This is an Excel doc from a Twitch brainstorm session
As a teen in the 90s I’d been obsessed with traditional RPGs like Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy 6 – then when I got a PC, I fell in love with the faster pace of Diablo and Diablo 2.
By the early twenty-tens I’d moved on to Dungeons and Dragons Online, but was looking for something new – and heard of a spiritual successor to Diablo 2 and thought I’d check it out.
I took the Path of Exile plunge during the Anarchy league, and went in blind. I knew the game was complex, but I jumped in at the deep end, creating some monstrosity of a Shadow using Viper Strike and no life nodes. My build was terrible, but I had a lot of fun muddling through, full clearing monster level 47 zones over and over at level 54 before finally meeting a boss I simply could not beat. I then followed guides and reached maps in Torment league.
From Incursion onward I’ve been solidly at endgame, getting 36 or 40 challenges in each league (except Legion which I didn’t enjoy much and stopped at 24).
I also created a now very outdated video guide on Youtube on the strategies I’d used to trade for a Headhunter in Incursion league, which got unexpectedly popular and sent me down an unexpected path – working in aviation technical records by day, while making POE related videos in my spare time. These are mostly aimed at ’24 challenge a league’ players who aspire to improve to the 36 or 40 challenge level. This also got me to the point of trying to learn streaming, and I go live two or three evenings a week (AU TZ) on Twitch.
Inspired by Betrayal’s “The Nurse”, I purchased a divination card commission originally planning to make a divination card for The Fiend, which would have been named Deadly Sins. But then Synthesis league came out just before I submitted the design.
I fell in love with the newly added divination card Arrogance of the Vaal after trading for and turning in 20 sets of it on day 5 of Synthesis. Arrogance is my favorite card, surpassing the two I have commissioned (and my third which is in the pipeline).
I like Arrogance because it is high variance, super high maximum payoff but low expected value (like a lottery), and because it adds strange, unique and cool treasures to a trade league economy that otherwise would not exist. Threshold jewels with two powerful corruptions, levelling uniques that get enough of a boost to work into endgame, and more. As someone with a maths background, the two “hardest” math related problems in statistical inference related to POE are working out the expected value of Arrogance of the Vaal turnins, and Stacked Decks – and this makes me love both of them.
After seeing Arrogance I considered a two-implicit krangled power unique like Zerphi’s Heart or Headhunter, then realised I’d enjoy something with higher variance more, to capture more of the feel of turning in Arrogance of the Vaal.
The design coalesced in my mind when someone in global chat linked a two-implicit Tabula with two +2 gems mods and I snarkily replied “shame to waste those corrupts, they would be amazing on Skin of the Loyal”.
At this point I knew my original plan for an influenced, ilvl 86 atlas base was out the window, and I was going to change the commission to a double corrupted Skin.
I quickly decided on ilvl 25 as Skin is an all-offense piece of armour, so you do not want the weak defensive corrupts that become possible at ilvl 45, nor the very strong one that comes online at ilvl 80. 20-44 is basically always the “correct” choice and so rather than penalise players that do not know the mechanics of how to influence the ilvl of items sourced by divination cards, I just set it at a number arbitrarily chosen in that range.
I also find it poses an interesting puzzle for builds. If your build usually uses 4 blue gems and 2 red ones, can you use a 3 blue 2 red 1 green Skin if it has good corruptions on it? Is that better than using a crafted chest without the incredible corruptions, but with the ‘perfect’ colours? These sorts of build puzzles appeal to me.
Thoughts then turned to the card flavour. Given that the card reward deals with three intersecting horror themes – the Vaal’s ruthless cruelty, the name ‘Skin of the Loyal’ and the otherworldly, almost Lovecraftian horror themes of Chayula, I knew I wanted to design a self-contained horror story.
This made me ask questions.
I settled upon answers of “a useful idiot”, “an idealised version of Chayula that they believed would grant them power”, “someone Chayula didn’t regard as useless – perhaps Zilquapa, Architect of the Breach or someone under his command”, “to stop power-hungry petitioners pestering them”, “no” and “noone alive will ever know”, respectively.
I wanted the flavour text to convey both the horror and a sense of utter contempt for the skinned cultists. This wasn’t a High Cultist making a human sacrifice in an important rite, this was someone taking out the trash because they were told to do so. When I initially submitted it the quote was attributed to Zilquapa, but this did not fit cleanly at certain resolutions so the attribution was removed. However, the card does drop from Zilquapa.
I came up with the following art directive for the commission
About three cultists (of diverse appearances) in identical garb stand in a line, staring blankly into the distance.
