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PAX West Path of Exile 2 Interview with Jonathan Rogers

Last Updated: September 3rd 2023

Path of Exile 2

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At PAX West 2023, Maxroll's very own Echohack sat down with Jonathan Rogers, Game Director of Path of Exile 2 for a short interview.

Key Takeaways

  • Path of Exile 1's gameplay is often proactive, kill things before they kill you and use a single ability to wipe the entire screen. On the other hand, Path of Exile 2's gameplay is being designed to be reactive.
    • Path of Exile 2 uses extremization to incentivize players building around multiple skills.
  • When it comes to balance the most efficient way to play should always be the most fun.
  • In Path of Exile, players love movement skills, but in Path of Exile 2 movement is built into most skills.
    • This means aggressive skills help you engage enemies.
    • Defensive skills move you away from the heat of battle.
    • There's an active dodge roll for repositioning, but this does not make you move faster.
  • If you disconnect or Alt+F4 in Path of Exile 2, you'll log back in right where you left off.
    • When you die during the campaign, it's a new instance with the same layout.
    • If you're leveling with a friend, they can resurrect you!
  • The plan is to kill players early and often when it comes to boss design in Path of Exile 2.
    • Dying on a boss isn't intended to be a punishment or sign of failure. It's part of the learning process, and gives you the valuable tools you need later on in the game.
  • Loot in Path of Exile 2 focuses on quality over quantity.
    • This leads to loot filters being less important in Path of Exile 2's early game
  • Trade in Path of Exile 2 will be similar to Path of Exile 1.
    • Jonathan mentioned more quality of life updates may be coming to Path of Exile 1's trade system.
  • Path of Exile 2 is designed to be more appealing to new players.
    • This is done through more engaging combat, and simpler systems in the early game.

Full Interview

During PAX West, Echohack got some hands on time with Path of Exile 2. At the time of this interview, he had ~1.5 hours of total playtime between the Druid, Warrior, and Huntress. Some of today's topics include the difference in the pace of combat between Path of Exile 1 & 2, how extremification leads to a more dynamic game, drop rates, trade, and more!

  • Echohack's Questions appear at the top in bold.
  • Jonathan's Answers follow.

For some of the longer answers, key excerpts and Jonathan's major points are highlighted with quotes.

Reactive Combat

Echohack: Why is there such a difference in the pace and rhythm of combat from PoE1 to PoE2?

Jonathan: Well, I wouldn't say that the primary objective was to change that. It was more that we need to make sure the combat is good. In order to make combat good, we have to make sure that there's actually things where you use multiple skills and you respond to what you see in combat. So that's to say like, okay, I see this monster, therefore I use that skill, I see these monsters in this organization, therefore I use that skill. You know what I mean?

We want to have it so that you actually respond to things and in order to be able to actually respond to things, you can't be emitting 500 projectiles a second and covering the entire screen. Effectively you want the ability to be able to destroy large number of monsters and be able to do that to stuff. But you also want the ability to have some of those monsters not get killed. That way you'd be able to have different tactics that need to use in different situations. So effectively the pace changes or resulting making changes that lead to that.

But I wouldn't necessarily say the game is slower in all instances. There are slow builds, there are fast builds. That is a difference that we had before and I suppose one thing I would say is that the major thing we were trying to do was actually be able to open up design space for extremes on all sides of things. So for example, we have monsters that have large resistance and monsters have no resistance. We have monsters with large armor or no armor. We have monsters that are big and small. The differences in health between monsters are very large.

There's a lot more extremization of the attributes of things and because the attributes of things are extremized, that means that the tools you need to deal with them are also similarly different depending on the context. So there are going to be some, like if a monster has a huge amount of armor, then a skill you would normally use that hits a lot for small amounts of damage is no longer going to be very effective. So you need to choose something else. That need for changing your approach depending on what you're fighting kind of leads to a difference.

Editor's Note: In Path of Exile 1 there's a lot of uniformity, all bosses have the same Resistances, and similar armor values. Therefore, you know what to expect going into a pinnacle boss which means you can build around a single skill. The extremization in Path of Exile 2 will incentivize players to use multiple skills each of which have a unique purpose within the build.

Avoiding Telestomp

Echohack: What are you doing specifically to avoid sort of like the teleport screen wipe, or "Telestomp" style of gameplay?

