When I started covering Path of Exile prior to the Betrayal expansion, I was completely overwhelmed. Still, I was thankful that Grinding Gear Games’ head honcho, Chris Wilson, was extremely approachable, open, and candid regarding my questions about the game. That’s still evident now after I asked him a few questions, and clarified some concerns, after checking out the preview for Legion.
How do you think Legion would mesh with the main game? Do you feel that it can avoid the problems which Synthesis had, causing it to be somewhat divisive?
It’s a lot like Breach, and we’ve learned a lot since we released that expansion in 2015. There are lots of rewards to find, big bosses, and a bigger endgame. Legion is similar to Breach in a way, and Breach wasn’t something that players skipped.
I understand that Synthesis was complicated, and it had some problems, and people chose to skip [its content] occasionally. That’s disappointing, but we’re confident in what Legion can provide. We wanted to emphasize repeatable fun, and we want players to want to keep doing the content again.
To be honest, with Synthesis, I myself got a bit bored after a while, and that’s something we’ve all learned from. We want to be careful in our future league designs. We want to make sure that people are excited to keep playing for the long haul, and that our players never feel compelled to skip the content.
Did the “hardcore-focus” of Synthesis lead to poorer reception or engagement?
Technically, our metrics for Synthesis showed that player engagement was still high. As far as I can tell, people were still trying out the content. It didn’t necessarily do badly.[A comparison] would be Incursion, which actually had poor metrics at the time. People played it for a while and then quit, because they may have felt that they’ve seen everything.
Are those metrics for the entire game/league, or does it specifically count those who might be doing Cavas’ memories?
I was looking at the metrics for the Synthesis League, and we do have lots of players doing the memories. But, it’s true that there was probably 10-15 percent of users who would skip the content.
Regarding Betrayal, will the Immortal Syndicate progress be account-bound?
Yes, we are changing progress to be account-bound. The bad news is that it won’t be possible in time for Legion’s launch. Right now, [our teams are focused] on Legion, and we want to make sure it’s as good as it can be. We don’t really want to give people additional workloads or overtime to make this addition [which might include stability issues or bugs if rushed.]
We’re committed to making the change, but we want to be able to do it properly. It’s likely to be a 3.8 feature.
You talked before about avoiding crunch and workplace stress in Grinding Gear Games. Tell me more about it.
We feel that having sustainable work-life balance is important for the long term. We’ve had developers with us for more than 10 years now, and I’ve been doing this for 12 years. It’s good to be able to work on the project, but it’s also nice to always have time to see your family and do other stuff.
Is there a possible “middle ground” for the trading system?
We’ve looked at many options, and some suggestions have been rejected. For instance, some players suggested having a trade slot for their hideouts. There’d be an NPC with your items and players can visit your spot to do trades. The problem is that it’d mean people would still have to visit hundreds of hideouts manually, which would be ridiculous as well. Then, you’d need to make another index which lists each hideout or item. After that, the listings are collected, and you just copy it, teleport to the hideout, and suddenly you have an auction house in practice.
We just want to be careful, and we don’t want to make trade too easy. I understand, it can be a pain and it can be annoying, and we’re sympathetic to that. I’m not saying there won’t be improvements down the road, but we’re probably not giving the biggest improvements that some players were expecting.
Path of Exile already offers a lot of challenges in its content. Why does it have to feel like trading is also a challenge in itself?
We philosophically feel that it’s probably better for trading to be harder than easier. Getting items for your character is more fun if you do it incrementally, which happens when people play properly. Compare it to trading, and it can cause a big increase, or a jump, that you might suddenly stop playing because you’ve gotten everything you need. The easier the trade is, the more content that people would skip because they no longer feel the need to actually play it.
Will you eventually implement a “dust” system, where you can dismantle a duplicate cosmetic to a resource to buy something directly?
We looked into this. We asked players what rate will be acceptable. The response was approximately 30 percent of the item’s value. The issue is that when we provide additional microtransactions, users are already paying less than 30 percent to get it. So, a more [acceptable value] would be five to ten percent, but users won’t like that either. There’s a clash of expectations between those two systems.
What about 15 percent?
Technically, if you already get a good item from a mystery box, that’s it, that’s a good item you want. Every bad item will be just [an additional means] of buying more mystery boxes without spending. That undercuts our business model quite a bit.
We’ve discussed a few options. We could potentially remove duplicates, which would make the boxes more expensive. Or you can trash duplicates and it fills up a progress bar, and it unlocks a reward at a certain point. We don’t have any rewards in mind yet so [this is something we’re examining.]
Would there be major or drastic changes that can happen if you change your microtransactions model considering that Path of Exile is already a free-to-play game?
We want to make changes as carefully as possible. We don’t want to be too generous with the rewards. Otherwise, it can potentially affect our earnings, and either there’d be no new content, or we’d have to lay off some of our staff.
We’re very much aware of the feedback, but we want to be certain of all the factors in play and everything that becomes affected when we do make changes.
Regarding Increased Item Rarity (IIR) and Increase Item Quality (IIQ), will there be some reworks down the road, especially considering that these stats lose value towards a crafting-heavy endgame?
This is something we’re aware of and something we’re working towards. This is a long-term goal, but we don’t want to make drastic changes to the item system right now. It’s definitely not something [like a stat] that would increase your luck to get better rolls when crafting.
Will Path of Exile become an Epic exclusive?
(Laughs) No, we haven’t even discussed anything about that.
There you have it. We’ve got some clear answers from Chris Wilson himself, and Path of Exile: Legion is raring to go. Mark your calendars for June 7 when you’ll face off against massive armies from Wraeclast’s rich history.