Wayfinder Q&A #2 – Developers Share More Details on Character Progression, Game Mechanics of This MMO-Lite

Airship Syndicate (Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Darksiders Genesis, Ruined King: A League of Legends Story) recently held the first Closed Beta event for Wayfinder, its MMORPG-lite free-to-play game, on PC and PlayStation 5. This is the first step towards early access, which is scheduled to be released in May for PC, PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4, while a full release is planned for later in 2023 (possibly on other consoles, too).

Today, Airship Syndicate and publisher Digital Extremes have released a new gameplay trailer. They also confirmed participation in the upcoming PAX East 2023, held in Boston from Thursday, March 23rd to Sunday, March 26th. Attendants will have the chance to check out a new demo of Wayfinder and meet the developers by going to Meeting Room 153A.

The PAX schedule also includes a developer panel that will take place in the Main Theatre of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Friday, March 24 from 2 PM to 3 PM Eastern Time. The panel will also be livestreamed on Twitch for the benefit of anyone who won’t be in Boston.

However, Wayfinder fans can now check out the full transcript of a roundtable interview that Wccftech participated in. In case you missed our previous exclusive interview, you can find it here.

Why did you go with premade characters instead of blank slate characters, which is the default for MMORPGs?

Joe Madureira (CEO of Airship Syndicate): In every game we make, we always try to play to our strengths as a studio. We actually did start out that way but we felt like creating characters with strong identities and visual designs and cool backstories really was more in our wheelhouse. When we started to talk about it and shared it with Digital Extremes, they were very supportive of switching over to a character-based roster. Then it feels a little bit more like a collection. I think collection is a big aspect of Wayfinder anyway and having each character be unique individuals that relate to each other and to parts of the world in one way or another, it’s also a good storytelling vehicle.

A lot of the characters have ties to areas of the world that are even further out than what we’ve created. It just helps world-building so much. It’s really fun to see the fans’ reactions to each of the characters. Some people are even starting to create fan fiction, and that doesn’t really happen when you just have the traditional blank slate characters. It’s been a lot of fun for us. We really try to push each character’s personality, gameplay mechanics, and combat roles.

AJ LaSaracina (Director of Marketing and Engagement): We do have fully voice acted characters. We’re gonna be telling their stories both inside the game and outside the game with marketing materials and trailers and backstories. Inside the game, we’d love to do things like personalized quests so when you walk into an instance or Lost Zone. For example, Wingrave has big ties to a certain place, and when he goes there he’ll say a line about that. We’re excited about its potential to help flesh out the story. There are even small quips between characters that might not trust each other.

The Wayfinders have history, they have baggage, both good and bad. They know each other, they know what they’re doing, and they’re notorious throughout the world.

Can you talk about character progression in the game?

AJ LaSaracina: We have three archetypes in Wayfinder as well as the ability to customize your character with any weapon and any Echoes and really make them yours.

Steve Madureira (Design Director): Outside of their personalities, they are all unique and come with four unique abilities. You’ll be able to customize those with ability upgrades as you’re leveling up. You can’t get them all, so as you’re leveling up your Wingrave will be different than someone else’s based on which upgrades you chose.

You’ll be able to customize appearances, too. You can customize components of them, there’ll be full visual swaps, there’ll be dyes. The customization will be available in the store and earnable in-game.

Each Wayfinder belongs to a different Archetype of the three archetypes featured in the game. Warmasters are the Tanks, the guardians of the groups that will tend to be more resistant and have taunts or if they have more DPS, they’ll be more of a bruiser type.

Most of our characters don’t fit into just a single role, especially since we plan to have a lot. They’ll have a main role and a secondary role. Also, based on how you spec them, you can lean into different aspects of them.

AJ LaSaracina: The other thing about Wayfinder that is important to mention is that you can swap any character that you’ve unlocked at any time, provided you’re outside of a dungeon.

We want players to collect Wayfinders and weapons and then go after new ones. It’s important to note that that is part of the core aspect of the game. You should be able to customize them how you want, but you’ll always be chasing the new Wayfinders, and we’ll be adding more with each Season.

What’s the backstory of the world of Wayfinder?

Joe Madureira: In the world of Evanor, humans share this world with ancient relics from a bygone age that they don’t really know that much about. They’ve always lived near these monoliths and you can see that there are these lit beacons and nobody really knows their origin.

The Seekers study these ancient people. Omen is the leader of the Seekers when suddenly, the beacons that have always been lit as far as humanity can remember, one of them goes out and this enemy force comes through a gate that is now in the middle of their city.

This has been happening all over the world, so Omen figures out Skylight would be the next target and she shows up there with some of the Seekers, enters the gate, and faces one of the Precursors which are basically the creators of this world.

