Hello, how is it going? Welcome to the founders panel. I’m Nick.
Here with me today are Chris, Jonathan and Erik. We’ll be asking them questions about the company. Not about balance… I think the balance for the company is pretty good. Unless you want to tackle.. We could talk about company balance. Mark is a bit OP. If you’ve got some questions, you should be able to send them to normal URL. We’ll start off by asking you, “How is the convention going?” Well I’m enjoying it definitely. I’m really happy with how everyone received the card game. I bet people people are way more aggressive in their card… Chris: There is Shaper Number One killer.
Jonathan: There is Shaper Number One killer on the front there. Yeah, that’s been crazy. Honestly, I just love the way that it’s really brought the players and the staff together. I was super worried that they would feel like they’re being hounded all the time. But all the feedback I’ve had from them as well has been super positive about it too. I spoke to some staff this morning. There’s this girl that joined our accounting team a couple of months ago. She hadn’t played any Path of Exile before, and she is over the moon at people challenging her. And she was so
excited to see all the cards. And collecting the autographs on
the shirt and that kind of stuff. People are really engaging well from our
side with the card game. But it’s great to see the players…
Jonathan: I’m slightly concerned about running out of stickers. Because I didn’t anticipate how hard people would slam the crafting bench. People love crafting. I can attest to that. We ran Auckland supplier out of stickers. Has anything
about the convention or about the announcement, of all of the things we’ve announced surprised you? It went well. Chris: People liked it.
Nick: That was a surprise! Well we haven’t even prepared for hundreds of contingencies of anything failing. Like that game demo for example. It went well. Chris: It’s good.
Jonathan: That was good. Also the number of things that there are just anywhere in the convention. Like random things that could break. It’s horrifying when you really
think about it, So it’s best just not to think about it too much. Thankfully everything basically went on track. Cool! Just to show off hands.
Who’s actually played Path of Exile 2? That’s basically everybody, fantastic! What do you think? I think they like it. Let’s get to the history of the
company. Chris. Jonathan. How and when did you guys first meet? At high school there was this computer in the library that had a copy of Quick Basic
installed on it. Because they didn’t have it in the computer labs of course. Because why would you do that. So I’d go there in the library at
lunchtime to do some programming. This is when I was like 16 or so. And one time there’s this kid on the computer. And I’m like, ‘Hey!”… Kind of, you know… Jonathan: That may sound more inappropriate than it was. So I introduced myself, we were chatting. He was a few years younger than me. And so we started talking about coding and kept in touch pretty well. I went to university, then he went a few years later and we were good friends. Eventually we decided that once we get out
of university we’re gonna go make a game. We weren’t sure what it was yet and… Jonathan: I think we had a vague idea.
Chris: We had ideas, but it was… Did you get inspiration for that game at all? Yeah, a little bit. Well we’ve both played a lot of Diablo 2 together. By the time Jonathan had finished university. We were pretty set on this idea that everyone was terrible at making action RPGs. And we could actually make a good one. Which is hubris and crazy when you’re just
a couple of random guys in your very early twenties.. Chris: I think you were twenty years old…at the time?
Jonathan: Yes, twenty. We haven’t had commercial game development experience. We were just hobbyists… Like, way less qualified than most of the people we hire now. About what year would you say that was? This is late 2006 when we started. And now, Erik. How and when did you
join this ragtag couple of guys? First of all, I actually met Chris in
Diablo 2 strategy forum. So that would be maybe around year 2000 or so. That was back in the day when it was harder to find out
the best builds and so on. You didn’t have streamers and everything back then. But then, a few years after that I got a random message. Where Chris was saying that him and Jonathan
were thinking about. Or wanted to make a Diablo-like game. “That sounded amazing.” I thought. Now for context, you were living in Sweden at the time? Erik: Oh yeah, so I’m on the opposite side of the world.
Nick: Literally about as far as you can go. I think we needed an artist and
we knew no one who’s ever drawn anything in their lives. And Erik is an accomplished artist
and has done a whole industrial design thing. He wrote a textbook that many
universities use, he’s up there. So I said to him, “Where would we find a lead artist?” And he looked up plane tickets. Yeah, yeah. It took like…
I think I flew down two weeks after that conversation. So I guess my question is, “What on earth were you thinking?” Well at the time I had just
graduated that industrial design education. But I didn’t really want to get a normal job. So that was a really good excuse to dodge that. I think you nailed that. Was there moments after you moved, Erik, that cemented for you that you made the right decision? Not until many years later I would say. I’m glad he didn’t say ‘Yesterday’. So there were a few years where you were just like, “Welllll I don’t know…”? Well it was quite a strange feeling, we just… Worked on things and kind of knew that
it was a good game or that it would be. So I don’t know. I didn’t really think about it failing much. My feeling always was that as long as we finish this game, then it will be awesome. Jonathan: I never had any doubt.
Chris: I was terrified. It always felt like it was a good gap
in the market I guess, you could say… Because something hasn’t been
announced yet, right? Certain..other action RPGs. Of course, yeah. We had no clue about other things going on. Right. What was the original time frame
and budget for your game? And how close to that were you actually by the time it launched? Off by so much. You can’t make games that cheaply and quickly it turns out. We thought, a couple years, a few hundred thousands or less than a million dollars. I remember Erik was always saying, “It feels like it’s always a year and a half away”. So when we were asking, “When will we finish?” “A year and a half.” was always an answer no matter how much time passed. It was crazy, how things just stretched. It took about six years to get something released to the players at all. Jonathan: Is it really six years? Man…
Chris: From 2006, yeah. If you could go back and talk to your past 2006-selves. What advice would you give yourself? The sad thing is if someone came to me and said “Chris, my friends and I are 20 and we
have no experience in making games. And we’re gonna make some. It’s gonna be online. And it’s gonna compete with a billion-dollar company. And it’s gonna have… all these things, experimental business model…” I would say them, “You are crazy, go get a real job, you’re just wasting your twenties.” or whatever, right? That’s my advice and I would mean it, they’re going to fail, 99.9%. However, that means the one in a thousand will succeed. So there’s a bit of survivorship bias here. What you attribute your survivorship to? Personally, I think there’s… We were definitely in the right place at the right time with the right product for what needed to be made. I mean obviously we happen to know Action RPGs really well. But also there was so much luck involved and picking that is the thing we were doing. And lots of other things that we were doing. Chris: I think it’s the items.
