“When we started this studio, we didn’t think we’d be making games on this scale again,” said Airship Syndicate’s Joe Madureria. Signpostthe studios’ free-to-play action MMO, has just been shown on The game prizes. This is the first milestone for a game hoping to establish itself in a dog-eat-dog ecosystem brimming with games fighting for your time.
Wayfinder is the product of four years of work in conjunction with Digital Extremes, the game’s publisher and a source of experience for the Airship Syndicate team. Joe Madureira has been around for a while, responsible for the Darksiders series and a steady production of smaller quality titles like Ruined King: A League of Legends Story and Battle Chasers. With Wayfinders, the Madureira studio returns to a genre it feels they are adept at, in a game they’ve always wanted to make.
But what exactly can you expect from Wayfinder? As a 3rd person action MMO, you’ll find yourself at home in Skylight, a safe hub where players can pick up missions from NPCs, craft weapons and Wayfinders (characters), and crash into their own player-owned apartment. From here, they can venture into The Highlands, an open-world zone where a range of dailies and public events take place, or take on Lost Zones that act as customizable dungeons that players can customize for different experiences.
In the main gameplay loop, you’ll set out to collect treasures and resources from the world using a fully voiced, clear Wayfinder and your chosen weapons to overcome whatever lays before you and come back with useful loot. You then proceed to create new characters and gear, customize your home, pick up more missions, and rise to an account level that will act as an overarching indicator of progression through the game.
According to Madureira, the game is built around four pillars: “exploration, adventure, combat and gathering”, with all four seemingly flowing into one another. Take Lost Zones; Initially seemingly simple missions for you and your friends to take on, these full-fledged dungeons can span from eight to 20 rooms and are heavily modified by Mutators, craftable items that swap a Lost Zone’s monsters, traps, bosses, and rewards when used.
“You may have to do something 20 times to get the jailer’s key, but I have all the right mutators to spawn the jailer. Let’s form a group and get this done!” states Madureira, giving an example of how mutators can lead to a variety of experiences. The reason for doing such a task is for new stuff, which extends to customizable player housing, something the team hopes to expand beyond the apartment system available at launch to full neighborhoods. “We hope all of this will allow players to customize their playing experience.”
Player housing, a non-linear gameplay experience, collection-driven progression with a focus on grabbing new and unique Wayfinders… Gosh, this sounds a lot like Warframe! This is something Madureira and team acknowledge, but they firmly believe that this isn’t fantasy-punk Warframe. “From the beginning of the project, the ideas were our own, but a lot of Warframe’s DNA and experience was shared. They’ve been very careful not only to make this Warframe, but there are some overlaps in terms of systems. The partnership is about leveraging their experiences.”
It’s clear that Digital Extremes is more than just the five-format wallet behind Wayfinder, though the resources they’ve provided would have apparently allowed Airship Syndicate to expand Wayfinder’s scope extensively.
“We thought we would be this indie little rag-tag studio in Austin. But we are ambitious people and if we have a partner like DE supporting our dream to create a new online world. It is not an existing IP address, we create it from scratch. Being big MMO players and fans of the social aspects of these types of games. If you had asked me five or six years ago if we’d ever do a game like this, I’d be very skeptical.
“I think creating an online world – you absolutely need the right partner, the money and the resources, which a small studio is going to have a hard time getting. Since it’s also free to play, that’s a tricky arena to enter without experience. Without DE as a partner… they basically couch us all the time and learn from their past experiences. I don’t think we would have even tried without that.”
With the PC tech beta sign-up for Wayfinder live now, the console beta coming in June, and a full Early Access release planned later, Madureira has high ambitions for Wayfinder that he hopes will excite players who decide to get into the game. world they’re creating.
“Building new IP is always super fun. Creating new worlds… That’s something I really enjoy. Every project is a little different. For this one, we definitely approach it with the thought of ‘how can this world exist outside of games?’. Shows, movies, whatever. We try to make the characters really interesting and create a world where we can tell a lot of exciting stories.”
As for how he will seduce players in the first place, win them over the concrete monoliths that litter the live-service landscape, he is only focused on what the team is good at. “We will have very deep combat systems, cool characters that will look great, great creatures…
“We can only put our spin on it and hope for the best, there is no guarantee. If you like our past games and like our aesthetic, that’s just 10x. We’re totally going for it.”