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Author Topic: Grinding Gear Games
Welshy
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Category: In The News
Posted: Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 11:27 am

So we are finally back on track with our indie developer of the month feature and we are proud to announce that this month’s winner is Path of Exile by Grinding Gear Games. Path of Exile is online multiplayer action RPG. That follows in the footsteps of classics like Diablo and the Legend of Mir series. Player can team up to explore the world and fight waves and waves of beasties. We had a chance to play the beta recently and trust us when we say it's awesome.

This week we were able to put a few questions to Brian Weissman, Producer and Game Designer at Grinding Gear Games.

MODSonline:

So tell us about Grinding gear games and Path of exile? - How did you form, where did you start?

Brian Weissman:

Well, the company was founded by four friends way back in 2006.  We initially set out to just make an awesome RPG, the kind of thing that we all wanted to play. We had few resources initially, so we planned to just make a game with rough graphics, and compensate for that with story and game play. However, as time passed, our financial means improved, and with that we began to increase the ambitions of Path of Exile.
To be honest, I'm constantly stunned by how incredibly well Path of Exile has turned out so far. The game really looks beautiful, far more beautiful than I ever imagined, and it plays really well too. When we set out 5 years ago we never would have imagined that we'd have a studio of 18 people, with daily patches, and a community of hundreds of  thousands, begging to get into our closed Beta. Through that all, I feel that we haven't had to compromise any of our ambitions or design visions for Path of Exile.  It is dark and gritty and scary. It is hardcore and fast paced and fun. It truly is the action RPG that we all have always wanted to play, and it’s great to see that the community agrees.

MODSonline:

What game engine are you working with?

Brian Weissman:

Path of Exile is built entirely on an in-house engine. The engine was written by Jonathan Rogers, our lead programmer, and many improvements are added to it monthly. We’re quite proud to produce our game without having to license a third-party engine.

MODSonline:

What other software/tools are you using?

Brian Weissman:

We’re using C++, DirectX and OpenAL. No other middleware is used, we wrote the rest ourselves. Our artists use Autodesk Maya.

MODSonline:

How large is your studio at the moment? How many team members?

Brian Weissman:

Our studio in Titirangi, New Zealand now occupies two office spaces, with a total full time team of 18 people. That includes three founding partners, as well as a host of programmers, artists and designers.

MODSonline:

Tell us about the decision to move to kickstarter? How does it work? what are some of the requirements?

Brian Weissman:

Actually, our entire “kickstarting” period has been entirely self-contained. We gave the general public its first taste of Path of Exile back in early April, and the response was overwhelming and incredible. People really enjoyed the game over the long Easter weekend, and when it was winding down on Sunday, we were deluged by people asking for extended Beta access. Many many people said they’d happily donate to the project for Beta access, so the idea for our community support period was born.  
Note that we’re not actually using the kickstarter.com website - that’s only available to American companies. We’re running ours from pathofexile.com.

What we’re allowing people to do is gain access to our Closed Beta with a minimum pre-purchase of $10.  This purchase not only gets you a Beta key, but it also gives you a 100 credits in our microtransaction shop, which is already live with some perks for sale. These credits can eventually be spent on a huge host of aesthetic things, including cosmetic upgrades, special leagues, special pets, new skins, new spell effects and so on.  
If a person decides to support us with more than $10, we give them more microtransaction credit, as well as a ton of other great perks, including T-shirts, DVD copies of the game, signed posters, a copy of the soundtrack, and exclusive, and limited edition in-game pets. Our top supporters, at the “Diamond” level, even get a unique forum avatar, as well as the chance to design their own in-game unique item!

MODSonline:

Were you surprised by the support you gained from kickstarter?

Brian Weissman:

Not just surprised, but completely flattered and blown away. Sure, we expected some initial support, but there is a big difference between people exclaiming “Take my money please!” and actually sending it to us. We received an avalanche of support in the first few days and to date, it now exceeds $880,000.  This has allowed us to really broaden the entire scope of our development period, and put a ton of things into the game we didn’t intend to have in the initial Open Beta release.