A fourth cultist is using a ceremonial dagger (the Chayula unique United in Dream) to skin one of the three cultists alive. The victim is not reacting at all to the mortal wounds and neither are the other two cultists who will be next. The victim has a chunk of skin hanging loosely to their side.
The soul of the dying cultist, instead of escaping, is being drawn to this skin. As it leaves the body it is white, as it enters the skin, a sickly red.
which Shaun did a phenomenal job of.
I did have a few other ideas in mind when submitting The Price of Loyalty, which I ultimately decided against. These were:
If people are interested in commissioning a divination card, email GGG support. It’s not cheap as you are buying a professional artist’s time at enough of a markup that it also helps fund POE2 development, but The Price of Loyalty cost me less than my gaming monitor.
These are the notes for the Heist league challenges (Videos as they become available)
Video for 12 challenges
Video for 24 challenges
Video for 36 challenges
This is advice for before leaguestart, rather than after it. It isn’t a build guide, although I intend to produce one for Glacial Cascade Mines and possibly something else. It’s the first step to building your own.
Unless you are Ghudda or Jousis, the first step in designing a build is usually to find a starting point – a previously proven build that has many similarities to the build you want to play, then treat that build as a template to modify.
This can be done unless a new interaction completely transforms the way a skill plays (e.g. when Archmage was added, non-Archmage builds couldn’t transform to Archmages easily)
The single best resource for this is the build indexer at the website poe.ninja
It keeps downloads of the top builds – both by character level achieved, and also by solo delve depth – from the most recent league. It tracks trade league, SSF, HC and HC SSF.
Importantly, it also keeps older versions from early in the league, when items are scarce and character power is weak.
You can get useful information from looking at what worked in both the league ruleset you wish to play, but also from stricter ones (e.g. if you intend to play trade-enabled hardcore, also check out HC SSF)
If you intend to play a brand new skill, you’ll need to look at the most similar skill gems that actually exist now. For example, Crackling Lance isn’t Arc, but it’s closer to Arc than anything else.
This will help you discover the most popular combinations of support gems, Ascendancy choices and overall ‘textures’ of passive trees.
I highly recommend looking at the historical data from days 2-6 of the league. At this point, even top end players won’t have bonkers gear – they are likely running 5 links or bad 6 links.
Builds that reach 500 Delve depth over a league in Hardcore are especially solid choices to investigate, although if you play SC you should definitely adapt them to do more damage. Likewise, HC SSF builds with multiple boss uniques (e.g. Crown of the Inward Eye on the same character as a Watcher’s Eye) indicate a very strong bosskiller.
This article is also available in podcast format on Youtube, see below:
Day 1 of a new league provides unique challenges and opportunities. Everything is fresh and new, and there’s not yet the mid-league phenomenon where every item save the very, very, very rarest is in extreme oversupply.
Some new build-defining items will be super common – but that information won’t be widely known. If you get these items early they sell; get them late and you might not pick them up.
Items that would be 2-5c late in the league can sell for an exalt or more.
It’s also a time where a small minority of players get a single, very big drop that they just want to sell off to buy gear. There’s more people selling exalts than there are people with the capital to buy them; ditto for Doctor cards, etc etc.
If you have any goals in Heist that require a lot of currency, this is the best time to set yourself up. Going hard and smart on day 1 can result in you getting ten to twenty times as much wealth as playing that much later in the league.
Five universal tips:
First Major Decision: New Content vs Familiar Content
This is a big choice. I’m not going to express a recommendation here – you should be able to succeed with either choice.
Make sure you pick your build around your choice.
Familiar Content Options
Going with familiar content doesn’t mean you won’t try the Heist mechanics, just that you will spend a large majority of your time using tried and tested strategies.
There’s seven main ways you can go with familiar content. I won’t go into each in depth, except to add that I do not recommend competing with Eternal Lab carry services; so many people do it that the prices are low. Eternal lab can be profitable, and by all means carry friends, but it’s more lucrative to run them solo quickly than it is to assist inexperienced people who experience high latency on your home server in Lab.
All of these strategies revolve around getting to maps super fast. The advantage to being in the first fifty thousand people to maps (ideally first five thousand) are enormous.
Proven Strategies for Familiar Content
I’ll refer a bit to item level here, it’s a stat that shows up in game with advanced mod descriptions, and constrains what mods can be rolled on an item. 91 on these uniques. 86 is the magic number to be able to roll all mods (at the moment)
There’s 7 new types of rewards.
General Notes for Interacting With Heists
Economic Strategies Revolving Around Heists
E-commerce seemed to be a lot to learn and my due diligence indicates that the Youtube channel is nowhere near being able to provide even a modest living for me, so I hadn’t done this yet.