Jonathan: The items, yeah. We spent so long talking about Diablo 2 items. Like out of conversations with people like Brian, our American [investor]… He was there at the start, helping
us from the States. Which is one of the reasons why he’s not on the stage with us at the moment. Is because we were the team in New Zealand and were trying to keep it simple and everything here. But he was there from the start and we spoke to him about Diablo 2 items. And he related this story to me
about this lance that he wanted to get. This guy in Taiwan, he had a lance and Brian really needed this lance. And the passion in his voice about staying up late
at night thinking about this one item that he needed and how important it was for this life, right? That kind of thing is the conversation
we would have with each other, about items and games. And we knew we had to capture that in that game. And I think we did And I think that’s why Path of Exile was successful. It is very true that there are
so few games these days that take items seriously in a way that we do. And allowing free trade of all the things
and all that sort of stuff. I think that’s definitely a huge part of
why the game resonates. And I think it’s just so important. Was there ever a point where you
thought Path of Exile might be dead in the water? There were some pretty
rough development times. There was a period during that six years … Where you just run the game and there was just a blue screen. Because the graphics engine stuff had been broken and nobody had fixed it for ages. And there was all sorts of stuff It was really bad for a little while in there,
but we got through it. I’ve seen some very early versions where the graphics were a blue screen in a box… That was just programmer out, …. but there was a period after that where the game looked okay for a while And we made a bunch of changes then for a good two months we couldn’t really run it. We had a prototype graphics
engine that was thrown together very quickly. Which was good for getting a character moving,
and we decided to move away from that to a real one. We had a guy working on something quite
advanced and it never really panned out. So Jonathan just sat down and wrote
the engine and we switched over to that. But there was a good six months in there of the inability for the artists to see their work in the game. Jonathan: It was a dark time.
Chris: It was bad. But this is 2009, no one knew about it
publicly and we’re glad… We’re glad we hadn’t announced [the game]. Our plan was to announce when
we got something looks good. If you look now what it looked like
when we announced…it’s pretty terrible. What year it was when we announced?
Was it 20…10? Okay, right. I remember because it was the end… I think you actually technically announced
in early 2011. But you showed the game off in 2010. Jonathan: Yeah.
Chris: In fact, here’s an interesting story. So, announcement of Path of Exile,
which is September 2010. We decided we’re going to go to a press tour. So we asked our PR guy, “Find a bunch of journalists
in San Francisco that we can talk to. People at PC gamer, IGN and all these various places. Get us in the room with them”. Which is really hard because
we’re some randoms from New Zealand. So we played up the whole Lord of the Rings
thing really hard. We booked our tickets over to the States… We booked our tickets to the States
and the plan was: We talk to all the journalists, get some articles. And then we go to PAX Prime. And we’d show [the game] to people on a laptop in the corner of the room without having a booth. Which totally not supposed to do,
so I’m sorry about that. Sorry about that, Mike and Jerry! So we did this, and one of the journalists
that we were assigned was Nick. He was one of the very first people
as working as a journalist in the States to see Path of Exile. Yes. I was given that assignment as, “There are
some people from New Zealand coming to show a game. I don’t know what it is”. But it turned out to be super cool. I remember dying on…
I think I died to Hillock. And you got very frustrated that
I didn’t know how to use the health flasks. Jonathan: Did I?
Nick: Yeah. Okay. I don’t remember this. I specifically remember you saying, “Nobody can find the health flasks! That’s interesting. No one knows about health flasks”. Jonathan: I don’t remember this very well.
Nick: I do. I was very embarrassed. Tell me about the first time you thought Path of Exile might actually be a hit? So I remember..oh, actually you go on. I have an answer. This was at PAX Prime, this must have been the year after…That one. We had a very small booth with a couple of screens and three playing computers, maybe? I don’t quite remember. I think it was a few more, but it was all just botched together from Home Depot… Has anyone been at PAX Prime 2011 and played Path of Exile right at the back of the show? Nick: I see one hand.
