2017 was a massive year for Grinding Gear Games and Path of Exile. Touting more players than ever before, the online Action RPG seems to keep growing at an impressive rate. We chatted with GGG’s Chris Wilson after our recent preview of the upcoming 3.2 Bestiary Challenge League update to talk about the game’s ongoing success and what keeps it fresh after so many years.
MMORPG: You're touting some pretty impressive stats along with this update announcement. With over 3.5 million players that tried the Fall of Oriath, and an average play session for PoE of FIVE HOURS long. Why do you think a game that's "veteran" is doing so much better now than before?
Chris Wilson: I believe that our schedule of four releases per year really helps here. We try very hard to add new content for all types of users in each release, so existing players have a lot of new stuff to do and new/returning players have fresh content to look forwards to as well. This is fueling a lot of audience growth.
MMORPG: How much of the game's success came from the XBOX One version?
CW: The Xbox One version doing well certainly helped, but the doubling of Path of Exile player-hours from 2016 to 2017 wasn't influence too heavily by this because we only released it on Xbox One in late August. The bulk of the player-hour increase was on the PC version where more and more players played each release!
MMORPG: The Bestiary adds a long-request feature to the game, but it's the Challenge League, not a full part of the overall game. How likely do you think it is you'll add it to the main game when the league is over?
CW: It's a big league that represents a lot of work, so it'd be a shame to not keep it in the game in the future, but we're going to wait and see whether it has an overpowering impact on the game or just slots in naturally. Player feedback near the end of the league is the best way to determine this!
MMORPG: The act of capturing beasts is used mostly for crafting and sheer collectability. Have you all thought about adding in the ability for players to use the beasts in battle as summons?
CW: This has been discussed extensively over the last week in our office. There are certainly some attractive aspects to this, so the team are investigating its feasibility. We'll see.
MMORPG: The Fall of Oriath expansion greatly increased the content of the main game's campaign, but this new patch adds another new quest to act 10. Can you tell us more without spoiling the story?
CW: In this quest, you get a chance to see what has become of the NPC called "Vilenta", after they disappeared at the end of Act Five.
MMORPG: This patch also focuses a lot on providing challenges for the top tier endgame players. Has anyone internally managed to take on the Shaper and the Elder at the same time? That seems a bit... much.
CW: It's definitely a really hard fight. Our QA team can handle it on legitimate characters now, but it certainly took some practice and learning how the two sets of fight mechanics overlap!
MMORPG: One last random one. GGG has been working on Path of Exile for years now. Do you ever lose the love for the world of Wraeclast? Or more so, have you all thought about what your next game might be?
CW: I've been working on it personally for more than 11 years! We don't have any plans for other games, because we still really enjoy working on Path of Exile. For many of us, it's our life's work.
One thing that really helps is that in addition to the short development sprints to make leagues and expansions, we also work on longer multi-year larger expansions, so they get to scratch the itch of making bigger projects.