Sunday, April 1, 2012

Path of Exile

The Path of Exile open beta was this weekend. I'm going to cover two of their systems: the Flask System, and the Item-based economy.

The Flask System

In Path of Exile you heal yourself with Flasks instead of Healing Potions.

Each individual flask is an item that you can equip.

Here's how the flask works.  Whenever you want, you can drink from the flask.  Using the above flask as an example
  • Drinking from the flask will heal me for 60 life over 6 seconds
  • Each sip uses up 7 charges.  As you can see this means I'll be able to sip 3 times before my flask is empty (21 charges total).
  • The flask refills itself slowly as you damage enemies. If you are standing around doing nothing, your flasks don't do anything, but if you are active attacking enemies the flasks slowly recharge.  The math for exactly how the flask charge-up is done isn't obvious right now - but it also doesn't matter.  It looks like they're doing some clever math under the hood so that it just works.
  • Removing a flask from your belt drains it of all charges

The flasks are items that can get better.  For example it can heal you for more, or heal you faster.  Your flasks charge up when you kill enemies.

This system works really well for a number of reasons.

  • You need to stay actively aggressive in order to refill your health potions
  • It gives a sense that not all enemiescan be beaten simply by buying sufficient potions.
  • It provides a healing mechanic under the player's control but still allows a limited degree of potion spamming as needed.
What's really neat about the system is the flasks themselves can have magical properties, and they've come up with some really cool properties for them.  There's obvious ones like increased charges, and increasing healing potency.  You also have "Heals you 100% faster".  I got a flask last night that had "Heals for 50% of the amount instantly", which gives you a boost up front.  They also have "Heals you 125% faster when you are below 35% of your maximum Life".  

That's just the "obvious" ones though, they took it a step farther and added temporary buffs.  They have everything from clearing debuffs, to increasing your resists, and reducing stun durations while a potion is active.  You can even get increased movement speed during the duration of the effect, which let's you move faster through the world a limited amount but you can't use it forever because of the limited charges, and you also don't want to use it too much or you'll be digging into your precious healing and mana pools when the time comes to fight. The possibilities are endless!

To really complete the system, there are affixes that feed into the flask system for other body slots.  For example, you can get gloves that grant "22% increased charges gained for flasks" - so your other items can participate too - speeding up the rate at which your flasks refill.

Bottom line: I really like their Flask System. I think it is clever, works well within their game, will probably be a huge hit with their audience, adds a lot of extra properties to their item game, cleanly addresses the potion spamming question without adding cooldowns, provides yet another method of item progression, lays the groundwork for some sophisticated combat.

Item-Based Economy

Path of Exile has embraced the notion of a trade and barter economy.  This is the sell window in Path of Exile.  Notice anything interesting?

There's no gold!  When you sell your items to a vendor, they don't give you a gold price for your items, they offer you back mini-consumables!

The basic units of currency include (but are not limited to):

  • Scroll of Wisdom - Identifies all blue items
  • Town Portal Scrolls - Creates an instant travel portal back to town
  • Armourer's Scrap - Improves the quality of armour
  • Blacksmith's Whetstone - Improves the quality of a weapon
  • Orb of Alteration - Reforges a magic item into a new set of random properties
  • Orb of Transmutation - Upgrades a normal item into a magic item
  • Orb of Alchemy - Upgrades a normal item into a rare item

All of these are 1x1 inventory items that stack in your inventory.  I've only listed a handful here, there are many more.  Furthermore, many of the items are actually made of smaller parts (for example, Scrolls of Wisdom are composed from 5 Scroll Fragments).

All of these objects are small 1x1 inventory objects.

This premise even extends into buying items too!  Here are the tooltips on two items in the vendor "Buy" window:

How crazy is that!  The developers took the idea of the "Stone of Jordan economy" and took it to the whole next level.  Now it's not just the high-end hardcore players trading in these 1x1 inventory items, but everybody who plays the game.  Path of Exile nails the basic premise behind an item-based economy- namely, players can use as currency any object that is a consistent commodity with universal value to most players.  This trade and barter economy is built right into the buy/sell interface at vendors


  • Promotes the lore of being on an abandoned island
  • Guarantees that you won't have a worthless gold currency (... durp)


It places a heavy burden on inventory management.  Inventory management can be an important and fun part of RPGs.  More inventory space is something players always wish they had in the same way players want to pull the camera farther out, run faster and do more damage.  These inventory systems are in place for the player to butt up against and then make decisions. What does this have to do with Path of Exile's economy?  Since they are an item-based trade economy, your currency now takes up inventory space (like the D2 Stone of Jordan economy and D1 Gold).  As a concept by itself this is fine.  But having multiple types of trade items vastly increases the complexity to the player without adding any value.  There are so many different types of currency items it's easy to lose track of what's what.

All these item slots taken up by 1x1 "currency" pieces makes me sad

It doesn't leverage existing player expectations.  When it comes to game design, a game works better when the game does what the player expects.  If you're making a game entirely centered around "control stick left moves your character to the right, and control stick right moves your character left" then that's fine - but it means you should be basing your entire game on this concept and you should be prepared for the work it will take to retrain the user.  When you're going against your player's preconceived notions and biases you better be sure you're getting a good payoff for the cost.

Ultimately, I don't think they've gained anything.  For all the player expectation breaking, is this actually working any better than gold? What did they gain?  Granted, in D2, gold was worthless, but is that a fundamental problem with gold or just a result of the way it was tuned?  For example, what if there were no Scrolls of Wisdom (identify scrolls), and every case in which they would have a Scroll of Wisdom, you replaced it with some gold.  You could drop 10 gold instead, and then charge 10 gold to identify an item.  The entire economy tuning done for identify scrolls would work exactly the same way except you'd be meeting the player expectations and removing the inventory headaches.


  1. Cool idea, thanks for doing these. More please!

  2. 1 flask charge = 1 mob kill and removing it inside towns will not drain it's charge(free full flask charge inside towns, so to speak).

    And as you play more, you will learn to NOT carry around ANY currency item except town portal. Leave everything else in the stash when you make return to town trips.

    And imo, you are exiled, you won't have 9000 bag space nor will gold do any good. There won't be problems with players not getting what they want, they buffed the drop rate of a lot of the basic currency items and skill gems. And there's always a lot of helpful people who can trade.

  3. I thought it was 1 flask charge = 1 mob kill but there were a few mobs who were giving me a charge partway through combat which is what led to me believing there was a little extra math going on behind the scenes.

    I shove all my extra currencies in my stash, but that's a huge pain in the butt too. You can't right-click or even ctrl-click to move items to your stash, you have to click back and forth. That was somewhat awkward but maybe bearable except that I want to find similar objects and group them together and that was really hard.

  4. you want extra space? you have 2 choices:

    1: you buy some account space from the store, they sell a few more bars.
    2: you create another game account (since game is free and all) and you fill the stash there. if you need more space? you vreat another account.. there, infinite space hehe