Chris: Okay. You’re a real OG supporter then. That was amazing to see. Because we were competing against many other ‘real’ companies there. And there was just lots of people lining up to see our game. And you could see the spark in their eye, that this was really interesting. Actually, do you remember the thing that… Was it Tyco or Gabe? It was Tyco. It was Tyco, yeah. Do you want to [tell about it]…? Penny Arcade! Yeah, the Penny Arcade… It’s his show. So he walks by and he’s playing and
he’s looking at the game and watching the queues, And his comment to me was, “Blizzard really left a lot of money on the table here”. That was fun to meet him and that was really cool. But as Erik saying, there was quite a lot
of interest in the game even in this really early stage. And this was a bad build of the game. We were exhibiting next to Torchlight 2…
Torchlight 1, sorry. And their game looked a lot better. And it was really professional compared to where we were at at that time. But we had a lot of people there. We had items, that was good. I think… honestly, for me though that one was when we launched the close beta keys. And the furore there was around buying… That whole thing. You brought Stripe down. Stripe is a billion dollar payment processing company. But at the time… At the time we crashed it. So, my favourite moment that made me realize the game was going to be successful Is when we turned our alpha server on for the first time. We gave out some access to literally friends and family. Like, there was my brother and a couple of guys and so on. And so we give out for access, three
people log in… And I play for a while and I’m sitting there at level 10… It goes up to Brutus at that time, you can kill Brutus and he drops items. He’s like level 10 and he drops level 12 items or whatever. So you want to farm Brutus for good rare item, to find a rare sword or whatever. So I was sitting there farming and it gets to the point of diminishing returns to the experience. I’ve got some good items, I’m gonna come back tomorrow but I need to sleep, so I go to bed. I wake up the following morning, go to the office, log in, and I look at the ladder. And there’s some dude Peter who’s three levels higher than me. Got some serious diminishing returns going on. And I’m like, “Whoa, did you play all night?! What have you got?” So he links me to a sword. I’m like, “Dude that’s awesome!” So i link him to my one and he calls me a noob. So, the fact that game can capture someone to not sleep. And grind out an amazing sword when it goes to literally Brutus. With terrible graphics. I don’t want to think about how much it was crashing. On a topic of graphics. How long did it take you guys to settle on an aesthetic for Path of Exile? I wish we had a good answer of
trying many different things. But it was really a matter of… Throwing in what we got. We all knew that we all really loved Diablo 2. So we went in that direction. But it was very much a matter of, “Okay, what monsters can we have? A skeleton? Okay, let’s make a skeleton and put it in; let’s make a bandit and put it in.” I’d say it’s a lot more unified now. Oh yeah, and especially with PoE 2. PoE 2 is almost rebooting it and making it a perfect dream version of what we would have done back then. I mean, I can speak that internally we often see monsters get
improved over time. What was the first art asset that you were really satisfied with? Erik: I really like the original player characters. Do you have a personal favourite? It’s the Witch, Marauder and Ranger. Nick: Oh, the ‘original’ originals? Jeez.
Erik: Yeah, from back then. Because we got…we were really
lucky in the sense that we had a freelancer. That also knew cylinder, that
made models for us. He was a really talented guy. Maybe he was even in college that time, but then he went on to work at Weta. And he was a lead creature designer for the Hobbit later. So we managed to catch someone early
on there. Nick: Nice.
Chris: And we’re still using those models to 2019. Sure, we’re replacing them soon. And they look old now, but bear in mind
they’re 12 years old, they’ve held up okay. Though you landed on 3D models as the rendering type. I don’t know if that’s the right term. But had you tried anything else? Yeah so there was certainly
a discussion at the beginning of ‘Do we go 2D or 3D’? That was the an interesting question at that time. Obviously I think 3D was the right answer, but…
Nick: And why is that? Well, it’s actually easier in a lot of ways to bodge content together in 3D. Oh! What’s going on? Chris: Your mic is gone.
Jonathan: My mic is gone? All right, it’s back. Okay, It’s easier in a lot of ways to
bodge content together in 3D I think. But also just because… Chris: Your mic’s gone again. Jonathan: Is it working?
Chris: It’s working now. I can’t remember where I was.. Anyway… You said bodging content together is easier in 3D. Yeah yeah yea. I think it is, but also in terms of… Modernist, people expect everything in 3D these days. But there was a really awesome technique
I really wanted to try. Which we almost did. Where I wanted to do a game where it
was rendered in 2D. But with normal maps and lighting all done in 3D. And if you do that, you get something
that has a really distinctive art style. Actually, I think Pillars of Eternity, the other PoE uses that. But I came up with it and the idea of doing it in 2007… Nick: So you did it first.
Jonathan: Well I didn’t, because I didn’t actually do it. But this was something I was thinking of doing in 2007 It was a really interesting idea. But I think what we did actually
was the right choice in the end. There’s quite a few games doing it now. I mean, it’s a cool technique, but 3D is cooler. Supporter creative content like unique items and divination cards have existed throughout Path of Exile’s entire lifetime. How early on did you guys know you
wanted input from players on design of Path of Exile? Well, we always knew we wanted to have a community-driven focus. Regardless what we’re doing for monetization. We will be taking advice from the community because they know the game well. Once it’s released – it’s in their hands, not ours. We know what we want to play
but there are a lot more of you, guys. So, the “supporter created items” and stuff came from the concept of… Initially we weren’t planning to ever sell anything apart from microtransactions. The plan was “There’ll be microtransactions, we’ll do them later. We can make money when the game is good”. So we were eventually running out
of money during our closed beta. And players were petitioning us to buy closed beta keys. They really wanted to buy closed beta keys. Because I mean, they’re on eBay for $200. When people played the game for a while eventually moved on, they sell that key or their account in this case. And so, we held off on this for a long time.
We entered closed beta in late 2011. September or August…I think August.
We only started selling keys in April of the following year. And the reason why was we were running out of money. And selling beta keys as a prepayment
for microtransactions credit later. Like, “pay 10 dollars, get 10 dollars
as a credit and a beta key.” seemed like a harmless way to do it. There was also a Kickstarter thing coming up as well. Right. So when we were
discussing selling the beta keys, we noticed that on Kickstarter
Wasteland 2 just has been incredibly funded. You have these packs which get more and more stuff. And you check a T-Shirt in, and people want to pay a lot because it’s for their favourite game. Even they don’t know it’s their favourite game yet. And so we came up with a crazy set of Kickstarter-like packs. Which if you look at them
by today’s standards, are incredibly gifty. Like, there’s some stuff you get in those… For the early ones. We decided not to use Kickstarter as a platform, Because we are really really frugal
when it comes to paying fees for stuff… There was also a fact that you have to… There’s the whole… You couldn’t use it outside of America at the time I think. That’s true.