But it’s kinda easy to get into now through third parties that don’t hit you too hard on fees, so I set up a merchandise store through Stream Elements. (I’ve got no other relationship with Stream Elements, they are just a service provider)
Here’s the link: https://merch.streamelements.com/sirgog
and some silly image ad
Origins of the Toucan meme and ‘Krangled’:
Toucan originated as a measure to fight RMT cheat sites.
If they advertised in global, someone would post a copypasta to cause the cheat site’s ad to scroll off into oblivion.
An ASCII Toucan became the most popular one and it became a meme within the POE community – especially when GGG started clamping down on it. “You have been muted for 12 hours for spamming” was a common reaction.
As for Krangled – that’s from the greatest Reddit post in the history of the Path of Exile subreddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/pathofexile/comments/g1ksx2/what_returning_after_a_few_years_feels_like/ was a joke about complexity creep. Everything on it is nonsense but it’s so well crafted that the Krangled word stuck.
This article is available in podcast format on Youtube here:
Path of Exile’s 3.12 expansion is around a month from release.
Each of the last few leagues I’ve posted a challenge guide. Whilst these aren’t my most popular videos, they sometimes come close, and they definitely are a lot of people’s first introduction to my channel. I pay a lot of attention to the challenges that come up.
Each time I see the new challenges in a league I get to thinking “We’ve seen this before” about a lot of them.
Here’s some suggestions I have for new challenges. Note that these vary a LOT in difficulty. Some are aimed as tutorials for new players (e.g. ‘Achieve 75% or higher resistance to each of fire, cold and lightning while suffering Kitava’s Cruel Afflication’; aimed at level 50-ish characters piloted by newer players; or ‘Equip a fully upgraded Major God Pantheon Power and at the same time an upgraded Minor God Pantheon Power’; aimed at level 85-ish characters piloted by newer players)
At the same time, others are designed to be… a little brutal. But to do so in a way that’s less about grind, and more about overcoming a specific challenge.
The only game mechanic change needed to facilitate these challenges is adding a new (not Harvest related) drop location for the Uber-Doober Lab keys. I suggest a 30% chance for them to drop in Labyrinth Trials encountered in tier 14+ maps (10% for each variation).
Achieve a 75% (or higher) resistance to each of fire, lightning and cold resist while suffering from Kitava’s Cruel Affliction
This is a purely training mechanic. Among questions posted to Reddit by lower level characters that ‘brick wall’ in progression, it’s usually due to underestimating resistances. This provides an in-game tutorial and calls more attention to Kitava’s Cruel Affliction than the game itself does.
Can’t Be Too Careful
Achieve 75% or higher resistance to each of fire, lightning and cold resist and at least 20% chaos resistance while suffering from Kitava’s Merciless Affliction and the curse Elemental Weakness
This is another training mechanic, explaining that reaching ‘Ele Weakness Capped’ and decent chaos resist is an important early endgame goal. 12/40 players would benefit a lot from this one.
Equip a fully upgraded Major God Pantheon Power and at the same time an upgraded Minor God Pantheon Power. (Pantheon powers can be acquired through the use of Divine Vessels)
This is intended to educate, again. Past Divine Vessel challenges have focused upon ‘going wide’ and upgrading all Pantheons. Most players don’t do that, they pick one and upgrade it first, THEN get the others if and when they become relevant. This fits the natural playstyle.
Do four of the following:
Upgrade an Incursion unique item using a Vial with the Altar of Sacrifice
Use Alva’s two-implicit krangle chamber on a Cluster Jewel or Sacrificial Garb
Raise the quality of a map or flask above 20%
Raise a ring, amulet or belt’s quality to 20% with Catalysts
Create an item with two corrupted essence modifiers
Raise the quality of a Vaal Temple map to 20%
Corrupt a unique map into a rare map
Split an item into two at the Beast Altar
This covers a wide cross section of crafting options that a returning player might not know about, and that a newly enfranchised player might want to learn about. Some of these are definitely easier than others, but all of them are possible.
Solitude Empties The Mind
Kill Sirus at Awakening Level 8 twelve times. You recieve triple credit for kills where there are five portals left when Sirus dies.
This is one of two challenges intended to undermine ‘service trading’ and incentivise learning the fight yourself. This is trivial for anyone that is good at the Sirus fight, even in SSF, but a considerable hassle if you need to go to /trade 820.
Turn in a set of any two of the following divination cards
The Long Con
House of Mirrors
This is again educational, although it doesn’t have all of the information needed, encouraging players to look for more information. The cards are listed in order of difficulty to compile, and SSF 24/40 players should have little difficulty self-compiling Hoarder and Saint’s Treasure.
Slay each of the following at monster level 86. (Some unique Ivory Watchstones increase the level of maps).