MODSonline:

So the game is completely free to play, will there be paid elements?

Brian Weissman:

Yep, completely free to download, completely free to play. The paid elements in Path of Exile are something we’re calling “Ethical Microtransactions”. These micro-transactions are purely cosmetic, or are designed to either enhance the play experience, or make it a bit quicker. We will be selling a huge variety of things, from special skins on armor and monsters, to extra spell/particle effects.  We already allow characters to purchase extra stash tabs, something that’s really appreciated by all the treasure hoarders who enjoy POE.


We will also allow people to purchase “leagues”, which are self-contained, temporary realms with special rules.  We have many different types of leagues planned, from Cutthroat PVP leagues, to crazy leagues with extra speed, extra gore, tiny amounts of light radius, “King of the Hill” or “Battle Royale”-style rules, and so on.  
One thing our micro-transaction shop will NOT be selling is anything considered “power”.  By this we mean we’ll be selling nothing that would give a player any type of advantage over another player in game.  So we won’t be selling armor, weapons, jewelry, skills, orbs, maps, flasks, or something like EXP potions.  Whatever you attain in Path of Exile, you will attain through your own hard work in game.

MODSonline:

How long would you say the game has been in development? Also did it start with someone bringing “The” idea to the table or was it more like “we want to do something, let's come up with idea”?

Brian Weissman:

POE has been in development for almost six years now.  All of the company's founders are lifelong RPG fans, with a play experience spanning more than 20 years.  There was a big creative gap in the action RPG genre in the mid 2000s, so we began to ask ourselves "could we do an RPG game ourselves?”  We gradually realized that the answer was yes, we had the financial capital to get started, and so we began working on the game.  

Our initial plan was to focus mainly on story and playability, with less of an emphasis on graphics.  We planned to incorporate game elements from some of our favorite RPGs to help with design. As time went by, and our team grew, so did our ambitions.  Path of Exile now has graphics and artistic design to more than match its ambitious, complex game elements.  We're very happy with its current state.

MODSonline:

What type of environments are we going to see in the game?

Brian Weissman:

Just about everything you can imagine!  Across all three of the game’s current acts, you’ll see stormy beaches, wind-blown bluffs, burning hot dunes, dripping, claustrophobic caverns and tunnels, ancient prisons, swamps, a ship graveyard, a verdant, sun-dappled jungle, a web-choked labyrinth, a nightmarish dark forest, a strange, terrifying pyramid fortress, a ruined city, and many more. We’re really pleased with the variety of POE’s game environments, and our players definitely love them.

MODSonline:

What are some of the challenges of putting together an MMO?

Brian Weissman:

Keep in mind that Path of Exile isn’t actually an MMO.  Sure, you do cooperate with other players, and you do meet up in a central town location.  But all the questing/partying is done in individual instances generated for you and your party.  There is no large, open world you wander around in with everyone else, which is sort of what defines a traditional MMO.Path of Exile is definitely an “action RPG”, and it has been a tremendous challenge to create.  From the obvious things like animation, 3D modeling, art assets, sounds, game engine, overall aesthetic, etc. to the more subtle things like game balance and core design, the game is the result of hundreds of thousands of hours of hard work. We’ve also made every effort to be available to our fans and to the game community in general, so it’s always a challenge listening to all the opinions, and sorting out the good ideas from the bad ones. Path of Exile is Grinding Gear Games’ first release, so we’ve learned countless things along the way.

MODSonline:

Tell us about some the characters/classes in the game.

Brian Weissman:

Path of Exile characters are designed and themed around three primary attributes, the standards of Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence.  We’ve designed a class around each of these attributes, as well as three additional “hybrid” classes that prefer two of them.  The classes in the game are:

  • The Marauder, a pure strength brute of a man.
  • The Ranger, a hardy, athletic female specializing in pure dexterity.
  • The Witch, a waifish female, master of arcane elements, specializing in pure Intelligence.
  • The Duelist, a master swordsman, arrogant, haughty, specializing in dexterity and strength.
  • The Templar, a zealous, holy man, who combines the attributes of strength and intelligence.
  • The Shadow, a man so dark he was exiled from an assassin's guild, specializing in dexterity and intelligence.

