Path of Exile Development Update and Q&A

The current Synthesis challenge league for Path of Exile was not particularly well-received by the game's community, and as such Chris Wilson, Grinding Gear Games' co-founder, has penned a development update that outlines his future vision for the game and addresses some of the user concerns. The full update is quite lengthy so here's just an excerpt:

Simply put, we can't fix every problem every league. There are going to problems that we don't address quickly. We'll get to them as soon as we can.

A big topic in the gaming industry recently is development crunch. Some studios make their teams work 14 hour days to pack every patch full of the most fixes and improvements possible. Sometimes when we read our own Patch Notes threads and community feedback, we feel that we are being asked to do the same. I will not run this company that way. While there's inevitably a bit of optional paid overtime near league releases, the vast majority of a Path of Exile development cycle has great work/life balance. This is necessary to keep our developers happy and healthy for the long-term, but it does mean that some game improvements will take a while to be made.

We try as hard as we can to communicate with our community about our development priorities. We post daily news and aim for some kind of substantial development update every week. Bex and her team are all over the community posts, passing information back to the developers and seeking answers to questions. However, as I explained earlier, in order to be able to share our firm plans about topics, we have to assemble the right developers, derail their current work and make some time-consuming decisions.

Due to the sheer amount of stuff we've been working on, certain topics have not been addressed to the satisfaction of the community.

I am very sorry about this. One of our key values is our relationship with our community. We feel that our internal emphasis on longer term improvements to Path of Exile has caused some damage to that relationship in the short term. We will make sure that we find a good balance between addressing immediate concerns and making the long-term improvements the game needs.

Later this week, we'll post our first set of answers to the questions from the Q&A. I will make sure that it includes all the hot topics such as Synthesis, trade, console improvements, ExileCon races, etc.

We can't wait to announce 3.7.0 in three weeks. Its name is on the list.

And once you're done with that, you can also check out the developer Q&A mentioned above. A few sample questions:

As the game becomes bigger and more people with varying views on the game join us, how do you cluster feedback and do you still have a primary target audience?

When we look at feedback, we make sure to take into account the experience of the user and the nature of their core problem (rather than just the proposed solution). Despite its growth, we want Path of Exile to remain true to its core values. We feel that compromising its depth would do more long-term damage than any short-term benefit we might get in terms of being more approachable to new users.

Having said that, Path of Exile can remain a very hardcore game and still have its accessibility improved. We understand we can do a better job at making new features more understandable to both new and existing players, and are working hard to improve at this.

What was the team's takeaway from the community feedback on Synthesis?

At a low level, there were a lot of individual problems with Synthesis which we read the feedback on, made changes to address, and deployed patches for.

We already understand exactly what we did wrong during the league's production. It was incorrectly scoped during a busy period. We thought we had enough time to make something of great quality, but were wrong.

Why didn't you delay the release of Synthesis?

We actually did delay it a week internally, before we announced the date. When we announced the date, we were pretty sure we'd be able to finish the league in time.

Why didn't we delay it further? Once we put a countdown timer up and announce a release date, we really want to hit that date. People take time off work and plan around these release. Delaying a release not only upsets a few million people, but throws our entire schedule out for the year.

We did release a playable league. It just wasn't good enough.

Will you ever return to making more simple leagues like Breach, Abyss, Domination, Bloodlines and Rampage? If not, why?

I like the idea of easy-to-understand, mechanically clean leagues with a lot of meta depth. We have been experimenting with various prototypes and are quite excited about the one we picked for 3.7.0. While our current production infrastructure lets us put a lot of content in it, it'll probably be reminiscent of the era of Breach/Essence/Abyss leagues.