Path of Exile Interview with Grinding Gear Games CEO Chris Wilson

Path of Exile Chris Wilson Interview

This week Path of Exile will finally launch after one of the longest beta tests we can remember. It’s taken Grinding Gear Games time to get their free to play ARPG to the point where they have locked down game features and systems. We caught up with Grinding Gear Games CEO Chris Wilson a couple of days before launch to find out how the game has progressed and how the team are feeling now they’ve reached the launch milestone.

GGG started in 2006 so it’s been a long journey to get Path of Exile launched. How are you feeling now a few days before launch?

It has been an awesome journey! At the moment the team is working very hard on the last 100 or so issues. At the time of writing there are five days until release so we’re performing last minute fixes and quality assurance. While I always wish we had more time, I’m so proud of this version of Path of Exile and am really looking forward to launch day where we get to share it with the public.

Looking back at the game’s development is there anything you would have done differently as far as GGG as a company is concerned?

I’m honestly struggling to think of anything that I would have done differently as a company. We’ve retained our independence and still own almost all of the company ourselves. This independence has made it a lot easier to create Path of Exile to our vision rather than someone else’s.

Path of Exile has had one of the longest beta tests I can remember but was that something you had always planned or was it more of a necessity as a learning process for the team?

I remember thinking “we need at least a year of a live economy before we perform our final wipe”, and hence I’m glad that we were able to run a long Closed Beta before we wiped the game at the start of Open Beta in January. The lessons we learnt during that time really paid off and resulted in a much stronger item economy. To some extent we’ve been worried about the overall Beta period running for so long because there’s a propensity for modern games to stay in Beta forever and to use it as an excuse for quality. We’re looking forward to finally being released!

The launch brings loads of new features to the game, the Scion class being one of the major additions. How did the class concept come about because she’s pretty much a mix of everything?

She was one of the initial seven that we designed in the first few weeks of the project (back in 2006). The idea of a blonde female generalist class who specialised in Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence equally has been in the game for a very long time but was disabled until we revamped and updated her this year. Our awesome writing team created a compelling backstory for her and 150 lines of dialogue that are spoken as she travels through Wraeclast.

Path of Exile - Scion Class
The Scion class and new areas on show

The Scion class slips right into the middle of the passives tree and when we spoke back in 2011 [corrected] you said:

 “There’s room for one more right in the middle. Who’s good at all three things”.

However, you also said:

“We won’t need to add more characters though, since they’re largely determined by their skills, which all characters can use”.

What changed during development that prompted another character addition?

It’s saying things like that that I regret later! The tree has undergone numerous revisions throughout the years and the addition of a less-specialised generalist class is not only much easier now, but also a lot more appropriate. Back in the older tree versions, players received different ratios of Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence for assigning points in anything. They now pick up those attributes by selecting them as passive skills. Until this change was made, the generalist class found it very hard to get enough attributes to do anything meaningful. In addition, we’ve gradually tightened up the attribute requirements on skills over time, so there’s less of an issue with each class being equally good at all skills.

When designing the Scion, especially when it comes to the extensive passives tree, how hard has it been to shuffle the passives without causing problems for the current characters? How have you worked around this?

Any updates to the tree disrupt some characters, but we’re providing a global passive skill reset for this reason. A lot of effort is going into reproducing people’s old builds on the new tree to make sure they’re viable and are built in an understandably similar way. At the moment, the tree is changing every day to accommodate this.

The launch brings more content to Act 3, how much more exactly?

Six new world areas (across three new tilesets), five new Act 3 monster types (plus a few more elsewhere), three new quests and a gigantic grand finale boss fight. This is repeated in the three difficulties and also represented in eight new end-game Maps that use the new tilesets.

What about that obligatory Act 4?  If my memory serves me correctly that was planned for launch a while back?

At least for the last year or so, Act 4 has been planned as our first additional Act added after release. It’s very likely we thought it’d be ready in time for release several years ago, but we’ve substantially raised our Act quality standards, so they take a fair amount of time to finish! Work on Act Four is underway and it’s looking awesome. I expect it’ll be a fair while before we can show it off, but it’s going to be awesome.

Path of Exile - Launch
Dungeon crawling close up with new content

You have mentioned that the GGG team plan to release “expansions” every four months. Are these mainly new items/gems or are we talking additional level content to existing acts?

We’re planning to include new gems, Unique items, microtransactions, bug fixes and balance changes in biweekly content patches. The four-monthly expansions will have much larger features (like a revamped trade system or new game modes), and new content like areas and monsters.

GGG has released a lot of content in the past few months so are we going to see a reduction in the weekly/bi-weekly updates?

We’re expecting to pack even more content into these updates. There’s a more rigid schedule of a content update every two weeks, so we’ll be able to plan for them to include specific predictable contents (listed in the answer to the previous question). As we scale up our team, our rate of content addition will hopefully continue to increase.

This week you stated that it would take around 12 months to release a new act. Is that something you have already started development on or will there be a gap before development begins on major content?

We’ve already started development on the next Act. In general we’re doing concept art and quest/NPC design for one act as we’re finishing the game balance and testing on the previous one. To some extent the speed of creating Acts depends greatly on what resources we have. If players continue to generously support us, we’ll keep cranking out new Acts and other content!

