With the closed beta for Path of Exile: The Fall of Oriath ready to kick off literally within days, GGG is working hard to get things squared away. They took the time to answer a few of our questions about changes coming to the Scion Ascendancy, the upcoming CBT and how the team plans for the next expansion. See what they had to say in our latest Exiled Tribune!
GETTING A FORWARD LOOK AT ORIATH
One of the things the devs have been brilliant about as The Fall of Oriath expansion nears is showing off new locations and monsters coming. This week they really outdid themselves with a trio of neat videos about things players can look forward to.
There are a number of returning characters in Acts 6-10, shown here in a new video.
You can also get a teeeeeeeeeeeeeny tiny look at Act 7 teasers:
And, lastly, a look at Gruthkul, Mother of Despair, a minor god from Act 7:
One of the classes that will be seeing a number of significant changes is the Scion, with particular regard to the Ascendant, the Scion's Ascendancy.
Almost the entire Ascendant tree has changed. With the defining features of other Ascendancy classes available and able to be paired with each other, this should increase the power of the Ascendant to be more comparable with other classes and enable some previously never before seen combinations. While it's largely the passives changing, the "Path of" passives that allow you to start at another class's tree will also grant two additional passive skills so that players may gain an immediate increase in power when taking these points.
We asked for a bit of clarification about why the changes were necessary and what player's can expect in terms of making the Ascendant a stronger overall class.
MMORPG: Some big changes are incoming for the Scion Ascendancy. You indicate that this is being done to bring the class more "on-par with other classes". How was it not measuring up to others?
GGG: The Scion Ascendancy is very different from other ascendancy classes. It takes features from each of the other ascendancy classes, but you only have access to two. Previously, these features were a sample of some of the more interesting abilities, but not necessarily the most powerful abilities. This gave the Scion fewer really exceptional effects when compared with any other ascendancy class. We've included more powerful, more signature effects from each of the classes on each of the class passives to fix this. The scion also received less stat value from small points, so we've included additional passive points that will let you take more nodes in the regular passive tree to compensate.
MMORPG: You mentioned that there will be some never-before seen combinations due to new synergies and pairings between defining features. Can you give us a couple of examples?
GGG: The Raider and the Slayer's abilities work well together, as they both get powerful effects against Rare and Unique enemies, making a great boss-killer.
The Pathfinder effect now has a chance to generate Flask Charges on critical strikes, combining well with the Assassin's bonus critical chance.
The Elementalist and Inquisitor provide potent Elemental Damage and ailment bonuses, while the Elementalist protects you from the damage being reflected back at you.
REGARDING THE CLOSED BETA TEST
We wanted to ask GGG about the coming Oriath closed beta and about their priorities for testing as well as what they think players will be focused upon.
MMORPG: More generally, with the Fall of Oriath beta just around the corner, what will the team be looking at in particular in the opening hours?
GGG: The first few hours of any launch has all eyes on server and game stability and looking out for any serious bugs. Once we assuage our immediate concerns, our focus turns to monitoring the community's experience in terms of enjoyment. We make note of popular feedback and any changes that might need to be made in the coming week.
MMORPG: Are there certain features or things that the team is guessing the beta population will be drawn to at the onset? Will there be certain things you'll be asking the tester community to target?
GGG: Since The Fall of Oriath introduces six new acts and players no longer have to repeat the acts three times in order to progress to end game, there's a lot to test in terms of character progression. By the end of the Beta we want to understand what aspects of character progression and balance are working well and which ones need some tweaks for release.
MMORPG: A common practice nearing the end of beta testing is some type of server stress test. It's likely that Oriath will bring back lots of former players as well as see more than normal logging in. Are there plans for an open stress / server test of any sort? Why or why not?
We use load-testing bots for this. They are less angry when the servers go down ;)
MMORPG: Will you have team members on hand all hours of the day / night for the first days of beta testing? How do you help one another manage "crunch fatigue"?
GGG: Our customer support team works 24/7 and are always looking out for urgent problems. In these cases they can call the small handful of people who are on call in situations like this. We collectively combat the pressure by keeping an air of good humour in the office and sharing food during the Monday meetings. Many of our developers also have a Friday ritual where they go out together to have curry for lunch. Occasionally there are also group breakfasts. I hear there's a Whisky Club also. In general, the answer to deadlines is good food and good humour.
AND A WORD ABOUT THE FUTURE
Now that Oriath is largely a "completed" project, we asked about the future and how that goes into the planning.
MMORPG: Launching an expansion is a lot of work from a technical and balance standpoint, but what have been the biggest challenges in lore and environment design?
GGG: This particular expansion had many lore and environmental challenges because in addition to the new Act Five, it includes Acts Six to Ten, which allow the player to revisit old locations and see how they have changed since they left. This required as much lore work as creating the initial game, and far more environment work than we predicted. We worked hard to make sure that the quality of the new content far surpasses anything we've made before.
MMORPG: How long prior to the actual work starting on a new expansion is the basic framework put into place? By this I mean, Oriath will be launching in the relative near future -- do you already have the basic plans in place for the next expansion?
GGG: We generally know what the scope of the following expansion is in advance, but only start the actual full-team development of it when the team has finished with the current one. Exceptions are the super large expansions like The Fall of Oriath where they take several years and are developed in parallel to the regular expansions.