Item Development - Information

If someone asked me what Path of Exile's greatest strength was, I'd answer with just one word: depth. The breadth of choice and volume of interesting interactions between skills, supports, passives and items are what differentiates Path of Exile from other games, and what keeps players coming back over and over again. Path of Exile's greatest weakness, on the other hand? Complexity.

One of the problems we as game designers repeatedly run into when adding new content to the game is communicating so many complex elements to the player. For someone relatively new to Action RPGs, wrapping your head around our item and mod system is a pretty big ask, and that's not even including all the wild modifiers we then introduce on unique items.

So when we're designing unique items, we often have to consider how we deliver information to the player. How much is too much? An experienced user would argue there is no information that we could possibly provide that would prove useless. They'd like to know every possible application a given item could have with every skill.

The average player, however, needs to know just enough to get by, and any more than that will tend to end negatively impacting the effect of the item. For example, Zahndethus' Cassock:

That final mod functionally heals any ally standing in the radius for 4% of their maximum life per second, lasts 8 seconds, and is a specific size. We could have had a mod for each aspect so the player knew exactly what they were getting with Consecrated Ground, but most important information (how to trigger it) is already communicated, and the rest can be learned by using it.

Then there's the concept of luck on items. We currently use luck precisely twice -- once on the Diamond Flask base-type ("Your Critical Strike Chance is Lucky") and on Lori's Lantern:

This is a concept that is much easier to understand as a flavourful keyword than if we directly explained exactly what was going on under the hood. With a lucky critical strike chance, you'd basically expect to crit more. That's exactly what happens, broadly speaking. With the final mod on Lori's, it's a little tougher to exactly predict how it will act, but you intuitively understand you'll take less damage on low life.

What's actually going on, however, is that these chance-based mechanics -- critical strikes and damage -- are being rolled an additional time, and then a specific roll is being chosen based on criteria to determine the final outcome. For Diamond flasks, the higher of two critical strike chance rolls is used to check for a critical strike. For Lori's Lantern, the lower of the two damage values is applied. These mods functionally give the player an extra chance at a favourable outcome, and the keyword of luck communicates this every time without going into crazy amounts of detail.

Which leads us to Whispering Ice, an upcoming unique Staff. Here's what it looks like right now:

This staff has led to a huge amount of internal debate about how information is given to players. Where opinions split is when it comes to how players will assess this item as it is above.

Icestorm is only available through The Whispering Ice, and there's currently no point of reference for what Icestorm does. The closest thing is Firestorm, and handily that's the skill Icestorm is based on. An average player may assume that Icestorm is functionally identical to Firestorm, except much cooler (pun intended). Level 1 Firestorm isn't such an attractive prospect at level 33, but Icestorm, on a caster at that level, should tear everything apart thanks to the unique scaling mechanism of the skill. Here's what the skill description says:

The really important part here is the 1-3 base Cold damage per 10 Intelligence. With this, Icestorm can be a mighty core skill. However, looking at the staff, a player could easily assume that the version of Icestorm this staff gives you is garbage and the spell damage scaling on the staff isn't very rewarding. The only way to learn otherwise is to actually equip the staff, but with the assumption that it's a crummy low-level skill, why would you do that?

We can't have a mod that says the staff itself is granting you the added cold damage, because it's not; It's part of the skill itself. And if we give exact values on the item, given the other method of scaling damage, it risks becoming a very difficult item to assess. When assessing the item internally, there was a desire to signal the attribute scaling on the item, to help players better assess its potential power. However, we've never had a non-functional descriptor on an item before, and there's a fair argument that we shouldn't start now. One suggested idea would be to make the scaling a property of the staff rather than of the skill. There are mixed opinions about the implications of this implementation, though.

It's not often that so many people get involved in the minutia of an individual unique, but when it comes to ensuring players have the right amount of information, we become passionate. You'll be able to see the final result of our ongoing discussion when the expansion containing Act Four launches later this year.
Last edited by NickK_GGG on Apr 7, 2015, 7:50:59 PM
Ice storm! Hype

How does the staff(and thus Ice Storm itself iirc) interact with Empower/Enhance gems?
You expect me to act as something I'm not? I picked this name for a reason.
Last edited by Arrogant on Apr 7, 2015, 7:59:24 PM
Oh sweet. Was waiting for this
act 4 :D
why don't you just make it so the mod says "Grants the Icestorm skill" ?
Arcis wrote:
why don't you just make it so the mod says "Grants the Icestorm skill" ?

Yes. Listen to this fellow. Take the level off of it. It isn't relevant anyway.

"Grants Unique Icestorm Skill"
cant wait!
when act4 will be released?
Looks good.
jesus seriously ?!!!!!!! omg omg omg
Don't forget to drink your milk 👌

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