Airship Syndicate, the developer behind the upcoming cooperative online role-playing game Wayfinder, loves a colorful world. It’s also not surprising why. The team’s co-founder, artist and creative director Joe Madureira, traces his roots to the equally vivid world of professional comics.
It’s a legacy you can clearly see in the bold and vibrant character designs of the titular Wayfinders themselves. These are heroes, called back from the dead to push back a hostile force in a thriving and ever-expanding online world when Early Access launches on August 15.
Leading up to the initial release, we sat down with Joe to talk about how the Wayfinders came to be, and what makes them so special to both play and play. and create.
Where do you start designing a Wayfinder? Does it start with an idea of what the character should be like or does it come from the game design?
Joe Madureira: They are definitely both. Sometimes we start with a theme in mind, like with Venomess. We’ll say, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a character who was kind of a poisoner? Already have a character that deals damage over time? Do we want that?
Other times, we take a step back and realize that we don’t have enough ranged characters, or haven’t introduced a particular weapon type enough to show players what’s possible. Sometimes we use those kinds of concessions to at least narrow things down.
But, you know, sometimes we just start drawing something cool and see where it takes us.
What led you to create a game based on the Wayfinders instead of the more traditional custom RPG characters?
Well, it’s because we actually started with a blank slate, generic characters where you chose a class, like a rogue or a fighter. We started designing the warrior first, with a classic sword and shield, and that’s where we started developing our very basic combat. We then started with the rogue archetype, which ended up becoming Silo.
What really sparked the change was that I sketched out what would become Silo in a slightly more modern style. His shoes became a bit more sneaker-like and he began to look a bit more “sports tactical gear”, rather than a typical fantasy ranger.
At the time, everyone who saw him said that Silo had more character than would fit on a blank slate mannequin. We wish we could have characters with their own unique backstories. We realized that after working on games like Ruined King with Riot Games, we weren’t leaning on our strengths enough.
So, we reevaluated the other classes we had in the kitchen and asked, “What if this was a paladin? What if he was older and grayer and not a 30 year old stud? What could we build from that?
Once you get those first few pieces in place, the rest of the puzzle starts to make sense.
Is there a detail about the Wayfinders that you are especially proud of?
I think we do a good job of telling the story of each character in the game, even now, but it’s something we’re always trying to expand on.
Right now, we have this discovery system that exists even outside of each character. By visiting different locations or interacting with certain objects, you get a bit more lore and some rewards. Within that system, each character also has their own quest that starts new chapters based on how many discoveries you’ve made.
They’re all customised, so Senja will have her own questline that Silo doesn’t, but we want them all to culminate together in a special way. However, even when you complete that, it’s only the end of that first chapter. We definitely plan to add more in the future.
I’m sure it’s hard to choose, but do you have a favorite Wayfinder so far?
It’s probably Niss, honestly, but I think Senja was more likely. I didn’t know if we were going to be able to achieve the combination of her abilities with her personality: the way the crowd cheers around her and the rose petals fall when she attacks.
I think she was the first Wayfinder that felt super unique, to the point where we were like, “We’ve got to push some of these other guys a little bit more…” Senja set the bar and it was really encouraging to get there, so we’re going to try more fun stuff like that.
Wayfinder enters Early Access on PS4 and PS5 on August 15. Season 1 puts the spotlight on Venomess, a Wayfinder who loves to play with her prey while easily switching between ranged and melee combat. Her chemicals can poison her enemies and strengthen her allies, and her boosters grant her tremendous mobility.
You can support the development of Wayfinder and gain early access by purchasing one of the four Founder’s Packs available from the PlayStation Store. In addition to early access, Founders will unlock a set of exclusive, limited-time rewards that will never be available on Wayfinder again: including character skins like Hyroic Kyros, as well as a unique weapon and mount. You can also upgrade your Founder’s Pack at any time via the PlayStation Store.