Over the last month or so, Grinding Gear Games has been busy with a Path of Exile expansion release, a console release and making sure the game’s in the best shape ever – all while looking to the future as well. We asked for some of your burning questions and sent them along to GGG. Today, we have the answers straight from the team.
MMORPG: The game is getting quite large! How do you meet the unique needs of new players coming into the game and making sure they're not literally "left behind" by the veterans?
GGG: It really helps to have new challenge leagues contain self-contained economies. It means that everyone is on the same footing, with only knowledge and skill differences. While of course new players will rush ahead and make progress faster, this isn't quite as intimidating as if a new player joins an established economy where they have no hope of catching up.
MMORPG: How did the China launch go? Are there any metrics about how many players have downloaded and started playing?
GGG: Really well! We had no technical problems and a very smooth launch. I don't think that any metrics have been released but I think it's safe to say that the Chinese Path of Exile community is as large as the rest of the world put together!
MMORPG: When WoW launched in China, they had to make some changes to the game to suit cultural needs in the country. Did you have to make any changes to names, graphics, etc. for the China launch?
GGG: Absolutely. Substantial changes have been made to comply with local government regulations and cultural needs. We're not allowed to show bone or gore, for example.
MMORPG: How's it going on XBox One? As with the China launch, are there any metrics available for the number of downloads / players taking part?
GGG: The Xbox One launch also went well! We aren't able to share numbers but we're really happy to add the console players to our growing international multi-platform community. We have a lot of updates planned for the Xbox One version over the coming months.
MMORPG: What special challenges go into a launch on console?
GGG: There are two broad categories of challenges - technical and control challenges.
From a technical point of view, the game needs to be ported to run on the console hardware. This often requires a lot of work changing from the existing set of graphics APIs to a new one, and can involve substantial optimisation work (as consoles are often less powerful than dedicated gaming PCs). In our case we were luckily able to use many of the optimisations to improve our PC version also.
There are also challenges with controls. A controller is entirely different than a mouse and keyboard, so a lot of work needs to go into finding a new control scheme that makes sense. Months of iteration were required to get Path of Exile to feel good with a controller, but we're very pleased with the result.
MMORPG: You have hinted at another big content expansion for late 2017. Is this the release cadence players can expect going forward?
GGG: Yes, that's the plan! We started this schedule with the Talisman League back in December 2015 where every thirteen weeks we've released a new challenge league with minor content updates, and every second challenge league we also launch a full expansion. For example, in 2016 we launched Ascendancy in March and Atlas of Worlds in August. We also launched four challenge leagues: Perandus, Prophecy, Essence and Breach.
This content schedule works really well for us but it was slightly interrupted this year due to the significance of The Fall of Oriath expansion which added more content than any expansion prior. However, we don't want to disrupt the schedule too much so the team is right back on the horse and preparing our next expansion for December.