Jonathan: It's not really about avoiding that as much. It's just about having monsters. Like, when you have a monster that's got a large amount of life, like a white monster could have ten times the amount of life as another white monster. When you've got that kind of thing going on, it's like you've got a bunch of monsters you can just screen wipe too, but you also need to be able to do other stuff as well. So that means that your build decisions change quite significantly from the kind of build that can do that. Those kinds of builds are just not going to be able to beat a certain kinds of monsters. So therefore you need a different strategy.

The Mono-Element Problem

Echohack: Would that necessarily lead you to a build that avoids having a single skill? Would you really need more options?

Jonathan: Exactly. You need some solutions, a couple of different attacks and I mean, things like the way that the weapon swap is done, you know, how the way the weapon swap has the, the changeover of the skill tree. This kind of thing, the existence of those systems are a direct result of asking the question, "How can we make players actually use multiple skills?" And so, for example, how can we make a player use both fire skill and of cold skill on one build? That is something that would never happen in PoE1. I mean, this is true in most games, right? If you're going to concentrate on a single element, then that's going to be more efficient than not doing that. So how can we make that not the case? You know what I mean?

It's that kind of thinking that allows us to actually do that stuff. But I think a lot of games never get to the point where they stress the gameplay balance system enough that they need to be able to answer those kinds of questions. Like a lot of games can be broken by if you're making your typical kind of not as long lasting (live service) or single player game or something like that, you don't tend to stress the balance that much.

Whereas when developing PoE, it's like every single time we want to do anything, there's one of the designers in the corner being like, but what about this problem? Players are just going to do this because it's incentivized better and this kind of stuff. So we have to be constantly dealing with these kind of things so these sort of creative solutions appear out of the need to solve those kinds of problems.

Only 4000 Hours

Echohack: Yeah, exactly. I was speaking with someone in the line a little earlier and they said, oh, well, I don't play PoE that much, I have only played 4000 hours and every league I only get to 16 Maps.

Jonathan: The problem is the optimizers come in and they're like, no, this is inefficient. You can't do this. You know what I mean? And the moment that that happens, those build guides get published. Like, people understand what the right thing to do is, and then therefore so we effectively can't let the game exist in a form where that kind of stuff if we want to promote skill diversity, then it means we really have to have those kind of solutions for those optimizers.

Winning is Fun

Echohack: And I mean as one of those optimizers. I feel a certain responsibility to the players to give them something that is successful in the game. Because winning is fun for a lot of people.

Jonathan: And you know, the other thing with the balance that we have, is that we have to make sure that the most efficient way to play is also the most fun way to play. Because if it isn't, then people will just do the most efficient thing regardless of whether it's fun or not and that is the real challenge that we have to do, make it more fun to be efficient.

No "Mobility Skills"

Echohack: Yeah, one thing I actually really noticed was the lack of things like movement skills like Flame Dash in PoE2.

Jonathan: Well, I mean, there's movement built into many of the skills that we have. So for example, if you'll notice on the Huntress there are movement skills there. They will require monsters to be able to activate. So they're used conditionally. You can still move very fast if you're being clever, but you can't necessarily just move without having to think about it. You have to put a bit of effort into it.

Then in the case of the rampage skill on the Druid, you require Rage. Right now, it probably gives you a little bit too much Rage by default, by the way, and the reason why we did that for the demo is because if you use the skill and it doesn't take you very far but you don't have Rage, it feels very disappointing, and because players in the demo don't necessarily know you need Rage for it, we'd like boost it a little bit just to make sure there's enough there. But effectively you need some Rage to be able to move quickly.

So it's not just a matter of just rampaging through the whole level. You have to be able to stop, occasionally, get some Rage back, and that's true for any kind of movement skill, there has to be at least some factor that means you can't do only that and nothing else.

Editor's Note: If you want to see Rage in action check out some Path of Exile 2 Druid gameplay! This footage was released right before PAX West, as part of the Path of Exile 2 Gamecom showcase.

Logout in PoE2

Echohack: So how do you avoid problems where it's faster to log out instead of move or portal?

