Massively on the Go: WalkScape’s Schamppu wants game to walk the fitness walk


It turns out I wasn’t alone in WalkScape piquing my curiosity, so those of you who are intrigued by a new RuneScape-inspired walking-centric MMOARG will be happy to dip into today’s Massively on the Go column, as I’m chatting with the game’s core developer, who goes by Schamppu. We covered everything from how the game’s concept was born to why combat isn’t coming until open beta.

For those who may have forgotten, WalkScape is a passion project, not something from a major corporation. Just from the pitch alone I’ve seen strong similarities with Orna, another game that was also inspired by Niantic’s failings with Pokemon GO.

To start, Schamppu wanted to clarify the game’s background and the motivation for creating the game.

Schamppu: I have found it difficult to motivate myself to exercise due to my ADHD, but find gamifying my exercises [is] very helpful. I enjoy walking with others, particularly my partner, but playing games like Pokémon GO while conversing with non-players can be challenging. This led me to search for a game that could fit my needs, but I couldn’t find one. As a fan of MMOs like RuneScape, I thought combining walking with MMO-style gameplay would be an addictive and fun way to encourage exercise, which I needed. Our game design allows for passive play while walking, making it easy to play during various activities. We are a team of three passionate individuals working to create a motivating and enjoyable experience that doesn’t have microtransactions or other predatory [monetization practices]. The game will also be ad free, and we intend to [monetize] it with an [affordable] subscription (while having a F2P as well) for the online part with an option to pay [a] one time fee if you only want to play it offline.

We’ve noted that competitor Orna is currently balancing its GPS game with a nearly identical spin-off with more traditional RPG gameplay (Hero of Aethric), but Schamppu is quicker to acknowledge the inherent difficulties of GPS gameplay: trusting a company with sensitive data, issues with being a rural player, lack of internet on remote trails, and so forth. I was curious if the game could still work if someone were on a treadmill or if there’s any concern about other kinds of exercise-based cheating.

Schamppu: Treadmills are fine, as long as the phone is in the user’s pocket. Later on, we plan to support smartwatches and activity bands by syncing the game with Google Fit and Apple Health. These platforms offer compatibility with a wide range of devices. Our primary cheating concerns involve mechanical devices that fake walking and apps that record false data. The game will include an anti-cheat system that analyzes players’ step counts. Since humans can only walk or run so fast for a limited time, abnormalities in the data should be easy to spot. If necessary, we’ll continue to improve the anti-cheat system to make cheating more difficult.

Focusing on not just GPS but pedometers and health paraphernalia to track things like heart rate and calories burned has been another sticking point for MMOARGs that say they promote exercise but, well, don’t. Part of it is accessibility, but for me, part of it also has to do with just getting people to get that heartrate up, and that varies from person to person. Again, I’d planned discussing the use of that more in games, so it was good to see that as a planned feature for WalkScape.

That isn’t to say that GPS play is impossible to use correctly, as Orna works well enough by masking the real-world names of all its locations, making large areas “turf” rather than small ones that can give away player locations, having the map auto-populated and features clickable from a great distance to combat not only potential stalking but playing in unsafe/government protected areas, and more.

But dropping GPS altogether is actually something that I’d been considering so seriously that prior to discovering WalkScape’s development, I’d been drafting a whole article on the concept.

As Schamppu beat me to the punch, I was curious if, perhaps, the idea came from other games that inspired WalkScape’s creation.

Schamppu: In terms of inspiration, aside from RuneScape, we also drew from other games. For the “skilling” aspects, like gathering materials and crafting items, we were inspired by Stardew Valley and love that game. The farming mechanic and certain item designs likely came from there. On the other hand, the combat system is influenced by classic JRPGs such as older Final Fantasy titles and Octopath Traveler, which are [some] of my personal favorites. As for the multiplayer features, they were primarily inspired by RuneScape, with a touch of Albion Online.

For those who don’t know, Stardew was made by a one-man dev team, as was Orna for a while, so I was curious about the kind of background Schamppu and their partners had.

Schamppu: I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. My interest in game development began when I was a kid, which led me to study computer science. I also work professionally as a software developer. Our team includes an artist who has studied arts and has a lengthy background in digital and pixel art. We also have a writer and content designer who has extensive experience writing RPG stories, mainly for the CYOA [Choose your Own Adventure] scene professionally. We have been actively developing WalkScape for more than eight months, and the main gameplay components for the closed beta are complete, with only minor features and content left to add.

That being said, I was quite perplexed about the idea of holding off on implementing combat until open beta. It’s not something I really recall happening in other games. I seem to recall Landmark lacked combat in the founder’s alpha, and I believe for closed beta as well, but I’m fairly certain it was implemented before open beta, so I had to ask why the team is holding off.

