Delving Deep With Details
I’ve been reading some community reactions about people getting Solo Delve achievements and some players felt this wasn’t a “True Solo” because people could do runs with friends. I know you’ve addressed this before in a previous Developer Manifesto but can you tell me more about the reasoning behind that?
We’ve wanted to provide a challenge for players and a means to recognize those who can push further within that challenge. We figured if you could play with friends, and yet somehow complete 10 more levels, harder ones, on your own, then it proves that you can tackle that content.
If we focused simply on [counting “True Solo” from the first Delve depth] all the way to however far you make it, it’s going to deter people from playing with their friends. It’s going to have negative vibes and so we feel that the current system we have is a good balance.
I then talked about my experience with the game and how it overwhelmed me as a newcomer. To that end, I asked: How do you expand your player base — finding more players to enjoy the game, knowing that there are so many complexities and content that might alienate someone who’s new to it?
It is difficult but we have to strike the right notes for our content. We have to keep adding new content, of course, for our existing player base so they can continue to enjoy the game. And there’s a slight resistance to adding content that’s too easy [or too beginner-friendly] because it focuses solely on the new players rather than existing fans. So we’re trying to introduce certain mechanics that would be enjoyable [for all types of gamers] out there.
Having said that, we do expect Path of Exile to be around for another 10 or 15 years, and so we hope to just gradually add more and more players as we go along.
How would you correct any misgivings that players may have about Path of Exile‘s learning curve?
We’ve tried to make Path of Exile simple enough as a regular point-and-click ARPG since all the basics are still there. However, much later on, players could choose to dig deep into the game based on the content or the resources they want to check. It’s easy to pick up and play, but hard to master because the mechanics can be overwhelming at first, but we hope players learn all of those at their own pace.
We’ve also had so many ways to help out new players — such as having so many tutorials before — but it hasn’t had a significant impact on player retention. That’s fine with us. Players who don’t like it don’t; players who do like it play a lot. So my advice for new players is to just keep playing and enjoy. If ever you encounter something that confuses you, just ask away. Ask in the forums, on Reddit, on global chat — the community is very welcoming.
RNG And Trading
On the subject of RNG (no pity timers, 1/1,500 chance to six-link an item, and more) have you guys tried to make any tweaks to the system? RNG is such a pain in the butt sometimes.
There are so many possible combinations of item drops in the game and we’ve tried to layer that during the course of a playthrough. But, in terms of increasing drop chances or successful crafting, we can’t necessarily boost that as it will devalue those items or those moments when players do obtain them. It’s like if someone says they haven’t won the lottery even though they’ve been playing it a lot. If we let everyone win the lottery, then that devalues money completely.
We are trying to make small tweaks here and there, but RNG is RNG. By and large, this is a game driven by all those small factors combining to create a meaningful reward that varies from one player to another.
On the subject of trading, is there a chance of an auction house being added?
There is no chance of that happening. When trading becomes easier and people are able to obtain items faster, they won’t have additional goals in mind since [they’d have the best that they could have].
Imagine two games — one has trading virtually impossible, the other has trading that’s easy and automated. The latter will allow you to find all the best items that friends or other players have found. That will lead to the game being easier and so that game has to be made harder. If that were the case, then, it punishes the people who don’t trade or only trade minimally.
In addition, there are already issues with people manipulating the economy or flipping prices. Those problems will be more prevalent with an automated system. So we’re very careful to keep the hunt for items going. While we don’t have any explicit changes planned for the trading system, as things come up we can always step in and solve it if needed.
In relation to the above, players have noted how there are a few scammers in the game and that the reporting system isn’t all too viable. Some have said that they’re prevented from doing so because it’s considered “witch hunting” or “naming and shaming.” How would you address those concerns?
This is actually a very complicated issue. So if players want to make trades, we’ve always encouraged them to make use of the secure trading system that’s available. We’ve designed it so that you’ll always want to check on the items on the trade window before you can even accept a trade.
The reason why we have the “naming and shaming” policy is that, before, we used to have a number of players who were making false accusations. Example, you might want someone’s items and they refuse a trade, [some players end up badmouthing others because of that]. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to police everything that everyone says in their own conversations. In some cases, those conversations might’ve happened on Discord, and, even if those conversations happened in the game, it requires immense manpower to pinpoint these things. So we [simply enacted a rule] that you can’t badmouth other players.
We do investigate scam reports. We look at patterns, of course, but we always want players to use the trade system. Most of the scamming happens outside of that system — like “I’ll give you this currency if you help me kill this boss” and so on. We want them to report scams and if people are truly ruining the experience of others. We actually do get emails from people who do get banned. It’s just that we don’t talk about the account issues of players in public.
Nithryok asks: Any chance of improvements and tweaks to the guild system?
We do not have any features in 3.5.0 that explicitly benefits the guild system. It’s also quite early to talk about plans for future expansions since we’re still working on them.
