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Path of Exile: Legion Aims to be “Tight, Repeatable, and Rewarding” — Exclusive Interview



For those unfamiliar with the game, Path of Exile is a free-to-play action RPG that features extensive character customisation across its 10-act narrative structure and varied endgame mechanics. Every few months, Grinding Gear Games releases a new league that introduces new mechanics to enhance gameplay and add new characters and lore to the world.

With so much excitement surrounding the upcoming release of the latest Path of Exile league, Legion, OnlySP took the chance to speak with the game’s director, Chris Wilson, about the league’s development. Legion will have a particular focus on enhancing melee skills and will also experiment with the introduction of mechanics that enhance player agency.

OnlySP: Rebalancing melee skills has been a long time coming for players. How did you design Legion to support the melee overhaul?

Wilson: Half the development effort that went into the Legion expansion was directly focused on improving elements of the melee experience. From overhauling the animation system to changing how numeric melee game systems work, everything that we can change has been improved.

We also designed the Legion league itself around melee being improved. This type of mechanic, where you have to deal damage to a lot of monsters in a short time, would previously have been very difficult for melee players to engage with (as they lacked the tools to compete with ranged characters). With these improvements, players can engage with the league regardless of whether they are playing melee or ranged characters.

OnlySP: After such a negative reception over the Synthesis League, did you feel any extra pressure during Legion development to create something bigger and better? Did this change some of the content we see in the final version?

Wilson: Rather than feeling pressure to create something bigger than Synthesis, the pressure was to make something smaller. Synthesis’s problem was that it was over-scoped and too complex. For Legion, we really simplified it down to the core fun of a tight, repeatable, and rewarding gameplay loop. We didn’t change the plan for Legion during development, as we knew from our own experiences with Synthesis where we wanted to go next.

(Despite a vocally negative reaction within the community, we received a lot of fan mail from people who felt Synthesis was their favourite league. I guess there was an audience for that type of content, it’s just that we should have aimed for a broader one in order to keep more people happy.)

OnlySP: Players will have the ability to upgrade their map device to access Legion endgame content. Why did you incorporate this feature as an upgrade players need to unlock through a challenge as opposed to including it for everyone as part of the update?

Wilson: The five-slot map device has two uses—accessing the five-army version of the Domain of Timeless Conflict and augmenting existing maps with a fourth modifier. Both of these are very challenging end-game concepts, and so we prefer that the five-slot variation of the device unlocks once players are ready for it, rather than too early. It’s intended to be a reward rather than a new way the game works.

OnlySP: ZiggyD mentioned in his overview of the league, that Legion is based upon fan favourite league Breach. Which specific aspects of that league did you use as inspiration for Legion?

Wilson: For many players, Breach was an ideal embodiment of risk vs. reward. You could control how quickly you killed monsters, which influenced the rate that more appeared, which determined the level of rewards you received from the encounter. This is the key aspect of Breach that we wanted to re-imagine for Legion.

In Legion, you directly control how many monsters you free, which lets you influence the difficulty of the encounter and hence the level of rewards you receive. Some other elements, such as the meta-progression splinter items, are intentionally reminiscent of Breach but function differently.

OnlySP: The introduction of an incubation mechanic is one of many new features added that will allow players more control over what currency and items they want to seek out. Why was player agency important in this update?

Wilson: Players have long been asking for more control of risk vs. reward in Path of Exile, so we are experimenting with it heavily in this update. Incubators are a great example of a way for players to decide what type of rewards they want to farm towards.

OnlySP: Character customisation is key to the Path of Exile experience. The introduction of Legion jewels creates a new depth to customisation although you mention on the site that they will only be for players “skilled enough to acquire one.” What percentage of players are likely to find these rare jewels?

Wilson: It’s hard to discuss percentages of players in a meaningful way because it depends which group you’re sampling. On one extreme, 50 percent of people who down a free-to-play game like Path of Exile don’t make it through the first hour, and on the other extreme, 50 percent of people who post on our subreddit are playing our top end-game content that takes hundreds of hours to reach.

The jewels are obtainable, but still difficult. We want people to get them, but they will be valuable and sought after. Any very serious player won’t have a big problem acquiring some to play around with.

