Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Path of Exile

I'm not a huge fan of the action hack'n'slash genre, but I do play games like Diablo from time to time. This year's Diablo III was a disappointment, even many people who liked it at first ended up complaining about the grind in the endgame later. So I was interested when a reader wrote me about Path of Exile having solved the endgame problems of the genre: Instead of running through the same story again and again, Path of Exile has a system which allows you to craft instance maps.

I was wondering if the Free2Play business model makes game developers care more about the endgame. After all, the great majority of people playing Diablo III did spend a lot more money on buying the game than they will spend on auction house fees. Thus as long as the game is good at the start and Blizzard gets the sales in, the longevity doesn't matter all that much. In a Free2Play game like Path of Exile, players tend to only spend money once they have played for a while, so longevity is more important for income to the game company.

Anyway, endgame systems in which the player has an influence over what kind of random dungeon he wants to visit are certainly an improvement over more static systems. Having lots of different tile sets, and ways to modify the dungeons appears rather interesting to me. It is something I could imagine working in other types of roleplaying games as well.

I'm guessing Blizzard didn't care about the endgame because Diablo never had an endgame. It's always been a shallow grindfest. They just didn't add enough secret sauce in this version to make it fun enough. Or times have changed. Or both.

That being said, I don't think that F2P vs. sub matters for how important the endgame is.

The endgame is for keep people subscribing or free-to-playing. In fact if you look at games like LOTRO, adding more NON endgame content seems to be the way to go. There is usually only one endgame. And once you buy it, it can take a while to consume. But with content packs there are multiple ways to level. Each alt can be a slightly new experience. Unless of course you don't like alts. So, I guess it depends on the types of players.

The real key for most MMOs is to make them feel alive at ALL levels of the game. A good leveling experience AND a good endgame, with multiple activities, to make new and old players feel like the game empesizes "multiplayer" as much as "massively" or "online".
Final Fantasy XI has had user generated dungeons since, I believe, 2007. It's a system called Moblin Maze Mongers. I liked it but it didn't seem to really catch on.
That map crafting thing is interesting, but it's hardly a "solution".
I don't know if it makes Blizz happy or not, but all the fuss about D3 got me playing D2 again lately!
Frankly, an action RPG that is free-to-play and focuses on end-game which itself is random generated dungeons with random modifiers (fire resistance, wow) sounds like a train wreck.

I hope for the sake of the guys developing it, that they find their niche.

If this proves to be effective end-game gameplay, Blizzard can copy it and include it in the expansion but somehow I doubt it. You already have random dungeons and random-affix rares and elites which you are farming with a full NV stack. What's different about Path of Exile's maps?

I can tell you right now - they are a sink for all the "currency" items that you buy with real cash. So if you buy their $1000 diamond package, you can create a map that drops gold at 10,000% and every mob is at 1HP. Great content.
Am I the only one who finds it odd that games must have some sort of "end-game" now? We can't just complete the single-player campaign, mess around with multiplayer for a bit, and then "finish" the game?

Why do our games need some perpetual, infinite game once you've completed the story? It's like being disappointed that the movie you're watching ran out of 'content' after only 3 hours, and there's not 10 more hours of bonus features in the theatre.

I know it's Diablo, and so it's a bit of a different beast... but this trend in mindset worries me, especially as other RPGs start to adopt it.
Playing Path of Exile now. Its the Diablo I was hoping to find in Diablo 3.

The Diablo 2 expansion had more interesting items than Diablo 3. It was also much, much less challenging and you could gear up much easier.

Diablo 3 had 3 problems contributing to frustration:
1) takes too long to gear up to an average level, without using the AH.
2) because of the above, and you already being at the level cap at the start of Inferno mode, there is no sense of progression.
3) Inferno is too difficult for most. People have fun face rolling content, not struggling against gear checks.

The FFXI "user" dungeons were not very customizable. IIRC you just changed what mobs were in there and buffs/debuffs on your group. The actual map, from what I remember, was static. People were expecting instanced XP areas and it wasn't anything close to that. Some people were also expecting instanced HNM fights, but given Square Enix's track record that was a pipe dream.
Be aware that Path of Exiles is a game written by and for ninja looters. It also has at least one quest chain that is intentionally easy for griefer types to kill other players they are grouped with by surprise. It wouldn't be so bad if it was fully PvP but both the ninja looting and quest griefing occurs in PvE.

Overall I don't know what the hype is about. The game isn't that good. Content is very limited, play is clunky, the graphics are average at best, camera control is practically non existent - isometric style view with a very limited zoom. Classes/builds are very unbalanced, melee is basically hopeless late game. Netcode is horrible, expect lag and desync like you haven't seen in a long time.

Frankly this game should still be in closed beta. It isn't ready for public consumption.

I am a path of exile as well, can I quote
your post to my blog?
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