Atziri, Queen of the Vaal
This is intended to be a brutally hard challenge (impossible in SSF except for the masochistic), but less RNG-based, less grind based and more challenge based than other brutal challenges from past leagues.
What Lies Beneath
Complete the following ultra-rare Delve nodes multiple times. You will gain credit equal to the depth of each encounter. (0/12000)
The Crystal King’s Throne
The Grand Architect’s Temple
The Lich’s Tomb
I’m not actually sure that 12000 is reasonable here. This incentivises digging deep, but without prohibiting staying shallow and going wide.
Destroying Paradise To Chase Perfection
Corrupt items with five of the following influences:
This is intended to make people think of crafting possibilities. It can be done cheap, but some people will have a mindset of “what’s the BEST that could happen here?” and that will cause some cool items to get created.
Crafting With Scrolls
Identify three of the following unique items. All are common drops from bosses.
Crown of the Inward Eye
Hands of the High Templar
Any Synthesised unique item
This is intended to get people running bosses. Assuming you can kill Atziri, this is very accessible as you only need three.
Eight Mod Guardians
Kill 6 of the following bosses while in maps that have 8 mods (8 mods)
yes, the Vaal Temple boss is in there deliberately…. no, you shouldn’t do that fight… 6/9 is chosen here to keep RNG reasonable.
Do all three of the following:
Using a Vaal Orb, ‘brick’ a unique jewel into Fragility, Pacifism, Powerlessness or a rare item
Using a Vaal Orb, ‘brick’ a unique item into a rare item with 6 mods
Use a Vaal Orb on an item with 19% quality
This is about teaching the potential uses and misuses of Vaal Orbs.
Survival In Trying Times
Defeat six of the following encounters without any players in the group dying:
Vaal Temple Trio
Atziri in the Alluring Abyss
High Templar Venarius in the Cortex
Aul, the Crystal King
Kurgal the Blackblooded
Sirus, Awakener of Worlds
Abaxoth, The End Of All That Is
Ahuatotli, the Blind
The Domain of Timeless Conflict with five factions present
Kosis, the Revelation
Again this is a focus on careful execution not brute force, but it’s less unforgiving – and more challenging – than many of the “Defeat X boss without taking damage from Y mechanic” that we’ve seen lots lately.
Eight Mod Map Grind
Complete 256 tier 14 or higher maps when they have eight mods. You recieve octuple credit when the map is completed while 5 portals still remain. (8 mod maps are uncommon occurences when using Vaal Orbs on maps)
I’m not an SSF player, but this is a bone thrown to that playstyle – a challenge that’s easier to do solo than grouped. Octuple means 8x.
Le Scarab Has Arrived
Complete six eight mod maps while they are affected by at least 3 sextant modifiers and 3 scarabs. (8 mod maps are uncommon occurences when using Vaal Orbs on maps)
This is a simple one – an introduction to the world of high investment mapping, a strategy usually used by 36/40 and 40/40 players, but one that should be accessible to every 24/40 player. If they like it… well, plenty more opportunity to continue running heavily scarabed/sextanted mapping later…
End Game Grinds:
Complete 20 maps at monster level 84 or higher while 60% (or more) delirious.
Complete 20 Augmented Eternal Labyrinths. (Kill Izaro at monster level 83)
This is designed to be mirror tier for Int-stacking assassin wanders. It’s not optimal for other builds which might prefer Elusive or cooldown reduction, but it will still be very strong on those builds.
We are going to take a leaf from the beginner method of solving the Rubik’s Cube and solve this puzzle piece by piece, breaking down the craft and using only steps that leave the completed parts of the item untouched. This will include blocking mods, and selective add/remove crafts.
Tailwind requires Hunter and is hard to roll but trivial to add with Harvest. We’ll add it last, with Harvest.
Got to get 30 quality first or lose the option forever (unless you beastcraft it as final step, but this corrupts the item and precludes chasing corrupted implicits)
Abyssal socket requires a Hollow Fossil (ultra rare Delve drop). It’s worth it – 40 ES AND damage is huge.
Int can’t really be target added, needs a lucky roll. Higher tiers more likely with Sanctified Fossils, the community has no hard numbers here so they may or may not be worth it.
If we hit Int with a bad prefix that can’t be surgically removed, we’ll use “reforge an item keeping all suffixes”.
If we hit Int with a bad suffix that can’t be surgically removed, RNG time. Either annul and pray or Beastcraft ‘remove suffix add prefix’ and pray. 1 in 3 chance to not ruin the item (removing Int or Abyss krangles it)
Add-Remove Defense can be used over and over to try to hit the two desired ES mods; in conjunction with ‘blocking’ the undesired ‘BaseLocalDefensesAndLife’ modgroup.
