Dev Diary: Planned PvP Features

With the Closed Beta fast approaching, we felt it was time to announce our plans for Player vs. Player combat in Path of Exile. Although PvP won’t be included in the very first version of the Beta, we’re working hard to get it all implemented and tested as soon as possible so that players can enjoy it before the Open Beta begins.

At Grinding Gear Games, we take PvP combat very seriously. Many of our staff have a background as hardcore gamers and we are going to take every opportunity to make Path of Exile’s PvP metagame as competitive as we can. We strongly believe that a vital driver of long-term play in online action RPGs is the quest for the perfect PvP character and the immense amount of item acquisition required to achieve this. We expect that a large portion of the game’s economy will service PvP players who are looking for every advantage over their competitors. While it’s always possible to fight monsters using substandard gear if you are painstakingly careful, other players rarely allow you this opportunity.

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Equally important to us is the concept of a fair playing field for PvP. We are going to expend substantial resources policing the use of exploits and third party tools that may yield an advantage in PvP. The integrity of our game is crucial to the health of the PvP metagame, so we will try hard to ensure that this is not violated. This is yet another reason why our business model is the sale of “ethical microtransactions”, rather than items that could yield an advantage in PvP.

There are many different planned options for PvP situations in Path of Exile. Some of them are strictly organized (tournaments), and some are completely ad-hoc (player killing in the “cut-throat” league, for example). We’ve tried to cater for a variety of gaming tastes so that players of many skill levels and backgrounds are able to participate in PvP gameplay.

In addition to the obvious tactical and micromanagement play-skill required to succeed at PvP within an individual encounter, a large portion of PvP success relies on designing a character’s build correctly for a certain metagame of what other players are playing. For example, Chaos damage bypasses an Intelligence character’s energy shields entirely. If you expect to play against a lot of players with Energy Shield, it makes sense to load up on Chaos damage. Of course, this weakens you against normal players (and against Energy Shield users who have equipped Chaos resistance to foil your plan). A competitive player with a good grasp of the current tournament climate (and many spare items at their disposal) has a large advantage over players that are forced to play the only character they have. In an online game designed to reward knowledge and economic power, this is a desirable outcome.

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Path of Exile doesn’t allow entire-character passive-skill respecs. We will allow a limited quantity of small-scale respecs to fix mistakes or planning errors, but we want to encourage people to build a new character rather than entirely repurpose an existing one. This isn’t just because we want people to play our game more, but because it’s meant to be fun to play characters, rather than some chore that people want to press a button to skip. Also, the quality of characters evolved through play is often substantially higher than that of characters that have all of their passive skills allocated in one go. As we’ve seen from resetting passives in the Alpha, many players are very short-sighted with their skill allocation and skip important skills to maximize damage. This means they don’t have the right amount of life/mana/accuracy and other crucial stats they wouldn’t think to allocate without actually playing the character as they allocate the points. The lack of full respecs means that it’s not trivial for people to merely copy a good build from the internet. This rewards players who come up with innovative builds themselves.

The emphasis on randomly generated items also helps keep powerful builds from spreading too fast – even if you know how to build the best character, you’d still have to find or trade for the items required. Because this makes it hard to just copy a competing character’s PvP build, we mitigate the problem of powerful builds instantly spreading across the community and dominating the PvP metagame. The end result is a PvP environment that rewards play-skill, build planning and clever trading. Competitive PvP players have a lot of scope to be better than each other, while casual players can enjoy playing against each other in scenarios that are less punishing.

Almost all of our PvP modes take advantage of our random level generation technology. Players never know quite what to expect, so the ability to quickly plan strategy around arbitrary terrain (and randomly scattered features such as shrines or fountains) is an important skill for PvP participants.

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PvP rankings are very important to many competitive players, so we intend to rank people in each of the PvP types that they participate in. For example, a player would have a different rank for their 1v1 low-level PvP than they would for their 4v4 team high-level PvP results. These rankings will be displayed in a profile, and we will award seasonal prizes for people at the top. We intend to use matchmaking to ensure that players of similar ratings play against each other. This will mean that super-competitive players generally aren’t matched against new/casual players.

We’re also designing a system of organized tournaments that either run automatically (when there are enough participants registered) or on a schedule (for example, the daily 10pm 3v3 teams tournament). These tournaments would accept entry fees and distribute prizes. The tournaments generally involve playing through several elimination rounds until only one combatant/team remains.

We’ve planned many story-based PvP options that are embedded in various areas of the game world. These scenarios generally have more interesting goals than the standard free-for-all or team-annihilation modes, but are designed for slightly more casual play.

Players in the optional “cut-throat” leagues will get to experience a more intense form of PvP – the ability for players to invade their instances and kill them, taking their items. Of course, only a hyper-competitive type of player would ever choose to play in this type of League in the first place, so they’re relying on and expecting this danger to amplify their enjoyment.

Although not strictly PvP-related, another competitive aspect of Path of Exile is the “ladder rush” effect of Leagues themselves. We intend to frequently open new short-duration leagues to allow players to show off their leveling abilities on the ladder. While some players may specialize in killing each other at PvP, it’s also perfectly valid to hone your abilities at playing through the PvE content faster than other players.

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Path of Exile enters Closed Beta next week, on August 10 (American time). All accounts made on this site are eligible for selection, so make sure to sign up if you haven’t already!

Posted by 
Grinding Gear Games
This is fascinating.

Would love to see the progression of PvP prioritization within the development agenda. I'm assuming that at some point it was decided that economy resets and incremental content updates are better than a PvP system for player retention, especially at the casual level.
Last edited by sherkhan on Jul 18, 2014, 1:13:10 PM

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