The purpose of this article is to explain our design direction behind the expansion and how some of the new features work. There are plenty of other changes that aren't described in this article. Any information in here may change before it's released.
General Goals For Expansion
We had five broad goals for the design of the Forsaken Masters mini-expansion:
- To add new content that augments the entire game and is available to low level players in their first playthrough of Normal difficulty.
- To make sure that all of the new content is also available inside of end-game Maps.
- To improve crafting options while not making it too easy to get the best items.
- To rebalance the game around various changes like the fix to snapshotting and the updated passive tree.
- To add some awesome fun content that appeals to our core community and also people who only want to log in for a little while each day.
How Master Levelling Works
Each Master has a different type of mission with many different variations and combinations of events that can occur during it. We've announced two of the Masters so far, and there are still five unannounced ones with their own unique missions and variations.
In normal difficulty, Masters are introduced over time (a couple per act). After normal difficulty, they can occur in any area including end-game Maps.
When you complete a mission for a Master, you gain reputation and favour with that Master. Reputation is like experience and dictates the level of the Master. There are eight levels. Favour is used as a currency to purchase decorations for your Hideout from the Master.
There are two ways to receive a mission from a Master:
a) Encounter the Master randomly in the world. Masters have a chance of spawning in almost any area that you enter (including end-game Maps). Upon encountering them, you can do a mission within that area. There's no limit to the number of these missions you can do, but they generally award less reputation than:
b) Daily missions. Once a Master is in your Hideout, you can perform one mission per day without having to encounter them in the wilderness. This means that casual players can make meaningful progress on their Master levels over time, but they'll be outleveled by a player who plays a lot of the regular content in addition to doing their daily Master missions.
Once you've helped a Master one time, he appears in regular towns
As Masters level up, you get access to:
- Larger Hideouts that can hold more Masters
- More items in their vendor shops that rotate every day
- More crafting options at crafting benches
- More decorations to purchase
Leveling the Masters to maximum level isn't meant to be a multi-year grind. There's a challenge to hit level 8 with all 7 Masters during the three month leagues. It's easier to level just a few of them to level 8 (the Master limit in your Hideout controls how many Masters you can do daily missions for).
While doing your daily Master missions is a great way to make progress towards their higher levels, its main utility is providing an easy way to encounter the mission. We expect that the bulk of Master levelling by dedicated players will occur in the actual game world and in end-game Maps. For example, an average dedicated player might do his one daily mission per Master and then 3-4 more missions per Master in a given play session, if he's trying to reach maximum level.
Many MMORPGs have left people with a bad feeling towards daily quests because they feel penalised if they don't log in to do the quest each day. That's not the case here - you can just do an extra one the next day by finding the Master in the wilderness. There's also no limit to the number of missions you can do in a specific day.
Masters as Vendors
Like regular NPCs, Masters can sell you items. Unlike normal vendors, the items sold by Masters change once per day (at midnight UTC). Each Master sells some general items and some aligned with his underlying class.
In our current build, the following items are added to the Master's vendor inventory at these reputation levels. This may change!
- Level 1: A few unidentified magic items
- Level 2: One unidentified rare item
- Level 3: Some gems
- Level 4: One magic item with a new powerful mod
- Level 5: One identified rare item
- Level 6: Stacks of currency at a slightly better exchange rate than the current vendors
- Level 7: A level 60+ base item.
- Level 8: A chance of a unique item (generally a common one, but very occasionally a rare one).
These are priced so that you don't want to buy everything in the shop each day from each vendor. You should check the vendor and buy the item if it's a good deal. For example, you wouldn't want to pay 5 Chaos Orbs for a Redbeak, but that'd be a great deal for a Dream Fragments.
How Hideouts Work
Each Master has a Hideout in a different tileset. Once a Master reaches level 3, he offers to take you to the Hideout to preview it. If you like it, you can make it your Hideout. There's no cost for this.
As you level your Master up, you're able to upgrade the size of your Hideout. There are three sizes and they each support a different number of Masters (ranging from 2 to 4).
The Masters and various objects such as your stash and guild stash can be moved around and rotated. Crafting Benches (explained later in this article) from each Master can also be placed. Any decorations purchased from the Master can be placed, rotated and reclaimed for free.
Masters sell you decorations for “favour”, which you get in addition to reputation when doing missions for them. They go into your Hideout Stash. We may later sell some decorations, Hideout tilesets or special environments/cosmetics for real money. We're considering selling mannequins that let you show off your items and microtransaction effects in your Hideout. We'd like to let people keep their spare pets in their Hideout. These features may be ready by 1.2.0 deployment or may be in subsequent patches.
Note that your progress with your Masters and the status of your Hideout are shared between all of your characters in a specific league. If you create a new character in a league that you've already played in, then they can take advantage of your existing pimped out Hideout and options provided by your higher level Masters. Decorations you unlock are stored in the Hideout Stash for that league and merge into your Standard or Hardcore collection when the league ends, like race stashes do.
