Path of Exile Interviews – By Suzie Ford
Path of Exile developers are some of the busiest people we know, but they’re never too busy for their community. We had the chance to talk with Community Director Bex about the amazing PoE players and fans. We also learned more about how microtransactions brought out from concept to finished product and even a little bit about how the community manages to surprise the team nearly every day.
MMORPG: You do a lot with and for your community. Over the years, what have been some of your favorite in- or out-of-game events?
Bex: We always enjoy seeing the results from the talent competitions we run. We tend to do these every few months and we’re always astounded by the level of work the community is able to produce. The Fan Art competitions in particular always yield very high-quality work.
In terms of in-game events, our recent Path of Exile: Royale weekend that we hosted as an April Fool’s prank was a ton of fun. We got a real kick out of the surprise element since the community wasn’t expecting it as well as watching the players slaughter each other for fun. The event was such an unexpected success that we’ll be likely to bring this game-mode back in some form in future.
MMORPG: What’s been the most unusual entry into a community art contest have you received?
Bex: The ones that are truly unusual are also usually a bit shocking – we’ve mentally blocked out those submissions, so I couldn’t tell you! Hehe
MMORPG: With the resumption of the Build of the Week series, we wondered how many submissions you typically get and what the process is for choosing the one you want to showcase?
Bex: We select our winners from hundreds of build guides submitted by the community. Path of Exile boasts its build variety and character customization with 7 main classes and 19 subclasses. It’s typical that there are many concepts and often many variations of those core concepts. The community is also very good at sharing information with each other and it’s been a long-standing part of Path of Exile culture to share build guides if you feel you have a good concept.
The process for selection varies depending on the episode and what the Build of the Week season as a whole is looking like. During any one season, we’ll try to showcase a variety of build types. For example, if there are two compelling melee builds we’ll likely pick only one for the sake of variety.
There’s a few main things we’ll look for: a comprehensive guide that other players can follow, a build that utilizes one or two mechanics in a unique and interesting way and relative viability in the game. Sometimes a build will showcase a very unique mechanic interaction but won’t necessarily be the strongest against all content so we try to show a mix of quirky/strong builds. We also generally post at least one build that represents the current gameplay meta so that we can look back at it as a snapshot of that time.
MMORPG: What is the process for designing a new microtransaction from concept to release?
Bex: This depends on the purpose of the microtransaction but for general-purpose ones that we release in our store we do two things: look at our collection of microtransactions and see what sets could use another addition or we ask our concept artists to use their skills to come up with completely unique designs.
If the microtransaction is a piece of armor it will require modelling and rigging to each character. If it’s a pet or portal, it will be sent to the animation team after it’s modelled. After that, it goes to the effects team for embellishments and highlights – although if it’s a weapon effect or skill effect it would skip the modelling/animation steps and go right to this team. Then it’s time for testing! Our quality assurance team will take it through various processes to ensure that it does all the things it’s supposed to do. At this point it’s shipped off to the art team again to create icons and shop entries which also need to be translated. Once it’s totally complete it’s patched into the game, ready for release!
MMORPG: How do you come up with ideas for microtransactions?
Bex: If there’s an existing set, for example ‘Ghostflame’, we will try to make something with this theme to fill every microtransaction slot. For example, if we have the Ghostflame Armor, Weapon Effect and Footprints it then also makes sense to create Wings, Character Effects and Pets with this theme to compliment those purchases.
Our entire team collaborates on microtransaction ideas and sometimes a real gem could come from any part of development. For example, one of our quality assurance team members recently suggested a ‘Celestial Cat’ which we put into development right away. Another team member suggested that it should have a new floating animation to make it even cooler and there was a consensus on that! It’s particularly cool that it was a collaborative effort as this has quickly become one of our most popular pets.
However, most of the time new themes and ideas come from the concept artists and effects artists who have a lot of experience and creativity to offer.
MMORPG: What surprises have players provided in the Incursion League?
Bex: There haven’t been any significant surprises so far. We are very familiar with what to expect from the community. We have, however, been very entertained by watching the reactions to players risking their items in the Corruption Chamber in the Temple of Atzoatal! It never gets old!
MMORPG: What have been the biggest challenges since release and how have you dealt with them?
Bex: This has been one of the smoothest challenge leagues in Path of Exile’s history. We are very happy with how well the league has been received. We are particularly chuffed with how engaged the community has been with all elements of the league, from risking death in fast-paced aggressive Incursions, making compelling new builds as a result of the skill rework to reaping their rewards in the final temple!
From a technical standpoint, the league has had very few issues and launched well right out of the gate.
MMORPG: What’s next for PoE?
Bex: We’re currently in full-swing working on our next challenge league which will naturally include many new items and other things for Path of Exile players to look forward. We’re also introducing a small selection of new skills as well as reworking some existing ones. That’s all we can reveal right now but I’m sure we’ll be sharing the full details with MMORPG.com very soon!