How We're Developing Our Next Expansion Differently

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Wait you arw actually going to test your content this time??

No way

Ill believe it when i see it

IF this works out its the best news I've seen in a couple years at this point. More polished is more important than more changes and ALWAYS has been. As someone who was ready to entirely wash my hands of Path of Exile for a few leagues after Heist if not until PoE2 this was a welcome change in the direction the developing strategies were heading.

I'll definitely be checking out the first couple weeks of the next 'expansion' now and I truly hope you guys deliver on this and continue to focus more on making sure existing content is up to par than overwhelming us with new flashy things that dont work and often break everything.


Big ups if true; will believe it when I see it as others have said.
no one cares until you give us a trading & inventory system that wasn't out of date in 1999.

do that first, & then we can talk about your dev cycles, the moon cycles, or any other cycles you want.
Admittedly, this announcement... Feels kinda empty and fluff-based. Even though it sorta feels like you acknowledge some problems that I've been preaching about for the past few years. I'll admit; it does appear exceedingly difficult for a developer to admit that there maybe MIGHT have been some sort of miscalculation on their part. (admittedly, from my experience GGG is among the most reluctant to admit a mistake)

Hence, I guess it's a big thing at all that terms like "feature creep" to even be openly admitted to the public. (even though, again, I've been encouraging others in the community to circulate these concepts for a number of years now)

Though, a few points stood out that I wanted to address:

Chris wrote:
From Path of Exile's release in 2013 until late 2015, we struggled to grow the community and were getting worried as the game's popularity started to slowly decline. We tried releases of many different sizes and cadences, before eventually settling into a 13-week cycle with the launch of Talisman in December 2015.

While in some ways this description has truth to it, it's potentially misleading:

  • At least going off of Steam numbers, the 1.x era of PoE was more stagnant than "declining." Granted, this does not count the number of non-Steam users, (read: virtually everyone who joined in during the beta, which was not available through Steam) but this still indicates that any real trend wasn't towards decline, merely hinting that the game didn't quite rebound to its initial launch activity. (which few games do)

  • Very importantly, it ignores that the 3.x era (August 2017-onward) showed a similar pattern; since Harbinger League, while the game set new records for extremely high player-counts around the launch window, there hasn't been any appreciable growth trend in the 3 years since. It could be argued there's been some degree of decline, though it could be hard to filter out given the number of leagues whose numbers were very heavily influenced by outside forces. (e.g, Blight saw a big slump because it launched the same weekend as WoW Classic & Destiny 2 F2P, while Delirium saw a big surge due to increased demand for online entertainment due to the COVID-19 lockdowns across the world)

    In truth, it was the 2.x era (July 2015 through August 2017) where Path of Exile saw its most consistent and strong growth, with new leagues repeatedly breaking records. (Warbands/Tempest league, Perandus League/Ascendancy, Breach, and Legacy, all saw huge jumps in peak player-count over prior periods, with Legacy seeing around a 100% increase over the initial 1.0 launch)

  • The most consistent growth, thus, came during the 2.x era of 2015-2017. With the exception of the launch leagues, (Warbands & Tempest) this marked the shift to the modern "format" of leagues: a single league with 40 (32 for Talisman) "simpler" challenges (instead of 8 complex challenges) with MTX rewards for all to reach a threshold, (rather than physical IRL prizes for the first few to get 8/8) and generally designed around a scaling encounter with an eye towards the endgame.

    However... It wasn't THAT consistent on a 13-week cadence; while it largely did formalize the fixed "business week recycle timer" (Mon->Fri of Merge, Manifesto, Patch Notes, Showcase, Launch, one per day) the leagues... Had a glaring exception, namely Legacy league. (also, technically the 13-week cadence began with Warbands & Tempest League, though both that and Talisman ran for only 84 days instead of 87, as the leagues ended on the Friday before the next league launch, rather than Monday, being shorter by 3 days, with 3 more days of "intermission" afterward)

  • Lastly, those launch figures don't tell the whole story. While everyone notices that GGG is very quick to crow about "Successful launches" and talk about surges in player numbers, the real talk a lot of players have been saying (including in this thread) have been about how quickly the burn out of the game after a while. (most frequently cited figure being about 2 weeks)

    From this scope, the 3.x era seems to show some problems; while PoE has seen very strong opening-weekend surges, (excepting Blight League, each of the 3.x leagues has peaked in the 125-135k range) it still suffers from a substantial slump as the league wears on, usually bottoming out around 10-13k peak players each week. The "minimum" there is close to about the same we saw back in 2.6/Legacy League at its end, in spite of modern leagues having roughly doubled Legacy's launch peak of ~65k, and Legacy having been going on for 150 days, nearly double the 87-day standard since.

