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Mar 14

Creating the World of Hyper Light Drifter on PS4 and PS Vita

Alex Preston's Avatar Posted by Head of Heart Machine

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.


Hyper Light Drifter on PS4 and PS Vita

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.


Hyper Light Drifter on PS4 and PS Vita

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.

Add Your Own

Cruel_Elijah said:

March 14th, 12:43 pm

Will there be a Co Op mode?

    Alex Preston's Avatar

    Alex Preston said:

    March 14th, 1:25 pm

    Yes, there is indeed co-op!

PrimeroIncognito said:

March 14th, 12:48 pm

@ Mjolnirs


mrcory said:

March 14th, 12:54 pm

So, will we get to fight EVAs?

doppelganger514 said:

March 14th, 1:04 pm

I can not wait for this game. It looks so good.

killu4what said:

March 14th, 1:13 pm

This is the first I have seen of this. I am very intrigued. It looks great.

UnrealSackboy said:

March 14th, 1:20 pm

Hey Alex!! I backed your game via Kickstarter in October!! Glad you are getting so many eyes on Hyper Light Drifter!! I can’t wait for the Beta!! :D Keep up the amazing work!!

Garbage943 said:

March 14th, 1:41 pm

That looks amazing! I am instantly sold. Can’t wait to pick this up.

HuckQ said:

March 14th, 1:54 pm

Your pixel artstyle is beyond wicked!

MarinoBrea said:

March 14th, 1:57 pm

It has kinda like a Commodore 64 flavor to it…

Rezznak said:

March 14th, 2:09 pm

I was probably going to buy this game reading over this blog post and watching the trailer. But it’s a %100 buy now that you’ve mentioned co-op.

LOVING THESE INDIE GAMES!!!! It’s next gen era but I’m having more fun with these titles than any other next-gen game!

BELERIAN1982 said:

March 14th, 2:10 pm

omg, i cant wait to play this game on my vita!!

PK_Haseo said:

March 14th, 2:44 pm

I call lawsuit that one of these monster have a close resemblance to “Neon Genesis Evangelion” Unit-02 (Alan/Angel/Robot)

Check the video an skip to 1:14/1:59 Also 1:31/1:59 for a better look.

…Character does look like a little old lady running around in the game from a far distance.

luvtoseek said:

March 14th, 3:06 pm

@29, Mjolnirs- You’re wrong there buddy. Sometimes I’m less than 50% interested in a game & a Platinum will push me over. Nothing wrong w/ that & it’s not ‘disrespectful’ at all to ask or to otherwise claim ‘It’s all about the trophies.’ Additionally, devs actually enjoy testing gamers w/ Achievements/Trophies & have openly stated on the PSN Blog & via tweets whether their game has a Plat.

Bottom line is, whatever incentive entails a gamer (consumer) to purchase A or B; we shouldn’t judge. IMO though, Chriss may be on the fence about Hyper Light but didn’t state so as eloquently.

I like this game & I’m a Pleb when it comes to Trophy Hunting. I see trophies/achievements as challenges from the dev to the gamer. The feeling of accomplishing these ‘trials’ is great!

Back on topic: Looks promising, thanks for the update Alex!

luvtoseek said:

March 14th, 3:07 pm

Opps, forgot to ask: is it native res. on the Vita?

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    Alex Preston said:

    March 15th, 11:08 am

    It’s an inherently low-res game, but it’ll look great on the Vita and every other screen.

Wozman23 said:

March 14th, 3:45 pm

I wasn’t paying attention to this one because I don’t like retro-inspired graphics. I’m now willing to make an exception.

PrimeroIncognito said:

March 14th, 3:52 pm

@ luvtoseek

I feel the same way about trophies that you do, but Mjolnirs is right.

Game first, trophies second.

I like to earn as many trophies as I can, and, like you, I see them as extra challenges to complete. But, when I buy a game, it’s because of THE GAME. Whether or not it has a platinum, or how many other types of trophies it has doesn’t affect my purchase whatsoever. I buy a game because I’m interested in the game. Whatever the trophies happen to be, I accept them as they are, and then try to earn as many as possible.

In my opinion, that’s how it should be. The way I see it, when someone turns down a game because it lacks a platinum, they weren’t really interested in the game in the first place. When you really like/want a game, the trophies don’t matter.

MY OPINION. (<– Key words; no need for anyone to get all huffy.)


sajoey said:

March 14th, 3:55 pm

Hotline Miami was my most anticipated indie game coming out this year. Then I saw this. Oh god I want this so bad.

LoopbaK said:

March 14th, 3:58 pm

Brilliant. Looks like a contender for GOTY— ..Game of the Century!

TigerStealth said:

March 14th, 4:03 pm

Music is incredible in the trailer! Gameplay looks great too, and I’m loving the art style & boss designs

tusunami said:

March 14th, 4:26 pm

The pixel games are coming and making a comeback which I welcome. Haven’t seen this before but the design looks amazing.

