Game Guys preview - Path of Exile

10:17 PM, Jan 18, 2013   |    comments
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Computer game 'Path of Exile' from Grinding Gear Games.

In less than a week, Grinding Gear Games will be opening up the beta version of its still-in-development MMO Path of Exile to interested gamers.  As for what Path of Exile is, it's best to find out from the person who knows it best: its Lead Programmer.

"Basically, we're an online massively multiplayer game," states Grinding Gear Games' Jonathan Rogers.  "We're sort of focusing on action.  We've got a top-down perspective.  It's very click to move around and click to attack.  It's very easy to control, but we've got a lot of deep character customization systems."

For those who might be connecting the dots in the above quote: Yes, it really does sound a lot like Blizzard's popular Diablo games.  In fact, Diablo was one of the two already existing games from which Grinding Gear found its inspiration.  The other?  Wizards of the Coast's collectible card game 'Magic: the Gathering'.

"The defining thing about 'Magic' was that you take a bunch of cards and put them together in a deck and what you're trying to do is create some sort of combination of them that has a really strong result," Rogers explains.

Though instead of cards, Path of Exile uses a complex (but not complicated) gem system that not only gives characters abilities, but user-modified abilities.  For example, if a magic user has a gem allowing for a fireball to be cast, another gem could be linked to the fireball gem that might make one large fireball split into three smaller ones.  It's interesting and looks like it adequately captures the 'Magic' feel that the development team is trying for with this mechanic.

Outside of Diablo-inspired gameplay and 'Magic: the Gathering' inspired mechanics, Path of Exile also features a party system.  It allows players to start their own band of heroes for others to join in order to fulfill a specific goal.  For example, if there is a hard boss that might be too difficult to take upon alone, a player can set up a party to gather a few more people to help out.  Of course, to balance out the extra help, enemies grow stronger with each additional party member.  Forming of parties, though, isn't all there is on the periphery.

"Another thing is the League system where basically we wanted to have a sense of competition in the game -- you know, like ladders and stuff like that," explained Rogers.  "People love competing with each other."

As it stands right now and will stand once the game goes into open beta next week, Path of Exile is a free-to-play title.  On the consumer side, that means that anybody can play the game from beginning to end without shelling out so much as a dime.  On the business side, of course, Grinding Gears Games hopes players enjoy the game enough that they're willing to spend a few dollars here and there.  Rogers stresses, however, that while players will have plenty of opportunities to buy new skins, outfits, and non-gameplay affecting pets and followers, they will never be able to buy power or anything that changes the game itself.

"A lot of our players really dislike the pay-to-win of buying experience potions or buying swords or anything like that," the programmer said.  "So, we'll sell pets and dances that your character can do around town."

Other things which players will be able to buy are character slots.  As a default, Path of Exile allows each account to have 24 free character slots.  Players who want or need more than that will be able to expand their account's roster for a price.

Path of Exile still has a way to go before it makes its full public launch.  There are, for example, still two more acts to be implemented (one comes out along with the open beta) and there are a number of other tweaks and improvements the developers want to make.  The final street date is still up in the air, but the studio hopes to have everything done in five months or so.  But the project's not done once the light turns green.  Rogers says there will me a lot of content to come post-launch.

"Our team will probably get larger rather than smaller," commented Rogers.


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