Creating a Unique Item

There are a lot of reasons someone might play a game -- the pride you feel when you overcome a challenge, the joy of discovery as you explore a new world, the highs and lows of a well-told tale... the phat loot.

While certainly not universally applicable to Path of Exile players, it's probably fair to say that better and more interesting loot is one of the main driving forces for players of basically any ARPG. Watching that boss monster explode in a shower of items, seeing that one of those items is that all-important unique colour, and identifying it to discover what amazing properties it has is, for many, a hugely memorable moment.

Designing awesome unique items is actually a rather tricky process. Your typical unique can be broken down into a few basic components, but each of these components has to work in unison for the item itself to really be successful.

When we're starting an item design from scratch, because all three points have to fit together, we can really start from any one of them. Let's use a real example from an upcoming patch. Every new league we've done to date has had some league-specific unique items, and with new leagues on the way, I was tasked with coming up with those. I really liked the Berek's rings we created in Domination and Nemesis, so I decided to make a "cycle" of new items, all thematically linked together, for each of our upcoming leagues.

The idea for one of the cycles came very quickly and stemmed from how the league they're in will function. The other, well, was a slower process of discovery. Our artists made some 2D art and 3D models of some new weapons that at that point were unattached to anything in game, and only tenuously attached to anything we had planned. I decided that the visual style of these weapons could work as the starting point for the design of these weapons.

So I knew what they looked like, but I didn't yet know what they'd do. Eyes and teeth and flesh all have gameplay mechanics that could fit thematically. I decided that life leech would be a good enough starting point. Scythes also have cultural and historical connotations for "reaping", which implies cutting something down for some gain -- fitting nicely with life leech, but leech isn't the most interesting mechanic, even if is very useful. That is, unless, it leeches a lot, but only sometimes:

I decided that perhaps it could work based on critical strikes -- you only leech health when you critically strike. Immediately, the usefulness for a weapon like this changes wildly between builds. It rewards some a lot more than it rewards others.

But what if you weren't just leeching health now on crit, but potentially leeching health for later too. Surgeon flasks are very popular for crit builds for good reason -- they can be refilled in the middle of long fights. The idea of turning every flask into a surgeons flask, as if your crits were siphoning off some of the leech, was a very appealing idea, so the next mod I attached was:

I wanted to drive home the evil, thirsty nature of the scythe with the flavour text, of course, so that reads

And I named it:

The low base critical strike chance of axes means that you won't necessarily benefit from this very often. I could have certainly tossed some extra local crit chance on there to compensate, but the weapon is all fleshy and alive-looking. What do fleshy and alive-looking things do? They grow. They change. Just like you.

This crit chance is global, so even at max level you're not likely to have a ridiculously high critical-strike chance with this weapon. But the crits you do get will be valuable to your survival. And, maybe this weapon is actually more useful in other ways once you've levelled beyond the point where the physical damage is relevant. Maybe it has changed.

There are two other items that will be coming out alongside The Harvest with our next major patch, each with some transformative property. They're coming to the next hardcore league. As many of our hardcore players are very experienced, we expect they will see beyond the face value of the items and find their true potential.

Last edited by Chris on Jul 13, 2014, 6:45:54 PM
OMG. That looks badass.

The whole process is very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

And I'm on the spotlight for the second time 8D
I'm in an abusive relationship with life. It keeps beating the hell out of me and I'm too cowardly to leave it.

IGN • NCPereira
Last edited by NCPereira on Jul 13, 2014, 6:46:35 PM
Harvester - best game Universe.
"I accept Nujabes as my Savior."
Great post, thanks!
No longer a forum dweller, please use PM for contact purposes.
Damn that's a sick Axe...
mother of god...
Transform... maybe at 90+ or 100 it becomes super beast. 156-244 would start falling behind around 75-80 so it may be earlier.
Per level? Per what level? Character? Item? Area? Come on... that's so ambiguous.
Will this be only available in hc league??

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