path of exile

Path of Exile: Various Ideas to Improve the Game

Half-jokingly, I told a friend of mine that I intended to write up a bully blog against GGG and their developers. Before I do something like that, I figured to write an actual serious blog about a few ideas I have to improve areas in the game and GGG itself, especially now that Legion has ended.

Hire UX People

I really have no idea if GGG has an internal group of UX designers (I know Blizzard does even for areas like simple eSports) but it feels as though this area is severely lacking. The overall interface of the game and certain decisions do not feel they have been well thought out nor QA’d. Simple things such as being able to pick up items, close windows, level up skill gems and determining buffs and debuffs seem jumbled as if they weren’t even drawn upon on a napkin.

If GGG is, indeed, working on a 4.0, the biggest thing they need to do is clean up the area of usability. As it stands, the current system feels stuck in the late 90s. While the art may have improved along with features like lighting, the way one interacts with the game needs some severe rework where it’s competitive to other games.

Stop Making Leagues Your Beta Testing Environment

Let’s be real here and describe Leagues as nothing more than a 3 month beta testing course. I really have no idea how much QA resources GGG has nor how much they allocate for testing. From what I know they use a fair amount of automation to best guess how their system works.

That said, with all the new features that keep coming around, it feels as though a lot of existing issues never get addressed. I know others on forums like reddit have voiced their desire to have polish patches or leagues. I don’t think people will quit the game if GGG decided to spend a full league just on major fixes and tuning.

Better yet GGG really just needs a dedicated beta environment for testing where they can get targeted feedback. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than seeing a situation where GGG makes a decision that effectively makes a mechanic worse due to mixed signals from their current league’s feedback.  Take Cyclone or Winter Orb as examples where towards the end, we already knew both would be nerfed.

Instead of outright nerfing abilities, maybe put up a poll to allow the player base to decide. At least in a league like Legion then, we might be able to see something like a Winter Orb be equally viable to Cyclone.

Or if the intent is to focus on a few skills, then just remove the other skills from the game for that league. Honestly, the way this game is designed, it really feels as though GGG only focuses on a few areas, then nerfs things to discourage the player base from going back. At least, if past skills were too strong and you want your player base to try out the revamped ones (or new ones), then just disable them for the time being.

Make Standard League Worth Something

I might be one of the supposed few who actually play Standard league here and there. But it feels like rubbish probably because trading feels dead from what I can tell and almost no clear cut benefit for the way the game is engineered.

Probably, the only positive aspect of Standard is that you’ll have the bulk of your gear there. If you’ve managed to progress for a while in this game, eventually you’ll reach a point where you have a significant amount of wealth and gear stacked up. So testing a new character out is great on standard as you will be able to level and twink them out.

However, outside of experimentation, there really isn’t any positive things going for Standard. It’s a sad state to me because with all the updates, standard is actually in a decent place. You’ll just be missing out on a league mechanic or two as well as the zone level league mechanics.

Less RNG-esus Focused Design

One positive thing I will say about Blight is the deterministic way that Anointments are being handled. I wish more of the game would shift this direction. A specific one I had in mind was socket linking.

Socket linking is perhaps one of the most frustrating and off putting aspects of PoE. While you have items like Tabula Rasas or items that allow you to use six sockets without linking them, the vast majority of builds require 6 links especially as you shoot for the end game. Sometimes you might be stuck with a cursed item that refuses to 6 Link. But there’s no deterministic manner for getting it outside of the old Vorici recipe (which has been further gated behind RNG in the one fight).

While crafting itself has improved with fossil crafting, in general it’s still pretty far out of reach. For instance, the previous night I was trying to craft  an Abyssal jewel. I spammed at least a hundred Alterations and couldn’t even get close to landing anything useful that I was aiming for. It felt so pointless just mindless clicking until something half way decent would pop up. Then slamming a useless Augmentation, I would just start from scratch until my eyes started to bleed.

While these ideas are good in theory, in practice they’re beyond frustrating to work with and worse yet stink of lazy design. Combine that aspect with the difficulty of obtaining a large amount of certain forms of currency and it makes crafting hair pulling.

But this is just one area which needs a tremendous amount of love and attention. Here, GGG just needs to wake up and realize that too much RNG leads to quick player burnt out rather than long term retention.

