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Grinding Gear Games, the developers of Path of Exile, are pretty open with how and why they do what they do. This leads to plenty of development blog posts that revolve around various features they implement into their constantly evolving game. This time around, they talk about the Elder Uniques, the items you can get by fighting the Elder, Path of Exile's latest end-game boss. Check it out:
Coming up with unique items that drop from an end-game boss can be a tricky process. Since such unique items can be deterministically farmed for, this means that they are likely to be widely available relatively early in a new league. In the case of War for the Atlas, players are going to be able to naturally encounter the Elder at regular intervals while mapping, so fighting him isn't really gated behind special conditions.
From the above conditions, the unique items needed to be made in such a way that made them generally useful for a wide variety of builds, and to create a reason to keep fighting the Elder many times, or the items would feel like they had no value.
The general design of a lot of elder uniques is that they are intended for a large variety of builds. Because of this, the focus on these designs are attributes, ailments, charges, curses and auras.
As the attribute-focused item in the set, the bonuses of this item were chosen to be mostly defensive, with a secondary offensive effect that can be built around. Attribute stacking is nothing new in Path of Exile. Existing builds already use items like The Whispering Ice and Hand of Wisdom and Action to great effect. However, all those builds focus on stacking a single attribute as high as possible.
This belt attempts to provide a slightly different spin to an attribute-focused gearing strategy, where you need to care about your lowest attribute for damage, rather than only caring about a single one. You also have the ability to become immune to two ailments of your choice, based on how your attributes fall into place, which is incredibly powerful in many situations.
As the ailment-focused item of the set, there was a bunch of design space that opened up with the emergence of Elder and Shaper items. While not exactly a set bonus, this seemed like a good opportunity to make a unique item that rewarded using as many elder items as possible. These gloves just want you to use many elder items, which is consistent with the theme of the Elder influencing as many maps as he can!
Any build that cares about ailments should benefit greatly from using these gloves. While ailment builds are not as popular as direct damage builds, these gloves can boost the power of those builds significantly. On top of boosting both the power and effect of ailments, it has a special mod if you have Elder items in every slot, allowing you to play with no ailment removal flasks if you desire.
Nebuloch, Hopeshredder and Shimmeron
This is the charge-focused design of the set, which meant that we were going to design an item for each charge type. Instead of limiting the Elder to a single weapon type, this allowed us to efficiently make a full item cycle. Since each weapon has a charge associated with them, the base type was chosen by looking at the attribute each charge was aligned to.
The theme of the Elder siphoning life from his foes was pretty strongly in place, and we thought it'd be cool for the weapons to modify charges in some way, while having the charges siphon the life away from you. This was tricky because we didn't want the weapons to be limited to certain ascendancies due to the maximum number of charges they allowed you to get, so balancing those values took a while.
Interestingly, we also wanted the degeneration effect of the charges to always be on but at a lower rate, but that would kill characters when going through a loading screen! Therefore we chose thematic triggers to turn the degeneration effect on.
These weapons are meant to be very powerful, if you are able to build around the downside. There are many ways to do this in the game currently. Of course, you could simply play it safe and find ways to avoid or minimize the triggers that cause the degeneration!
As the curse-focused item of the set, these amulets were pitched as one of the rarer drops from the Elder. We wanted to make some items drop from the Elder that were reminiscent of the Doryani's Invitation cycle of uniques from Atziri. Choosing a cycle that is split by the 5 damage types in Path of Exile was a good way to go about this. Outside of the free Blasphemy aura, the rest of the mods were chosen to be thematic and tied to each element.
Originally, the items were meant to simply grant you the Blasphemy aura when you put it on. Unfortunately there were some technical limitations to doing it this way, so we instead gave the amulets the mod which removed the reservation cost of each Blasphemy aura.
A free curse aura is nothing to turn your nose up at and opens up so many other options when you do not need to reserve your mana for your damage curse. Outside this, these amulets also have many other beneficial bonuses.
The aura-focused design of the set, this jewel was meant to be the chase item from the Elder. As mentioned earlier, we knew the Elder was going to be a lot more accessible and farmable than many of our other bosses. For this reason, it was important to give players a reason to keep killing him.
This design actually took a while to come together, because it needed to be the sort of item that everybody would want, but interesting enough that it still felt unique. It also needed to have a large pool of mods to roll from, so getting the perfect one would take some killing. Eventually, we settled on causing the Jewel to add additional benefits when being affected by each aura. Auras are incredibly widely used and there are very few builds that use absolutely no auras. Even Mind over Matter builds that want unreserved mana often reserve enough to run Clarity.
We also wanted to make this a jewel so that it didn't crowd out other items in the same slot. If this was, say, a Helmet, it might invalidate the existence of many other helmets in the game! Since this was meant to be a lofty goal for players to achieve, we were able to go a bit crazy with the mods here and add some real power!
Designing the unique items for the Elder was a very fun and interesting experience. We hope that you have a lot of fun using them!
And as a bonus, you can peep some War for the Atlas concept art.