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The third part of the Path of Exile developer Q&A is now available. It's shorter than the previous ones but there's still some interesting stuff. For example:
Can we expect UI quality-of-life improvements? Even relatively small and obvious changes take months and years to appear. There are still no convenient character and friend list sorting, moving tabs around is a pain, I can't see who is in my ignore list (or remove particular people/see what I ignored them for), and so on, and so forth. I realize some of these require design considerations, but come on. Surely a fancy new act 2 chicken physics can share some of its budget allocation with more tangible improvements.
Instead of trying to justify the improvements we have made or to merely promise there are many more coming, I wanted to shed more light on the reasons why some of these improvements are slow to be finished.
In general, if an improvement only requires a UI programmer, then it can be made rather easily. In the past we had only one UI programmer, so there was a long backlog of such improvements that we found it hard to get to. Nowadays we have three, so we have had time to add features like adding item highlighting in stashes and item filters. The delay occurs when other types of programmers need to be involved. For example, for moving guild tabs, there's just no server-side support for this. A server-side programmer would need to add the ability for the tab locations to be changed and then expose this to the UI guys. While this wouldn't take incredibly long to do, the server-side guys are extremely busy working on very important issues like deployment, realm scaling, anticheat, and so on. To unblock this process, we need to hire and train more talented server-side programmers, and they're the hardest ones to find (dozens of applications per interview and dozens of interviews per hire). This is something we're actively working on.
Even though the dev team constantly implements performance improvements and is proud of it, I feel like the game's performance is actually becoming worse year after year on the same hardware configuration. Maybe it has to do with the general increase in enemy and effect density, but I can't even open a Breach or party up without it becoming a slideshow very quickly (sometimes actually slowing down the instance itself, as reflected by server-side lag). And I'm playing on HC—these sudden performance drops are deadly! I keep seeing this concern echoed by the owners of high-end graphics cards as well, so it's definitely not the case of me having a potato PC. What are the plans in this regard?
Our telemetry lets us see the actual performance values, and while they're improving when we make improvements, you're certainly right that there's more going on in the endgame these days with the amount of mods that people are running. This also affects the server, as you correctly point out, which is an entirely different area of optimisation.
I don't think the solution is to substantially reduce the amount going on in the Path of Exile endgame. While it can be hectic, that's what people enjoy playing, so a scorched earth policy of changing it to be much simpler would probably be negative overall. I think we can make some small tweaks to endgame content to modify the worst offenders and will of course continue to push on both clientside and serverside performance. There's plenty we can still improve in various places.