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.
- The casual non-crafter:
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.
- The casual player that dabbles in crafting:
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.
- The enfranchised player that isn’t interested in crafting:
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.
- The enfranchised player who does a lot of crafting:
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:
- This is fantastic because I can craft my own gear
- This is good but I hate having to trade so much
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.
- The Powergamer
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.