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Columns: GGG on Balancing Minions & Making Noise

By Suzie Ford on April 03, 2017

GGG on Balancing Minions & Making Noise

This week's Path of Exile: The Exiled Tribune, we have a nifty mini-interview with Designer Rory Rackham about the upcoming minion balance changes coming in The Fall of Oriath as well as Lead Artist Erik Olofsson about The Fall of Oriath monsters and with Sound Engineer Andrew Reid about how sounds are made in the game. They provide some interesting background information about design processes. We'll also take a look at some other interesting tidbits from the week that was.

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Minion Balance Changes Incoming

The PoE site has been updated with a meaty post about an upcoming change to minions, particularly of the skeletal sort, in The Fall of Oriath. While overall numbers of minions are being reduced, the damage of the ones that can be summoned is being increased to keep to the status quo. For instance, Zombies will now do 45% more damage with a level 20 gem. Skeleton Warriors will deal 135% more damage with a level 20 gem and Skeletal Mages projectile skills' damage is also significantly higher.

We wanted to dig into a bit more of the reasons behind the changes and had the opportunity to chat with Designer Rory Rackham:

MMORPG: Will there be any appreciable difference in the amount of damage that fewer minions with increased damage has over more minions with less damage?

Rory Rackham: We've made sure the end result is more damage output for these minion builds, more rapidly. We're also planning to make AI improvements and generally improving support for zombie and skeleton builds.

MMORPG: What was the root cause for the balance pass?

Rory Rackham: There were a few factors that lead us to making the change this way:

Large numbers of minions caused problems during gameplay. For example, if a strongbox curse is applied curses to a large cluster of minions, the serialisation of all of those curses and their stats on each of the minions would cause noticeable delays.

The deployment of Skeletons made them powerful in a very few situations, working well only in relatively static encounters with long preparation time; Having faster deployment of maximum damage output with more deliberate placement while having less maximum skeletons let characters ramp up their damage output faster, making them more useful in the large majority of situations.

The majority of additional skeletons bonuses came from unique items. We wanted players to invest in these builds without feeling like they always had to take specific item choices.

We wanted the threshold jewel skeleton casters to be a rewarding, accessible build. We wanted melee skeletons to be a powerful build with sufficient investment and support, working well alongside other minion skills. These values were adjusted to meet our expectations in that regard, though we're keen to have players share their feedback after testing these builds out in the Beta. 

The Fall of Oriath Monster Preview

There's not a lot to be said here since the video says it all. Here are a few of the critters you'll come across when the expansion launches later this year. We also had a chance to speak to Lead Artist Erik Olofsson about the preview.


MMORPG: You previewed some monsters this week. Of the ones from Oriath that have been profiles / shown so far, which is your favorite and why? Can you give us any hints about OTHER monsters that haven't been previewed? *nudge nudge*

Erik Olofsson: My favourite is probably the Truth Extractor guy (the torturer with hands attached to the side of the head). The animation turned out really well on them, and the bouncing sawblade from their ranged attack also worked really well. It's kind of a simple monster but everything with it turned out better than expected.

There are some exceptionally creepy monsters that use physics that are coming. Also we are working on a monster that is much larger than any other monster made so far.

Exploring the Soundscape

The team posted a couple of noisy articles about the sounds in Path of Exile. In one, the process of applying sounds to Goatmen. It's a cool look that inspired us to ask a few questions of Sound Engineer Andrew Reid.

MMORPG: Turning to sound: What has been the most creative use of non-standard objects to make a sound effect? 

Andrew Reid: While we don't record much ourselves, my favourite non-standard set of pre-recorded sounds are bowed metallics. Various scrap metal is fitted with a contact microphone then bowed with a violin bow. These sounds have a brilliant eerie horror sound that's been mixed into ambient, player skills and even some monster vocalisations.

MMORPG: What are some of the more unusual items you've used in creating sound effects?

Andrew Reid: One of the stranger things we've used in sound effects is pre-recorded clips of an old shop till. Something about the grating mechanical movements fit perfectly with traps in the labyrinth. Though they definitely needed a little processing to give them more weight.

MMORPG: all the effects you've created, which is your favorite and where can we find it?

Andrew Reid: I think most of my favourite sounds are all on "The Shaper", an end game boss. He has a large energy beam attack that never fails to intimidate! 

For those who prefer a less monstrous collection of sounds, The Classic Mystery Box Soundtrack is available to download for free! Can't beat that price, eh? 

Lastly, don't forget to check out this week's collection of new microtransactions! They include the Stormcaller Amor Set, Battery Pack Attachment, the Arcane Character Effect, the Stormcaller Character Effect, the Arcane Tome Totem, the Lightning Swarm Pet, the Arcane Flame Decoration and the Lightning Coil.

Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. An avid gamer, Suzie lives in the desert Southwestern US with her own personal minion.