Once we have ES sorted, time to sort speed. We don’t want to add Tailwind yet (last step) so we will craft on a dummy suffix (not speed tagged) and add/remove speed till we have exactly the Hellion’s mod.
Then we remove the dummy suffix and augment crit. Guaranteed Tailwind.
Harvest has had a love it or hate it response, with the most vocal voices on Reddit (who might or might not represent a majority of players) calling the Grove mechanics boring and uninspired, but the crafting methods the best change to the game ever.
As I see it, there’s a number of common opinions, I’ll try to put each as fairly as I can before providing my own thoughts.
Fair warning: this is a long post. The TL:DR version is ‘nerf Harvest crafting by harshly restricting the top crafts on influnced items’.
Some definitions of categories of players I will use:
As with any categorisation, many people won’t exactly fit any of these boxes. But I think most players will fit reasonably close to one of these categories.
When I use the term ‘casual player’, I don’t mean unskilled or stupid. I’m talking about people who don’t follow POE content much online, who do not know the complex interactions involved in Harvest crafting, and who might set a ‘whole of league’ goal like ‘complete the Eternal Labyrinth’ or ‘Get to Sirus and beat his first two phases’.
These players make up a majority of the playerbase, but because of their lower playtime, I expect they make up a minority of hours played.
Importantly, I’m not including people who try the game and discover quickly that it’s not for them – Steam stats show that only 33.6% of players ever complete Act 2.
Casual players can and do follow beginner-friendly guides and progress far through the game, and this category isn’t forever – many of today’s casual players will become tomorrow’s enfranchised players or even powergamers.
I was in this category up to about Perandus league.
I was originally going to call this section the ‘casual endgamer’ but felt that term would cause people to underestimate their skill. These are the players that reach Path of Exile’s endgame and run hundreds of maps per league, but won’t beat the toughest bosses.
If you can beat Shaper but not in the bad gear you have in the first three to four days of the league; if you can beat Sirus or Uber Elder but not usually do them deathless, if spending four exalts on an item slot seems reasonable but spending thirty seems out of reach, if doing fifteen maps an hour seems manageable but doing 25 juiced maps per hour does not – you are an enfranchised player.
I was in this category from Perandus league up to Harbinger league.
For various reasons, this section of the playerbase dominates online discussion of the game despite powergamers having the loudest individual voices.
Some enfranchised players aspire to becoming powergamers and many do make it.
Usually the most knowledgeable players and the most skilled players, this relatively small section of the playerbase includes almost all streamers, and is defined by an attitude: “If I fail content, I’ll do whatever is needed to improve so I can beat it”.
These players know a lot about the game, and whilst they don’t know everything, they have a good sense of what important parts of the game they don’t know much about and are capable of researching these gaps in their knowledge if and when they become important. For example, a powergamer who doesn’t know about crafting tags will simply research them.
They also can execute difficult strategies when fighting challenging encounters, and will get 36 or 40 challenges in any league they try to. This is the section of the playerbase that can afford to acquire and use mirrors, Headhunter, one-burned-socket Voices and the like, although not every powergamer will do so in any given league.
One last definition: A loot quality scale
I’m going to use an ‘out of ten’ scale to illustrate the power of loot, albeit one that goes up to 11 and beyond. This is an endgame scale, so scores will be VERY low on the items that exist on day 1 of a league.
10/10 is items that would have been mirror tier in Metamorph league. (11 or higher means items that could not have been crafted on a budget of ten mirrors in Metamorph)
7/10 is items that would be good enough for an enfranchised player who has read up on the fight to beat Uber Elder, and likely deathless with practice. A build using all 7/10 items can sustain 2 million damage against Uber Elder even after factoring in DPS downtime due to stopping attacking to dodge slams, icicles, Shaper balls, etc, and has enough defensive layers to leave some room for errors. In previous leagues, this gear was not quite powergamer only, but was close to it.
4/10 is items good enough for a powergamer to beat Uber Elder at leaguestart. Perhaps 500k DPS and not enough defences to allow room for errors with Shaper balls or icicles.
1/10 gear is life/resist gear of middling quality that’s good enough to start running yellow maps (e.g. boots with 25% movespeed, 60 life and 75 points of total resists, or a Coral Ring with a good life roll, two 30-something resists, and minimal/no damage stats).
Other People’s Opinions On Harvest Crafting
Here I want to represent opinions I’ve seen online as fairly as possible.
Probably the person with the most negative reaction to the league, this player type logged into the new league week 1, saw it was all about crafting, and thought ‘yep, this isn’t for me’. These people likely don’t care whether it goes core or not, they just thought the league itself was disappointing.
