Path of Exile retools expansion cadence and scope to avoid struggling from another ‘black swan event’ like COVID

Be better.

If you followed our coverage of Path of Exile’s Heist expansion, you already knew the fun fact that Heist was originally being worked on in March with a planned June launch, a schedule that was turned entirely around when COVID sent everyone into lockdown, including gaming studios. According to Grinding Gear Games, it’s not letting that lesson go unheeded, as it’s announced changes to the expansion development cycle for the game that will help ensure that no other “black swan event” can derail the dev train, which was already under strain from fast-turnaround, inability to hire internationally during COVID, and feature creep concerns.

“Late in Heist’s development cycle, we had a serious internal discussion about how we could restructure our development process so that subsequent expansions are less risky,” GGG’s Chris Wilson explains in a lengthy blog post this week. “This discussion resulted in an experiment that we decided to carry out for the next three month cycle.”

“We have defined a very specific scope for December’s 3.13 expansion. It contains everything that a large Path of Exile expansion needs, but no more. I am personally handling the production of this expansion to make sure that no work creeps in that isn’t in the planned scope. The schedule that we will hopefully achieve with this approach will likely have everything quite playable and ready for gameplay iteration before our marketing deadline, and in a very stable and polished state by the time it is released. The positive consequences of this experiment are clear: if it succeeds, we’ll be able to deliver 3.13 on-time, with a strong stable launch, plenty of gameplay iteration and solid testing of features. If this experiment works as we expect it to, we’ll be able to continue using it for future expansions which will allow us to continue with our 13-week expansion cycle, which we strongly feel is best for the continued growth and long-term health of Path of Exile in the period before Path of Exile 2 is released.”

On the downside, patches and patch notes will be abbreviated, balance changes will be more targeted, and announcements will be more front-loaded. It means “going from a situation with overtime to a situation with testing time,” in line with Atlas’ scope – and on time for December.


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Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

They’ve been struggling with their Leagues for the past few years, taking 3-6 weeks post launch to fix all the bugs. Using COVID as an excuse now seems a bit dismissive of the overarching issue.

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I like POE alot, if you take my pc time and PS4 time into consideration it’s is probably my most played game at this point.

That said how many more times do GGG have to pen a “sorry we will make changes and it will be different next time, promise” letters. This isn’t the first time we have seen this type of letter from Chris even before covid threw a proverbial spanner into the works.

I get that they are having a hard time and want to do better but they have said that before several times and yet here we still are. I would say actions are better than words but I seem to recall them using that line as well.

Sigh …. I might be a bit grumpy today :(

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“Actions speak louder than words.” – As they’ve said for almost every league facing problems for the past few years.

I don’t wanna hate too much, even though this seems like a frustratingly predictable outcome and one I was worried about for the leagues being developed while the expansion is in production even before Covid hit. Why they’re even considering “fully featured” leagues, much less some of the more ambitious leagues they’ve ever done, while the team is splitting work between PoE 2 and live is beyond me.

I’m just hopeful they mean it and the next league will show them putting this into action. Both for some of us players who are frustrated and so that, as Chris said, that “overtime” goes away and turns into “testing” to give the team a bit of breathing room.

Bryan Correll

I wish they’d alternate between the big leagues (Heist, Harvest, Delve, etc) and ‘smaller’ leagues (Breach, Harbinger, etc) that add something relatively straightforward that isn’t entirely game changing. They could combine the development cycle of the two and put more effort into making sure the “big” league is done right.