Hyper Light Drifter burst onto the Kickstarter scene last year quickly reaching a pledge total of $645,158 despite only setting an initial goal of $27,000. That huge success allowed developer Heart Machine to expand the team working on the game, reach more platforms than first planned and include a host of new features.
Alex Preston, the lead designer behind the game, was kind enough to answer a number of questions. In this interview he talks about the kind of experience he is hoping to craft, what titles have influenced and how players can expect to fight their way through dungeons.
You can find more information about Hyper Light Drifter at its Kickstarter page and pre-order the game from the developer’s website. It will be coming to a variety of platforms including PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, PS Vita Wii U and OUYA.
One thing that comes across from all of the released artwork is size and scope of the world. Do different regions and areas in the game have their own unique art styles?
They do indeed. We have several disparate areas, with sub-regions scattered throughout. It’s a lot of work creating the look for each, as I spend a fair amount of time crafting the objects, color pallet and design language for each.
The story of Hyper Light Drifter has so far been left vague. Is that something you plan to continue in the game itself, allowing to player to come to their own conclusions from exploring the ruins that have been left behind?
Story details are intentionally sparse; you’ll find out more as you play through the game rather than with before. I prefer players to experience it all themselves for the first time without interference.
One thing that does seem vital to the overall experience is the atmosphere and tone of the setting. How hard has it been to create that and what emotions are you hoping to evoke in those playing?
It’s always difficult to craft an experience that’s intriguing and atmospheric. It takes incredible amounts of time and effort. Emotionally I would like the player to maintain a combination of wonder and dread. The desire to explore always tempered by the need for caution.
RPG’s from the SNES era are well known for their puzzle elements. How have you incorporated puzzles into Hyper Light Drifter?
We tend towards lighter puzzle elements as we are more interested in exploration and combat. Nothing extreme like the dense LttP [Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past] dungeons. Things like ways to access new rooms are more common for us; secret doors, hidden sequences, traps.
You’ve previously spoken about the influence that both Diablo and A Link to the Past have had on development but are there any modern tiles that given you inspiration?
Plenty! The Dark Souls series is an example of masterful game design from top to bottom. Skyrim and Fallout 3 have amazing scale and writing. Bastion was a well crafted, modernized throwback for the ARPG genre as well.
Since launching the Kickstarter and in subsequent articles and previews one of the biggest points that has been made is about the number and sheer variety of items available to the player. Will most of the items be necessary to complete the game or does it function more like loot, rewarding players for exploration and defeating enemies?
Our major design philosophy with gear: if you’re good enough, you could get through it with just the starting load-out. There’s no item gating. Just player skill. In this sense, it functions more like Dark Souls.
There will be a variety of gear to find throughout (think along the lines of Zelda with it’s excellent, unique and highly focused item designs, not so much Diablo with it’s endless loot cycles that you mostly toss aside), and skills to upgrade to make the character more mobile and adept.
The videos and other media you have released show off the fast-paced combat along with a diverse selection of weapons. Will players have to adapt to different types of combat to progress or can they develop their own natural style through gameplay?
We’re throwing enemies of all types and with several functions at the player, so they’ll quickly need to figure out what works best with our systems.
With such emphasis on the combat how much effort has gone into making the controls as responsive as possible?
Immense. It’s paramount that the game feel as responsive and satisfying as possible.
Will there be a horde type mode present in the final release?
Yes it will.
You’ve also spoken about the importance of co-operative multiplayer. How does the game change when you play with a friend?
It becomes more intense, as more enemies will spawn with another player on screen.
Your highly publicized Kickstarter campaign was incredibly successful. Has that led to any additional pressure on you and the rest of the team, knowing how much people are looking forward to playing the game?
Of course. It’s just in how you choose to handle that pressure. Everyone on the team is very level headed, and we all have a fair sense of what we want to deliver.
It’s more about meeting our own standards, as those can be the most brutal and difficult to reconcile at times.
Finally, indie games have a certain characteristic that allows the personality and traits of the developer to bleed through into them. Do you think that is also case with Hyper Light Drifter?
Absolutely. The story, character and style are all incredibly personal. My life and experiences are curated and prominently exhibited throughout. Without that personal connection, there is no game for me.