Interview – Loki Davison about Wander
In the wide, vast world of video games, it’s very difficult to hit on a unique, completely unseen hook that gamers have never experienced before. With years and sometimes decades under our belts, we as gamers have been exposed to a wide variety of concepts and ideas. Some have worked, some haven’t, and some stand as examples of gaming at its absolute finest. Wander is one such example of a unique, intriguing concept. Put simply, Wander is a collaborative, non-competitive, non-combat MMO game focused on exploration. Yes, you read that correctly – an MMO that is not based on combat. To find out more about Wander, I spoke with Loki Davison, the producer and creative director for the game. The full interview is below.
A quick summary of the concept of the game before the interview – Wander is all about exploration. You as the player start as a giant tree, and as the game is not about combat or fighting, your goal is to explore the world around you, discovering its secrets and beauty. There are a wide variety of places to explore, with the game covering a massive 64 square kilometre area. Players are about to find 5 different characters to play and morph into, each with their own unique qualities: Ent, Polynesian Elf Girl, Griffon, Azertash (a sea creature) and the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).
Loki Davison: One of the things about the game is that as you Wander, you can discover other characters as well. They’re not really the goal of the game, the goal isn’t to unlock the characters, that’s a thing that allows you to achieve the real goal of the game, which is to explore and enjoy the beauty of the world. Enjoy playing something that’s interesting and different and find things – because that’s what it’s about. Wandering around and finding something and going ‘oooh, look at this, there’s something over there.’
Save Game: If people have never heard about the game and they want to know what it’s about, can you give them a very quick summary of the type of game it is.
LD: It’s a colloraborative, non-combat, non-competitive game, and it’s about that experience of exploration, joy, and discovering new things.
SG: So the goal of the game is to explore?
LD: Yes. So there’s lots of things hidden around the world. We really wanted to have a game that focused on that feeling of finding new things. There’s a lot of things that we realised that games have covered really well. I think there’s already fantastically well done post apocalyptic shooters. We wanted a game that focuses on really feeling like you’re in a different character and exploring what it’s like to be different things, and really focusing on collaboration with other people – I think that the experiences in lots of multiplayer games are so guided by the goals of the game. So if you’re playing one of those games, most of the conversations you have in game are about how you can blow up the other guys.
SG: Can you interact with other people in the world?
LD: That’s kind of the recommended play style, well maybe recommended is the wrong word – the kind of one we hope is going to happen is that people wandering through this rainforest find somebody else and…you’re lost and confused because you’re in this giant world – 64 square kilometres without the floating island – and we’ve really focused on making really long draw distances to make it seem big. You know, you can see floating islands that are four kilometres away. Usually games don’t have those kinds of draw distances. Because of the exploration we really wanted to say ‘look, there’s something you can see really far away’ and then you have to work out how to get there.
SG: The detail is incredible – you can see each individual leaf and the shadows that each individual tree casts – what sort of reference material did you use?
LD: The architecture you see around the place is based mostly on Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from my photos. I spent a while as a nomad, well nomad is possibly a bit of a strong word, but I spent a lot of time wandering around Central Asia, Siberia, the Arctic and the Himalayas. So the idea of exploration is really something I’m passionate about. And with the flight mechanics, I used to be a paraglider pilot. So lots of it, I think it’s the same with lots of smaller games studios, you encode lots of things about your experiences into the game.
SG: It’s a very inviting world – you want to go exploring it.
LD: We really focused on that. The sound design of the game – we really wanted to make it sound like a rainforest. We put a huge amount of effort into making that really detailed, making the characters sounds correct, the footsteps and the different materials, and the opera singers. We really wanted to make that all…have the feel. Because that’s really important for Wander.
SG: It’s exactly the whole game – being immersed.
LD: Yeah. We purposely cut out a lot of things so we could focus on those, like how will this distract characters for a bit of exploration, and how will this keep people focused on working with other people and hanging out with players. That’s our key way we could do that.
This highly immersive game – so much to see, so much to do, so much to explore. Have you thought about the potential for using this type of technology for people who are restricted or bedridden. Or people who are on dialysis machines who have to sit for hours on end with nothing to do.
LD: Our alpha testers – at the moment we have about one and a half thousand alpha testers who have been with us for a long time – our demographics are quite different, which is great because we get to experience different people playing the game. We give people a different way to see the world.
A different experience than what they might generally think of as a game.
LD: Yeah. Exactly. And that kind of collaborative thing is really part of the vibe.
We would like to thank Loki Davison for taking the time to chat with us, and for showing us Wander. If you’d like to know more about the game, check out the official website here, or for more videos and info, you can take a look at its Steam Greenlight page. Playstation 4 console owners may be happy to hear that the game is also scheduled for release on that platform in 2014. For a quick introduction into how the game plays, take a look at the video below.