The tl;dr of the above: Since 2017, PoE has been able to see big first-2-week surges of players each league, but hasn't seen major growth there in 3 years. Meanwhile player retention has dropped compared to 2015-2017. My opinion on that observation is that GGG needs to, above all, focus on improving player retention, and consider how their development pacing reflects the best sort of investment-versus-return there, compared to big, flashy launches.

Chris wrote:
Even under normal circumstances, some expansions were coming in quite close to the wire.
...Heist was by far the highest-content league in PoE's history.

This is actually a consistent pattern... And the former is an understatement. It's been pretty common for a league to fail to launch with all its content available at first, with players having to wait 1-4 weeks for certain parts to be committed to production. This indicates that in terms of planning, GGG has been extremely aggressive in trying to maximize how much content they can put out in each release... And as a result, this causes times where the estimate was too aggressive, and the deadlines couldn't properly be met.

And while Heist is currently the highest-content league in PoE's history, before then, the title was held by a prior league, and before that, a different league. Delve and Betrayal were particularly notorious for having far more content and work needed over any leagues to come before them, and some follow-on leagues (Synthesis immediately comes to mind) arguably raising it even further, while not really any post-Synthesis leagues really dropping down to the amount of content of Incursion or before. (Metamorph League on its OWN would've been on the same tier... Had it not also launched alongside the entire huge "Conquerors of the Atlas" expansion)

The tl;dr here is... GGG had been following a continuous trend of larger and larger leagues/expansions, and it has yielded problems with meeting deadlines, as well as bugs. It's safe to assume that with larger expansions has come bigger budgets spent on development as well, which becomes questionable when, as I illustrated before, GGG's player growth has been effectively stagnant for 3 years.

Chris wrote:
While Feature Creep sounds like a terrible thing, it can often be great for making a game feel special.

This whole paragraph actually misses the big points when people have been talking about feature/content creep, namely that there's been two big problems: power creep and content bloat. Even though both are pretty closely related, they definitely should be explored individually:

  • Power creep is pretty straightforward, and most of the better-experienced & smarter players already understand it: more and more power is available to players, trivializing previously-difficult content.

    And a lot even understand why it comes about: an RPG, especially a build-and-gear-centric aRPG like PoE, is heavily based around doing content to earn rewards. (It's in the company's name, after all: "Grinding Gear Games"!) If the rewards for a piece of new content aren't worthwhile, few players will have any incentive to select it.

    This "selection" can range anywhere from "try this particular new map" to "engage this new metagame at all" to even as small as simply "trying out this new skill gem;" if the drops from a map are too worthless, players won't want to run it. If the new expansion metagame's end rewards are too weak or too hard to consistently farm, they won't want to engage that. And if a new skill gem, item, or passive is too underpowered, they won't want to try spending the time to make a build around it. (e.g, look at Spectral Shield Throw, which has basically never been good, and thus players don't bother with it)

    Now, there's two ways to make the reward for something appealing. The ideal way is to make something technically no stronger a choice, but make it novel, unique, and flavorful enough players find it "cool" and will want to try it out, and it's just good enough that it's neither under- nor over-powered compared to existing content. This is doubly difficult: as not only does this require an exceptionally fine level of balance, it also requires coming up with something that doesn't remotely match existing rewards or build choices.

    Then there's the far easier way, of simply making a new reward or selection to be similar to what players already know, just... More powerful. The most straightforward example here would be "Awakened" support gems. In nearly every single plausible situation, an awakened gem can replace its non-awakened counterpart just fine, and provide a clear-cut advantage. Such items are near-trivial to invent, and provide instant incentive to players; they already know how the reward works ("just like what they already use!") and they know it's better, so it instantly becomes desirable.