And there were other issues as well, Like you only get the money at the end of it
and various other things. The numbers are public, and we don’t really like
our revenue numbers being public and so on. But.. So, we ran it on our site, and as Jonathan mentioned before it was wildly successful, and the top pack included the ability to design an unique item. That was a cool perk to try
to persuade people to pay $1,000. And 250 did. Yep. Yes, they did. I feel though it’s been super important. As soon as we started actually doing that,
we realized that… For one thing if someone works of that
team to work on an item. They’re kind of a fan for life at
that point, you know. People really enjoy doing their stuff
and it just ends up really well. So when there’s something of yours in the game you feel a little bit of ownership over it as well. And so that means that you want to tell your friends about it and that kind of stuff. So it just ends up being a thing where it’s just really fosters that sense of community. I think it’s actually an important part of that. Were there any other supporter created elements that you guys wanted to try? For a while each expansion was including some when we replaced the packs. Like, for the Awakening we did Divination Cards for example. We felt very strongly when we were doing Ascendancy that we needed to find… A way to have some supporter created content. And there were crazy ideas that we thought of. Like, people making their own mini Labyrinth gauntlets that other players can play and stuff like that. We had, at one stage we were thinking you can take your hideout and export it as an area people can find in the game and this kind of stuff. Unfortunately because of penises
we decided not. I mean, look, years later I understand it would be toucans, right? Significantly more offensive. But because of the joy of player created content we decided not to have arbitrary toucan dens you can encounter as you play through the game. It’s honestly really tough. Divination cards managed to get to this point where it feels like you’re making something that is significant for the game. But yet at the same time it doesn’t take so much of our time with arguing back and forth that like it’s a real problem. Because that the uniques are real tough. They take a lot of work. We raised the price on those so many times. Yes, but we had to because we really underestimated the amount of back and forth there would be for uniques. Nick should know as the person
who primarily communicates. I did that for about three years. And the other one we’re not mentioning, the Hall of Grandmasters was very cool but so hard to maintain to this day whenever we release an
expansion. We have a guy who has to spend several days going and fixing the Grandmasters to work. And I’m sure the people who got Grandmasters probably are still a little unsatisfied with how it turned out. Yeah, it’s really tough. To even fit PoE2 it’s going to be really hard to… Oh my God. The amount of work to make that work. We will do it… Can’t we just agree to not? No, no no, we have to do it. Yeah I know we have to, and that’s the thing. It’s great to get a burst of revenue and it’s got a lot of advantages. But you have to maintain that literally for your entire life it seems. Yeah well hopefully not. So you can stop asking questions about Grandmasters by the way. You can stop sitting those. What about leagues? When did you guys realize you wanted to do leagues as a method of introducing a mechanic that would permeate throughout the game? We knew from the start we needed to have
ladder resets. Because that was an important thing in other Action-RPG. I didn’t put a plural on that. Leagues are a super important thing
in other Action-RPG. We knew we need that from the beginning. But when it actually came to starting our first one the context was, “We’re in open beta. And we’ve been going for about six months. And player numbers have trailed off”. Partly because that happens with any kind of… you release a new economy, people will play… We didn’t really know at the time how much it would… You know what the ratios would be between… That’s right. But we needed to start some new leagues and we decided we were going to do that. The problem was that it seemed
really unexcited to a news post going, “Hey guys if you want to play a new
character just go over there to do it. There’s a new ladder have fun with that”. Which nowadays honestly because people understand it. Would probably be pretty cool without a mechanic. Though of course we’re still doing mechanics. So we came up with Anarchy and Onslaught. Both of which were very easy to do. They were real simple. Yeah, real simple. Onslaught was just, “Things are faster”. Right. There was Rogue Exiles. Which was a few days of work. And that was cool. It was a marketable thing. And we also experimented with turning uniques off. Which I’d still love to do but then people would be angry that their builds don’t work. Who would want to see
uniques turned off? We don’t mean globally. We mean certain uniques to change the meta are disabled. So there’s a bit of interest. Like unique sets. I don’t know that I’d say that that’s more than half of the audience. No. It’s interesting. We’re not selling it well. Having it so that each league has a completely different meta because we say, “This is the set of stuff in play. These things aren’t there, these things are there. When they come back there might be different”. Is something that some people do. It’s like, with Magic the Gathering. See, it’s the first time I started a sentence with Magic the Gathering so far. I’ve done a good job. Well done, Chris! With Magic the Gathering they decide with their standard sets. The ones that are the most up to date ones. Which staples they’ve reprinted. Like, “Is shock in the format or not” is a decision that they make. Sometimes it is sometimes it isn’t And that means there are situations where it’s cheap to burn small creatures. There are situations where it’s more expensive. And so having it so that, I don’t know. Goldrim is present versus isn’t might affect how you’re doing your twinking, for example. I kind of feel that there’s enough meta shifts anyways. With just all the balance change we make
that we’re not so in need of that as we might otherwise be. I don’t know that we need to do it. What about as a private league option? I mean we still need to take advantage fully of all the private league stuff that we could do. We’ve kind of been a little busy recently. I can’t remember what the question was anymore. The question was Leagues, why and how? Oh yea that’s right. Leagues are awesome. I think that’s actually a really important part of our success as well. Leagues are the secret to Path of Exile’s success after items. And the reason is, we’re not a game like League of Legends that people are going to play and then gradually grow of gradually decline based on the success of the game. We’re a game that you will play very hard on day one, slightly less out on day two, slightly less out on day three. Until you kind of don’t care after two and a half months. And then you’re very excited again when there’s new content. And this is good with us. It gives you a chance to play other games and rest and get some sleep before you destroy yourself on launch weekend again. I want to hear what each of your personal favorite leagues so far have been. I’m going to sound terrible. Can I try and guess yours? I thought it was a good league. Is it Talisman? Yeah. Yeah. They didn’t let me design leagues after that one. Me neither. For me, I definitely loved Delve. But it
