Interview: Pathless Woods Blends Poetry & Crafting In Ancient China

Featured Image
Pathless Woods - via AniYa Games Studio

While most co-op games target shooters, roguelike, or RPG genres, Pathless Woods takes open-world survival up a notch with a cozy setting in ancient China. Apart from the unique and vibrant setting, the game also offers a significant challenge of crafting resources and defeating enemies. 

Players can progress the game by harvesting different crops and building architecture with a little help from up to 3 co-op players. To learn more about the development and inspiration, we spoke to the founders of AniYa Games Studio via email.

Pathless Woods – via AniYa Games Studio

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role in Pathless Woods.

AniYa Games: Hi everyone! We are the founders of AniYa Games Studio and developers of Pathless Woods.

Pathless Woods draws inspiration from ancient Chinese culture and the poetry of Lord Byron. How do these elements come together to create the game's unique atmosphere?

AniYa Games: I first encountered Byron’s poetry in the movie “Into the Wild” and was immediately drawn to his portrayal of the wilderness.

At the time, we had already begun developing a game about wilderness survival, which coincidentally aligned with our ideas about enjoying and interacting with nature. As such, we decided to use the name of this poem as the game’s title.

Pathless Woods - via AniYa Games Studio
Pathless Woods – via AniYa Games Studio

Can you describe the visual style of Pathless Woods? How does it capture the essence of ancient Chinese architecture?

AniYa Games: We chose to go with a low-poly style because of its simplicity and speed in modeling. This style requires abstraction and generalization of details, which aligns well with the distinctive style of ancient Chinese architecture. Chinese architecture is very distinctive, characterized by unique roof shapes and decorative elements.

We simplified various architectural forms, breaking them down into construction components, allowing players to build and explore architectural designs that reflect ancient Chinese styles.

How does Pathless Woods nail the easiest crafting mechanics compared to other survival games?

AniYa Games: We’ve simplified the crafting mechanics to make them more accessible than in many other survival games. Crafting in our game is intuitive; the complexity does not come from the crafting process itself but from the exploration needed to unlock and gather the required materials.

This approach ensures that players feel a sense of achievement and surprise as they explore and discover new materials that enable them to craft various items. Our goal is for players to enjoy the discovery process as much as the crafting itself, making each exploration and crafting experience rewarding and engaging.

Pathless Woods - via AniYa Games Studio
Pathless Woods – via AniYa Games Studio

Co-op multiplayer seems to be a major focus. How can players work together effectively to survive and thrive in the wilderness?

AniYa Games: In the game, players need to address basic survival needs like food and shelter, gather resources, and engage in combat and construction. Thus, if a four-person team each specializes in and enjoys different aspects of the game—such as cooking, gathering, fighting, and building—it seems that they would cooperate more effectively and work more efficiently together in the game.

Pathless Woods seems to be focusing heavily on exploration. Can you share details on what kind of secrets and treasures players can expect and how they can impact their playthrough experience?

AniYa Games: Early in the game, players must continuously explore and acquire new technologies and items. Every new material discovered may unlock a batch of new recipes, weapons, or construction units. Even for players familiar with the game, the random map generation means they must use their knowledge to predict where desired resources might be located.

Besides material gains, players encounter beautiful sceneries like idyllic peach gardens, serene bamboo groves, and vibrant rainforests, finding perfect spots to build homes along their journey. Through their explorations, you can potentially find rare ingredients, weapon parts with special effects, and gear that cannot be crafted!

character in woods
Pathless Woods – via AniYa Games Studio

The game emphasizes the importance of adapting to the environment. Can you elaborate on the challenges players will face and the strategies they can employ to overcome them?

AniYa Games: Sure! In Pathless Woods, the game dynamically changes with the weather, directly impacting gameplay and posing varied challenges to players. For example, crop farming, a core aspect of our game, heavily depends on the weather conditions. During extreme heat, crops struggle to thrive unless they’re frequently watered.

However, we’ve also made it possible for players to learn how to be adaptable and creative in situations like this, such as using tools like a farming hoe to create irrigation systems. They can strategize and create paths to redirect water from ponds/streams to their crops, eliminating the constant need for manual watering.

This mechanic of altering the terrain is just one of the many ways in which players can tackle the challenges they’ll find in the game, making their survival and success depend on their strategic planning and adaption to the changing elements of the game world.

Jaer Cultists sound like some of the challenging enemies in the game. Can you shed more light on the inspiration behind them and what threat they pose to players?

AniYa Games: The Jaer Cultists are the antagonists in the game. In the story, they worship the power of the Black Dragon, making them formidable opponents. They will attack the protagonist on sight and periodically raid players, hiding essential items in their camps.

Additionally, if players are concerned about the intensity of the Jaer’s attacks, they can offer tributes to appease them. Something interesting to share – feedback from players indicates a divide between those who would rather face dire consequences than give tributes and those who prefer to minimize losses by temporarily yielding!

Cozy Open world
Pathless Woods – via AniYa Games Studio

A Demo for the game has been live for quite some time now. How has the feedback been so far?

AniYa Games: Overall, the feedback we’ve received has been incredibly encouraging. For example, players shared about the exploration aspect, enjoying the diverse landscapes and biomes in the game. The visual style also resonated with them, especially with the cozy and engaging atmosphere that we set out to create.

With that said, we’ve identified room for improvement in-game controls and combat mechanics, which we’ve improved in the Early Access version. We are excited to continue improving the game to make it an even more immersive and enjoyable experience for players!

How many developers have been working on Pathless Woods and how long has it been under development?

AniYa Games: Pathless Woods has been in development for seven years, starting with just one person and expanding to two after five years. Over the past two years, our team has grown to 11 people.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

AniYa Games: Pathless Woods is a labor of love and our first game development project. In this world, players can not only reshape terrains and move mountains but also create various gameplay experiences—from intense exploration and combat to leisurely farming and home building or even managing a busy camp of workers.

While we have released it in Early Access, we will continue to work on improving it and enhancing the gaming experience for our players. Thank you all for your support!

Pathless Woods is an Open-World Survival game, developed and published by AniYa Games Studio. The game was released as Early Access for PC on April 3, 2024. 

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