Each of these classes begins in a different point in our enormous passive skill tree, which helps to guide their development. However, just because a class starts in a certain spot on the tree doesn’t mean it can’t eventually get access to passives preferred by another class. You can move anywhere on the passive tree, it just takes time to reach distant nodes.

MODSonline:

Is there a particular theme to the game?

Brian Weissman:

Definitely. The mood of Path of Exile is conveyed quite well in the very first opening scene. The player begins face down in the sand, on a frigid beach, in the middle of a driving thunderstorm. With just a feeble weapon and the company of a wounded crewman for support, the player has to venture forth into a desolate, hostile environment, with little hope or even knowledge of why they’re there and where they’re headed. We want the player’s journey through POE to be bleak and scary, but also tremendously fun and rewarding. We’ve tailored the game’s environments and music to this end.  Many of POE’s areas are dark and super creepy, with things scuttling off in the distance, out of sight and menacing. We’ve made the game very adult-themed, so there is lots of realistic gore, viscera, and yes, even nudity. Nothing is gratuitous however, you won’t see giant, over the top explosions of blood or whatever unless you decide to pay extra for it :)

MODSonline:

Do you have a release date yet?

Brian Weissman:

At this point, we’re shooting for “open beta” later this year. While this isn’t the official, full release of the game, it will mark the last time we’ll be mass-wiping everyone’s characters. Once you make a character in the open beta, it will exist on the servers permanently, unless you delete it. Once we’re in open beta, we’ll continue to polish and add to the game for an undetermined period, before finally declaring that the game is “released”.  I cannot put an estimate on that specific date.

MODSonline:

How are you planning to distribute the game?

Brian Weissman:

Well, because Path of Exile is completely free to download and play, we’ll be distributing it via digital download. We’ll also give people an opportunity to purchase a physical copy of the game, for a small fee. Once we’re in open beta and beyond, we’ll be pushing much harder on marketing and distribution, which should massively increase our already substantial player base. As of this writing, we have about 480000 signed up members on our website, and we’ve had more than 57770 people donate for Beta access.

MODSonline:

What were/are some of the challenges of being an indie developer?

Brian Weissman:

Haha, this is a question that could merit pages of response, so instead I’ll just list the first few that come to mind.  I think the biggest challenge of all is just gaining traction.  Stepping into a competitive arena like the ARPG genre means that you’re going to be compared to some of the most beloved titles in history.  You’re also going to be competing with companies who can spend more money on publicity than you can on your entire development budget. It’s likely that more money was spent on the cinematics in D3 than we’ll spend during the entire initial development cycle of Path of Exile.

So we’ve faced an uphill battle getting the word out about POE, but I believe we’ve now passed the tipping point. The game has been rapidly spreading virally, with many new donors per day.  We’ve had positive write ups on dozens of big sites, and we’ve had the game covered by some of YouTube’s biggest gaming channels.  
Other than publicity, our second biggest challenge has been simply creating a game to match our initial vision.  It’s one thing to sit by a blackboard and write down ideas, and it’s another thing entirely to sculpt those ideas into playable, fun content. In the last six years, we’ve discarded 10 ideas for every one we’ve managed to implement, and modified our vision and scope for Path of Exile countless times.  We have a list of future changes and additions that is hundreds of items long, so we’ll be polishing the game for years to come.  Our challenge is the player’s reward!

Thank you very much for all the great questions; it’s been a pleasure answering them.

Stay tuned for more on Path of Exile.





[Original Article]
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StrYdeR
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Category: In The News
Posted: Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 12:27 pm
I have to say "Awesome Work!" to Brian and the team - i was completely blown away by this game when we saw it and played it at PAX 2011, and it is continually improving.

I like to see indie development, and this success story warms my "gamers" heart and makes believe that there are still companies and individuals out there that may redeem the game industry as a whole - while PoE may not be considered a AAA title, i think that big production and publishing companies should take note: indie is alive and well - and you may soon find yourself wanting, as the new game in town is all about the player - not your profit

[angryalien]
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