Jonathan: Well, that should not be the case. Portaling itself should always be fast except in a boss fight. So if you're in an active boss fight, it plays an animation to make it slower. So you can't just portal out of boss fights very easily. But of course (in Path of Exile 1), alt+f4 is the fastest way to get out of danger if you're dying. But something to note by the way, if you alt+f4, do you know where you log back into? Back into the exact same instance you're in with the instance paused with the monsters just about to hit you again.

So you can't actually alt+f4 to get out of a boss fight and just log back in and play. The only way to get back is to continue the boss fight where you left off. You can wait for the instance to expire, and in which case you've lost the progress in the boss fight. So the boss cheese has actually been solved in PoE2, and of course, if you die, you can't go back to the area again either.

Editor's Note: In Path of Exile 1 many players choose to log out while leveling as opposed to walking back to a waypoint, or using a Portal Scroll.

Area Resets

Echohack: Yeah, I did notice that on death, the entire area monsters would not just reset, but actually respawn entirely.

Jonathan: Yeah, so they're actually new monsters. So it's a new instance. We decided to keep the terrain seed the same. I'm actually not sure I fully agree with that decision, but some people on the team were keen for that. We just felt it was reasonable, so you've got map exploration at least. If you've got a party members in the area, then it will give you a warning for your respawn saying if you leave now, you won't be able to get back to your party members. The party members can also res you if they go to your corpse. They do like a 1 second animation. They can res you back to life, and that means that if you're in a party, you can keep going.

SSF in PoE2

Echohack: So that would make SSF a little extra challenging because of that.

Jonathan: It's unusual that you get to fight a boss fight in PoE1 again and you die that you can continue from halfway and then just keep going. But it does mean we have to be careful with our boss fights because we have to make sure the balance of it is correct because it can become a blocker. If you got like a blocking boss fight, you have to kill. You can't just cheese your way to victory. You have to actually kill it. But then on the other hand, that's actually nice because it means that it forces players to actually get better at the game earlier. They actually have to engage with the mechanics and learn the boss fight, and that also means, by the way, that more of our boss fights, especially early, have mechanics.

Difficulty in PoE2

Echohack: I'm very interested about your approach to you difficulty, how do you view the game in terms of difficulty?

Jonathan: I think it's important that players die early to get them used to the idea that dying is fine. I feel like the number of times you should die to a boss is like two times before you're able to fight it, and that's for every boss in the game. By the time you get to the end of the game you should have died like 200 times. You know what I mean? If you don't die for ages and then you suddenly do, then it feels frustrating. But if you expect to die in a boss fight the first time as you'll learn it, then that's actually okay. But on the other hand, you don't want to be smacking your face into a wall for hours and hours.

So you play the boss, you learn the mechanics and then you can defeat it, and then it feels satisfying. Then you can actually feel like you actually achieved something. If you just kill the boss first time, you don't feel the same satisfaction at all, and of course, you'll get to the point where once you know the boss fight, the campaign will be a lot faster, right? Because you'll know the mechanics, you'll know how to beat things. At the end of the day, you should be able to always avoid things. One of the things we pride ourselves on is PoE2 so that the boss mechanics are all avoidable. They're all telegraphed, you can dodge, roll out of the way if you want to. Even if you have bad stats, you can still get through the boss fight with just like learning the pattern.

Item Acquisition

Echohack: As you get towards End Game in PoE2 how you imagine item acquisition working around things like crafting, looting, or vendors?

Jonathan: Well, I don't think on a fundamental level that it's that different from PoE1. But the main thing that is different is that we're no longer using Quant (Quantity). We're using Rarity, but we've changed how Rarity works so that you actually get better items. Like, for example, more Rarity will now get you more currency, like higher tier currency. What that means is that we can actually have it so that our boss fights can drop items effectively.

We can use Rarity to effectively make it so get better stuff from a boss fight rather than having to use Quantity, and then also, when you're juicing maps, that also means we can use Rarity instead of Quantity for that as well, and then you get better items and that kind of thing. So it means there's going be less overall, just garbage on the ground and more of what you actually want to pick up. Ideally anyway.

Loot Filtering

Echohack: Would you say that eliminates the need for a loot filter or simplifies it?

Jonathan: I would say that what it doesn't eliminate the need but it means that at least a new player shouldn't need a loot filter. But obviously once you're an experienced player, there's going to be things you want to do with loot filters. We're not going to take loot filters out, but I would certainly hope that you could just play the game through to endgame without needing a loot filter, where previously in PoE1 that was impossible.

