Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Path of Exile: 10 Acts and no more grinding...

It's a funny feeling when you finally get what you want.  It's something that usually doesn't happen for me in most video games...

Till now.

Who cares about Valentine's day, the news destined to keep RPG geeks single and sexless has dropped...

Path of Exile is getting another expansion but this time it's different...

It's not just another league, or tweak to a set piece.  It's not about randomizing monster types on the same maps or the introduction of a new set of craftable maps.

I've long said that the one weakness in Path of Exile has always been it's reliance on grinding to advance.  Having to trudge through the same maps 2 even 3 times with the only real change being the level of difficulty and risk to your XP gets old fast.

If you're a real masochist you could try it on Hardcore and up the ante to the POE equivalent of permadeath.  Assuming you've got enough experience and about 1000 hours to kill you could "treat" yourself to the same maps an additional 3 times.

6 times through the same maps.


Of course the alternative was league play where you compete in a pissing contest to win your place on the leaderboard or custom maps that usually end up being little more than a means for high level players to farm equipment for sale.  Those sales take place in a vibrant marketplace catering to those less adept ( or fortunate ) to find decent equipment in-game.

I'm not a fan of the marketplace mostly because it takes place outside actual gameplay and perpetuates weak drops.  Unfortunately you may eventually find yourself having to partake to advance your character.  Good drops are still rare and even when found are unlikely to take you past the first 1/2 of the game before you succumb to the urge to wheel and deal.

That's not likely to change with this latest news from Grinding Gear but things are about to get a whole lot more interesting...

The February 14th announcement is major.  

Grinding Gear has laid out the framework for another 6 acts (10 total) culminating with a real endgame and set to launch in July 2017 with the 3.0 patch.

With this news came word that gone are the Cruel and Merciless game modes.  A vindication of my long held belief that they were little more than stand-ins for missing content.  

6 more acts to this game is a lot of content.   Enough to keep even veteran players amused for the next year if they did nothing else.

That's going to bring the game to a new level of interest and immersion free of the distraction of endless XP farming just to advance your character.   

Grinding is a crutch for game developers.  An admission that the creative well has run dry.  That leaves the player with a choice to either leave the game when the content runs out or stick around for bragging rights.

There's a danger in that...

Grinding Gear claims they've hit over a million players in 2016 but like Microsoft and Windows installs, you have to wonder how big that number would have been if players didn't hit that grinding wall so fast.

Look, I get the joke.  The developer is called "Grinding" Gear but it's not funny anymore...

In the old days, it was common for video games to offer little more than added difficulty once you'd finished the game the first time.  The limited resources of a console or gaming PC meant that the experience was usually short lived if not a little hollow.  

How many piles of lonely boxes cluttering our childhood closets contained games that never again saw the light of day past a Christmas afternoon?

In 2017 content is king and the only thing getting cluttered up is your SSD.  

Games are not just pastimes, they're immersive experiences and the business models that bring them to you rely on that.  It's why every Triple-A title has DLC and every MMO game must have fresh content to survive.

So Grinding Gear kind of cheated all of that with the whole Cruel and Merciless thing.  Yeah, it was Free to Play but that model relies on somebody actually wanting to throw some cash your way at some point.   Forcing players into punishing and frequently unbalanced modes of endless grinding isn't a sustainable revenue model.   

After awhile, it just plain gets boring.  I don't mind more difficulty but don't make it cost me so much if the payoff for the risk isn't there.  Let me gain as much as I could lose or at least give me some new content to look at.

I've turned my back on POE 3 times in as many years precisely because of this horrible grinding mechanic.  It only served to break the immersion and made it more occupation than game.  Worse it created a toxic "Us and Them" dynamic within the community of the more casual and hardcore players.  

That's a failing. One that is soon to be corrected.

So I for one welcome the dismissal of Cruel and Merciless.  They were a crutch and for a game as well conceived and executed ( most of the time ) a badge of shame that needed to be torn from Grinding Gear's blouse.

It's about the gameplay and that relies on content not shortcuts.

So that's the news.  Path of Exile is going to get better at least from what we see in the announcements.  I've embedded a video below from a YouTuber and Twitch streamer who takes this game WAAAAY more seriously than I ever will.  

I defer to his take on the news.

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