UltimaWeaponFF13 said:

March 14th, 4:30 pm

WOW! Look at those amazing PS4 Graphics!! No wonder its not coming out for the PS3, it wouldn’t be able to handle this state of the art game!

    Alex Preston's Avatar

    Alex Preston said:

    March 15th, 11:10 am

    The PS4 is a more open platform at this point, so that means it is far easier for us to publish the game on it. It has nothing to do with the power of the systems, Ultima.

Rainwater said:

March 14th, 4:41 pm

Looks really nice. Very impressed

CidV630 said:

March 14th, 5:04 pm

I know this is unrelated but I wasn’t sure where to post my question so I’ll just ask it here. Will the new episodes of season 4 of Game of Thrones be available for download soon after they are aired? The way walking dead is?

Mega-Sackman said:

March 14th, 5:14 pm

Bastion meets Fez? where do i sign?

SegaSaturn617 said:

March 14th, 5:58 pm

Can’t wait to receive my physical box ;). This was my first supported Kickstarter game ever. Fell in love with it instantly and had to support it. Hope to see a release date soon! It’s going to be hella fun.

SephirothItachi- said:

March 14th, 6:06 pm

I only found this game thanks to Jimmy Champagne on twitter and it has quickly become my most anticipated game of this year. I love the look and the music and everything i’ve seen so far especially the character gifs on tumblr and your kickstarter updates. Wish I had found it earlier to back it

Kchow23 said:

March 14th, 6:27 pm

Wow that trailer was pure awesome…quite easily in the top 5 indie games that I want to buy!

Peerinward said:

March 14th, 6:28 pm


I’m curious as to how stating one would buy a game for its platinum trophy is incredibly disrespectful. chrisgomez said that in a completely nonchalant manner, whereupon you proceeded with belligerence, putting down his fun of trophy hunting. You’re acting overly defensive and critical over a preference that is perfectly fine to have.

Talk about being incredibly disrespectful. Some platinum trophies take 50 hours of a person’s time to earn. What did any trophy hunter do to deserve your needless flak? Like I said, live and let live. You still do not have any right in dictating the actions of people different from yourself. What you’re saying is just making you look like a hypocrite.

Nothing comes out of thin air. Of course the team has put in a lot of effort into the game. We know that. Does that mean everyone must share your exact line of logic and toss aside their interest in other things, such as trophies? If a platinum trophy is what drives someone to buy the game, so be it! Let it go! Just let it the hell go! Don’t get all grinchy and expect people to want the game the same way you want it, especially when those people aren’t harming anyone.

    Alex Preston's Avatar

    Alex Preston said:

    March 15th, 11:12 am

    We are planning on trophy support, as we know some find it important, and it is a fun addition and layer of challenge.

DigiOps said:

March 14th, 7:01 pm

Yes, please. :D

Hulk2c said:

March 14th, 7:07 pm

I need this game but first I need a PS4.

Mjolnirs said:

March 14th, 7:37 pm

@78 “if this gets a platinum trophy i will buy it.” That right there sounds to me like it’ll be the main reason to buy the game. The nonchalant manner it was stated is what’s most offensive, as a matter of fact.

“putting down his fun of trophy hunting” Please. The bulk of trophies/achievements out there are nothing more than measures of progress. An extreme few are true showings of skill or bragging rights. But worst of all is the fact that these offer no rewards whatsoever. If you do something major in a video game, you’re expected to be rewarded in a major manner, right? Same logic applies to trophies but you get nothing. They are virtual stickers.

thezenguy said:

March 14th, 7:54 pm

today i became a proud owner of a ps4, i got scared when i turned it on for the first time, it sounded like a chain saw, i think it was warming up for the first time, since im in new england and its cold and i got a next day shipment and there was nothing on the box to actually protect the ps4 box, but then soon as it was finishing downloading the upgrade the fan started to quiet down and i dont hear it anymore… the other thing i dont know if its an issue is that i am a ps plus memeber but when i access ps store it keeps asking me to subscribe when i try to enter on the psplus part of the store, perhaps a bug for psn to fix, other then that i can go to games and scroll down on games that its free to download when its a psplus member free game collection. can wait for elder scroll online, order, drive club, gt7, mgs V, ffxv, kingdom hearts 3, west version of yakuza ishin and some amazing indie games soon to be released.

djsaiyan said:

March 14th, 7:58 pm


You haven’t watched enough Evangelion if you think that looks aaaaaaaaaaaanything like Unit-02. Humanoid robot does not equal EVA unit.

MadSystem_ said:

March 14th, 8:23 pm

Hyper Light Drifter is one of my most anticipated indie games for 2014. Really looking forward to it.
May I ask if you guys are planning to make New Game Plus considerably more challenging than the first playthrough?

