Chris Wilson: Really well. We’re five weeks into the closed beta of our largest expansion ever: The Awakening. We’ll be releasing it in early June, and it’s a big game changer for Path of Exile. In addition to the huge amount of Act Four content, we’ve also introduced a socketable passive skill tree that can be customised by craftable jewels. This expansion also introduces our newly rewritten networking code, which improves the experience for a lot of users.
In other news, we recently launched Path of Exile in Russia and various other CIS countries with the help of Garena Online.
That’s an interesting observation. We hadn’t really considered whether other action RPGs had added player housing before we decided to introduce the hideouts system in the Forsaken Masters expansion last year.
The desire to add hideouts stemmed from the social nature of Path of Exile. As an online game, players needed a place to call their own, and we found a great opportunity that tied into the theme of our expansion (having masters that show you the location of a hideout themed around them).
Systems like this are important for communities because in addition to giving the community members a creative space to hang out, they also let players showcase their work. We run a “Hideout of the Week” video series where the most interesting hideouts are highlighted to the community.
What were some of the challenges of creating hideouts?
Adding the hideouts system wasn’t particularly challenging; we had all the art assets already created as they are part of the existing game, and it was relatively straightforward to add editing tools that let players place them where they wanted them to go.
Our supporter packs are extremely popular. These are packs that contain a selection of points (which can be spent on microtransactions), physical merchandise (like t-shirts, graphic novels, etc), and some exclusive microtransactions. The highest tiers of these packs generally contain the ability for the supporter to influence the design of the game in some way.
In terms of what players spend microtransaction points on, the two most popular categories are stash tabs and elemental-themed weapon/armour effects. The most popular element is fire.
Both Path of Exile and Diablo III skew to a darker, gothic tone and could be mistaken as similar in approach. In what ways does Path of Exile differentiate itself and perhaps surpass Diablo III?
Path of Exile is a game about character customization and the item economy. From the passive skill tree with 1400 nodes (and now, sockets that let you modify it) to the myriad of gem combinations possible with the skill/support gem system, you can build Path of Exile characters around the most esoteric, crazy combinations of skills and carve your own identity. Trading plays heavily into this, as various rare and unique items are especially useful in combination with specific builds. Players really enjoy accumulating wealth in our challenge leagues as they gradually broaden the range of builds they can play.
We also support racing, PvP tournaments, and various other competitive elements that help players who want to demonstrate their mastery do so.
Path of Exile has its own niche in the action RPG genre. In many ways, it is more similar to the classic Diablo II than it is to Diablo III.
What’s the craziest or most creative thing you’ve seen your community do?
My personal favourite is a tattoo of Brutus (one of Path of Exile’s bosses) that one of our players got. Also, there’s this fan-favourite video that the community made recently, full of PoE in-jokes, of course.
Do you feel that action RPGs such as Marvel Heroes, Path of Exile, and Diablo III are the wave of the future for MMO gaming? Why are they enjoying a resurgeance of popularity today?
I don’t necessarily feel that action RPGs are the wave of the future, but I can completely understand why an average action RPG is more successful than an average MMORPG. Action RPGs have an emphasis on random levels, random items and random monster properties for great replayability. MMORPGs are dependent on masses of hand-crafted content that has to stretch on for the entire playtime of the user. I feel it’s easier to create a fun and replayable action RPG, which is why we’re seeing some really popular and successful action RPGs in recent years.
Thanks for talking with us!