You can invite friends to your Hideout and can share your Hideout with your guild. We're still working on the rules for this.
We had a few goals we wanted to achieve with improvements to the crafting system:
- To offer a lower-variance way for players to socket and link their items. It's still possible (and a little cheaper) to roll them randomly, but for players who don't want to use 2000 fusings and fail to six-link an item, you can pay 1500 to do it at a crafting bench. Note that the odds of rolling this naturally have always been slightly lower than 1 in 1500 anyway, so it's entirely a choice of whether you want to gamble or have a deterministic result.
- To allow the highest of players to modify the sockets on corrupted items.
- To add a way for players to put a mod of their choice on an item. This could be for remedial purposes (that extra bit of fire resistance) or to try to improve an item that doesn't yet have six mods. Some off-slot and niche mods can also be crafted.
- To not really make it any easier to create perfect rares. It should still be really hard to reach the upper echelons of rare items.
Once a Master has been invited to your Hideout, you can place his crafting bench in your Hideout. As the Master levels up, the crafting bench gets more capabilities. Only the player who owns the Hideout can use his crafting bench. When you click on your crafting bench, they're presented with a window that you can place an item in. A number of crafting options are displayed, with costs.
We've released information about two of our Masters so far. Their crafting options are:
- Vorici – Socket Crafting: At different Master levels, you can increase the number of sockets an item has, force more links than it currently has and reroll the colours of sockets guaranteeing certain off-colour combos. These cost the type of currency that would normally be used and are costed so that they're marginally more expensive than what it'd take to roll it naturally on average. At Master level eight, you can modify the sockets on corrupted items.
- Haku – Armour Crafting: You can add a crafted mod to an armour piece, if a mod slot is available. The range of different mods increases as Haku levels up. These mods are either remedial ones (low rolls of important mods), off-slot mods (small rolls of things that don't normally appear on that type of item) or very niche mods. Only one crafted mod can be on an item at a time. You can replace it with another if needed. While Haku crafts Armour, many of the other Masters allow crafting of mods specific to other item types.
New Challenge League Prizes
Each pair of challenge leagues contains eight challenges. Completing all eight difficult challenges earns you an exclusive t-shirt (which some people value enough to offer $1000 to other players for on the black market, it seems).
It's very hard to pitch the exact difficulty of these challenge leagues, so the number of people who won t-shirts in the past has varied between 14 (Ambush and Invasion) and 61 (Anarchy and Onslaught).
With the new Rampage and Beyond challenge leagues, we'll be changing the prize structure as follows.
- Anyone who completes five challenges will receive an exclusive microtransaction effect.
- Anyone who completes all eight challenges will receive an additional exclusive microtransaction effect.
- The first 50 players to complete all eight challenges will receive a t-shirt.
This incentivises pushing for at least five of the challenges and also allows us to pitch the difficulty of the hardest one to be slightly easier, so that ideally hundreds rather than dozens of players can complete them all. The fastest 50 players will still receive t-shirts.
New Challenge League Durations
We typically run four-month challenge leagues because our expansions take four to five months to make. The next big slice of content is due in approximately March, so rather than running six-month challenge leagues, we're going to do two sets of three-month leagues. This is partly because we have so many cool ideas for challenge leagues and starting new ones in December for the Christmas period is a convenient possibility.
Players often report that the last few weeks of the four-month leagues are somewhat stale as people wait for them to merge with Standard. We were initially concerned that shortening them to three months would just move the stale period, but we're now relatively confident that this effect is because players have become better at playing Path of Exile efficiently since release (reaching higher levels and end-game content/crafting more quickly). We'll keep a close eye on how these leagues go and will plan our next challenge leagues around the data and feedback we receive.
Passive Tree Changes
We've redesigned some large portions of the Passive Skill Tree - primarily the Witch and Shadow starting areas and the areas surrounding the Witch, Shadow and Ranger.
The Shadow area now has a physical and an elemental section (rather than melee vs. spellcaster). This means that you don't need to decide on the attack vs. spell choice until much later in your character's development.
Groups of elemental and weapon passives for the Witch, Shadow and Ranger have been improved so that they're more impactful and on more desirable routes.
One design goal was that if a new player heads for a large cluster of themed passives that it would provide a solid backbone for that build. There are various choices on the way that allow them to support this build. Previously, one of the largest clusters was the curses cluster. Many Witches headed directly for this, which often resulted in a unfocused build.
We have added a notable passive to every passive group outside of starting areas.
You will be granted a one-time full passive respec with the 1.2.0 patch. If your tree was affected by the changes, it'll be automatically reset.
There are plenty of other tree changes that we haven't described yet. We're still iterating on the tree and making more changes. We'll be releasing more information about the tree's new layout closer to release.
Skill Balance and Mana Costs
We've rebalanced many skills in 1.2.0. Some of the less-frequently used skills have received power buffs. Almost all skills have dropped in mana cost.