Perhaps you’re interested in Wayfinder because you like the idea of a small-group dungeon-running game published by Digital Extremes. (The studio made another game that’s pretty fun, after all.) Maybe you really like the other stuff Airship Syndicate has developed. Maybe you’re just a really big fan of Joe Madureira’s art, which is entirely correct. Heck, it could be all of the above. No matter the ultimate answer, the best way to find out more about the game aside from playing it in upcoming beta tests is by getting questions answered directly from the team.
Fortunately for you, we had a chance to ask some questions of the team at Airship Syndicate, specifically game director Steve Madureira and marketing and engagement director AJ LaSaracina. If you’re curious about the game’s play sessions, customization, or influences from other games in the genre, head on down to see the full interview.
Massively Overpowered: How is the team working with the small group size for players teaming up?
Airship Syndicate: We prototyped quite a few different group sizes all the way back when we first invited friends and family to play the game. The sweet spot with our moment-to-moment action combat, camera and dungeon experience was a team of three. It gave good readability, ability for teammates to synergize and bring their specialties to the group without overlapping too much, and less crowding around smaller enemies with a team that happens to be all melee focused.
We plan to have content that supports and focuses on more than three players, but for the core experience a team of three felt great.
Are there still plans for larger group sizes than three, and if so, can you tell us about them?
While we don’t have anything specifically to share on this yet, we understand the importance of these challenging end-game activities for groups of players and plan to have larger group content in Wayfinder.
What’s the main goal for players to customize and take ownership of the characters they’re playing?
In Wayfinder the character was lost to the Gloom which is a mysterious entity that has come to the planet and is essentially rewriting whatever it touches. The Wayfinders themselves have been resurrected from the Gloom by a character named Omen. This means that the Wayfinders all share the same past… but not the same future. You’ll enter areas of the game and hear a character perhaps vaguely remember their time there, or when two characters with a history group up together you’ll hear a quip or two.
These things are important for the character to feel like it has a history and a past. In the game though you’re taking control of that character that has a rich history but is able to customize their look, their weapon masteries, their abilities, their mods and more.
How much customization of characters will be locked behind a paywall?
There is a balance here. We want players to take control of their character and how they look, but also want to offer free and fair monetization. Because of us embracing that, all of our characters and weapons can be obtained via play. We have no loot boxes and no gacha of any type. [Emphasis ours, not Airship’s. -Eds] While we will have some customization options you can earn via playing, cosmetics will predominantly be in-store items.
These take a few forms: First is personas (aka skins) that replace the entire look of the character and could fundamentally change the character’s age for example. Cosmetic pieces can be mixed and matched and they replace belts, heads, backpacks and more. All of these can also be dyed. Finally you will also be able to unlock a glamor for each weapon you craft, allowing you to use that appearance for other weapons of that weapon class.
How does the team want to split the player experience between combat and exploration?
We believe that exploration and combat go hand in hand. One thing we always try to emphasize in all our games is the sense of adventure. The overlands (large shared spaces) represent an abundance of exploration and discovery, and the lost zones have a heavier focus on combat.
Your completion bonus rewards will be affected by how much you choose to explore the lost zone. Rushing to the end means you’ll miss things like new lore and discoverables for your Discovery book, completing events for bonus loot, and ultimately less rewards than actually exploring,.
What were the biggest game design influences on the core gameplay loop?
We leaned a lot from our past experience with action combat in Darksiders(Darksiders Genesis, which we developed at Airship Interactive, and Darksiders 1 and 2 for a bunch of us here that worked together in the Vigil days), and from our RPG systems in Battle Chasers and The Ruined King. All of that experience translates well to Wayfinder.
This does represent a new chapter for us though. In the past you release a game and maybe patch it with a few fixes. Wayfinder will always evolve and grow each season and major update that is released, so we expect a lot of design influence to come from the community and our players.
Which games in particular formed a foundation?
All of our games have been a love letter of sorts. Wayfinder is our love letter to the MMO genre. We all have countless hours and memories in World of Warcraft, EverQuest, Ultima Online, Final Fantasy XIV, and countless other MMOs. The social and online elements of those are absolutely in the DNA of Wayfinder. While the game isn’t massive yet, we are definitely trying to incorporate the essence of the things we loved from the genre into Wayfinder.
But these games aren’t the only things we play and draw inspiration from when it comes to gameplay and core system. Games like Monster Hunter, Destiny, Warframe, Darksiders, League of Legends, and Genshin Impact are played by the team and thus have helped shape Wayfinder in their own unique way.