Some of the Wayfinders actually die in the process of Omen trying to light the beacon to keep Skylight safe. At the beginning of the game, years have passed, and Omen has finally found a way to use Echoes, the same power that the Precursor used to create this world, which is now corrupt and has turned into the Gloom and is slowly changing and destroying the planet.

She can use that magic to pull Wayfinders out from the Gloom. Then, using that same ability, Wayfinders get the chance to use a shard of the enemy’s weapon and make these Gloom daggers that can manipulate the Gloom. As the game progresses and your powers grow, you learn more ways to do that. You can also access the Gloom gate in the middle of Skylight to get to parts of the world overrun by the Gloom, the Lost Zones.

Each zone is guarded by a similar gate and you can actually add mutators to your Gloom dagger to change what is going to be generated inside. Each run can be very different, spawning different creatures, different events, and loot drops. It is randomly generated, but you can control the chaos, so to speak, and create a run that you and your friends have been looking forward to doing.

Maybe there’s a boss you need to spawn or certain drops that only happen in certain conditions. It’s a big deal when you find the right mutator.

Steve Madureira: Over time, you’ll get slots for the Gloom dagger where you can add what we call Imbuements. These are major elements of the world, like Greed, Flora, Shadow, Solar, and Chaos. Once you get them, you can slot them in, and it’ll affect the world.

For example, with Flora there’ll be these mushrooms that can spawn and leave acid pools, so you’ll have a bunch of hazards to contend with. You can destroy them as you’re going through the dungeon, there’ll be different drops, so you’ll get certain accessories that you can only find in that run. They’ll drop special resources that you can only get from that run, which you’ll need to craft specific things.

As you get more slots, you can combine them and they’ll have unique effects. An example with Chaos, if you have a single Chaos imbuement, there’s an entity called the Trickster who can show up as an event throughout the run and he will be messing with you and like spawning these bombs that you’ll have to deal with. When you enable both Solar and Chaos, they’ll actually leave fire pools behind.

Can you talk about the Discovery system?

AJ LaSaracina: It’s kind of like a field guide that you’re actually filling out. We don’t tell the players about these things, they have to discover them and find them like Breath of the Wild’s recipes.

It’s fun for the player to figure those things out and it’ll start filling out with what you find in there and how you can go about gaining the resource you need for that weapon you want to craft.

We do have Lost Zones that are specifically boss fights. Some events will also let you use an Imbuement to modify the event. So you might be running around the dungeon and see a chalice and based on what you put into it, it will give you a different buff. If you add Greed, you’ll get a big attack speed buff.

Certain events, like a coliseum type, are based on the Imbuement that you use to start it, so you will get a different boss at the end. Each enemy has their unique Echo, which is another form of customization.

Your characters and weapons and accessories will have slots and every creature has a unique Echo. A lot of them have stats, so you’ll be able to slot them in for stats. More powerful ones will cost more to equip, and as you level up, you’ll increase your capacity. Some will have very big abilities. One boss has an Echo where when you double jump, you can attack power boost for yourself and your nearby allies. Another boss’s Echo does a giant slime AoE when you perform an Air Slam. Each has an internal cooldown, but you could activate them one after the other.

Hunts are when the run is specifically focused on defeating a specific boss. Bosses are tough, so it’s always good to be in a group. A lot of them you can defeat solo.

Then we also have Prime Hunts, for which you’ll need a group. Each boss will have their own unique drops, their own resources that drop to use to craft specific things, they’ll have their own accessory sets that they dropped, and of course, their creature Echo (the bosses all have the more fancy Echoes) to equip. Furthermore, even if you’ve got an Echo already, Wayfinder includes a system called Echo Fusion where you can combine Echoes of the same type to increase their power.

The weapons are basically a character unto themselves. When you get a new one, it’s always at level 1. Characters and weapons will both level up, gain more power, get more sockets, and have more Echo budget. There’s also the Awakening, which will be a way for players to increase the level cap, essentially empowering the character if you ‘craft’ them multiple times.

Can you talk about housing in Wayfinder?

Joe Madureira: For us, it’s not just a place to hang out. It is almost like another paper doll that adds power to your character depending on the things that you equip in your house.

We’ll have stuff like pets and lots of cool things to put on the wall, trophies and furniture and whatnot. So you defeat a boss in a Hunt to get its head, for example, your friends will be able to visit and it’s a cool way to show off. I think a lot of people will have fun building that up and then upgrading their houses over time.

There’s a lot of housing items that are just decorations, cosmetic ways to express yourself, and then there’s a few ways that the housing will actually make you more powerful.

