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
In depth tutorial would be nice... most people I bring to this game I encourage to get on TeamSpeak so I can walk them through everything. I also suggest having global/trade OFF by default.
IGN: Sin
Last edited by Make_A_Witch_Foundation on Apr 21, 2014, 2:05:46 AM
Tutorial could have some of these.

1. Explanation of how skill gems work. When you pick up the first skill gem: "You receive skills by socketing skill gems in your gear" then a couple of seconds afterwards, "Press <button> to open your inventory", and once the inventory is open, "Left-click on the skill gem, then left click on a socket of the same colour to socket the gem. Right-click the skill gem to move it at no penalty." 'Move' instead of 'remove' and the 'no penalty' part are important - some new players worry about losing their gem or skill.

2. Potions - start them as almost but not quite empty, so that they fill up when you start killing things (including the first zombie). Emphasise that potions are permanent and never go away, but must be filled by killing things. Also, "Potions refill when you enter town" so that new players know they can use a portal scroll if they need to. Maybe Nessa could give new characters a free town portal scroll?

3. Skill tree. I don't even know where to start with this, but early level areas of the tree could be made a lot friendlier.
I don't know how in depth of a tutorial would be necessary, but definitely something more. Some instruction to socket the gems, maybe encourage the player to use currency items, or how to change skill key associations. Maybe a message about linked sockets when you get your first support gem.

I don't know about attack speed, but maybe scale mana regeneration a little higher at the start and offer a slight health regeneration so standing around for a few minutes could be a way to survive if one runs out of health potions and can't town portal for whatever reason. Maybe on par with a coral amulet, since those are basically useless. Maybe that's just me.

I think it would also be beneficial to make the starting skill gem for every class either an area skill or a single target skill. Fireball, Cleave, and Spectral Throw are really helpful for clearing the Twilight Strand at the low levels, but Heavy Strike, Double Strike, Glacial Hammer and Burning Arrow are all single target, making clearing Twilight Strand a waste of time, since the AoE skill is available right after Hillock. I only really noticed this after participating in a number of races. Experienced players will know this going in, but this could be frustrating for new players who might value zone clearing.
4. Add preview of stat changes when you allocate passive points. It took me second failed character to see that all these bonuses follow (1+%SUMincrease)*(1+%SUMmore) formula. player that - due to no respec - cannot fix such issues without rerolling is not returning

heck, maybe even allow (not in races!) fluid re-allocation of points until level 20? so people can experiment?

5. Increase leveling uniques drop rates in LOW LEVELS. not in maps! sliterpinch? araku tiki? etc should drop frequently for 1-30 players and Lifesprigs should drop at all. So many low lvl, leveling (Without end game potential) uniques are gated and drop in maps

i know it is all for the trade etc but please

6. DO NOT increase low lvl weapons attack speed! 1.7 foils (white) with attack speed roll and 2.1 resulting aspd should not change into 1.8 foils with attack roll and 2.3aspd. you know how ele buzsaw builds work?

combat feel clunky because default movement speed is so low and all new players equip body armor the first thing they do and then they crawl. remove movement penalty from first two tiers of armors and all the 'clunky' feel is gone

7. consider DPS display on weapons. we all know math and can do such stuff so no need to create artificial sense of complexity. it can be a toggle or whatever. just add it

but all this is for nill unless there are changes to orb drop rates. sorry but crafting was the selling point of this game and currently we all know that crafting is a sad gambling joke.
Last edited by Michael_GGG on Jun 18, 2014, 12:36:25 AM
I remember that the skill "leap slam" don't care about the weapon's base attack speed but have its own duration(1.4 second from poe wiki), right?

Thus, it can only modified by the increased attack speed. However, if u improved the early weapon speed but lower their damage per hit, it means leap slam is nerfed in early game, right?
or u will try to rebalance this skill?
freezingkills wrote:
I remember that the skill "leap slam" don't care about the weapon's base attack speed but have its own duration(1.4 second from poe wiki), right?

Thus, it can only modified by the increased attack speed. However, if u improved the early weapon speed but lower their damage per hit, it means leap slam is nerfed in early game, right?
or u will try to rebalance this skill?

i think you mean Sweep skill. noone uses that so there is no problem :)
Another simple thing: start players with two mana potions. You already know it's necessary from the way you designed the Descent races. Mana management at low level is based on flask rotation, and many abilities absolutely need two flasks to keep up. This goes double for new players who aren't as efficient with mana because they're not pulling racer-huge packs of monsters. Giving the player two flasks at the beginning sends the message that two will probably be necessary for some time.
No longer a forum dweller, please use PM for contact purposes.
Last edited by ignarsoll on Apr 21, 2014, 2:49:52 AM
Surprised to see Early Accuracy not getting a mention alongside Attack Speed, particularly because the slowest attackers are also the ones that miss the most -- which is more or less double the pain for the new player's experience.
Have you made a cool build using The Coming Calamity? Let me know!
Last edited by ephetat on Apr 21, 2014, 3:21:29 AM

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