Probably the group with the second most positive reaction to the league, these players have seen a huge surge of character power in this league. Even though they aren’t crafting gear that’s customized to their character’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s easy to find guides as to how to craft some pretty incredible general purpose stuff, and additionally with plenty of people selling their failed crafts, they can trade for amazing items too.
I think the game going forward should try to capture what this section of the playerbase likes about Harvest crafting – easy access to “5/10” items; items that are good enough for beating second tier bosses like Elder and Shaper but that don’t provide enough power to trivialise harder encounters like Uber Elder or the new monster level 83 Izaro encounters.
Many of these people have 7/10 or better items in most slots this league due to Harvest crafting. A set of Hunter-influenced boots hit with six to eight ‘reforge with a crit mod’ crafts then a couple of accessible augments will likely result in at least one set of boots with Tailwind, 25% or more movespeed, a good life roll and one good resist, an item that would have been ten to twenty exalts last league and that is better than any set of mirror tier boots prior to Metamorph.
Like the casual non-crafters, these people mostly quit the league early.
However, some of them had enough of a powergamer ‘learn whatever I need to learn to win’ attitude to decide that they decided to learn crafting.
Those that did stick around joined the next group, and are probably the most enthusiastic supporters of the Harvest mechanics.
These people have the most positive reaction to the league, as the ultra-powerful crafting allowed them to progress further through endgame content than ever before.
Players who previously killed Shaper and Elder but nothing past that are now insta-phasing Uber Elder while wearing ultra powerful gear that even allows them to facetank a slam, Elder’s Annulus Blast or other instant-kill mechanics.
Some of the best players in this category have gone beyond Uber Elder and AL 8 Sirus and are killing bosses like Aul in the Delve mines and High Templar Venarius in the Cortex, or clearing 100% delirious maps. Harvest provides these players the encouragement needed for them to leap right into powergamer territory.
Among this group, there tend to be two main attitudes to Harvest, two attitudes that are both positive, but entirely counterposed to each other:
Ultimately both are correct. Harvest allows crafting 6/10 items with no trading, just growing the seeds you loot yourself and using the premium crafts you earn from harvesting your own seeds. However, crafting 9/10 and up items requires extensive trading of services, which is (IMO) the most miserable experience in Path of Exile today.
There’s four main reactions from powergamers.
One group focuses upon crafting 11/10 and 12/10 items and trades for bulk delirium orbs and fractured fossils, and uses those consumables to create content that is engaging to run. 100% delirious T19 maps with sextants and scarabs are still engaging up to about 8/10 gear level with top meta builds, or 10/10 level with less optimized builds. These players’ opinions of Harvest come down to how they feel about doing this amount of trading.
A second focused on building one character that’s absurdly powerful then quit the league after feeling they’d “beaten” it. These people reached that point more quickly than ever before.
A third group started out like the second group, but then kept playing, restarting weaker and weaker and sillier and sillier builds, letting OP Harvest-crafted gear carry them. Many streamers will do this.
And finally, there’s a fourth group – people who very quickly quit the league after thinking ‘there’s nothing worth doing at all; this is just playing the core game but easier’. I’ve seen several comments on my channel from people in this category
My Own Thoughts:
My thoughts are generally negative.
I’m usually in the powergamer category. In this league my IRL job has been very busy and my internet has been unreliable (thanks to this damn virus for both) so I’ve stepped back to the enfranchised player level, albeit without losing knowledge.
First and foremost, I have more fun when I’m failing content (or coming close) than when it is ‘on farm’ and success seems guaranteed. This is why I’ve never progressed beyond character level 95 – it’s not for lack of playtime, it’s because I’ll think ‘let’s run a 100% delirious map, that’ll be fun’ or ‘you know what, I’ve never learned the Kurgal fight, so let’s go in blind, that’ll be fun’ and then boom, 6 deaths.
Harvest makes crafting 6/10 and 7/10 items genuinely trivial to players with a working knowledge of the game’s crafting mechanics (of course, learning this is a big endeavour). 9/10 and better requires a lot of trading or luck still, and I hate service trading so much that I’ve only made one 9/10 item so far this league, a life/chaos resist cluster jewel.
The main issue I have with Harvest is that there’s no accessible content that remains engaging once you hit 6/10 and better gear. Tier 14-16 maps are everywhere, but they are tuned to be engaging to people in 3-4/10 gear. Content harder than tier 16 is too rare. But first, two other minor issues – a lack of ‘wow’ moments, and the near-removal of diminishing returns.
Harvest and ‘WOW’ Moments
In Incursion league, I had the best ‘ID scroll craft’ of my POE career, a physical damage one-handed mace with over 400 physical DPS. Underwhelming now, but at the time it was incredible. (Of course, I’ve stopped IDing rares with recent power creep)
In later leagues, I hit occasional incredibly lucky crafts – +3 Molten Strike projectiles enchant on an Elder helm before it went legacy; a Vaal Regalia with the ‘gain an endurance charge per second if you’ve been hit recently’ implicit in Synthesis; etc. I had many a miss too, but these big hits more than made up for it.
