Path of Exile Interview with Grinding Gear Games CEO Chris Wilson
Ironborn (self found) has become a buzzword in ARPG circles and there’s been a call for it in POE. Have you any current thoughts on how this could be achieved in POE?
We feel that a really important part of playing an online ARPG is the ability to be able to trade the items that you find. The reason why they feel so amazing to loot and collect is because they have value to other players. Having a league where everything is soulbound is of no interest to us. We welcome players to play self-found if they’d like to (and are trying to make sure its balance is fair where we can – several of the changes in release address item acquisition and solo vs party balance), but it’s important that players can trade their items if they so choose. Some players have asked for a “Self-found mode with trading allowed”, but we have no idea what that means!
CTF is a very cool addition for PvP players. Are you looking at other PvP gameplay modes such as capture and hold or other types of PvP. If so when would they likely be added?
Yes, we have a lot of other PvP modes in mind. If they’re large and are finished around the time that we’re releasing a four-monthly free expansion, we’ll probably bundle them in. It’s entirely possible that they could be slipped into our biweekly content patches if they happen to be ready at an appropriate time though. Keeping PvP exciting with new modes is very important to us.
Microtransactions have been running for a while now and you’ve released quite a few cosmetic changing items. How hard is it for you guys to come up with new effects continuously to keep players supporting the game through the shop?
Our microtransaction team has a lot of good ideas for future cosmetic items. They’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the types of cosmetic effects that are possible. An example is that we haven’t yet released any cosmetic body armour effects. I’m really looking forward to releasing a wider variety of effects in the future.
In the future are you looking at other ways players can support the game other than through the shop. It’s not cheap running a development studio after all.
Other than microtransaction sales, our company had had a lot of success selling supporter packs that include physical merchandise and perks such as placing the contributor’s name in the credits and/or working with them to design a Unique item that gets added to the game. This has been really successful, so we’re keeping an eye out for other options that allow fans to support Path of Exile. There has been discussion of paid league creation which will hopefully pan out to provide a place where players can create their own races and leagues to play in with their friends.
Once the game has launched what’s on the priority list for the team? Issues like desync have been lurking for a while so is the focus on more polish and tackling technical/server issues?
Our first priority will be dealing with any immediate post-launch problems that need solving. While most of the team works on ongoing content for our two-week patches and four-month expansions, our core developers will continue to improve client performance, server stability, combat synchronisation and other ongoing areas that we’re iteratively improving over time. They benefit from lots of testing, experimentation and experience, so we’re expecting they’ll feel better and better as development continues.
Do you think GGG has helped put New Zealand on the map when it comes to game development? How are you perceived by your peers over there?
I’d love to think it has helped raise awareness of our games industry, but we have already had some really strong titles come out of New Zealand in the past. Typically, most NZ game development companies are working on Flash or Mobile games (where we have more developers per capita than the UK, US or Australia). Our company is atypical, working on PC games. I’m not really sure how our peers perceive us, but hopefully it’s with the same respect we have for them.
POE has been constantly evolving, the speed that you guys make changes and add new content has been impressive. How are you stopping yourselves from burning out?
We try to encourage our staff to work smart rather than work for long hours. If that creates the feeling of masses of new content, then our job was successful! While our founders inevitably focus on Path of Exile for most waking hours (and could certainly do with a vacation after release), I am pretty sure the rest of our development staff aren’t burning out. It’s important to keep the team happy and healthy so that they can maintain the game on an ongoing basis.
Self publishing is the trend these days but was there any point you wished you had a publisher’s backing and the funds that come with it. Were you tempted or approached at any point?
We haven’t yet wished we had a publisher’s backing. We’re trying to self-publish in every country that we can. It helps us keep in touch with our community and to work without an external party affecting Path of Exile.
Right now the focus is firmly on POE, and it sounds like it will be for a while. Is there a temptation to start a new project with a second team?
That’d be awesome in the long term if we had the financial stability to do it. Right now we’re focusing on making sure Path of Exile has a long lifetime and a lot of ongoing updates. If we’re able to work on a second project at the same time, that’ll be great for the company, but I’ll probably keep myself focused on the Path of Exile franchise.
ARPG fans have had plenty of time to get playing in the open beta but it may have passed some gamers by. What would you say to them to encourage them to start playing? What makes POE stand out from the crowd in your opinion?
If you enjoy character customisation and deep item systems then Path of Exile is for you. It’s really rewarding to experiment with character builds and try to find the perfect combination of active and passive skills. Players find some really awesome combinations that surprise us on a weekly basis.
Path of Exile is free, so there’s no cost to trying it out. The release is a great time to start playing because we have opened up two new four-month leagues that let you experience a fresh start.