We've done a lot of thinking about what percentage of loot should come from drops and what percentage of loot should come from League mechanics. Kind of going back to basics again and making sure we've got that all calibrated correctly, and we want more of what you actually pick up to come from bosses and white monsters and there's a lot more fitting around, like what should a rare drop? What should unique (monsters) drop?

Trade in PoE2

Echohack: So in PoE1, trading has slowly become more and more streamlined, is that a trend that you see continuing in PoE2 Where you have quad tabs or mass pricing or you have an API available, or an auction house?

Jonathan: I don't have any plans to add anything, particularly at this stage, because the more streamlined it becomes, the more economic issues you can face. But there'll be definitely some QOL things we can do. I already have a few planned for PoE1. I don't know if I quite have anything to announce there yet. There'll be a few minor things, but ultimately it'll be the same similar thing where there's websites to search for stuff, you can contact players, that kind of thing.

Pace of Play

Echohack: (Talking about his playtime with the game.) I feel like the pacing is just so different than in PoE1, and that shapes the landscape of how you engage, for sure. So the feeling of playing PoE2 was much different from other ARPG out right now.

Jonathan: Yeah, that extremeification, I think, was something that we arrived at. It took a while to realize that that was such a big deal and that we needed to be doing it. So now when we're doing our balance passes, we're making sure that a lot of monsters you encounter are going to have something about them that is extreme, that it's going to matter. Like for example, this monster has a lot of Cold Resistance and you need to care about that. For each thing, you need a few monsters in each area where it's like, there's a thing that I have to do differently to deal with this, and then of course, then when you get the rare mods layered on top of that, then suddenly you can get a fight that can be quite challenging depending what mods you get.

Weapon Swaps

Echohack: We talked about the weapon swaps a little bit earlier. Do you see the weapon swap as more of a necessary thing that players will have to do?

Jonathan: I mean, it isn't necessary, but at the end of the day, everything comes down to efficiency. But if you want to be more efficient, once again it's the same philosophy -- I think the most fun way to play should be the most efficient way to play. That means that if you want efficiency, you're probably going to want to have some other ways to do it. We want you to have things to put in there that you can use occasionally to deal with problems. Sort of how we promote interesting change up in skill usage, because otherwise it would just end up being like, I use the same rotation again and again and again.

How to Appeal to New Players

Echohack: What are you doing to get newer players interested in PoE2?

Jonathan: I think to get newer players interested, the first thing you have to do is just make it fun to play without having to worry about all the complexity or depth of things, and so that is why the combat stuff is so important, just to make the game just feel great on a base level. It needs to feel like I'm playing something familiar like, God of War or something. It should feel like that initially, and then over time, we'll tempt people towards thinking about more interesting things or see what other players are doing, and that stuff will effectively tempt them towards the idea of, there's more I can do. There's more I can explore, and that's when they get the idea, "The next time I play next league, I'm going to play something different because that thing is way more efficient than what I was doing."

So I think that the solution for new players really, is get the combat to be better, and I think PoE1 right now, once you know how to play PoE1, it's really fun. There's lots of cool stuff there, but at this point, nobody plays PoE1 without having a friend that introduces them. If you just play PoE1 without a friend to tell you how to play, it is really, really hard. I think a lot of the reason for that is but the combat just isn't good enough to actually hook you. But in PoE2, that's not the case. The combat is good enough to hook you, and therefore you get into that even if you're by yourself, and then the other stuff comes later, and that other stuff is really fun.

Hungry for More?

Huge thanks to Path of Exile 2's Game Director Jonathan Rogers for taking the time out of his busy PAX West schedule to answer some questions! Also a big thank you to Echohack for the questions and initial transcription of the interview! To see more about what's coming in Path of Exile 2, check out one of our articles below.

PoE2 Beta Date

ExileCon Wrapup

New Tattoos

Path of Exile 2 Approaching

PAX West wasn't the only place where GGG showcased Path of Exile 2! For more, head over to our Discord and select the Path of Exile role in #roles to stay up to date with our content, and Path of Exile 2 updates! Stay sane, Exile!

Written by: Tenkiei

Contributions by: Echohack

Reviewed by: Dredscythe

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