In Harvest, there’s none of these moments, it’s just “I’ve calculated I’m 1 in 15 to hit this craft, let’s just keep buying the craft until I get there or get scammed and lose my item”.
I miss these ‘wow’ moments in crafting, when you try to craft for one niche and end up with an unexpected, and amazing result in another.
In Defence Of Diminishing Returns
Prior to Harvest, there were considerable diminishing returns on investment in equipment. Where 4/10 items might have been 10c, each point beyond 4/10 you wanted to go multiplied the expense by perhaps a factor of 5. For argument’s sake assume 5/10 items cost 50c, 6/10 items 1-2ex, 7/10 around 8ex, 8/10 around 40ex, 9/10 around 200ex and 10/10 (mirror tier) around 1000ex.
These matched the diminishing returns upon other character power systems. The first three Lab Ascendancies are pretty easily acquired, the fourth takes a lot more effort. Hitting level 85 grants almost all the power you get for 95, despite 95 taking ten times as long. Going to 100 takes much longer again, and gives very little power.
This is good. It reduces the power gap between players. Doubling what you spend on a character should not double (or more) your income per hour played, that is how you wind up with a Standard-like economy where the rich few have an insurmountable lead over everyone else.
Harvest does not have diminishing returns built in. Using the Harvest ‘remove a Speed mod and add a new Speed mod’ adds roughly the same potential whether it is ‘wasted’ on a set of 1/10 ilvl 70 boots, or used to its maximum potential on a level 86 set of Hunter boots with an abyss socket, 55 Int, T1 flat ES, T1 %ES, a crafted suffix and 10% movespeed.
Diminishing returns mechanics are a gap closer. Harvest doesn’t have them. ‘Normal’ crafting does – getting 2 ideal mods is much easier than getting 3, getting 3 much easier than 4, getting 4 much easier than 5, and getting 6 is nearly impossible. The few 6 perfect mod items that exist in a league (pre Harvest) have usually had literally thousands of exalts thrown at them in the form of metamod crafting.
In Harvest, going from a 3 perfect mod item to 4 perfect mods is exactly the same effort and investment as going from 5 perfect mods to 6 – which means all of the good things about diminishing returns are gone.
(Incidentally, this also means casual and enfranchised players should always sell their premium crafts to powergamers, powergamers can simply use them better and even after the powergamer takes a cut the casual will get more value this way)
Power Creep, Content Accessibility and Map Sustain:
Let’s flash back to Legacy, Harbinger, Abyss, Bestiary and Incursion leagues, the period where I transitioned from an enfranchised player to a powergamer.
In this era of the game, tier 14-16 maps were very much powergamer only. They were somewhat rare and when people talked about ‘sustaining’ tier 15 maps, what they actually meant was “I ran 100 tier 15 maps, got 45 tier 16 and 60 tier 14 drops that I sold, 80 tier 15s, and the proceeds from those map sales let me replace the 20 tier 15 maps I dropped – so I sustained tier 15 maps with a little trading plus made lots of currency”.
An enfranchised player might beat a tier 15 map at this point, but they’d probably suffer deaths and close calls, and likely would experience much better outcomes by dropping a few tiers and running tier 9-13 maps, selling their high tier map drops to powergamers, and maybe running a couple here and there to get Shaper’s Orbs, an item that modified your Atlas like Watchstones do today.
Casual players who made it past Act 10 spent their time mostly running yellow maps.
The key to this era was that powergamers could sustain the content aimed at them (tier 14-16 maps), and if and when a powergamer ran out of the content designed for them, it wasn’t a huge leap down. They weren’t forced into content they found trivial, just down to tier 11-13 maps which were fairly similar to the 14+ maps they’d rather run.
Contrast to today. Consider the hardest content a player is likely to beat with a good chance of doing so deathless, assuming they make use of Harvest’s power creep.
Abyss Era Content
Tier 5-10 maps
Tier 11-13 maps
Tier 14-16 maps
Tier 16 ‘alch and go’
Tier 14-16 maps with up to one augment (delirium orb or Sirus +3 level stones)
Immensely augmented T14-16 maps (all watchstones, high end scarabs, 2-5 delirium orbs)
Power creep (mostly in Harvest, but also beforehand) has rendered our characters too powerful for the ‘old endgame’ of tier 14-16 maps. Content beyond that does exist thanks to Delirium, but IMO this doesn’t solve the issue.