was the darkness thing. I just really loved the awesome lighting stuff we did,
it was just so cool. I have to tell them the beanstalk story at some stage. People on Reddit keep messaging me about that. Let’s let Erik finish his part and Jonathan finish his. I really liked Anarchy back in the day. Because I thought it was a really clever way to get existing assets reused. You love using existing assets. I too approve of us making a league in three days. So, the beanstalk story. I mentioned this in the context of Delve at some stage, and people on Reddit keep bugging me ever since, even though it’s a tiny anecdote. So we don’t have league ideas that are very good during our discussion. We’re sitting in the office going like, “What could we possibly do?” “Everyone, leave the room and come back with five ideas.” So I come back with like, “Colossus, dragons”. And we’re like, “Okay what would Colossus be?” They’re walking the land. They’re huge. What does that mean for the players? Are you fighting their feet? Are you fighting on them? And that gets discarded because it’s stupid. Okay Dragons. What’s it like? Can we do… Shadow of the Colossus begs to differ. Can we have it so there’s twenty types of dragons and they’re intelligent and there’s dragons caves. And there are huge fights. And we’ll do this later in Path of Exile 2. Where we can have gigantic bosses. Like the feet are individual monsters…Nope we’re not doing that, for various reasons. So we go through these crazy ideas. Trust me, the dragons one wouldn’t work out. And one of the things is we’re just thinking of random concepts. What if there is a beanstalk that you can climb up and as you get higher and higher and higher there’s complicated stuff. And that turned into Delve. Because it makes much more sense. I’m pretty sure I was the one who said.. “Okay up is, okay like that’s cool. But up is bad, down is way better. And then we go talking about Motherload, the old flash game. Yes Motherload. Yep and so that turned into Delve. Who here has played Motherload, the flash game? Nice, yeah. Cool, me too. It’s a good game. So obviously Path of Exile is made in New Zealand. It’s got a strong Maori influence in the art style and in a bunch of the characters, the Karui. How early on did you know you wanted to introduce that? It happened pretty much… You look to the Swede. It happened pretty much automatically because… Like when we first made grass in the game for example. Someone had to go out and take photographs of grass. And sort of cut it out and put the grass sheets in game. When it comes to weapons, there is a great museum here in Auckland. That has these cool shark tooth weapons and wooden carved weapons. It sort of just happened from that It’s just a nice touch to get inspired by what’s around you. I mean most gamers are just not used to seeing content created in this area of the world. So therefore it seems totally unique to them for that reason. It’s a point of difference. Yeah, it is a point of difference. It just something that happens by virtue of just being here in this environment. So it wasn’t necessarily a “we want that”. Yeah we didn’t think of it that way. It’s just what naturally occurs. I was talking to Kripparrian about this, where he’s been researching New Zealand before he flew over. Watching some movies and so on. And he really feels that New Zealand is Wraeclast from the point of view that it…. He’s seen so many similarities that he didn’t realise before. Has he been to Australia? Everything there is trying to kill you. Wasn’t Australia a prison colony where they exiled all the… Yep. Interesting. But people overseas think of Path of Exile as a game we’ve got like weird stuff going on. And then you arrive in New Zealand and you arrive at the airport and you see all the carvings and they’re like “Oh it’s like Act Three!” Except everything here is so gentle. I meant Act Four. I should know this game by now. Oh its like Act Three of the new one!.. Yeah. Cut his feed, no. Tell me about the night before you first launched Path of Exile back in 2012. The very night you were going to go from beta to live. To live? Yeah. There has been so many launches now. How many of them do you actually remember? And how many of them do you think you’ve forgotten. They blur together. There’s one continuous hellscape. You guys just do not understand how stressful it is on launch day. Well the thing is I feel so much responsibility when the game goes down or there’s some problem. It’s the worst. The idea that there’s a hundred thousand people or more just hating me right now because the game isn’t working. They write that pretty explicitly. I know, there’s a lot of stress in that. It’s actually really hard to explain. Raise your hand if you’ve personally blamed Jonathan. Fears realised. It’s honestly terrible. We have situations where it will launch and for example, in Prophecy, in predictive mode. As in not lockstep. It would crash when you get to town. Something to do with Navali in predictive mode. So now we’ve got like fifteen percent of our users just repeatedly crashing. Remember that time when everyone logs in and they can’t move? Yeah, how about that one? Because nobody had actually tested that… A build that was compiled without cheats. Seriously. There was like a late breaking change. No one had tested it. Like seriously. There are so many things that can go wrong. Speaking of. Does that date, 25th of March, 2014 ring any bells? Kiwi Halt. Aw man, yeah. Who remembers Kiwi Halt? That was, I remember… So the thing that caused that was we had just… We had started using technology that allowed us to deploy server changes without restarting the realm. So basically the hotfix things. So it was the instance servers are the old code, and the new areas you go to are the new code. But what I hadn’t taken into account was the fact that when we deploy… I assumed the data files would still be compatible. Which is not a good thing to assume. Because what would happen is that if someone had added a new column to the game database. Then it would bump all of the other… Sorry it wasn’t even columns. It was rows. It was just rows. If people added rows to the database then all the rows, once all the data files baked out like done by index. So if you shift everything then that means that you’re like “Okay so I’m an item and I’m looking at my mods or just anything. And all of the offsets are wrong so you get random other item stuff just going on there. And then your shield, instead of I look like a shield, I look like a kiwi. Exactly exactly. The weird thing is you literally see people holding kiwis and… All your data is random now, is effectively what it was. And then it gets saved. And then it gets saved to the database, some of that stuff as well which was kind of bad. I remember… It’s funny, to this day there is actually a thing in the database saving code. At the point where you load an item, it says, “Was this item generated between this time and this time? If so, just destroy it”. That is literally what the… there’s like code for this that still survives now. And we can’t take that out. Otherwise some guy who hasn’t logged in since that day will log in have a Kiwi. Exactly. I think it was only about a nineteen minute window as well. Yeah yeah, it was very small. Talking about obscure bugs. Okay so I have a story here. Chris: This is probably not something, okay so.