One of them is artifacts, which will be very hard to obtain. When you have one in your house it will unlock the ability for you to basically use the effect that it grants.

You can place a bunch of artifacts, but based on the size of your house, you’ll only be able to activate a certain number of those.

You’ll be able to change the active ones based for example on a Hunt you may be going on, as it might be more effective. Once you get a bigger house, you have more room for artifacts which lets you get more power.

To lean on the social aspect, one of the things we are doing is you’ll have a vessel you can place, and a friend can leave an artifact in your house. It’s a reason for them to visit, giving you a cool artifact that you maybe didn’t have and then you can activate that ability.

Outside of just power from artifacts, there are some decorations that will be like radiant trophies. Not only are they really cool and hard to get, like a boss’s head that you might mount on the wall. Some of them might come with extra gameplay benefits.

There is an event in the ruins where there is a giant gelatinous cube and it’s got something inside. You can slash at it, it’ll stick and you’ll see what the surprise is. You can get one that you can put in your house and smack around for fun.

And then there’s more gameplay-related ones like that Trickster that I was talking about before, he’ll have a bunch of different events related to him.

In one of them, you can find Trickster keys and take a random chance at one of his chests and grab some cool loot. You can get one that can be placed in your house and used once a day and then you might have another one that can get you resources.

Is there a main story in Wayfinder?

Steve Madureira: Yes. The main story quest will guide you through gameplay wise, it’s going to be a way to introduce the systems over time to players and basically guide them through the core content to get to the end game.

Joe Madureira: There is an overarching story and we’ll be building on it. Each season is going to either introduce some new element to the story or just expand on what is there.

But a lot of Wayfinder is gameplay driven; it’s not super narrative driven. That said, there are a ton of side quests as well. We just always want there to be stuff for players to do.

When you first start the game, a lot of the story is just about piecing together what has happened, your character died in the opening cinematic. Since you’ve come back, Omen has been doing her best with the rest of the Seekers to figure out what’s happened to the rest of the world, but they can’t really get very far beyond Skylight. They don’t know if other cities survived.

As a Wayfinder, one of your roles is actually going into the Gloom and retrieving information and knowledge that they can use to hopefully get to new locations. If you can find another beacon and light it, that might create another area of safety within the Gloom. A lot of the story early on is about just figuring out what’s happened and then you’ve discovered there’s more to the threat of the Gloom than you first thought. But as I said, each new season is gonna expand on that. We may introduce entirely new locations.

Steve Madureira: We do plan to introduce a new Wayfinder every single season in the game, they also come with a new signature weapon, their signature weapon, which is a weapon that really fits with the character visually and thematically and lore-wise. The weapon ability will tend to be evocative of that character.

AJ LaSaracina: Besides characters, we’re also gonna be adding new Lost Zones and new Overland zones.

Steve Madureira: Every other season, we plan to add an entirely new location, a new Lost Zone, a whole new area to explore. Potentially there will be new traversal mechanics, new creatures, new items, new things to craft, new quests, and more main story quests.

AJ LaSaracina: We don’t want anybody to feel left out in terms of like, hey, I’ve started playing in season four, what about season one content? The Wayfinders are obviously available, their weapons are available, they can purchase them or they can craft them inside the game.

Are there going to be incentives to play other characters other than your favorite?

Steve Madureira: Even if you’re like, I love Sandra and I never want to play another character. There’s other reasons too because you’ll be getting discoveries, you’ll be learning new stuff. We are also planning an Archetype level mechanic that won’t be in Wayfinder at first, but it is an update that we plan to do shortly after the early access launch. As you’re leveling up a character of an archetype, you build an Archetype level and that will be a way to unlock talents that benefit every character of that Archetype.

So even if you love Sandra and you’ve maxed her out, you might only have access to one or two talents. If you want more, you need to level up another Warmaster like Wingrave. That will get your Warmaster archetype level up, getting you more talents which Sandra can benefit from.

Will there be support for Haptic Feedback and Adaptive Triggers with the DualSense controller?

AJ LaSaracina: It’s something that we are planning. We don’t have any updates on what that is yet, but we definitely want to um utilize all the features on PlayStation 5.

What is the target frame rate on console for Wayfinder?

AJ LaSaracina: We will have a performance mode as well as a quality mode. 60 FPS on the performance mode, while quality mode is still to be decided.

Will you be able to pet the pets inside your house?

Of course, we’d love to expand that system in the future. They’ll start in your house, but we’d love to expand the system. Some pets will be able to mimic emotes and stuff as well, so if you dance, they’ll dance with you.

Thank you for your time.

2023-03-08 20:30:00