Tracking the evolution of Path of Exile’s troublesome Delve mode
"This seat-of-the-pants balancing was really frustrating. If you change stuff like that it loses the trust of the community and you have to build it back up again.”
- Grinding Gear Games' Jonathan Rodgers talks about the struggles of balancing a live game
Rock Paper Shotgun has shared an insightful interview that digs into the design and post-launch balancing struggles of the Delve game mode introduced to Path of Exile a few months back.
The game’s developer, Grinding Gear Games, typically adds a new mode every three months that remixes some element of the original game, and Delve is no exception. Speaking to Rock Paper Shotgun, Grinding Gear Games co-founder and technical director Jonathan Rodgers runs through some of the early versions of Delve and the team’s ongoing struggle to balance tension with fun.
Delve went through a handful of designs that Rodgers dives into in the full story, but eventually, that balance was struck and the team moved on to addressing resources and rewards to be used in the mode. The mode shipped with what the team thought was a good balance but, as Rodgers explains, they quickly discovered that one of the rewards offered for clearing a dungeon threw systems in the rest of the game out of whack.
“We underestimated how much faster someone could go through a non-endgame area and find the resource than doing the endgame areas. We found people could do runs in one of the non-endgame areas with a max clear speed build in about 15 seconds,” says Rodgers. ”The problem with players is that if something is the most efficient thing to do, they’ll do it because they say they’re forced to do it, and also complain that it’s boring.”
The first solution was to raise the in-game resource cost of playing Delve, but that was quickly met with player backlash and blocked off the mode almost entirely for players who hadn’t reached the end-game content in Path of Exile. Rodgers explores some of the other fixes the team attempted, and how they resonated with players, before balance was achieved in the full article over on Rock Paper Shotgun.