GameOgre: Path of Exile is the new roleplaying action game by Grinding Gear Games with a horror-based theme. Can you tell us about Path of Exile and what inspired it? Weâ€™ve heard that it has some elements that players loved in Diablo. Tell us more about it and the gameplay. Chris W: Path of Exile is an Action RPG set in a dark fantasy world. Weâ€™re huge fans of Action RPGs, so it was heavily inspired by many of the great games in that genre. Itâ€™s played purely online on persistent servers and will be free to play and free to download (supported by â€œethical microtransactionsâ€). Indoors and outdoors areas are both randomly generated and the game features a deep random item system to maximise re-playability. Itâ€™ll be entering public beta in 2011. GameOgre: One interesting thing weâ€™ve noticed is that Path of Exile is strangely realistic. While PoE has its share of colorful spell effects and cool graphics, for the most part, armor looks realistic and not fantasy-like or magical. What led to this design decision? Chris W: Path of Exile takes place in a cut-throat and very threatening world. In order to achieve this we felt that we needed a world with gritty wet and uncomfortable surfaces rather than the smooth pastel palette that many modern Action RPGs go for. Huge shoulder pads, high heels or bikini armour would break this immersion. While it is understandable that some companies have to tone down gore, violence or anything controversial so as not to alienate potential customers, we target more mature hardcore gamers. There are a variety of more â€œout thereâ€ cosmetic item themes available for purchase in our microtransaction store, of course. GameOgre: What can players expect when they log in for the first time? Will there be a tutorial? How do players level in PoE? Chris W: One of the big challenges with developing a free game is making it as accessible as possible to new players. Weâ€™re put a lot of effort into making Path of Exile feel familiar to fans of Action RPGs, but also easy for new players to pick up. One of our early goals was that players would be killing their first zombie within five minutes of hearing about the game. Weâ€™ve played too many online RPGs where the player starts out in the middle of a gigantic town full of NPCs to talk to and no clear idea what to do to actually fight some monsters. This is why our players start off on a hostile beach, forced to fight their way to town. By starting the player in a combat zone, we can make sure that the tutorial is interactive - thereâ€™s no need to have them fight combat dummies to learn how to attack things when there are hordes of zombies between them and safety. By the time they get to town, they will have learnt how to fight monsters, find and equip items and have tackled their first monster boss - all without having had to read pages of text. Leveling up in Path of Exile is designed to feel rewarding and provide the players with a boost of power. Players gain experience by killing monsters (not completing quests), and obtain new passive skill points as they level up. Allocating points in these passive skills increases the core attributes of strength, dexterity and intelligence which then allows more powerful items and skills to be equipped. Equipped skill gems also level up and become more powerful as the player gains experience. At higher levels, diminishing returns set in and levels slowly become harder to achieve. We designed the experience curve like this so that players do not hit the level cap easily. GameOgre: What is the combat system and gameplay like in PoE? What features will you offer to players that make PoE stand out from other games? Chris W: Weâ€™ve really focused on trying to bring a visceral combat experience to Path of Exile. Attacks are fast and can stun or interrupt enemies. Position matters greatly in combat, and players can be easily trapped by monsters if theyâ€™re not careful. Many of Path of Exileâ€™s features make it stand out from other games in the same genre. There are few other modern Action RPGs that feature a dark fantasy art style and persistent online play. Our skill system (described in a later answer in this interview) is versatile and allows players great control over the skills that they use in combat. In addition to the visceral combat experience, thereâ€™s a deep stats game with the items and skills that allow for a huge number of character builds. Players who discover synergistic combinations of items, passive skills and active skills will be greatly rewarded by being able to crush their foes in competitive matches. GameOgre: We hear that there are 6 character classes available. Can you tell us more about these and what their special skills are? Chris W: The classes in Path of Exile are based around three core attributes â€“ strength, dexterity and intelligence. There are three primary classes, of which we have announced two so far (the Marauder is the pure strength class and the Ranger is the pure dexterity class). There are also three hybrid classes, which are each based around two attributes. We havenâ€™t announced details of what specific skills these classes have, but there has been much speculation on our forums. In terms of the announced classes, the Marauder is a strong melee warrior who specialized in wielding two handed weapons and absorbing a lot of damage in combat. The Ranger is quite capable in combat (she specializes in dual wielding one hand weapons), but also excels as a ranged character with a bow GameOgre: Tell us about the large variety of randomly generated items in the game. Where can we expect to find them and what are they for? Chris W: Items are the most important part of a characterâ€™s build and are the focus of Path of Exile. Much of the gameplay focuses around slaying monsters and opening chests to find random items and upgrading your character with them. Path of Exile uses a random item system that players of other Action RPGs will hopefully appreciate the depth of. There are hundreds of base types of weapons and armour that drop throughout the game and dozens of different types of random properties that they can have. Lucky players might find rare items that have many properties and are highly sought after in trade. Because the gem socketing system is an important mechanic in Path of Exile, itâ€™s also desirable to find items that have favourable arrangements of sockets (both in terms of colours and the connectivity of them). Finding an item that has both a good arrangement of sockets and a nice set of magic properties is difficult but very rewarding. GameOgre: Will you offer