1.2.0 Improvements to New User Experience

Path of Exile can have a tough learning curve for new users, especially those who haven't played Action RPGs before. Half of our new users are players who aren't very experienced with this type of game, but may potentially really enjoy it if they play to the point where they discover the depth of character builds possible.

Appropriate Feelings of Power
When players feel powerful, they enjoy themselves. If they don't feel that they're gaining more power from their incremental play, then they're unlikely to keep playing for a long period of time. This results in a really tough design decision between:
  • Balancing the game so that players start out feeling very powerful. This is great for making the first few minutes fun, but has less long term enjoyment because there's less awesomeness for players to gain as they keep playing.
  • Balancing the game so that players start out feeling weak. This makes it much easier to create a strong sense of progression as they gradually power up by completing their build, but can be alienating for new users.

As you know, we picked the second option for Path of Exile. While people really enjoy putting powerful builds together and feeling the pay-off of being able to destroy large groups of monsters, new players sometimes describe the initial combat as "slow" or "clunky". We're investigating ways to improve the feeling of combat at the start of the game while still keeping a clear sense of progression as you level up and become more powerful.

Early Attack Speed
Compared to other Action RPGs, our early melee attack speed is relatively slow. We're currently internally testing a change where early weapons have been rebalanced to be slightly faster, while still doing the same overall damage per second. This is tapered so that higher level weapons are unmodified (by then, the player can have vast amounts of attack speed from items, passive skills and support gems). So far, we've found that this helps combat feel more impactful at low levels. We're still investigating the balance consequences of the change (such as its impact on mana when skills are used more often) and haven't yet decided whether and when we'll deploy it to the live realm.

Tutorial Elements
Currently, the Path of Exile tutorial is a subtle box that says "Hold Alt to show items on the ground". This is insufficient to explain the game to people who haven't played Action RPGs before, so we are working on improving the tutorial for new players.

While I understand that a better tutorial isn't an exciting feature to hear that we are going to spend developer time on (as you all already know how to play), having better new-player retention will be very important for the future of Path of Exile. If people can learn how to play more easily, then the pool of people that you'll eventually be able to play end-game content with will continue to grow and grow.

Quest Tracking (Added June 16)
We're experimenting with an optional feature where players can turn on a quest-objective summary that looks like one from contemporary MMORPGs (i.e. text on the right side of the screen). For players who aren't familiar with our quest system and the current quest screen, this will help them understand their next objective without having to ask chat. Like the tutorial system mentioned above, this is very unlikely to help anyone reading this post, but is important for new-player retention.

Passive Skill Tree Improvements (Added June 16)
Alongside other changes to the passive skill tree in 1.2.0 (which we'll write about as they become more final), we've put a lot of effort into signalling for new players. We want to make sure that if a new player sees a visually large group aligned with a specific theme, then that cluster would make a fine basic build. This means removing "noob-trap" choices from large clusters of passives.
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Last edited by Chris on Oct 10, 2014, 12:09:15 AM

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