    In terms of near-term development time, it's clear that the return-on-investment, (or risk-reward ratio, to fit with how the OP described it) that the preferred/quicker option is to simply make the rewards more powerful. It's quicker to do (less creativity/balance required) and also being straightforward minimizes risks. (players will instantly consider it something to "chase")

    However, in the longer-term scale of things, this becomes problematic: by adding power creep like that, this makes the content itself increasingly trivial to complete... Which can bore players. The solution there has often been to scale the difficulty of the content to match pace with the power creep.

    Unfortunately, this leads to a concept known as the Power Gap; balance is based around the extreme high end of player power, or "ceiling" while the actual power of players at the "floor" has not increased. This means that increases in content difficulty actually punishes players who are not at the ceiling, for one of many reasons... Most importantly are two, being that their build simply isn't one that can properly take advantage of all the power creep available, (which I won't get into further detail here, but note that it's the main threat to "build diversity") or, as I'll address below, players have not fully invested the time, energy, and knowledge in learning to properly exploit the correct content.

  • Content bloat is something less immediately clear, but when one digs down, it can become readily apparent... And also intertwined with power creep.

    Each time the game receives an expansion that covers a new mechanic or side/meta-game, that adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay, something that a player can either take part in, or not take part in. This choice is non-trivial for players, since attempting to take part in content not just requires the actual time to directly play it, but also involves the time & effort to learn the rules of this content, (which will differ from other parts of the game) and also further time to "master" it, and learn how to properly maximize their outcomes.

    Unfortunately, when a game has an incredibly large number of these "side-games," it becomes increasingly easy for a player to fail to juggle learning all of these rather disparate pieces of content. This can be bad enough for a player who's been here consistently for years, and learning each new system one at a time, but for a new or returning player who is presented with a giant pile of seemingly nonsense keywords and explanations? Yeah, it may as well look like this, and their eyes glaze over.

    This happens pretty frequently; many might be surprised to find out how many people just... Don't know a lot of the stuff in many systems that're not immediately explained, like how to easily find breakable walls in the Azurite Mines, or how to even get specific desirable rewards from the Immortal Syndicate (e.g, Pure Chayula Breachstones) let alone how to properly set up their Syndicate. If/when further leagues get their content sent core, we'll see this as well: while Harvest-league players theorycrafted hard to get the ideal layouts for their garden, if it's no longer the one mechanic the league is based upon, players without experience will readily struggle, and information won't be as readily accessible as when it was the #1 mechanic.

    This results in a lot of players getting left out, and in fact even punished for their sub-optimal metagame strategy, whether they realize it or not. And of course, their ability to realize it (and be able to properly plan it) is also complicated by a lot of the mechanics being heavily RNG-based, especially with the game's infamous "10% system" for former league content made core: players have poor ability to decide when and how they encounter and interact with all these systems, which means they get far less and weaker feedback on how they're doing.

    The game has some 17-ish separate systems (of varying complexity) from former leagues currently rolled into "core" to some degree that all have the potential for meaningful rewards, but require some degree (sometimes a lot) of knowledge to properly take advantage of.

    While it's easy for some of us more experienced players to just sit back and say "git gud," feature bloat like this means that a newer or returning player just doesn't actually have that as a straightforward option; they're effectively dropped into an ocean of content that all clashes with each other, with little apparent choice on how to even control its appearance, and punished pretty relentlessly for each and every misstep, with minimal feedback on what could've gone better.

the tl;dr of the above: "Feature Creep" is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problems with the game's rate of adding new content & features come from the twin issues of power creep & feature bloat, which make the game increasingly hostile to new & returning players, and harming player retention.

This is something that should be addressed with emphasis; while existing content can't feasibly just be removed from the game, it would probably be a good idea to rework it into something that provides players both with better control over it, as well as an easier understanding of what's expected of them to maximize it.

