Dev Diary: Path of Exile's Flask System

When designing Path of Exile, we spent a lot of time playing other action RPGs. We carefully examined what game mechanics we felt worked or didn’t work. The genre is built around a core set of very solid mechanics, but one system uniformly stood out as feeling out of place: potions. We’ve designed a system that we feel dramatically improves on potions to create stronger itemization and more tactical options for players.

Existing Potion Systems

In almost every case, action RPGs had disposable life and mana potions that would refill a portion of the player’s life over time. In many cases, these potions would stack in the inventory and could be accessed by pressing a specific key on the keyboard without having to individually manipulate the potions. We soon found that players were encouraged to buy literally 100 potions of each type in town, becoming essentially invulnerable until they ran out of potions. It was common to see people develop the habit of tapping the healing key at periodic intervals, regardless of whether it was optimal to use a potion at that exact moment. The potion systems also created a horrible tradeoff between inventory space and healing potential. It was often correct to have no room to pick up items, in exchange for a substantially larger pile of potions.

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Refillable Flasks

In order to solve these problems, we created a set of Flask items that can be refilled after they have been consumed. We picked the name Flasks to distinguish them from the disposable potions of other games. Rather than being a potion that contains a magical liquid, the actual Flask itself imbues its contents with magical properties. Flasks hold a certain number of charges which can vary between base types. Unlike potions in other games, you can take more than one drink from a Flask. Drinking from a Flask uses a set number of charges and can refill your life, mana or both (depending on the base type). These charges refill over time as you kill monsters, but there are other ways to refill them in combat also. An example of this mechanic is a Flask that regains some charges every time the player is critically hit by a monster. To discourage the behavior of hording dozens of Flasks in the player’s inventory, we’ve added a rule where Flasks can only hold charges while they’re equipped in your belt. This means that players can treat their Flask state as a part of their character buildand have to budget around it with their combat decisions. Flasks can be refilled in town or at fountains that are found sporadically throughout Wraeclast. Higher quality Flasks heal more life or mana, in line with how quality works on weapons and armours.

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Flask Mods

Like any other piece of equipment, our Flasks can have mods. These mods don’t affect the character’s stats while passively equipped (you wouldn’t see “10% Increased Attack Speed” on a Flask, for example), but instead modify the way that the Flask heals you and effects that trigger when it does so. As a general rule, our Flask prefixes augment the core properties of the flask itself. They can modify the amount of charges the flask has, the amount of life/mana it recovers, the speed of recovery, the way the flask recovers charges and various other properties. Our Flask suffixes generally add extra properties to the recovery process, such as also healing your minions, dispelling status ailments or adding a buff such as movement speed or higher resistances while you are healing. If you choose a Flask with a suffix like this, you’re often sacrificing healing speed for utility. However, many players have learnt the hard way that it’s useful to have a flask on hand to dispel being frozen by Sirens. Flasks can be found in normal (white), magic (blue) and unique (brown) form. We found it unnecessary to have rare (yellow) Flasks because Flask mods are individually very powerful. It would be hard for players to keep track of five Flasks that could each do five things.


Advantages of Flasks

By having refillable Flasks as permanent equipment slots that have mods, they become part of a character’s build. There is a tradeoff between Flasks that are very good at recovery (ones with high capacity or increased quantities of life/mana recovered) and ones that provide a utility such as dousing fire or breaking you out of being frozen. Players can use Flasks to specialise their characters further and to shore up deficiencies that their other items don’t cope with. This Flask system also has the advantage of being very PvP friendly. The PvP systems in many action RPGs are ruined by the use of their potions, because then it’s merely a measure of who has the most free inventory space. Because our Flasks can only hold charges while they’re equipped in a character’s belt, players are on a level playing field if they can choose their Flasks along with the rest of their build (flask recovery occurs between PvP matches). If a player wants more healing for a PvP match then they can sacrifice utility to achieve this. The other benefit of Flask itemization is that of trading -- players now have many more items that they are searching for in the quest to perfect their build.

We’re keen to hear feedback on this system on our forums. Please sign up for a forum account that will also be eligible for Beta access in the coming months.

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 This week's Screenshot of the Week shows a Unique Flask:

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Grinding Gear Games

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