Haku Machente: The Masters Rework
What’s the main reason for the Masters rework?
We originally introduced Masters in Path of Exile back in 2014 and, well, they’re showing their age. It does not fit with the game’s evolution moving forward. Like, for Haku, you need to run in a cave and back out, and do it over and over again. No one likes that.
What about the Crafting and Hideout rework?
Many of our players have been playing for four leagues per year for multiple years, and they’ve had to level masters year after year, and [that’s something we wanted to change]. So we’ve streamlined it to make it more accessible based on your progress in various content in the game.
For instance, in the Azurite Mine (from Delve) there are certain locations with those crafting recipes; find them and the recipe is yours. [It’s an improvement] rather than having to run Haku missions 300 times. You can find these within the game’s content and activities rather than looking at a Master’s progress bar every now and then. We hope [this method of crafting] reduces the grind and makes it more interesting.
And the player hideouts?
For hideouts, we knew it had to be addressed. People like playing the game and making cool hideouts, but 13 weeks later — and boom — that gets wiped and sent to standard just like your character. While people are happy to make new characters, they aren’t necessarily happy to be forced into making new hideouts from scratch.
So now you have one hideout and it’s shared across all leagues. You make your hideout pretty and it’s pretty forever. Also, you can save hideout templates and share them with other players.
How is that implemented?
Currently, it’s a text file that gets saved and you can share that around. We’ll work on the system over time to improve it [based on feedback] of course.
How does it tie into the new and returning Masters?
At the beginning of this year, we planned on introducing new Masters and reworking the system. That’s why we had a three-month cycle where we introduced new Masters in their own expansions (Bestiary, Incursion, and Delve). So we had players become more familiarized with them, tied them into the story, and then that’s followed by all the lore about what happened to the old Masters in Betrayal.
We’re taking away the bad, old content and mechanics, and we’re replacing it with new content in a good way. Something that’s fitting with the lore and the world we’ve built.
How did you come up with the design for the Immortal Syndicate?
We wanted an organization that affects your playthrough even before you reach the endgame. Their members can be revived because of an artifact they stole from Jun’s order, and so you’ll have to help her take them out. We’ve tried to evoke the theme of a crime cartel just like in those TV shows or movies where there’s a board and all these strings are interconnected. It’s like [being a cop or a detective] in Wraeclast and you can see the progress of your investigation as you progress.
What’s the idea behind the character-heavy focus of Betrayal?
Having a character-heavy focus in Betrayal was important to us. Betrayal will introduce 19 voice-acted characters. Also, there are 40,000 words of text so far. It’s gonna be quite a lot. These characters will remember everything that happens to them — if they had a friendship or relationship broken, or if you do kill them. We wanted a living, breathing organization that you can interact with. You’ll meet [the Immortal Syndicate members] as early as the second area of the game and you’ll get to encounter them multiple times during your playthrough.
How often do you encounter them though? Is it highly based on RNG?
We’ve weighted it so that it’s nearly 100 percent on a per-area basis. You’ll get to encounter one in almost every location.
For this feature overall, it’s going to be like a balancing act, right? Or is it possible to just keep executing targets to make them stronger and give more loot?
Both are actually correct. It’s possible to do the latter because everytime you execute someone, the Syndicate promotes them and boosts their stats further. They do give better loot so that’s a viable strategy. However, you also have to weigh the pros and cons. When you keep executing, you’re not going to be able to bargain or even interrogate. So, yes, it’s going to be a balancing act of how you want to manipulate the Syndicate. Is it better to manipulate the organization so that they’re stronger in the end and you get better items? Or would you prefer that they’ll be easier to take down later on?
Can you provide more details about the rewards?
First off, 3.5.0 will bring in 15 new unique items. Many of those can only be obtained in the Betrayal League. Likewise, there will also be Veiled Mods that you can discover for rares and uniques.
So depending on how you’ve manipulated the Immortal Syndicate, you’ll have those characters in their respective branch’s safehouse in various rooms. Depending on their specialty, they’ll drop loot associated with them. There’s a guy with Divination Cards as a specialty, so those would be in a chest in his room; there’s another with Unique items, that’s in his room.
You take out their safehouses so you’re one step closer to finding out who the mastermind is and where the Syndicate’s headquarters are which, of course, has even more rewards. Once you’ve finished the “investigation,” the entire board resets and you’ll get to do it all over again.
Is there an ideal playthrough or list of choices?
Right now there isn’t, but I suspect a lot of veteran players might discover a pattern that works out for them. Since Syndicate arms have different specializations, players will want to focus on the choices that will help the build or playstyle that they want.
For example, let’s say you’re a bow user and you want to have stronger bows drop. One of the Syndicate characters happens to specialize in bows, and so you want to reposition this character on the board in such a way that they’ll give you stronger items when you encounter them. [You could pick] the Research arm which could give you better mods because of the research done by the organization, or the Fortification arm to get more bows to drop later [because the drops are tucked away inside the forts].
I remember looking for viable builds and veteran players mentioned an integral choice within the campaign: “Kill all bandits, or save one” — and the Immortal Syndicate feature looks like it increases the number of decisions you can do in the story tenfold, right?
That’s correct. By the time you reach maps, you’d have already made 100 or more decisions, all of which have different effects to the Syndicate. Plus, because of different relationships and restrictions on what actions you can do at a given moment, there are too many combinations to follow the same pattern every single run.
How does it tie into the challenges of the endgame?
We’ve always tried to balance Path of Exile‘s content so that it’s appealing for casuals and veterans, or hardcore players and streamers. [The Immortal Syndicate is a means for our more casual player base] to also get some cool rewards while tied to their progress in the game. We wanted something that could add to the game without necessarily having to hit the “endgame.” They can discover that as they play along. That’s how we’ve designed content in previous leagues — it’s content for those who are new or just want to try Path of Exile, as well as for those who are already experienced.
Winter Is Coming
After Chris showed previews for Winter Orb and Storm Brand: Will cold and lightning become the new meta?
We took a look at various player build archetypes and figured “these are going to be good” but, of course, [the meta will continue to evolve and change].
Will there be additional brand types, elements, or skills?
Yes, there will be… but [the Storm Brand] is the only one we can reveal for now. The team’s working on other variations, of course. If others look good or are fun to use they will be announced later on. Those that aren’t, [they’ll go back to the drawing board] for more improvements. We are committed to having 10 reworked or newly-introduced skills for Betrayal.
Given that all of this content is new to Betrayal, and returning content from previous leagues will be back, doesn’t that mean that the Betrayal League should last longer?
It’s still going to be three months, it’s just going to be a bigger release than usual. The next expansion after Betrayal is still expected around March 2019.
Next up, let’s talk about Path of Exile‘s systems in general, such as RNG, trading, controller support, and community questions. Check it out here.