What are the plans for player matchmaking for those who don’t come in with an established group? What about benefits for players who are coming in with an established group?
If you are queuing solo, you will be automatically matched with others looking to do the same content, unless you opt to play solo. We also plan to have a Helper Queue, which will allow players to make matches for any content they’ve unlocked and help fill in any matchmaking holes and make sure there is always a set of people available to make complete groups. Doing so will give special rewards to helpers as well.
Playing with an established group allows for finer planning of party composition and builds. As an example, I may know my friend is going to be running a build high in break power to cut through shields quickly using a two-hander, while I may opt to have to have dual daggers and rely on my friend to break the enemy’s guard so i can tear into the enemy afterwards, and our other friend can play someone who focuses on healing and support. While playing as an established group isn’t required and we want all characters to be able to handle all content solo, it definitely helps! We’ll also have Prime Hunts that can only be accomplished with a group and can require teamwork and coordination to overcome. Stay tuned for more info on that!
Is the team thinking about what an average play session will look like in terms of time and interaction?
Absolutely. We want players to log into Wayfinder and be able to feel like they’re always progressing no matter the time investment they have at that moment. It’s important that we think about the five-minute play session the same as the five-hour play session. Everything you do in Wayfinder is progressing your account level and in turn things like mod capacity, archetype talents, housing items to augment stats and more. We want to have something for all players regardless of the time you can commit.
If your schedule only allows for a casual venture in the Highlands to unlock some discovery locations, you can do that. Same for group play; if you only have 10 minutes you can queue up for a quick lost zone to gather materials. On the opposite end of that spectrum if you’re ready for an organized all nighter boss hunts for those drops you need to complete a new Wayfinder or weapon with buddies, hop in! There is content and progression every time you play no matter what activity you’re taking part in.
Can you tell us anything about the process of bringing the design work from Joe Mad’s art to life?
The studio’s strength has always been bringing unique characters and their stories and worlds to life. Wayfinder is no different. Joe’s work and art has been inspirational to a lot of other games and media over the years. It’s humorous at times to hear the comparison of Wayfinder to other game’s art and character design, when it’s actually just Joe’s art and design.
When the game started it was a traditional RPG where you made a character but that wasn’t playing to Joe or the studio’s strengths. So we decided to try out being character-based, then it escalated to, “well, these characters are dope, so we should add voice lines,” then it went to, “well, each character should have their own signature weapon,” then “but we also want to allow players to customize and make their characters their own, so we should add customization.”
Same thing with locations such as Skylight that started like a regular fantasy town. Then someone drew concept art one day that gave it that neon glow and sense of style, and we said, “OK, let’s put that in the game, that’s Joe and Airship Interactive right there.” The entire talented team at Airship Interactive is responsible for taking the core vision and characters that start with Joe and bringing them to life. We’re always striving to make something we want to play and punching above our weight class, so it was definitely a team effort.
When is the NDA dropping?
We want the foundation to be there and we’re currently working hard to do that.
The topic of our NDA recently came up on /r/MMORPG. People were deciding if it was good or bad and what we might be hiding” so I made the following post, I figured I’d share it here as it sheds light on our rationale and philosophy for creating the game alongside the community but under NDA. The TL;DR is when it’s ready.
Hey there r/MMORPG, long time reader!
First off, this thread has some cool insights and conversations, and I am not posting this because I think anyone is right or wrong. I wanted to pop in here and actually post what we’ve said a few times in our public Discord when people have asked about why it’s under NDA, why we don’t give away codes etc.
We have said from the beginning that we are building Wayfinder alongside the community. The NDA is in place because we know we don’t have it all right currently and we want to learn and grow. Unfortunately in today’s day and age too many minds are made up the second they watch a Youtube video, or see their favorite streamer play the game no matter what you label the title be it technical test, alpha, beta, early access, doesn’t matter. The only content creators that have played to this point haven’t been able to share footage, and were part of a developer roundtable to give their honest feedback back in September. [SIDE NOTE: This was posted before the press embargo on 3/8/2023 when some other creators who were not here in September were allowed to capture + share]
We are truly in beta and testing core systems, servers, customer support, gameplay and other infrastructure to make the best game possible and it’s why we don’t do marketing giveaways for testing or beta access at this time, it’s antithetical to that message.
We have a very active testing Discord and forum where we parse through every bit of feedback that’s good and bad, it’s the only way to properly succeed as an online game.
Again, thank you to those that have played and those that are interested in the game. We’re incredibly excited for the future of Wayfinder and that future involves all players + their feedback… be it you love or hate the game.
Marketing + Engagement Director