Who remembers Talisman League? While not one of the most popular leagues, Talisman was a turning point in Path of Exile's league design philosophy. Prior to Talisman, Standard and Hardcore each got a separate league mechanic, with the mechanic designed to be a layer that sits on top of Path of Exile's core gameplay. There was a time when a league could just be some new monster mods!

But Talisman changed that. It introduced a new set of items, a progression, an endgame boss, and a story. After Talisman, every league was to feature these things.

When we're working on a new league, finding a way to integrate it into Path of Exile's expansive lore is always a challenge. Here's why:

Unlike your typical MMORPG, Path of Exile features regular 'resets'. When you create a character in an MMO, you're stepping into a living world that could have years of real-time events already built into it. But in Path of Exile, when you create a character, you are entering a very specific moment in time; Dominus rules Oriath with an iron (or golden?) fist, and you have been exiled to the shores of the forsaken continent of Wraeclast.

Kitava has not risen. The Elder and Shaper are at war, yet to be conquered. Past leagues may exist, but their big bad bosses haven't been bested by the Exile yet because, well, the Exile is currently face-down in the sand. Every league's story must begin from the player's Day of Exile.

I call this the "Day Zero" rule. We often bump up against this rule during league design. People are eager to build upon previous league lore, or have characters reference the events of a past league, but in almost all cases, doing so would cause chronology issues. I'm always the most adamant proponent of the rule. It may sound nitpicky (and it probably is!) but, to me, it serves some very important purposes.

For starters, it ensures there's no weirdness with characters acknowledging things that the player has not yet done or encountered. An NPC discussing the purging of the Blight before the player discovers Cassia is bound to cause some confusion.

It also forces us to be friendlier to new players. With every league, we have some number of players who have never before tried Path of Exile. In addition to all the complex mechanics they have to learn just to enjoy the main story, they typically have a B-story to follow (the current league). Throwing references to past leagues into the mix muddies the waters.

The most recent example of us encountering the Day Zero rule is Delirium. The Strange Voice begins talking at a certain point during the Campaign because the events immediately preceding allow it to do so. The cost of adhering to this rule was that the first 4 acts didn't also contain the Strange Voice.

The lore of Conqueror's of the Atlas also had to wrestle with chronology. The defeat of the Elder happens between the time that you, the Exile, defeat Kitava, and the time that you then find yourself in the Epilogue. A lot of story ideas had to be nixed because they violated the Day Zero rule, requiring that certain things happen (or had already happened) when the timeline shouldn't allow for it.

I'm excited for Path of Exile 2 not just because of all the cool stuff it contains, but because of what it allows us to do narratively. With Path of Exile 2, we can at last acknowledge all the events of Path of Exile (including the leagues!), and build upon them.

Let me know in the replies what you most want to see continued in Path of Exile 2!
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Grinding Gear Games

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