Drifter Interview: How Celsius Games Are Redefining Procedurally Generated Open World Games

A procedurally generated galaxy made up of tens of thousands of star systems.

Posted By | On 09th, Jul. 2014 Under Article, Interviews | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet


Drifter is a procedurally-generated open-world sandbox space trading game where the player takes on the role of a spaceship captain. You will make your living through trading goods and materials between star systems, looking for bounties and mining asteroids. With the advent of procedurally-generated open-world games like No Man’s Sky and Star Citizen, Drifter does sound like an interesting prospect.

GamingBolt got an opportunity to speak to the founder of Celsius Game Studios Colin Walsh  to know more about this exciting multiplatform title. Check out Colin’s response below.

Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the universe, vast as it is, of Drifter?

Colin Walsh: The idea behind having such a vast number of star systems in Drifter is it gives me and the players a lot of room to do things in. In addition to having a lot of mysteries to explore and uncover there will be a number of factions occupying the colonized areas of the galaxy where the player’s adventure begins. Specifically the player will start in an area known as the The Unaligned Worlds Treaty Zone which is a sort of “Wild West” where a bunch of disparate star systems have banded together to protect themselves from both The Commonwealth of Free Stars and The Solar Dynasty who tend to fight one another over resources are ideologies.

As well there is a loosely-organized band of space pirates that operate out of a number of systems on the frontier of known space and finally the Song of the Infinite Abyss who are a mysterious group of half-crazed fanatics who seemingly randomly attack ships, taking them and their crews, who disappear without a trace.

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"It’s actually my goal to try and make it so you can play Drifter with a number of play-styles and for it to be as enjoyable for each style as possible."

Rashid Sayed: What will be the prime directive for various players in Drifter? For example, will there be different story missions depending on the various play-styles? Which approach offers a more fulfilling experience from a player perspective?

Colin Walsh: It’s actually my goal to try and make it so you can play Drifter with a number of play-styles and for it to be as enjoyable for each style as possible. I hope to be able to accommodate both peaceful and aggressive approaches to playing and of course people who want to choose from both are free to do so. For example there will be mining, trading, exploration, missions, bounty hunting, and even space piracy to choose from.

Rashid Sayed: Can you give us some examples of the hand-crafted missions players will receive? Some examples of procedurally generated missions and star systems would also be great.

Colin Walsh: Well, basically with the hand-crafted missions I want to give the player a cohesive story that will be revealed as they play through them. While it will be optional to start playing these missions the idea is to let the player learn more about the Drifter universe by playing them. For procedural missions generally speaking they’re based on a variety of mission types that then have randomized goals and destinations.

Things such as deliveries, rescue attempts, fetch missions, bounties and even dreaded escort missions. As for the star systems the idea is that each star system has a random set of planets, either occupied or unoccupied, space stations that the player can dock with, and asteroid fields and other points of interest that the player can interact with. As well the technological development level and government type in each system helps determine things like the prices and availability of goods and equipment.

Rashid Sayed: While many procedurally generated games like No Man’s Sky and Star Citizen take a more simulation approach, Drifter appears to be more focused on exploration. Can you tell us more about how it differs from similar titles in the genre?

Colin Walsh: I think it’s probably similar in some ways, what with all of these games being cut from the same cloth, but with Drifter I want to support a shared sense of exploration in a large single-player space. Basically even though the game is single-player all the locations in the game are experienced by all of the players so I’m going to try and create areas and points of interest that I hope the players will share with one another online outside of the game.

drifter

"My partnership with Sony has been excellent so far. I’ve feels like they genuinely care about me and they’ve been nothing but supportive and accommodating in all my dealings with them."

Rashid Sayed: Drifter will be heading to the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita. What are your thoughts on Sony’s policy of supporting small studios?

Colin Walsh: I feel Sony’s approach to supporting small studios has been fantastic. They’ve been working hard on getting a lot of great independent games on their platform and while maybe some people don’t care for smaller games I feel like these new and exciting games are breathing fresh air into the console space and helping to increase the overall health of the PlayStation ecosystem.

Rashid Sayed: How has your partnership with Sony been thus far and how did it benefit Drifter’s development?

Colin Walsh: My partnership with Sony has been excellent so far. I’ve feels like they genuinely care about me and they’ve been nothing but supportive and accommodating in all my dealings with them. I’m not sure there’s been any direct benefit to Drifter’s development but it’s certainly given me a lot of confidence and motivation.

Rashid Sayed: Will you be taking advantage of the PS4’s unified architecture or the PS Vita’s Remote Play abilities? What benefits does the PS4 present to development for Drifter?

Colin Walsh: While Drifter may not be taking much advantage of platform-specific things on either PS4 or PS Vita it will definitely benefit from the large amount of system and video RAM that both systems have. It will make porting from desktop much easier than it would have been if either had less.

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"While Drifter is fundamentally a single-player only game the game’s galaxy uses the same seed for each player which means that everyone will be inhabiting the same galaxy."

Rashid Sayed: Though it began life on iOS, Drifter is also heading to PC and Mac. With so many different migrations and platforms, how easy or hard was it to essentially port your code over to the PS4 and Vita?

Colin Walsh: Drifter has been designed from the beginning to be as platform-neutral as possible given the number of platforms I’ve already planned to bring it to. That said the PS4 and Vita, being consoles, have a lot lower level graphics architecture that required me to re-write part of my engine’s graphics layer. In the end it only took a few days each to get the game running in a rough state despite it being a bit of a challenge.

Rashid Sayed: Will Drifter feature support for multiplayer or allow players to cooperate with each other at any point?

Colin Walsh: While Drifter is fundamentally a single-player only game the game’s galaxy uses the same seed for each player which means that everyone will be inhabiting the same galaxy. It’s my hope that players will share the things that they find online and collaborate to find and unlock secrets in the game.

Rashid Sayed: What are your currently planning to add to the current build of Drifter in addition to features that have already been announced? Will there be a beta or Early Access release on the cards in the coming months?

Colin Walsh: Well I’m currently working on doing a mid-development polish stage on the UI to make it look a bit better, make easier to use and to add full support for controlling the UI via. controller. This will also help with the Vita and PS4 ports of course. Also we’re hoping to add station interiors into the game shortly which should add to the game’s immersion I feel. For Early Access the game is already available on Steam Early Access however there isn’t really an equivalent on PSN so we’re probably going to wait until the game is effectively done before the PS4 and Vita launches.

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"There’s certainly no technical reason preventing Drifter from running on the Xbox One and I haven’t ruled out a port. The only real issue is that adding yet another port to deal with would be incredibly time-consuming."

Rashid Sayed: Is there any specific reason why the game is not coming on the Xbox One?

Colin Walsh: There’s certainly no technical reason preventing Drifter from running on the Xbox One and I haven’t ruled out a port. The only real issue is that adding yet another port to deal with would be incredibly time-consuming. Assuming that the much talked about launch parity clause for titles on Xbox One doesn’t prevent Drifter from going there I could see a port happening at some point.

Rashid Sayed: Can you confirm to us whether Drifter will run at 1080p/60fps on the PS4?

Colin Walsh: I can’t say for 100% sure because I don’t have the game fully running or optimized for PS4 but given the PS4’s system specs I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t run at 1080p and 60fps.

Rashid Sayed: Are there any plans to make it cross buy and cross save?

Colin Walsh: Assuming all goes according to plan Drifter will be cross buy and support cross save.

Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game?

Colin Walsh: If people want to learn more about the game they can visit http://celsiusgs.com/drifter/ and we have a high level list of the sorts of things we have planned for the game located here http://celsiusgs.com/drifter/wiki/Development_Roadmap

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