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Path of Exile left Beta and was formally released on October 23, 2013, which means that the gritty action-RPG had just celebrated its fourth anniversary. And in honor of this occasion, Grinding Gear Games' community manager Bex has taken a moment to look back at the years of the game's continuing development from a position inside the company. We get to read about the initial worries about the game being any sort of success, the launch of the first challenge leagues, the first player to reach lvl 100, the release of the massive The Fall of Oriath expansion, and much, much more. An excerpt:
We were a small team back then of only around 20 or so members. I remember being cautioned that the fate of the game was still unknown and to be prepared in case the job might not last. From the outset it was easy to feel part of something bigger and that we had all unified around a single cause to propel Path of Exile forward and share the game with more and more people.
The time between when I started and the official release of the game were somewhat wrought with uncertainty. The forum was littered with posts saying the end is nigh which, at the time, was nerve-wracking. It seemed that the odds were against us and we were fighting an uphill battle yet there was a lot of reason to be hopeful.
While I was still finding my footing on the customer support team, the developers were working studiously to bring our first challenge leagues, Anarchy and Onslaught to fruition. In the meantime, the community was flourishing as they honed their skills and shared their knowledge with one another. In May a buzz ran through both the community and the studio when Havoc was the first player to reach level 100. There had been so much anticipation for this moment. At that time many thought it wasn't possible and yet here we were on this new frontier.
The month or two prior to the game's official release in October 2013 was exciting and full of anticipation. We acquired a third studio in our office block to fulfil the needs of our growing team. The customer support team seemed to explode overnight with many new faces ready to assist us with the influx of people at release. There was a flurry of hiring and training new people. In my memory, this was the biggest batch of people we'd hired for the customer support team at once. It is especially noteworthy as a great number of the people we hired for our team at that time have since evolved to become core members of the development staff.
Our official release day was my first experience of the whirlwind that is launch day. I arrived early in preparation for an onslaught of players, new and old. To my surprise, Chris was there and had been awake all night. He was coughing as he was overcoming a cold that he'd caught a few weeks prior. His voice was hoarse, he seemed tired and a little stressed but yet his energy was still infused with excitement and anticipation.
All these years later, it is still a common sight to see Chris in this state first thing in the morning on launch day, sometimes curled up on the couch in his office (having been awake all night preparing the final build) as we all quietly get ready for the launch around him. I remember being completely impressed that he was working as hard as he was. It was refreshing to be lead by someone that was invested in the process and working hands on to make it happen instead of standing back and waiting for the work to be done.
By mid afternoon, the official game release was a mere few hours old and things were becoming settled. Chris was still awake and wrote a news post to the community to announce the success of the release. In it he announced that it was the proudest day of his life. That moment has stayed with me since. I too felt proud having watched the team come together to make it happen. There is something that feels strangely special in being a participant of someone's proudest day.
Shortly after the release, Jonathan hosted a party for all of the staff so that we could celebrate the success of the launch. There were a lot of emails to tend to, but I was lucky enough to be able to sneak away from them to join everyone. Chris gave a speech thanking all of the staff for their hard work and spoke to the success of the game so far and the future to come. Morale wise, it was a great moment. Although, speech aside, the most noteworthy thing about this party was that it was the first time Chris wore his iconic hawaiian shirt. Path of Exile had truly arrived.
Finally, to the community, thank you so much! Your passion, enthusiasm and support for Path of Exile makes all of this possible. In the last four years I have spoken to so many Path of Exile fans and I am always humbled by having this window into your day to day lives. Many of you have been here so long that I've seen you grow with us. I've heard about your lives through the years, seen your hardships and your wins: some of you have started families, overcome health-scares, started new careers and much more. This connection to you is the greatest gift of all. Thank you for being part of this with us, with me.
Path of Exile's history is rich and full, we now have 103 in-house staff, have launched 6 full expansions and 18 challenge leagues, launched in China, Brazil, Russia, Taiwan and on the Xbox One but we're not done yet! I've had the privilege of hearing about the team's plans for the next few years, and I feel confident in saying, the best is yet to come. Here's to the coming years with you all!