Re-working the Syndicate and Masters

While the upcoming Blight league will change the way the dailies behave, there’s still a few annoyances with their mechanics. The worst by far is the Syndicate.

I think what makes Syndicate so annoying is the intrusive manner in which it occurs. I know the big selling points was supposed to be allowing them to come out of nowhere but maps mods and whatnot just make them a pain to deal with, especially intervention. I commented on reddit that I would like them to be feature flagged where talking to Jun would start up the encounter. What that would mean for say Intervention is that a notification on the buff bar would appear to indicate they can still ambush you at anytime. But at least you would have some level of control when it could happen.

The same thing could be said for Beastiary encounters since they can appear in an untimely fashion. While you can avoid Beastiary entirely compared to Intervention, it just sucks that you might be doing something like say a Legion encounter only to have this clusterfuck of beasts invade your screen into a nonsensical mess.

This gets worse for maps where these masters randomly spawn. You could be in a timed Zana map and suddenly be hijacked by Intervention. I get that the situation adds tension but it’s highly annoying.

I still think the best way for the Masters to be handled is through a purchasable Zana modifier. The precedent already exist for other previous leagues, so I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be to implement such a feature. I mean, if you’re already farming Syndicates and are close to an encounter, why should it be any different than say farming a lab enchant or an Abyssal item?

Create A Real Time Trading Platform

I’ve come accustomed to trading but it doesn’t mean I like the implementation. I’ve read Chris Wilson and his developers’ stance on why a trading platform won’t come to be and I think, to be blunt, he’s an idiot and so are his game designers. I really have no idea why a simple trading house cannot exist. Nothing that GGG has said thus far shows any logical sense to what they want. But a good deal of the player base does seem to want one.

My idea for a trading platform is very simple. There are two forms of trading.  A straight buy out and a negotiable offer. A straight buy out should never require a player to be present. The only requirements are a fixed price and two tabs in the form of the currency tab and either a large or normal tab that has been purchased. This to me is a huge win for GGG as it would encourage the player base to spend a little to invest more into the game.

If a player doesn’t have these, then trading should proceed as it currently occurs. For negotiable offers, both players must be present. Items like mirror worthy ones could then have prices that allow legitimate traders to haggle over, which is what I imagine GGG ultimately prefers in creating a more social situation.

Now before people get on my case in telling me that this will be a pay-to-win situation, let’s be real here. You’re already paying to win in doing any form of trading so the difference is your desire to invest for convenience. You can still play the game without tabs nor anything else so I don’t see much changing.

Better Gear Progression

More than likely, I have complained about this issue before. But if not, I want to say that the gear progression in this game really sucks. In fact, there really isn’t much of gear progression if you really think about it. Yes, you can get better gear but from league to league, you don’t see yourself growing gradually. In fact, you hit a wall pretty fast with only minor improvements with enough dedication.

I am not comparing gear progression with power creep. There is a sense of power creep in the game but it’s not exclusively due to the gear.

What I am talking about is how gear can improve over the period of the game. Sure, there are things like Elder/Shaped, Exalts, etc. But even then each system has their own special benefits or disadvantages.

Gear progression me means taking say a sword whether it’s rare or unique and being able to improve upon it over time. This goes beyond randomly adding modifiers until you get the perfect stats. This is continuing to add more modifiers beyond what’s allowed normally (e.g. 3 prefixes/suffixes).

Synthesis gave me some hope in the idea of being able to have up to 3 implicits. However, that system was such a sham in implementation that I’m glad it was cast out. But GGG was on the right track in my book when it came to focusing on a separate part of the gear to improve upon. Unfortunately, they fell as usual to their own trap of over relying on RNG to save their day.

Really what I wanted was just a system to allow 9 modifiers being used to create a more idealized piece of gear. If you could combine that with being able to deterministically improve upon the numbers of that gear (without going through a Divine Orb).

The way I see it is that they have a mechanic like Delve that allows for infinite higher scaling. In order to avoid cheesing the system, the only way to legitimately go deeper is to provide the power creep to enable a scenario like that. Yes, this does imply that over time fights like Elder, etc. will be trivialized. But I don’t have an issue with this as long as there’s a sensible mechanism to hamper power creep or at least allow a continuing mechanism for progression in the game.

At any rate, I’m probably repeating myself here but I cannot emphasize enough some of these areas that need drastic improvement. The basic game is great but the polish isn’t there.

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