One thing our game designers often have to consider when producing new content (such as unique items or skills) is how we communicate their effect. We try to be exact and consistent, using the same phrasing for mods that behave the same. When it comes to PoE builds, ambiguity is the enemy of creativity. Today's news post is a guest article by Nick, one of our game designers.

Until recently, our mod descriptions on items had an extremely limited length. Our goal when describing new item mods was to communicate exactly what it did without needing more than one line, and especially without orphaned words (words that sit alone on a line). This was tricky -- some common in-game terms took up a lot of space ("Increased Energy Shield" or "Endurance Charges" for example. Don't even get me started on "Socketed Gems are Supported by Cast when Damage Taken") which made mods that utilised them automatically more difficult to describe in such a short space.

Compounding this difficulty, we had to accommodate a wide range of screen resolutions. Different resolutions can cause otherwise-fine descriptions to spit out an orphaned word. The bottom mod on Surgebinders is one that we later discovered would, in very niche resolutions, do just that. Surgebinders became the standard by which we judged future mod lengths.

The reason we were so steadfast was to both keep individual mods simple (and thus the whole item more understandable) and for aesthetic reasons -- wide item frames look weird, especially when it's just because of one super-wide line.

When we introduced jewels with The Awakening, we started using longer, more complex, multi-lined mod descriptions. With less overall information to communicate, the individual unique jewel mods could be a little longer.

This introduced a new problem, a problem best showcased by the threshold jewel Fight for Survival.



As previously mentioned, having a super-wide line looks dumb. But when we split mods into two lines, it's important to ensure that, if someone were to read each line independently, they wouldn't misinterpret what it does. Some people, as it turns out, tend to read item mods like Drake (they start from the bottom). That meant being very careful about where we split up lines.

Fight for Survival? More like Fight to Find a Good Point for a Line Break. "With at least 40 Dexterity in Radius, Frost Blades Melee Damage Penetrates 15% Cold Resistance" was too long for a single line. We didn't want to split up the condition (With at least 40 Dexterity in Radius), so we tried line breaks at every sensible point after that. That meant our options were:


VS

VS

VS

VS


Each of those lines, when read independently, communicates something different (and wrong). A player could conceivably miss the condition altogether and assume that any of those is providing a passive unconditional benefit. We'd also be in trouble if we tried to split the condition ("With at least 40 Dexterity" is a pretty easy condition to fulfil). The goal was to make sure both lines independently were complete nonsense, but reading them together unlocked knowledge like a magical brain-key. Thus, we had to split the skill name. It reads strangely, but it's pretty hard to misunderstand the effect.

In this particular case, after revealing the jewel, a reddit user suggested a rewording that fixed the issue of splitting up the skill name. So in a future update, you'll see it look more like this:



Sometimes the problem is in precisely describing an effect. Take the unique flask The Wise Oak, for example:



This item had to communicate the following:
  • It cares about your fire, cold, and lightning resistances, but NOT your chaos resistance.
  • It cares about the total amount of any of those individual resistances.
  • It is possible for multiple resistances to fulfill the same condition. (It is, in fact, possible for all relevant resistances to fulfill both conditions at the same time.)
  • Which resistances fulfill which conditions determines what the final outcome will be.


The actual effect is pretty intuitive (my elemental resistances determine which elements I get to deal extra damage with and take reduced damage from), but communicating all of the nuances without it becoming a wall of text was as much a puzzle as the item itself. Even now, it's pretty wordy, but it's pretty hard to get it any shorter.

Finally, the order in which these descriptions appear is important. Relentless Fury has three mods that interact:



Culling Strike is straightforward if you are familiar with the support gem. But the weapon also grants a benefit for culling -- Onslaught -- and then it grants another benefit for having Onslaught! Read top-to-bottom, you get the information you need in the order you need it. It's like a happy little story. Swap the position of any two of them, and some clarity is lost. And if you read like Drake, well, it's more like a suspenseful thriller.



Rashkaldor's Patience took advantage of mod ordering to do two things: The mods sequentially get smaller values, and the line lengths also get shorter and shorter, like a certain inverse pyramid.

Sometimes game design is about vast new systems and massive expansions, and sometimes it's about word order and line-breaks.
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I didn't know you could penetrate old resistance :p

edit: haha deleted "first posts"
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Last edited by faerwin on Apr 4, 2017, 9:46:25 PM
What is "Old Resistance" ?
Very interesting series of news lately :D
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faerwin wrote:
I didn't know you could penetrate old resistance :p

Heh, I didn't notice the typo on first reading. "Why?" someone might ask. Because I know Frost Blades deals cold damage, so it makes sense that something designed to buff it would address the targets' cold resistance...
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Telperion_sr wrote:
Old Resistance


Whoops, fixed now!

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