Nick: Love a good obscure bug. Someone posts on Reddit an item with impossible mods. Like a rare. And it’s the wrong base type. Having come from a Diablo 2 background, I am very unhappy at this point. So how did this item occur? How is a corrupted item possible? Our game doesn’t have exploits, you know. When you say corrupted item, you probably mean something different? Yeah, I mean corrupted from a memory point of view. Database corrupt. So we see this. We ask the guy. He’s like, “I don’t know. My item just changed into it”. I’m like, “Don’t say that oh my God!” So, how often is this happening? We run some scans, it doesn’t appear to be any other items. A week later, there’s another one. And you know, we’re not deleted their items from them. It was quite a long time as well. Just very occasionally there be just some weird as hell item just show up. Is this the one… Was there a Shav’s that was missing the Shav’s mod? Yes there was, that was one of them. So there were some fun items being made. And every time it happens, we go and talk about it for twenty minutes, can’t work out how it’s possible. Like, we’re talking like memory corruption here. We’re trying to isolate which machines have these gone through. Is this something with bad RAM? You know, do we have to hash the items and compare it? And a long time goes by. And so Thomas, our lead server administrator, who likes to tenaciously investigate stuff. Looks into this. And by looks into this, I mean at a low level. Recording packets and dumping them and what’s in memory and basically just doing it the hard way. If you’re an Assembler programmer or whatever, you’ll know what I mean. We’re talking some good low level debugging here. And so he looks into it for a while, it’s quite quiet. And he comes back and says, “I have submitted a patch to the C standard library. That will fix memory corruption that occurs when moving memory across a two gigabyte boundary on Linux. Like, it was the operating system’s standard library. If you’re a programmer, memcpy. The byte was a memcpy! They have not merged this fix yet. It’s still in the C standard library. We are running Linux with that patched. No one else is. Exactly yeah, it’s ridiculous. And that was causing item corruption very very very rarely in Path of Exile and probably other problems around the world. Probably yeah. Very very rare to reproduce. Then there’s bank accounts being run on Linux that just get an extra zero. It’s certain conditions. And that’s the case of hunting down bugs, it’s not a case of, “Why wont GGG fix it?” It’s the case of lots of smart people in a room going, “how is this even possible”. And months later you find there’s a problem in the operating system. You know. We’ve had cases where we think network cards are cursed. You know. There was definitely some cursed hardware we had at some point. We’ve swapped servers out because they were cursed, and that fixed it. Yes, thats… Do you remember when we deployed the new microtransaction system? Oh my God! Chris: And it took multiple attempts.
Jonathan: Oh my God! Chris: So we tested the hell out of that.
Jonathan: That might have been one of the worse periods of my life honestly. We knew it was going to be hard. Because we have to migrate everyone’s microtransactions from a completely different system to a new one. It just would not work. So we tested it. We got computers identical to the production ones. We ran a full scale test. It was good. So we ran it on production and it was just incredibly slow and broken and everything broke. So we rolled it all back and wasted several hours. So we did our test again and it was perfect. And what could we do apart from do it again? So we put some extra logging in, some extra safety. Ran it again and wrecked the realm for half a day. So many times, that I… Chris: And eventually we throw all those servers in the trash.
Jonathan: I need to get off this topic again. Literally at the end it was the servers. Like, replace them and then it was fine. It was just the worst. Hey Erik, how glad are you that you just work on art? Yeah, I was just thinking that. It’s great to be an artist. Does the door between our offices block the screaming? Is there anything about running a live game like Path of Exile that took you by surprise? All that stuff. Okay, yeah yeah yeah. Anything else? Honestly I think for me it’s… The thing I realised after running a live game for a while. I think there was this division in my mind for a long time about the game versus all the discussion and community around the game. And the thing I realised eventually was that the patch notes are actually part of the game. At the end of a day, when you’re playing the game, what we’re doing is we’re trying to make you feel good. We’re trying to make you feel a sense of fun. And if reading something in the patch notes gives you that sense of fun. Then that is just as valid as an actual thing happening in the game as well. Like thinking about, “How is the community going to react to something.” and all that stuff. Is actually a huge part of running a live game that a lot of people don’t appreciate. Who here gets really excited by the patch notes? So we’ve realised that we can put a lot of work in to adding something cool and secret to the game that half a percent of players will ever notice. And that we don’t mention in the patch notes and it kind of has no immediate value. But putting it in the patch notes is like now it’s a cool thing you know what I mean? Whereas we can phrase something wrong in the patch notes and get like five percent less revenue for the next three months. Because people like, “I’m not playing this league!” But the thing is it’s actually an important part of game design. Is how do you address the community. And how do they understand what you’re doing. It’s like that’s actually part of the game too. So I think that’s probably… That’s something we’ve tried very hard to do well. Patch notes are cool. Didn’t you write the patch notes? Yeah, for the last two years. I have also written the patch notes before. Yeah. I delegated this. You did. Thank you. I’ve been doing them since 3.0.0 That was a like, fourteen-thousand word patch note. Okay. Now we’ve got some questions from you guys. I love this one. How far in advance do you plan the April fools jokes? Such as cats on crit. And how big of a job are those jokes? It’s usually not too far in advance. We’ll realise a week before. And then we’ll get out the list of ideas. And they’re all impossible. And then awesome ones get turned down. You know what I’m talking about. Well they know what I’m talking about. In terms of… The mirror one. Chris: Yeah, they know.
Nick: Oooooh. Chris: I’m still bitter about that.
