.”
This applies to help gems that raise your speed, Wilson mentioned, for the reason that getting capable to kill more creatures immediately just ends up in you performing more harm. “And so we have to be careful to kind of come up with more intelligent things than just brute power here, which is challenging, but very rewarding when we do come up with support jumps like that,” he mentioned.
Grinding Gear does not like removing factors from Path of Exile, as players usually love the gear they earn. But flasks became a big issue, so they get nerfed alternatively of exiled. “The power level of flasks was just really high, like it got to the point where you could almost run around the game naked with a set of five flasks and actually do pretty well, because your flask provides so many weird bonuses that were constantly active,” Wilson mentioned.
I asked what about if I wanted to play a create in which I ran about naked with just a set of 5 flasks? Enter the new explosive concoction talent comes in.
“I suspect that will certainly be slightly harder, but there will be interesting playstyles there. An example is the explosive concoction skill that we added, where you need to care about your flasks a lot and you’re not allowed to use a weapon,” Wilson mentioned. “You can wear whatever armor pieces you want, but you have to have the empty your hands so you can throw flasks around. That plays into that particular playstyle, and I suspect that if someone picked the Pathfinder ascendancy [subclass], which is very flask-focused and went all-in there and put a lot of effort into their flasks, they could still do pretty well without a lot of equipment.”
The new NPCs that come with Expedition are Kalguurans, and they want you to discover artifacts left from an ancient exploration expedition. A important to this league is promoting the treasures you discover, but each and every of the 4 merchants deal with them in distinctive techniques.
When Grinding Gear began work on Path of Exile more than a decade ago, one aspect of Diablo II that it wanted to capture was its gamble mechanic. One way it is performing this is with Haggle. The merchant may possibly set a value for anything, and you can counter … but you may possibly danger losing a opportunity to get the item.
“This is partly motivated by the fact that it’s just kind of fun to have this dude who might retract the item, if you low-ball him too much. But at the same time, low-balling is what it’s gonna take in order to get his crazy prices to be dropped enough. And so we’re trying to create this negotiation behavior of you saying no, you’re not getting 300 units for this thing; I’m giving you 110. And if you’re too aggressive, he was goes, fine, you’re not getting the item.”
China and skulls-on-sticks
One of Path of Exile’s most essential regions is China. But the outcast “doom and gloom” look of skulls, skeletons, and ghosts does not work with Chinese game regulators.
In Expedition, you quest on unique maps to discover the lost treasures of the Kalguurans, and the markers involve skulls on sticks. But due to the fact skulls are a no-no in China, I wondered what the localized version would use in its spot.
Community manager Bex mentioned they’re just “glowy sticks.”
I sure hope that when I play Path of Exile following the balance adjustments, my zombies do not somehow turn into “glowy sticks” as nicely.