Schamppu: Our priority is to perfect the main gameplay loop first. For the combat system and combat progression to work properly, players must be able to craft items and gather materials. If we focused on combat first, players wouldn’t be able to upgrade their gear.

I think the most revealing thing about Schamppu’s answer is that it drives home WalkScape as a crafting game first. That may turn off some players, but for me, it’s why titles like Horizons/Istaria and Star Wars Galaxies drew me in. That being said, WalkScape isn’t made to be combatless.

Schamppu: Our game design principle divides WalkScape into two halves: exercise and active gameplay. We want players to focus on their exercise without being glued to the screen, making it safer to play outside. The game won’t require active involvement while walking, so it can be enjoyed with non-players, pets, or even during work breaks. The active side, which includes combat, is intended to be played at home in a turn-based system against enemies or other players.

While my question was about how PvP would work in the game, Schamppu’s answer actually covered a few other things. As I noted in my first hands-on with Orna and a few times since, the hardest thing for me about the game is all the temptation to play while walking. The turn-based combat and never-ending MOB spawns make it hard to put down, which is a big problem if you’re trying to walk while navigating spell menus. Making both PvP and PvE intended as an at home activity doesn’t just feel safer but really harkens to the StreetPass play I’ve written about several times over the years. It’s both safer for players and helps build better exercise motivation.

However, I have to admit that having GPS-linked sites plus the tell-tale curveball finger-movement makes it easier for me to find POGO players than any other mobile title. It’s how I found one of my closest friends, made a bus-buddy when I worked downtown, and how a coworker discovered I played. Finding other players to play with isn’t just tough for MMOARGs but for exercise games in general, so I wondered whether WalkScape will do anything different than, say, Pikmin Bloom or Ring Fit Adventure.

Schamppu: We already have a sizable community for the game, and we recently held a successful community event. We plan to continue organizing events that bring the community together. As for multiplayer features, we have many planned for the game. During the closed beta, we’ll introduce a party mechanic that allows friends and family to work towards common goals. We aim to expand these features significantly during the open beta.

Now, some of this is kind of vague, and there’s no getting around that. Having community-documented events is a cool concept, but I have to admit that despite doing Earth Day POGO events for years, I can never get my community or friends involved. I suppose the game is both online and low-key thanks to being GPS-less, so that does make it a bit less focused on creating player connections in meatspace. On the other hand, it also means that going out with friends still generates plenty of virtual rewards, and I’m all about that, as long as it’s tied to multiplayer in some form.

The devs mentioned in their FAQ that WalkScape will have various settings to allow for both offline single-player and online multiplayer, but I was curious about how exactly this would work, especially with moving characters.

Schamppu: Players can move their online characters to the offline mode, but not vice versa. Since there won’t be an anti-cheat system in offline mode, moving characters back to the online mode could lead to abuse. The online mode will be divided into competitive and casual play. Casual mode is an accessibility feature, allowing players to customize the difficulty to accommodate injuries or disabilities. Players can also increase the difficulty for a more challenging experience.

In theory that sounds great, but I also wondered if maybe I missed something like private servers or various server rulesets.

Schamppu: We currently use a single global server for the game. Due to our status as a small indie team with limited resources, we cannot afford to launch with an extensive set of online features. During the closed beta, we will offer a limited set of online features and expand them as the game progresses and our financial situation allows.

So for now, it sounds like some of the custom rules would be limited to your character as options, aside from players who want to do offline mode. Which seems fair, given the small size of the team and how early in development the game is. Naturally, even now, there are some things the team has tried that haven’t exactly worked out.

Schamppu: As we are still working towards the beta and focusing on the main components of the game, there haven’t been many features we’ve had to scrap so far. However, while developing the item and inventory system, we initially included multiple tags for crafting materials, such as “magical” and “valuable”. This made the inventory too cluttered with different versions of the same material, so we removed those tags and retained only the “fine” material variations in the game.

We’d like to thank Schamppu, for answering our questions. Not every dev is willing to speak so candidly with press! You can learn more about the game on Reddit, Twitter, and Discord.

Schamppu: We’d like to express our gratitude to our loyal fans and supporters who have been with us on this journey. Thank you, readers, for taking the time to learn about our game. […] We look forward to sharing more updates and developments with you! I hope this game [can] help many people to put on their walking shoes and get moving!

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
Previous articleStar Citizen shows off development progress on its next indoor kart racetrack
Next articleZenith’s Skyward Summit update launches May 11 as Ramen holds back Cyber Ninja’s subclasses

No posts to display

oldest most liked
Inline Feedback
View all comments