Path of Exile and Star Citizen both get more interesting

Path of Exile has announced a new expansion, The Awakening.  On top of a new Act, bosses, items, and all that good content, there’s also a big addition to the legendary Passive Skill Tree: radial passive boosts.  I love this idea, because it turns the physical layout of the skill tree into a puzzle that players can play with.  Basically, certain gems you can earn will have a circle of influence in the skill tree that affects compatible nodes.  If the gem is related to Intelligence modifiers, it will give a boost of some kind to all of the Intelligence-related nodes around it.  I don’t know how you place them (I haven’t researched all of it yet, but I’d guess that skill nodes have colorized sockets now too?) but this alone means that GGG is moving the game in an even crazier, rewarding direction.

Star Citizen has written about their First Person Shooter system, which I find highly interesting.  Like Dark Souls, it will involve a stamina-management system, forcing players to play cautiously and “spend” their stamina on worthwhile action.  Three different “stances” will emphasize different aspects of combat and interaction, and I suggest you read more about how breathing control factors into fighting in space!

Another nice reminder about the state of the industry

You simply must read this piece from Penny-Arcade Report regarding Path of Exile. Here’s a sample of the article:

Grinding Gears is basing their game on a crazy business model: They want to make the players happy. This isn’t EA, a company that shrugs off customer complaints by looking at the bottom line; Grinding Gears legitimately spends time and effort trying to track the happiness of the players of the game.

While big publishers suffer losses and blame the economy, mobile games, and everything else under the Sun, maybe they need to consider this “crazy business model”, eh?  I dare say it’s working for Valve too.

Rob Pardo tries to take the bullet for Jay “Fuck That Loser” Wilson

Diablo III Lord of Greed

Blizzard’s Rob Pardo has accepted responsibility for Diablo 3‘s shittiness following the Battle.net forum backlash directed at the game’s Creative Director, Jay Wilson, upon announcing his departure from the game’s development.

Miraculously, despite supposedly being in development for 11 years (seven of which Jay was on board as Director) the game’s blatantly greedy business model, error-crippled launch, lack of balance, shoddy multiplayer, online DRM nightmare, lack of end-game content, etc. have earned the game a bad name in the Blizzard fan community.  Wilson himself is a quizzical nobody, without a resumé to speak of, now best known for daring to say “Fuck that loser” to Diablo 2‘s creator, David Brevnik, so it’s not surprising that Rob Pardo, a seasoned veteran with real respect, would step in and protect him:

If you still feel the need to dish out blame, then I would prefer you direct it at me. I was the executive producer on the project; I hired Jay and I gave him advice and direction throughout the development process. I was ultimately responsible for the game we released and take full responsibility for the quality of the result.

Jay “Fuck That Loser” Wilson’s departure means nobody is in charge of Diablo 3 despite it being in heavy development, with constant patching happening and two expansion packs in the works.  If I had to guess, I’d say the departure was a surprise even to Blizzard, which is why they didn’t have the chance to find a replacement and create a press release on the matter; standard procedure when somebody important leaves a major ongoing project.  Should we start blaming Rob Pardo for why Diablo 3 sucks so much?  I don’t think so.  Let’s not forget that Activision Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby “Exploit” Kotick, demanded the hasty creation of multiple Blizzard titles in order to take advantage of their godlike franchise names, pressurizing a company known for taking their long, sweet time.  It was bound to be a disaster, and Pardo was trying to play the hand he’d been dealt — who could have guessed Jay Wilson would be such a stupid prick?

Did I mention that the infinitely superior Action RPG, Path of Exile, is entering Open Beta this week?  And did I mention how this means you can play it free without worrying about your characters being deleted by any future update?

Path of Exile enters Open Beta this week

For those of you who have been interested in playing the ingeniously designed Action RPG but didn’t feel like buying a supporter pack or, like me, were concerned about your carefully customized characters being destroyed once the game is released, have no fear: Path of Exile will wipe its servers one final time this week, marking the beginning of Open Beta!

This is a special game, trust me.  They hired the world’s best Diablo 2 mod-creator to design their rare items; a man who designed 1,500 unique items over the course of a decade for his hugely popular partial conversion, which included everything from new skill trees to new enemies and quests.  Using the knowledge he gained from that, he can calmly explain why Diablo III is just plain boring and why Path of Exile is a more worthy successor to the old classic.   The whole thing is online, so they have well-organized ladder races designed to promote competition and reward everyone who gives it a good shot, along with easy cooperative play, optional player-versus-player deathmatch, and trading.  The economy in this game is masterfully designed and prevents a lot of the problems seen in other Action RPGs.  The gameplay is tactile, balanced, and forceful, allowing for sharp reflexes and tactical thinking.  Abilities for heroes and enemies alike are imaginative, satisfying, and layer themselves beautifully.

I highly recommend you download it now, and play it when it enters Open Beta.

Path of Exile gets new website, plus PVP arenas!

Path of Exile has just deployed a new look for their website (which is a great improvement) and a new major patch, which finally adds the much-anticipated Player Versus Player arenas!

The renovation removes the misleading, inexplicable artwork of two warriors with flames and sparks instead of flesh, and focuses more on delivering news and information.  Player information and character portrait are now elegantly displayed at the top of the screen, which feels very natural.

As for PVP, I’m much too scared to try it myself, but I’m excited on behalf of all those old-school killers out there who have been itching to unleash their carefully customized characters.  I expect to see a nicely balanced meta-game evolve over time.

If you haven’t seen anything from the game, you might be interested in the “Build of the Week” videos that Chris Wilson (the game’s lead designer) has been putting up for a few months.  Or if you’re interested in a new interview with him, go here.