In Hyper Light Drifter you’ll travel a ruined land with a twisted past, delving deep to collect lost technologies and unveil secrets long buried. I’d like to share a few of the key components under development that make Hyper Light what it is: 1) combat that’s lightning quick, brutal and never unfair; 2) a strong narrative and character interactions expressed through visual design; 3) a rich and varied world to explore with an intense atmosphere.
At Heart Machine we’re all fans of fast, heavy-hitting combat that requires skill and rewards a bit of finesse. To hell with bulletsponges, witless drones and unfair scenarios. We spend a great deal of time tuning our systems, adding meaningful feedback in the controls, visuals, and audio design so they feel responsive and satisfying each time you lop an enemy in half, blow something up, or wipe out entire packs of ravenous creatures.
Each enemy reacts to strikes with visible knockback, flashes, and brutal sound effects. No weak or shoddy weapons (I’m looking at you, Klobb), no peashooter projectile sounds. The player should feel empowered in every encounter.
Creating intelligent and tactical scenarios with enemies is key, rather than stacking cannon fodder that waits gleefully in line to get their heads chopped off. Some enemies dodge projectiles, others deflect attacks, some (the poison wolves) attack you and vulnerable enemies as a pack. We even have enemies that command weaker types in order to gain an advantage. Each encounter should feel different, and remain challenging.
Narrative & Design
We are wary of endless blocks of text, poorly designed UI, and explicit handholding, which can often dilute a great experience. These leave a player frustrated, or worse, disinterested. Instead, we want players to uncover the rich mythology along with the Drifter in a more organic way, with a narrative that’s not explicit. We chose to recognize that players are smart.
We keep the systems management as straightforward as possible, with zero visible UI elements that don’t relate to the world itself. This helps to keep the player immersed and focused on the moments and constantly unfolding story in the world, rather than on numbers, bars and maps.
Dialogue and quests are presented in storyboardlike sequences, which convey a specific mood without the use of text or voiceovers. This also allows us to keep the game as visually lush as possible and break past language barriers.
To make the world of Hyper Light a believable and compelling space for the player, we’re focused on the excitement of discovery and conveying specific feelings while traversing each new area; you recognize that something is always slightly off, but you don’t know precisely why. A sense of anxiety will build as you travel further and deeper into this savage world.
To achieve this sensation we rely on the soundtrack, which is being scored by Rich Vreeland (Disasterpeace), a master at atmospheric audio design. It will create an identifiable and eerie atmosphere for the landscapes, and develop a darker sound the deeper you explore, pushing the dangerous nature to the forefront.
The visuals will be the other major factor in forging the tone and intention of the spaces. Each environment uses a striking and specific palette to highlight landmarks, and they’re littered with touches like reactive wildlife and intricate architecture. The world is long past its era of great carnage, but remnants are everywhere: craters from battles fought, wreckage from hulking machines grownover, bones from mammoth creatures, tubes of rotting experiments in ancient labs.
Our goal to make an experience that’s visually and atmospherically compelling, has a well-crafted story and is a hell of a lot of fun to play remains a challenge each day, but it’s incredibly rewarding. We’ll be posting more screenshots, videos and other items on our devlog and in future PS.Blog posts, so stay tuned.
Please feel free to ask us (mostly) anything about the game, and we’ll do our best to answer without spoiling the experience.