Path of Exile - How Obsession Helps and Hurts the Game

If you head on over to IGN, you'll find this article that takes a look at Grinding Gear Games' action-RPG Path of Exile and its dark and twisted setting, complex mechanics, player-driven economy, and more. The common thread that connects all these topics is obsession, both in-game and outside of it. And while obsession is a rather strong term, the article offers a pretty decent overview of what Path of Exile is all about regardless.

Here are a few sample paragraphs:

Path of Exile’s attractiveness is summed up on the Overview page on the game’s website. Several mission statements regarding its skill tree and skill gems, the bleak and brutal tone of Wraeclast as defiance against “bright, cartoony RPGs”, and the games’ deep commitment to the itemization of nearly everything under the sun give it a flavor that tastes distinctly of Diablo and other similar titles. GGG set out to make PoE a gritty, complicated experience from the outset when it was just a few developers working out of Chris Wilson’s garage, driven only by their love for ARPGs and desire to see a game heavily tailored towards the dedicated player.

This obsession is reflected in Path of Exile's story; dark magic, reawakened and maddened gods, scientists seeking immortality through human sacrifice, and the creation of eldritch artifacts through blood and death. Throughout it all, Path of Exile gives the impression that obsession, whether it be concerned with power and security, wealth and status, or lineage and history, can and will drive you mad if you let it.

It is interesting then, as Path of Exile has one of the most dedicated and obsessed game communities around. Part of that arose from necessity - its wiki, market tools, build crafting programs, all exist on some level because PoE is deliberately designed to obfuscate information that it doesn’t want its players having easy access to, which at the beginning of the Path of Exile's life was a draw for its player base. Having to discover this information was a foundation for community discussion and tool creation, theorycrafting and more. Trading was risky, clunky, and required a dedicated forum thread if you wanted to sell more than one item smoothly; movement was effectively capped by itemization limitations, and clearspeed, in general, was at a pace far slower than the game’s current average.

Ingenuity thrives under such limitations, and it wasn’t long until third party websites and software were developed by players to get around these barriers. Community-made websites and programs eased the pressures of trading under the developers’ constraints, and build planning tools allowed players degrees of control and fine-tuning of their characters well before they created them. Because of their customizability and frequent developer updates, these streamlining tools became extremely popular. Naturally, this sense of community passion rubbed off on new players.