One of the most-enjoyed aspects of the Synthesis league was the lore the league explored. At the time, we didn't get a chance to talk much about it, so we're doing so now!

Like most of our leagues, Synthesis started first as a few interconnected mechanics -- namely, the dissolving landscape and the tile-placement metagame. We decided early on in discussions that 'memory fragments', which had previously been established by the Atlas lore, would be a great representation for these dissolving landscapes. Immediately, I knew I wanted narration throughout these areas. We'd just come off the back of Betrayal, however, in which we'd run into issues with overlapping dialogue.

As soon as we had playable prototypes for the dissolving areas, I tried to figure out approximately how much dialogue we could reliably fit into a run of one of these areas without running into overlapping or early-cutting off. Turns out, about a sentence or two.

With our limits in place, writer Matt Dymerski and I set about establishing the central protagonist (Cavas) and the antagonist (Venarius) who, it would be revealed, were one and the same. We wanted a twist in the story, which was to be handled in a special memory early in the Atlas, but we didn't want it to come out of nowhere. A big consequence of the decision to have Cavas also be the league's villain was that we had to then have another character replace him as the narrator. Thus, Zana got to do double-duty that league, as both the Master Cartographer and the main point of contact for Synthesis after the twist.

That you were interacting with Memory Fragments was the first clue to Cavas' true identity. Matt and I developed some 'key' memories which filled out Cavas' backstory, hinting at a particularly disturbing youth. One described his mother approaching the Templar for charity, and likely being abused by them. Another explored Cavas joining a group of people parading into Oriath Square to watch a young Karui slave being hanged. A third looked at Cavas' rise to power in the Templar, an organisation he initially felt he could help change, but which instead changed him.

Our intention was to flesh out this otherwise-minor lore character while painting a more vivid picture of life in Oriath before Dominus. Prior to Synthesis, Venarius was just a name in a few paragraphs of lore.

But those were not the only memories players got to experience! Once we had a list of the tilesets players would find during Synthesis, Matt and I took the opportunity to bring a lot more colour to the world. Players got to experience memories from famous lore figures (such as Raulo/Fidelitas and Brutus), as well as nameless residents of Wraeclast from throughout history. Some described the early days of the Elder's predation of Wraeclast's earliest inhabitants, some at the time immediately before, during, and after Malachai's cataclysm, and others explored the more mundane daily lives of people (including one particularly awkward date!).

Unfortunately, with the evolution of Path of Exile's endgame, much of the lore of Synthesis doesn't fit so well any more. It's unlikely we'll ever directly integrate the lore as we've seen players request, as Venarius, the Shaper, and the Elder have all been conquered.

Speaking of the Conquerors, perhaps we'll talk about them soon!
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Grinding Gear Games

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