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    Alex Preston said:

    March 15th, 11:13 am

    We’re always looking for ways to make the game more challenging, so this mode would absolutely kick some faces in.

chrisscales said:

March 14th, 8:32 pm

Come on sony, really? this looks like a gameboy game. You guys gave us the best next gen console but have yet to give us some real games displaying the potential of the hardware. Step it up this is not what your true fans are looking forward to!

    Alex Preston's Avatar

    Alex Preston said:

    March 15th, 11:16 am

    Sony is not making the game, and I think having a strong variety of games on any given platform is what makes it great. We all want to see new experiences that push the limitations of the hardware, but there remains plenty of room for other games as well.

Unretributed said:

March 14th, 8:34 pm

I can’t wait for this! I put up $90 for this and Project Phoenix when they were being Kickstarted on each of their first day!

    Alex Preston's Avatar

    Alex Preston said:

    March 15th, 11:14 am

    Thanks, Unretributed! You are a kind soul.

ClawOfTheFallen said:

March 14th, 9:15 pm

Extremely gorgeous!

DigiOps said:

March 14th, 10:34 pm

I’m really disappointed that there are so many people posting about graphics. Gameplay should come first. What’s wrong with sprites? Why should everything look photo-realistic? Stop being jerks.

sat155 said:

March 14th, 11:03 pm

hey alex, will region 3 have this game, it look good and promising :D. i have psvita hope you release for another region like region 3. can not wait to buy it ;)

    Alex Preston's Avatar

    Alex Preston said:

    March 15th, 11:18 am

    We want to release to as many regions as possible. Region 3 is a great market, so it’s on our wish list.

zepified said:

March 14th, 11:35 pm

This game looks like it was made for me! : ) It also looks like the perfect type of game to be played on the Vita. This game kinda reminds me of what Zelda/Metroid/Castlevania would look like if they were all mixed together to form a brilliant action RPG adventure game?!?! There’s not much else I can say about how awesome I think this game looks and I can’t imagine it NOT being one of the best Indies to come along in awhile. Definite day ONE buy for me!!!

XSenshi-TenshiX said:

March 14th, 11:40 pm

This game looks like an 8bit extravaganza. I really appreciate the game design and style . When does it release and can we get a sequel started now

zepified said:

March 14th, 11:57 pm

I actually just read a few more responses about this game and I am wondering how it is that some people seem to want to make two different types of games and their very existence mutually exclusive?? If you buy a PS4 and you’ve started to see a lot of these smaller Indie type games being released, it doesn’t in any way mean that the big-name AAA aren’t coming. How anyone can come to such a conclusion is beyond me!? In addition, Indie games being made and released on the PS4 that are being revealed at a higher frequency than AAA games doesn’t somehow take away resources and therefore stop or slow down the development of AAA games. In other words people, both types of games are being made at the same time… I know that may be hard to believe but it is in fact true.

zepified said:

March 14th, 11:57 pm


Besides, what is so hard to believe about the reasoning behind why more Indie games are being developed?? They are made by smaller devs with far lower budgets and are easier to produce overall compared to a massive AAA game with a gigantic budget and hundreds of devs taking years & years to make a single game. Of course Sony is going to fill their release list with Indie type/style games in between their larger AAA big-name releases. And besides the fact that Indie games often experiment with new & original ideas & play styles that you simply don’t see the larger devs doing, for me that just means I get to play all of these original smaller games in between my waits for the bigger AAA games. So what again is the problem here??? Because the “problem” sure isn’t taking away anything from all of the inevitable AAA big-budget games still scheduled to come out. This is where the average logical person would say that we get to experience the best of both worlds.

Sevyne said:

March 15th, 2:56 am


Judging by your Name/Avatar, you are the LAST person who can criticize a game with your terrible taste in games.

Anyway, really looking forward to this game.

Remiel89 said:

March 15th, 5:26 am

I’ll love this.
On PS4 on its D1!


March 15th, 8:08 am

This game looks fantastic

tokyopunchout said:

March 15th, 9:27 am

This looks so dang beautimus! Keep up the good work – looking mega forward to this!

Elvick_ said:

March 15th, 11:32 am

Backed this, and I’m glad that I did.

PrinceofXIII said:

March 15th, 2:06 pm

Definitely one of my most anticipated games ever!!!!

Thank you for bringing this on PS VIta. This game is perfect for handhelds!!

Btw what was the main inspiration for the art and this enemy?

This reminds me of Evangelion Angels for some reason :D

Keep up the good work!! Buying this Day 1!!!!

bmrskate said:

March 15th, 3:48 pm

Well, I’m sold! Too bad we have to wait so long! I always love a good stylish throwback game. I like the slightly cyberpunk theme.

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