mounts or pets in game? Chris W: Action RPGs rarely feature mounts, because the player isnâ€™t forced to travel large distances on foot without something to fight. Mechanics such as portals and waypoints are often used to fast-travel between locations, reducing the need for mounts. Having said that, we havenâ€™t ruled out mounts - we just donâ€™t think we need any yet. Maybe theyâ€™ll be cool as cosmetic purchases from the microtransaction shop at some stage. In terms of pets, we do plan to have many â€œdark petsâ€ in the microtransaction store, such as a crow that pecks out the eyes of corpses near the player. These pets wonâ€™t add any gameplay benefit, but will look really awesome following players around. In a similar vein to pets, there are plenty of (non-purchasable) gameplay mechanics related to minions. Players can specialize in various types of minion summoning if they enjoy that type of gameplay. GameOgre: How does PvP battle work? Will there be a ranking or rewards system? What do you offer the PvE crowd as well to keep both sides satisfied and interested? Chris W: We havenâ€™t yet announced the details of our PvP systems, but we do have both arranged competitive PvP and some game modes that support world-PvP. There will be ranking and rewards systems for players who enjoy PvP. Most of Path of Exileâ€™s content is PvE focused, so the players who donâ€™t like to participate in PvP play still have dozens of world areas and monster types to fight. Items from PvE content are very useful for PvP, so successful PvP players still have to develop their characters playing the main game. GameOgre: Will you offer any crafting or professions for players to learn? If, so can you tell us a bit about them? Chris W: Thereâ€™s plenty of player-driven item crafting, but not in the same way as a traditional MMORPG. Action RPGs rarely have professions beyond the actual class of the character, because they focus on killing monsters and finding items than the role-playing of professions. Path of Exile has a system of random items with a wide range of possible properties, so players are constantly finding items that may or may not be an upgrade to their character. If they find something powerful but not usable by their current build, they are encouraged to trade it with other players for something that helps their character. Although this random item system quickly results in players using a variety of good equipment for their level, they havenâ€™t had any control over the actual properties that their items were spawned with (other than the ability to select which ones they want). Our crafting system consists of a variety of valuable items that can modify, reroll, or augment items that the player has found. For example, there are items that can add a random mod to an existing rare item, slightly upgrade the damage that a weapon deals (to a point), or reroll all of the mods of an item at once. This fits in with the non-deterministic item system that we are using, by allowing players to improve their items in a random manner, rather than working towards exact items with predictable stats. GameOgre: Tell us about the gem socketing system in PoE. What is the main purpose and how useful is it? Chris W: The gem socketing system is an integral part of the game because it is how players obtain and develop their active skills. Gems in Path of Exile currently come in two types - Skill Gems and Support Gems. These can be socketed into sockets of the appropriate colour on items (strength gems are red, dexterity gems are green and intelligence gems are blue) to grant or augment a skill. While gems are socketed in equipped items, they gain experience as their owner does and can level up to become more powerful. The gems can also be traded between players. Because they can be found in the wilderness, very rare skills are quite valuable. Players can also find and level up Support Gems, which augment the properties of a skill gem when they are socketed together in connected sockets. For example, if a player sockets "Multiple Projectiles" next to "Fireball", then each time they use the skill it'll cast multiple fireballs. There are dozens of support gems, such as ones that add elemental damage to attacks, turn skills into traps, ramp up the damage and mana cost of a skill or merely allow it to execute faster. With this system, players can improve their skills in a direction that they choose, rather than what the developers force them into. GameOgre: If the game is free to install and play will there be an item shop? If so, what can players expect to find in the item shop and how will it affect gameplay? Chris W: Path of Exile is indeed free to install and play. There is a microtransaction store, but we donâ€™t sell items themselves, just perks that help players stand out from each other in the world - we call this policy â€œEthical Microtransactionsâ€. Weâ€™re not going to restrict any game content from the non-paying players. They have access to the same areas, classes and items as paying players, and are equals as far as competitive play goes. We will offer a wide variety of aesthetic perks in the microtransaction store, such as cosmetic skins for items, dyes to colour armour pieces, dark pets, alternate spell effects and alternate victory/taunt animations. There will probably also be some utility purchases such as character name changes or transfers between the American and European realms. GameOgre: The scheduled release for 2011 is rapidly approaching, can you tell us about some of your favorite things in the game and what players should look forward to? Chris W: I personally enjoy playing our current build and finding rare items to improve my characters. Weâ€™ve got a leaderboard set up for our internal testers, and itâ€™s a lot of fun to see people climbing up the ranks and competing with each other. Players can definitely look forward to participating in the same thing next year, once weâ€™ve got all the content finalized! Weâ€™ll be releasing frequent expansions after release (weâ€™re aiming to support the game for more than ten years), so there will always be new things for them to anticipate. GameOgre: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Path of Exile? Chris W: Weâ€™re starting the closed beta test in 2011 and the testers will be picked from the pool of fans who have signed up for a forum account on our site Path of Exile - A Free Online Action RPG - weâ€™d like to encourage everyone who is interested in trying out the beta to register for an account now. Our forums are friendly and full of discussion about the game, so please stop by!