OnlySP: In addition to new content, you have done a massive overhaul of early game monster combat. Will these improvements make the early content more new player friendly?

Wilson: Surprisingly, the goal was actually to be more hostile to early players. We’re rebalancing the early monster combat to be harder and more satisfying. Boss attacks have better signalling but now do more damage, so it feels good to dodge out of the way using the new tools that are available. Think of it like a regular action game – if you’re playing a brawler and a boss is introduced, you quickly learn to keep out of the way of its big attacks and then close in to deal damage while it’s a bit safer. We’re creating this feeling, and so far it’s a lot of fun.

OnlySP: There is so much new content to look forward to in Legion, what is your favourite aspect that you think players will love the most?

Wilson: If I know Path of Exile players, then I believe the thing they will love the most is all the new theorycrafting opportunities presented by the unique legion jewels. Our players love having new ways to build end-game characters, and there’s so much to explore there.

The Legion league for Path of Exile will begin on June 7. Until then, players can explore the world of Wraeclast on PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox.

For all the latest from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

What does a fitness instructor like to do with their spare time? Write about video games obviously. Amy has been obsessed with video games ever since watching her parents play Crash Bandicoot on PS1. All these years later, she is thrilled to get to share her thoughts on the games she loves so much.

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E3 2019

How Final Fantasy XV’s Lead Game Designer is Making a Rhythm Game — An Interview With No Straight Roads Developer Metronomik



No Straight Roads game art 5

Wan Hazmer’s journey is an interesting one. Having worked at Square Enix on games such as Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy XV, Hazmer left the studio in 2017 to start his own development studio, Metronomik. The studio’s first game, No Straight Roads, is a music-based action-adventure game where players must fight the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) empire as an independent rock band.

OnlySP had the opportunity to speak with Hazmer about the game’s inspiration, gameplay, and art design.

OnlySP: What inspired you to make No Straight Roads?

Hazmer: I am a big rhythm gamer. I used to be really good since Beatmania 1 so that’s more than 15 years of experience playing rhythm games. I used to go to the arcades every week and spend like $50 just to play music games. (Laughs) Whenever I invited my friends to play rhythm games with me, they always said “I’ll just watch you play.” It baffles me because everyone loves music; I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love music. I think the problem is the way [music] participates in gameplay. Music is only used in two ways in games: soundtrack or rhythm games. I think everyone has rhythm sense. If I were to give you a guitar, and you didn’t know how to play the guitar, of course you’d admit you’d have no rhythm sense.

I feel like, when you listen to a song maybe five times, then you’ll know when the chorus is supposed to come even before it comes. I want everyone to use that musical instinct to play the game and that’s why we have the enemies follow the music. The input, the participation that you have in the game isn’t a pure action game. Other inspirations also include other rhythm games. Rhythm games’ stories are something I like as well, like Space Channel 5, Guitaroo Man and even games that put a lot of emphasis on music. I think you noticed that the outer stars remind me of Jet Set Radio. The word ‘radio’ is in Jet Set Radio despite it not being a rhythm game. [Jet Set Radio] was such an influence and I still have the soundtrack.

No Straight Roads game art 2

OnlySP: How would you say your experience on other games contributed to No Straight Roads?

Hazmer: Back when I was working on Final Fantasy XV, one of the biggest things about the game was that we had to make sure that Final Fantasy becomes relevant again. [Part of that] falls into how you travel in the world so we thought “What is one of the most current way of travelling romantically?” and we thought “road trip” and it’s the core experience in Final Fantasy XV. We spent a lot of cost and effort into making sure that that core UX does its job. We had to photograph an AI, Prompto, and that was actually very difficult to pull off. Can you imagine an AI taking a photograph of you? He’s a very bad photographer at first, but he gets better and better. The user experience is an emotional connection to the game.

I also wanted to make sure that [No Straight Roads] has a UX that everyone can adhere to and that’s something that is very relevant. With relevance, we talk about rock vs EDM. It’s a classic tale of “my taste is better than yours.” And another is “your music can change the world” is our big core UX. We have the transformation of the props into weapons. We also have three channels of music: backing, melody, and rhythm. We multiply that by that by three genres of music rock, EDM, and a boss specific genre [for the demo, it was disco]. Depending on the situation, depending on the story, depending on how you perform, we actually switch one of the channels to EDM, one channel to bass, and one channel to rock. There’s a lot of music going on in the game and we only do it if we know that it is going to sell something for the UX. That’s something I got from my Final Fantasy XV experience.

