Last week, Grinding Gear Games hosted a preview event for a select group of media outlets, including MMORPG.com. Later in the day, the development team also held one-on-one sessions with a handful of mediums to talk about this new league. We had a chance to sit down with producer and developer Chris Wilson to ask “a few” questions about the upcoming expansion.
MMORPG.COM: When you introduced the Sentinels, I immediately thought, oh, a pet system. And then it sounded like the Sentinels were destined to buff your cards. But further down the presentation it looked like there were other benefits to Sentinels, right?
Chris Wilson: Yes, the default behavior is basically that they make the enemies you face both harder and more rewarding. So in theory it’s basically something that’s in your favor because you can choose when to use it at a point on the map where you feel like you could do with a little more difficulty and a little more reward, so turn on the Sentinel. Now, of course, there are much more complicated ones, as is the case with us. You know there are the unique ones who do interesting things. And so you have the option of having them benefit you more indirectly, like freezing groups or monsters for that ship or squad.
MMORPG.COM: What is the mechanism to trigger a Sentinel manually?
CW: A button to click and a keystroke. There is a different key for each Sentinel, I believe they are on F2 to F4 at the moment. And that can be completely rebounded.
MMORPG.COM: So as a player, I have to be careful not to trigger them at the wrong time. I don’t trigger them if I don’t want to.
CW: Personally yes, but you can put them away. For example, if you want to fire one of them, you can get rid of them when you realize you made a mistake. But yeah, you certainly don’t want to increase the difficulty at the wrong time.
MMORPG.COM: You also introduced the idea of recombiners. Can you explain these in a little more detail? I know they are meant to help you tune your weapons, armor, and jewelry.
CW: Yeah, it was one thing that I rushed through pretty quickly. So, as you have seen, the Sentinel League allows you to assemble new Sentinels with Power Cores. And so this system basically combines the two Guardians and takes some traits from one, some traits from the other and twists traits and mutates them and so on. So you end up with some kind of descendant of the two Sentinels that has something from one parent, something from the other parent, or maybe a new twist. We found that while the system was designed for Guardians, it could work very well for regular items as well. So, Recombiners are the reward from the Sentinel League, allowing you to cross two of your existing items and get some traits randomly from one, some from the other, and possibly a new twist. And so we came up with a bunch of new things that these items can get that can only come from the recombination process. That way, if the players get lucky, they can do some really good stuff.
MMORPG.COM: When Sentinels are turned on, you can choose attributes. What is the mechanism by which they are turned on? Is it just that I’m leveling up my character?
CW: So basically you have your Sentinel controller that you know, the iPad that you carry around with you, so to speak, that you can control your Sentinels with. And it has the circuit on it and the amount of power it has will soon increase based on the cooperation with the central league. So you gain experience for it based on Sentinels marking enemies and you kill those enemies. So if you pull out your Sentinels, deploy them, and kill the monsters that boost them, you’re basically going to keep gaining power. And pretty fast. Until you get close to the end way of exile‘ campaign gives you a lot of power to actually create a pretty complicated build on the controller. And then there are a few more points that you can get in the endgame. But we’ve preempted it a bit so you can specialize in interesting stuff right from the start.
MMORPG.COM: Also in this update you adjust the challenge system a bit. You condense the levels?
CW: Yes, it’s basically like that, we have a set of 40 challenges. And they range from easy to hard, and there are some rewards for completing a lot of them. So what we found was that, generally speaking, people went through all the challenges and then they kind of sat around and said, well, what can I do now? And when they finish the challenges after a month what is their next task? You can track better items, you can level up your character, you can try new builds, but at this point it’s kind of self-driven. So the experiment here is to squeeze the existing challenges in the first half and just introduce tons of really hard ones, and then a bunch of rewards to come with that, like: B. A real increase in the rewards you receive can motivate players to try the “hot challenges”? So basically, the challenge is much harder and much more rewarding.
MMORPG.COM: What’s also interesting about this release is that you said we’re in phase two of the endgame improvements. You set a course for the player to decide what to do in the endgame, what cards to use, and you know where to go with them.
CW: We start with an endgame update in the last one. And that was really popular, players said they felt it was the best version of way of exileendgame. And we made it modular. So we have things we can improve in this expansion and every other one before it way of exile 2 release. Our basic plan is to double and triple the things that people like in endgame. I feel like in the past we fell into the trap of releasing these challenge leagues where the league itself was fine. And then there is nothing new to do in the game. So if the player isn’t as engaged with the league as we’d like, then there isn’t that much to do in the overall expansion. So we’re being more cautious about where we’re releasing Sentinel, and we’re taking some risks with that. And at the same time, we make sure the endgame improvements are solid. Even if a player plays Sentinel and doesn’t really delve into it very deeply, they still have real things to do, new things to experience in the main game itself,
MMORPG.COM: Are there any considerations as to whether we will see newer story content in it way of exile one before way of exile 2?
CW: We would like to do that because we see story as an important feature that every expansion would ideally have if we had the resources. Now a lot of our story guys are hard at work on the big thing path of exile 2 history stuff. So I think we intentionally go about it relatively lightly. We’ve always tried to do a show rather than tell some kind of approach. And so with Sentinel, for example, there isn’t much to read here, where the player can read thousands of words about exactly where the Sentinels come from. But we tried to have a very rich system in the game where you can work things out. And hopefully that will work. But yeah, I’d like to see more story-focused expansions between now and release, mostly just for variety. I mean there were some players who really loved this stuff.
MMORPG.COM: And finally, add PC controller support to this release. This is something everyone has been asking for.
CW: Yes, it’s been a popular thing since we released it for console a few years ago, and people have been vocal about the ability to play with the controller. That’s partly because the Steam Deck is popular and the Blade is doing really well. And second, a lot of other action RPGs just like that, to be honest Diablo II revived and so on, have controller support. And so people try it and say it’s kinda fun to chill with friends in front of a big screen TV and play something way of exile and so forth. And so they want to try that on the PC version.
https://www.mmorpg.com/interviews/path-of-exile-sentinel-league-interview-with-grinding-gears-games-chris-wilson-2000124995 Path of Exile Sentinel League Interview with Chris Wilson from Grinding Gears Games