Nick: Yeaaah. I do like that one. The ROYALE one we had to plan, a little bit. Nick: Yep.
Jonathan: Not too much though. It was just one dude. Yeah, well. No no. Chris: It was one day, for many people.
Jonathan: It was like one day for many people. So we had like, several steps. So a few weeks before. I think it was a couple of weeks before we thought about doing that. All I remember was Rian going, “I have a day to do this”. Yeah yeah. But the things is there were a few other bits and pieces from various people like UI. I had to do some time as well to make the servers be able to have more than 32 people on them. Which took me a day. So that was my contribution. ROYALE actually helped Blight. Because we added support for these big instances that can have a hundred people. If it’s a really busy instance. It will spread it out among the servers more equally as opposed to just throwing them wherever. Yeah because Blight was such a performance garbage fire in the backend. We had to actually use that tech. Chris: So we made Blighted maps into…
Nick: Only on the backend? Yes. Heavy instances we called them. Blighted maps are like ROYALE instances in terms of being spread out a bit. Here’s another one. So next year is the 10-year anniversary. Are there plans? Of release you mean? Nick: Yeah.
Jonathan: Really? Well according to this. According to that. I don’t think that’s right. They might mean like closed beta or open beta. We’ve done Path of Exile stuff most years recently. So there’s going to be a 10-year anniversary. I guess so yeah. I think it’s probably closed or open beta. Nick: Probably closed.
Chris: It will have to be announcement if it’s 2020. Either way, we’ll do a news post and some cool stuff. Show those old screenshots again? Do you each have a co-worker that your rely on the most? I think I can guess for at least two of you. All of us Mark2 Jonathan: Mark2
Chris: That’s Neon, Yep. He is so important. He just knows everything about the balance and everything. And honestly I don’t anymore. Who here has had a chance to meet Neon? /Mark2. /Mark. Not that many. He’s got a secret villain shirt on. You should try and find and fight him. Oh yeah, you’re right. He has a shirt that might be worth trying to take down. He’s somewhat elusive though. He doesn’t like too much publicity. It was very nice of him to come out multiple times onto the stage to talk to you guys. Like when I realised I was going to have to answer 3.9.0 questions yesterday I had this sinking feeling like… I just realised I need to find Mark. Like, “Where is he in this building?” Mark come with me. “What huh?” You’re going on stage. How do other games/developers affect Path of Exile/GGG? I can think of one notable example. They release releases of their 2004 games and take all our players for a league. Uh huh. We noticed that one. Was it good though, did you have fun? We don’t try to necessarily follow trends too much. But on the other hand, getting inspiration for leagues is super important. I definitely look to other games to… Especially ones that are just completely not in our genre at all. That’s what I’m always looking at. So I try to play as many different things as I can. I mean honestly I don’t get a huge amount of time these days to play everything that comes out. But I really do try because like getting inspiration from other things and then thinking like, “How could I apply this type of game design to an Action-RPG.” is really interesting. The Binding of Isaac and Dead Cells and stuff like that have a lot of… Dead Cells I loved. Dead Cells was awesome Those games have influence in subtle ways. Yeah yeah. What’s an example of something from Dead Cells or The Binding of Isaac? I mean I don’t know if there’s anything like really explicit but like you know… It’s just kind of like… That’s a great question because I can’t think of anything either but yet I’m constantly thinking of games. Exactly I’m using it as a reference point all the time when I’m talking to people in the office. But I don’t know… Like special rooms in Rogue Legacy will come up as, “Could this be a league mechanic?” And obviously, they generally can’t be. But it’s still interesting. Rogue Legacy does have a notable mechanic that we haven’t done. Which is the Legacy part. Oh interesting. Where you die and you get some stuff. Well actually wait a second. No there was a league that was based on that heavily modified. I’m sure there was. Chris: You’re thinking of the Nemesis system.
Jonathan: Wait, no no no no. Ohhhh. I think we’ve talked about it. No no yea it really… Oh yeah no that’s what I was thinking of yeah you’re right. Did you guys get that? Don’t worry, this is what our design discussions are like. We should design a league on the stage! We got ten minutes. No, no no no no. Oh I wanted to address, so. Over Christmas two years ago we made Bestiary and we were really time pressured. And it didn’t help that we’d release War for the Atlas a week late. So we only had twelve weeks to do Bestiary. And everyone went away for Christmas. And the next year we had to do Synthesis and we had a full thirteen weeks. But it was really hard and everyone went away for Christmas. So we’re aware of this this time. We’re going to make a good one for March, okay? So the “March releases are bad” ends. We’re having fourteen weeks this time. Or at least the full thirteen, right? We’re definitely going to make sure we take our time. So we’ve gone a week late on our current one. Releasing in the middle of December. We’ll definitely not catch of a week for the March release. It will be mid March. Or maybe a week later if we need to. What league is that going to be? 3.10 And what’s the… Damnit. Almost got him. We have no idea what it its. We’ll work it out. We have to finish 3.9.0 But the point is we’re going to put some effort into making sure the March one doesn’t fall into the Christmas trap. It is a trap. Could you speak a little bit about your company growth philosophy? Is there mentoring? Talk about speed of growth? And maintaining/evolving the game vision as new employees join and establish themselves. Personally I hate having to hire more people. We have to do it. And it just feels like the company grows like a weed. Even without me trying. New people just seem to show up. I felt we were fine at twenty. Yeah but the thing is that obviously you have to but..