The fundamental issue here is that content beyond T14-16 maps is gated behind extensive trading.
As a powergamer in Incursion league, I could sustain engaging content with minimal trading.
In the Harvest era, because my characters are so much more powerful, I am heavily reliant upon trading to sustain Delirium Orbs, Sirus watchstones and Gilded Scarabs – or Fractured Fossils which are an alternate method of ‘duplicating’ delirium orbs.
Harvest power creep has removed the ability for powergamers and for the stronger enfranchised players to sustain engaging content. Trading – and ultimately, enriching people who run bot cheat software to profit from trade arbitrage – is more essential to endgame than ever before, and the game systems don’t address this.
Gaps Between Players:
The other issue is that Harvest has massively expanded the gap in character power between people who understand crafting, and those who do not. Furthermore, by setting extreme new maximums for character power level, it has widened the gap in power between those who trade and those who do not.
Character power growth is more heavily tied to crafting knowledge than ever before. A player that understands weightings, mod tags, ilvl requirements and mod blocking isn’t going to have items 1 or 2 points better on my ‘out of ten’ scale than they would without that knowledge. They’ll be using 9/10 to 11/10 items while other players use 4/10 to 7/10 items.
Diminishing returns in crafting closed that gap. Harvest blows it wide open.
I think there is one very positive aspect to Harvest crafting – easy, somewhat close to deterministic access to 4/10 and 5/10 items via methods casual players can understand.
However, the overall effect of the mechanic is a net negative, as it pushes the top 25% of endgame players – all the powergamers and many of the enfranchised players – into a position where they cannot sustain engaging content.
Let’s have a look at five possible solutions:
The first option, one advocated by many on Reddit, is to integrate Harvest crafting in full, and tell those players that lose access to engaging content as a result “Put up with this endgame, you don’t matter, casual players are the majority and the developers should only devote time to them, not to no-lifers”. I call this the ‘toxic casual’ attitude, and the choice of words should clarify where I stand. Dismissing the concerns of people who play differently to you is toxic and deserves nothing but contempt.
That said, let’s look what would happen if this were attempted – Harvest crafting goes core close to as-is, with no meaningful nerfs and no increased access to ‘above tier 16’ content. We’d see a growing number of powergamers and enfranchised players quit the game, citing the hassle of trading and an inability to sustain high end content.
With those players gone, so are many build designers, third party developers like Path of Building and Exilence and poedb, and most of the other community resources. Many of the people involved in this part of the game community started as casual players, but by virtue of sticking with the game, most became powergamers – and there’s not enough money in what they do for them to do it for any reason other than a passion project.
The second option is to keep Harvest crafting mostly intact, but increase access to post-T16 content; perhaps by adding Delirium orbs to the pool of mapping-related currencies that the Awakening Level causes to drop from map bosses as well as adding them to other locations in game. This is, IMO, the second best solution overall, but still leaves players needing to go through the hassle of service trading to craft items (ugh).
The third option is to keep Harvest crafting mostly intact, but to raise the difficulty of high tier maps so that enfranchised players and powergamers both have more to do short of highly delirious maps. In practice this would mean massive increases to monster power in those tiers of maps – perhaps increasing HP by factors of 5 to 20, and action speed by 10% – to account for the power creep.
This has major issues of making casual players feel like there is an overwhelming barrier to their progress in the league. For that reason, I’m not willing to advocate something that would hurt casual players that much.
The fourth option is to make nothing about Harvest go core at all. This solves all of the problems Harvest’s power creep causes at the top end of the player base, but comes at (IMO) an unacceptable cost of weakening the level of character power casual players can achieve. Again, whilst I’d find this more fun than the first two options, I’m not willing to advocate something that would hurt casual players.
Fifth and finally is what I advocate – surgical nerfs to Harvest crafts that make them excellent at getting established in a league (crafting 4/10 and 5/10 items) but that cuts out the ability to mass produce 8/10 to 12/10 items.
The specific change I have in mind: Nerf the powerful Harvest crafts (augments, surgical annuls, and ‘remove-add’ crafts) by making them unable to apply to influenced items.
This change would leave a casual player able to make life/resist items to establish themselves in endgame, or to use ‘reforge’ crafts to force one powerful mod such as tailwind on boots, but would not allow enfranchised players or powergamers to push the system as far as we can now.
With that change, I think Harvest can be a good addition to the core game. It would become the unquestioned best way to craft jewels, caster weapons in most niches and to get a set of gear together to start mapping, and would be an important step en route to Awakener Orb crafts, but other types of crafting would have a place in the game again, and the ‘WOW’ moments of hitting something much better than you’d hoped for would be back.
I’ve linked above to the challenge spreadsheet, with notes on each challenge in the league. This is being used to record the videos.