OnlySP: How was it like creating the music and implementing it in the game?

Hazmer: I am very lucky to have four composers who are very talented. One of them is Falk [Au Yeong]; he’s the music director. He actually used to work with me on Final Fantasy XV where he was a mixing engineer for the music. When you travel to Hammerhead, for example, a gas station in Final Fantasy XV, when you enter a diner the music starts changing a bit. We were discussing dynamic music for a long time. We also have James Landino who is working on the EDM tracks—he [worked on] Cytus [2], Kingdom Hearts, and Final Fantasy as well. We have Pejman [Roozbeh] who is more of a funk/disco kind of guy, and Andy [Tunstall] who worked on rock.

What I love about working with these four composers is that they know the technicalities involved with implementing music in games. What we do is we come up with the concept for the boss first. We have a DJ who thinks he’s the center of the universe and he’s going to spin some planets. After that, we pass it to the musicians. They compose really great music and they pass it back to us and they understand that there are three channels and the programming involved. There are a lot of times when you make a video game, you outsource the music in the last minute. I really wanted the musicians to be involved from very early on so they are actually involved in the game design process as well.

OnlySP: In the demo, I noticed I got to play as two characters. Are there only going to be those two characters?

Hazmer: Yes. The concept seems like there could fit another person here. (Laughs) You can only control two characters, but there’ll be a bunch of bosses. You can actually play couch co-op as well, so one person can be Mayday and the other Zuke.

OnlySP: About how long would you say the game would be?

Hazmer: 10–15 hours. When you defeat a boss, although there are some RPG elements in it (like giving buffs to your weapons), but I don’t want to go with the New Game Plus route, so I’m [following] more of a Sonic or racing game [style] where once you complete a particular level, you can actually challenge the level again in a different difficulty. So there will be difficulties where you’ll have to parry almost everything in order to survive. For example, when you’re playing the game you only hear rock when you’re almost defeating a boss, you can play an entire boss fight in rock.

No Straight Roads gameplay screenshot 1

OnlySP: How did you go about selecting the genres of music for No Straight Roads?

Hazmer: First of all, we came up with interesting bosses in the game. My co-founder, Daim [Dziauddin], he’s really big into storytelling and he always wonders why people play music. We didn’t want this game to be a game about a bunch of bosses, who are awesome and big and that’s about it. Every single one of these artists has a reason to play music. From there, we see what kind of genre fits them very well. For example, we came up with a DJ who is egocentric and he thinks that he’s the center of the universe and, bam, the sub theme is space. From there, we figured we can do some disco and some Flash Gordon kind of things, and that’s how the genres came about.

OnlySP: Are there any plans to add in some post launch content?

Hazmer: Definitely. This is still all in talks, so it is not confirmed at all. I would love to collaborate with other games or different artists so that we can get their branding into the game [such as a being a boss in the game]. That’s one of the dreams for this game. Once we finish the game, I really want to collaborate, organically, with many different musicians.

OnlySP: Of the genres of music that are not in the game, what would you say would be the first one you’d want to put in post launch?

Hazmer: Oh wow. That’s quite difficult. I kind of like jazz in a way so jazz would be nice. Jazz and EDM would be really cool. (Laughs) I really like jazz, so I think a jazz boss would be really cool.

No Straight Roads game art 3

OnlySP: What influenced the art style for No Straight Roads?

Hazmer: I made a lot of realistic games and wanted to run away from realism. We thought that the characters in the game [don’t] have to be a human skin color. So we were looking at a lot of American cartoons like Steven Universe. The other thing is the funky art style of games that don’t take themselves too seriously like Tim Schafer games like Psychonauts. Sometimes ugliness is beautiful and beauty is ugly. In terms of the poses for the characters, we love ourselves some Jojo. (Laughs) Poses for us are very very important.

For all the latest from No Straight Roads and more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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