There's strong precedent for this within this game's own development life, in fact: Bestiary League was initially panned as too needlessly complex with too many extraneous elements to actually make use of it. (e.g, net management is/was consistently cited as a big problem, as well as the punishment for accidentally killing a monster) This led to the short-term scrapping of plans to implement the mechanic into the core game, but later it was re-worked heavily; both the crafting side being simplified, (with clearer reward choices) and the actual hunting part made more in-line with the rest of the game; rather than being a complicated "side-game," hunting targets instead became more a twist on a more typical big enemy/boss fight, with Einhar entirely handling nets.

At the same time, access to several leagues' worth of content (namely Bestiary, Incursion, Delve, and Betrayal) were all rolled into a new system to make their encounter rates more deterministic. If this approach was used to re-work existing mechanics, this could yield a big improvement to how accessible the game's content was, and improve player retention.

Chris wrote:
We have defined a very specific scope for December's 3.13 expansion.

Time will tell if this actually proves to be meaningful, or whether it proves an example of "too little, too late."

While left glaringly absent from any mention, this game has become rather infamous (even beyond its own community) for how buggy its new content tends to be... And the game has many, many (quite possibly hundreds of thousands) of former players that were turned off from the game after some experience with it, often citing things such as the game's power creep, bloat, and bugs. (It's made it rather difficult for me to personally recommend it to others: most of the time I try, the response I get is that they did play it, and didn't like it; usually for reasons like those I just described)

Talking big about scaling back the ambition of new content and improving content testing is a start, but just that: a start. We'll see whether this marks a new trend, or a failed attempt to break out of the sort of "limbo" (however nominally successful) the game has sat in for the past 3 years.
Rufalius, hybrid Aura/Arc/Mana Guardian | Hemorae, TS Raider | Wuru, Ele Hit Wand Trickster
can make basicaly daily mtx and effects wich wont contribute to gameplay whatsoever is just mindblown.
i feel disqusted by this game,brink of just rage vendor everything and just call it quits.

tryed other build than bow. meh just not for me. i like bow. elemental based.
used explosive arrow it was ok with barrage support for single target. whyle still unable to kill sirus. i do good dps but still not enugh
but it was nerfed, now back at galvanic arrow for single target. wich is even worser.
i just cant play this game anymore. just afk in hideout and sorting tabs. why im doing this no idea, game wont change next day or daily it stays like this forever.

people say bows are for magic find only. geez shut up already. mf is dead year ago. dont even care about it. i just want to roam thru content with bows. and not in tier 1 maps. just why ggg disrespect theyr players nerfing good things for bow and keeping nebulis bs in.
i dont even care about harvest going core. theres just not enugh good mods wich could help having damage and survivability. either i have nice defence and run one map 10 minutes or damage running map in 2 minutes and dying 5 6 times till ports gone and go again. this game sucks. yes i cry out. maybe some kind person can post this on reddit and ggg can read this. sarcasm
Good job, guys.

We appreciate the transparency you have always provided. Try to hit a good work-life balance. We want our friends at the GGG studio to enjoy what they do. We'll be here to enjoy your game when it is ready.

IGN: @Chek_Leech
Feel free to contact me in game with any questions/bins/bids.
Glad you all at GGG are moving in a way that you are comfortable with supporting!

It's a great game, and I love the fact that the experimental release is number 3.13
Last edited by WulfgangAdair on Oct 21, 2020, 5:25:24 PM
not to be rude, but i dead ass dont want another atlas upgrade. i honestly want a new story or a new way to level through the game. because after a certain amount of time of playing poe and doing the main qiest over and over you just start skipping it. then it becomes a chore. "let me do this so i can get to the fun part". im sure the main quest is due for a over haul for both new player and vets. im not vet but as someone creeping up 2k hours and made like 30 characters the main quest feel like i have to grind so i can start really grinding. on top of that i would like to learn more lore and story pieces in general.
TehBoneKing wrote:
To poke at all the nerds who would complain about bugs in your content. i would just like to remind everyone that in the beginning game releases were 100% completely flawless. games like loz ocarina of time have ZERO bugs that could be exploited and every playthrough takes EXATLY as long as the developers intended.

you have no idea. watch some speedruns of oot or any other game and see how many glitches it has. ocarina of time can be done in less than 8 minutes. you wouldn't run into these bugs casually, sure, but zero bugs is not true at all.

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