Nick: What if I joined? The thing that does suck is as companies get bigger it gets harder and harder to maintain the… We have a very kind of like… Or what I should say we do not have, is we do not have a really rigid structure with lots of middle management. Or anything like that. We’re very kind of free form. And so as you get bigger, if you expand too fast I think that would really really break down. Way too easily. I think its important not to grow too fast. It seems like… How much did we scale up in the last year? Oh I could think of about twenty people joining. Yeah that seems crazy to me. It does seem like a lot. Yeah I don’t understand how so many people. There was a few weeks, were it was like week after week after week people would just show up. Right, right. Yeah. So as for bringing people onboard, the mentoring is super important. Hopefully the new programmer I have hired recently appreciate the… We do have a special guest. Mark2 himself. Neon. Is here. What up? Neon: Hey everyone. Thanks.
Chris: We were just talking about you.
Nick: What’s on your shirt? The Orion. The code name for the boss at the end of the new expansion. Yes it is. This thing’s replacement. In game. Honestly one day if I ever do retire and he replaces me. Don’t be worried. It will be fine. But no, Mark is. We really rely on him. He’s really important. Thank you for everything. No, thank you. I mean you gave me this opportunity. So heart warming. I was like most people here. Just a gamer at home. I’d finished uni. I was just gaming. And then I get a call from Chris one day. I wasn’t really expecting it. It was through my brother, who had a friend and… Chris: We needed a QA department.
Neon: Yeah. There was indirect and yeah, I got a call. Took it. Didn’t even know what I was getting paid. Didn’t care. I wanted it. Thing is I originally vetoed the hire. I was like, I think I looked at him and went, “Man he’s just playing MMOs all day.” So Jonathan’s like, “Nah, we need to find somebody with experience”. And I’m like, “We’re desperate. We just need him”… But honestly, you were the best person we ever hired. So he was our entire QA department. We now have like eighteen people. That’s fair. And yeah, he runs the show now. Now what was the thing that got you to hire him? There was a certain exploit I know of, and I think if I recall it was your favorite ever nerf. Because it was also a buff. Are we talking about the flame totem stuff? I can’t remember. No. Freeze mining. That was post hiring. Oh was that post hiring? He was just exploiting that on live. Aw I didn’t know that. How to tell a real PoE player. Ehhh, clever use of game mechanics. I believe is the terminology Oh here’s a… Okay what’s the weirdest thing in Chris’s garage? They never found that out. Huh? Nothing. At one point it was a massive stack of Tabulas. If I remember correctly. Those old Tabula shirts, we stored them at my garage. And they kind of went moldy. And so we threw them in the wash. And we washed them so they’re fine but we have to give them to staff now. And we can’t sell them. I’m pretty sure, Mark, you wore Tabula shirts every day. They were clean ones. I got something like fifteen real life Tabulas. And I rotated them for a very long time. Hey Mark. What’s the highlight of the convention for you so far? I guess honestly, I mean I had… I was so nervous. All week. Especially the last couple of days. I wasn’t sleeping. Just the kinda… Everyone embracing it. This is a side of me that I never knew. I mean I’m not exactly ultimately confident here, but I never thought I would ever see my self doing this, so it’s kind of a change of myself. And just honestly the recognition, everyone’s just so happy, so positive. I’ve never been to a social event ever. It’s not like I go to many. I’ve never been to many where just everyone is so friendly. Nick: Yeah, you guys have been awesome. Outside it’s been so positive everywhere. Out in the city. I love that. I love that you all have effectively taken over Auckland City. It’s really good to see. I’ve got friends who don’t work… Aren’t even associated with the game, and they’re just like, “Exile people are everywhere” The Uber driver this morning asked me, “Are you there for the gaming thing?” Yeah. Yeah I am. And the amount of pride. I almost got quite chocked up about it up there when that first keynote happened was… Immense. It was… It was incredible. It just made everything so worthwhile. And I know a lot of our staff felt the exact same way. Thank you everyone. So so much. It’s been the best weekend. Alright. Thank you Mark. Get off stage. Thanks everyone. Have a good one. We’re almost out of time. Is there anything you guys wanna say to our lovely fans? Before we, also get off stage. Thank you for being there for us. Yeah, seriously. It’s been so great. You know, the keynote.. I felt.. when all you guys stood up and clapped and everything. I was just… I felt so proud. It was amazing. Yeah. I got goosebumps. There are pictures of me almost crying on Reddit which is great. I was trying to explain to people how this is a good thing. We’ll find a use for it. Alright I think that probably. Oh Erik, anything? Just that it’s fantastic to finally be able to show PoE 2. A lot of people have been working on that for a long time. And have been forced to keep it completely under wraps. So it’s great to get it out there and actually see people like it. Because there’s always a worry that maybe it’s kind of off the mark or something. Did anybody predict the number or type of announcements we had? No, no hands. Ha-ha, surprise mobile project. Fantastic. How about a round of applause. Okay there’s one hand. I don’t believe you. Oh I have something to say. Oh yeah? Yesterday I hinted on the pre-show I did a thing to try and tease it out. So, we took pathofexile2.com which we’ve registered literally a decade ago. And we changed its DNS to point to pathofexile.com, set up a redirect to pathofexile.com/poe2, hit okay and then refreshed Reddit. And nothing happened. And no one noticed. I tested that out and I was like, “Ooo it goes to Path of Exile now”. Yeah you should notice these things. So now they’ll probably be checking the DNS records for every domain we’ve ever registered. Chris: I don’t think we have pathofexile3
Jonathan: Yeah we don’t have pathofexile3.com. Someone does though. Yeah someone probably does. Wanting to buy our domain back. Send it to us please. We want it. But yeah. We were disappointed that because we were okay with plausible deniability of, “We did something with the domain name” would be kind of cute. Well, I would like to hear a round of applause for all the people who didn’t leak the number of things we had to announce. So yeah. Alright. I want to thank you guys for coming out. And for obviously putting on such a wonderful convention. And I’m looking forward to working with you guys and see what you guys do next. Thanks very much for the questions and your hard work. Thank you. Thanks everyone. Thanks everybody.