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  • Paul Younger

    Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

    • Furude

      Give us free goodies ;D

      • Rushster

        Be patient young warrior! Be patient!

    • Lastdrone

      Great interview!

    • inusaa

      Thanks a lot for this complete interview, we can see your passion =)

    • DumbAsYou

      pretty nice interview

    • papas88063

      Good read. GGG always gives out good info to its followers.

    • MisterEktos

      Really good interview.
      I have to apologize Paul, some time back I doubted your information about the Class, Steam and the Release date. It may not have looked like the most legit Article back then, but it wasn’t nice to say that you are making things up.
      Keep up the good work.

      • Rushster

        Thanks MisterEktos, appreciated. One thing we never do on IncGamers is make things up. I have been playing and following POE for many years now so I have as oft spot for the game and the GGG chaps a re great bunch of guys 🙂

    • BisnessPirate

      Nice interview, wish it had more new info tough 🙁

    • Fernando

      Nothing new, but then again ive been folowing tones of poes interviews about release.

      Incgamers questions are focused on GGG as a company, rather shallow about the game itself. Anyways, good read. 🙂

      • Rushster

        That was the intention really. We have heard so much n the past couple of weeks regarding new features and game mechanics I wanted some more GGG focused questions. More to come.

    • Asteria

      Great interview. Very interesting to hear how they are going to approach content after the launch.

    • BigMactheknife

      The most highly addictive game I’ve ever played!

    • Guttux

      Great interview! Keep up the good work!

    • obz

      Nice Interview. I hope they stay independent. Do any IncGamers staff plan to stream gaming POE on

    • geradon

      well selected questions. was an interesting read.

    • HardCandy

      amazing work GGG, 28hours still left till release 😀
      can’t wait, see you there :p

    • boeck

      the best game ever made! 🙂

    • notenoughtime

      this game is way better then D3 🙂

    • Merveil Hater

      I have to apologize if i say sth offense but all i gonna say here is completely true.
      This game was completely ruined by BOT. It’s very popular and easy 2 find especially in POExplorer. Most of these sellers never left IGN just pm in forum or had IGN but whisper never pm back = BOT 90%. I saw many guys do bot in Merciless Merveil come b Lion 2 sell item and keep running to find path to Merveil Lair. I saw 1 botter lively when i just traded with him 10 min ago but he 4got out party and i followed him then i realized he was botting.

    • illusion

      As someone played PoE for many months, I can tell that everything in PoE is (just like end game boss Dominus says) is an illusion exile.

      First of all monsters are very bland and boring. Monsters that rush at you with no utility but dealing damage, well thats ok early game. But the problem is the ONLY utility mob in game is necromancer that raises undead. How creative..

      So if monsters dont get better how do they scale difficulty late game? Well quite simple: instead of dealing 1k damage now they deal 5k. Amazing right?

      Massive customization with 1350 passives? It is total gimmick. I said monster difficulty is based on damage scaling. And spike damage reaches ridiculous numbers. So better get armored right? Well armor has a very ingenious formula: it works miracles against very small damage attacks (which are the ones that does not matter anyway), and it is totally ineffective against heavy hits (which are the ones really matter).

      So you ask how the f*ck do you survive?.
      Simple: increase your life which can be done by passives that increase it with %, and gear mods that give flat number. But they had this amazing idea of passives effecting flat bonus from items. As a result you are a glass cannon, unless get all life passives available and have life mod on all gears.

      I can see you are saying come on it cant be that bad, I can always navigate smartly to avoid hits. Well I have a surprise for you, game desynchs like hell, ESPECIALLY when you try to navigate to avoid hits, or use mobility skills!

      If you dont know what desynch is; well think that you are playing mario and there is a rock rolling towards you. It will reach you in 5 seconds and then you will need to jump to avoid it. But after 1 second passes, your screen refreshes and it says GAME OVER because neither the rock, nor your mario were not actually at the place shown in your screen. Their screen position was not in SYNCH with their real position in game. That is desynch, and PoE suffers HEAVILY from desynch because they insist on keeping features that cause massive desynch and have no intention of removing these features or fixing desynch.

      Best part is the community, you will be welcomed by a mess of jerks in forums laughing at you, telling you L2P nub and build your char around desynch. So how do you build around desynch?
      Quite simple: make a char that can be controlled by a blind kid. And I am very serious. You need to make a character that does not rely on the feedback on screen to play. You wont navigate to avoid hits, you wont click on singled out enemies. You will only use shift-click with AoE attacks in the general direction you hope the enemy is.

      But that’s as bad as it gets right? Well game has another small flaw: it does not respond to commands given while spamming attack. I know you are saying OH COME ON!! Joking right?
      They have many excuses and reasons why it does not happen and why it cant be fixed. But dont worry devs came up with a solution: autocast-skills! you just link your spells to Cast when damage taken support gems so they cast everytime you take some damage. Like I said, make a build that can be used by a blind kid.

      But at least there is great number of skills to use, right? Well.. PoE is a single skill focus type game. Auxiliary skills dont really exist, and nothing pays as well as overfocusing on a single skill.

      Summary: To succees you make a build with tons of life, with autocast support skills, and a single AoE attack you will spam in general direction. That pretty much summarizes all the gameplay. Oh wait sorry sorry.. you can use totem that will autocast the skill instead, you know as an alternative to spamming the skill yourself!

      Customization? Just an illusion exile..