Asterisk2a asks: Would there be new mini-boss encounters for casual or non-Depth 500+ players?
In some ways, this is already related to the Immortal Syndicate feature. It’s part of your regular playthrough and you can strengthen them to certain thresholds as you go along. They can act as mini-bosses that you could encounter. Some of our previous expansions also added unique enemies that you could count as mini-bosses.
Obviously, none of them are as strong as the Shaper, but you know, maybe a future league would focus on that.
Zaludoz and Turtledove both ask: Will the Ascendancy system be separated completely from the labyrinth/trials?
We do not have any plans to do that at the moment.
Phoenix_NZ asks: Are there plans to tweak Ascendancy balancing? Note that I also mentioned the various classes and builds that are considered absolutely necessary for high-end play, with others not getting much attention from the player base.
It’s something we’ve done a couple of times this year with a couple of Ascendancy changes. Each time a league starts, players don’t know what’s going to be good so they all make random classes. Eventually, someone will demonstrate the best way to play a certain class and suddenly a lot of players pile on to play that class. That shifts [the statistics] in favor of that class.
We actually have data that shows a disproportionate number of people playing a certain class that’s “perceived” to be the best even though there are very strong ones that have been underutilized because the community hasn’t figured out the best way to play them yet. There were cases when the strongest build [that we designed] has remained unused for over a year just because people [didn’t know the best way to make that class viable].
We do plan on improving Ascendancy classes in expansions, of course, when we do balance passes. It’s just that it’s a very large amount of work on top of all the content that Betrayal already provides. We don’t think it’s needed yet since there’s still a decent amount of diversity in various classes.
Several players asked: Will Betrayal have more tweaks in store to make the game run more smoothly
We constantly work on improvements, and we have a team dedicated to doing just that. Our biggest improvements such as multithreading and switching to DirectX 11 are already done. It’s just [the minor tweaks] now that we’re working on.
In general, the reason why Path of Exile might be slow for some systems is that we don’t really “remove” anything. We don’t limit the number of monsters you encounter or the spells you can cast. We just let you do whatever you want. There are builds that spam a lot of stuff, that means [you’ll want a decent graphics card for those] or change your graphics settings.
Business As Usual
Has Tencent’s investment in Grinding Gear Games affected the direction of Path of Exile?
We have complete creative control over Path of Exile. There’s no outside influence with day-to-day operations.
Any chance of future controller/gamepad support for PC?
We decided against it; it kind of makes the game different for PCs. Our preference is for controller use to be for consoles, and mouse and keyboards for PCs.
I had to ask since I’m having quite a hard time avoiding all the stuff on the ground with a mouse and keyboard.
Haha, you’ll get used to it.
What about crossplay?
That’s a “no” as well. We want to focus on our design and implementation based on the system that people are playing on. We also don’t want to create any type of advantage or disadvantage because the game will play vastly different depending on your choice of system.
Plus, we don’t want any antagonism to develop among console owners. The PS4 players will get a fresh start with new servers once Path of Exile becomes available for them this December. They’ll get to discover the game on their own without veterans from other systems grilling them about what they’ve already done.
As mentioned, I’m from the Philippines, so naturally, I had to ask: Any news about Path of Exile becoming unblocked in certain regions or countries on Steam?
Last year, the Garena-hosted Thailand servers shut down so we moved all the players over to our own global servers. We felt that we could directly service [the player base in our own hosted realms]. We’re still in talks with Garena, however, for future developments. Our main goal is to have Path of Exile distributed to as many regions or countries as possible.
At this point, I made note of Path of Exile‘s business model. As someone who grew up in Southeast Asia, I was exposed to free, online games since the early-2000s. I know how microtransactions can be intrusive for some of those titles. Still, Path of Exile‘s model is very tame and acceptable in spite of being a completely free-to-play experience.
It’s something that we’re committed to delivering for our player base, and we’re happy that [people like how we’ve implemented our business model].
Anything you’d like to say to newcomers and long-time players about what they can expect from Path of Exile: Betrayal and onwards?
We’re committed to releasing four expansions/leagues every year so we’d like for everyone to give Betrayal and 3.5.0 a shot. After that, we’ll have another one in March 2019, another in June, and so on. Also, in November 2019 we’ll have our first ever ExileCon here in New Zealand so it’s a great way to interact with fans and show them what we have lined up for 2020.
There you have it, exiles. A lot of details were covered about Path of Exile in general and, of course, the Betrayal expansion. Please note that part of our interviews also touched on the new Private Leagues system which we’ve covered here. Do check that out if you’re interested in learning more about the design philosophy behind the feature.
We’d like to thank Chris Wilson for indulging us with a couple of interview sessions. Path of Exile: Betrayal will release for PCs on December 7. It will be followed by an Xbox One release on December 10, and a PlayStation 4 release in mid-December. Be sure to stay tuned for our future coverage once we head back to Wraeclast just in time for Betrayal.