We're here today with Dave Lloyd, developer of the upcoming new pulp thriller 'The Drifter'. The game is a classic-style 2d point and click adventure game following character Mick Carter. Following the witness of a murder, Mick is hunted down, killed, and finds his consciousness ripped away from him by an unknown force. He's then framed for a murder he didn't commit, and tormented by the feeling that someone or something followed him on the other side. Puzzles keep the game paced while you explore the world as you and watch as Mick is thrust into a world of murder, obsession, and chaos.
Today's Drop is a ~7 min read!
Dave is one half of a development team from Melbourne, Australia called 'Powerhoof'. While they have some combined projects, such as Crawl and Regular Human B-Ball, The Drifter is an independent project that has so far been made by Dave himself.
How long have you been designing games for?
The first game I stuck up on the internet was in 2002, so almost 20 years!
What brought you into the world of gaming and game design?
I was studying programming, and I loved coding, but it didn’t click that I could make games until I discovered some freeware adventure games that had been made in Adventure Game Studio (AGS). I downloaded it, stuck in some photos I had, and got myself walking around in my back-yard solving puzzles. I was hooked. I immediately loved how game dev brings programming, art, design, writing, and audio all together. And that I could make pretty crummy stuff and people would still like playing it!
You’ve helped create quite a few free games. Which one is your favorite so far?
Ooh, don’t make me choose between my babies! I like something about all of them, but I’ll say The Telwynium. I tend to avoid leaning on overt nostalgia, but for this game I embraced it, aping the games and books I fell in love with as a kid.
What are some of your other hobbies/interests?
My 6 year old son keeps me busy at the moment, but I like playing folky guitar, and I’ve started browsing Ebay for old adventure video game boxes to collect too. Also, I’ve got really into Robot Wars and BattleBots recently, and started playing with electronics again.
What is your favorite game (aside from the ones you’ve developed)?
The original EGA Quest for Glory is one that’s stuck with me my whole life.
ABOUT THE GAME
What inspired The Drifter’s story?
I made a game in about a week for Adventure Jam 2016 called Peridium. It was my first adventure with a serious tone, and I was super happy with how it turned out. I was still busy with other projects at the time, but that’s what got me wanting to make a full length game with a similar tone.
A friend of ours, Adrian Vaughan, always does voices for our games, and he did a great gravelly Australian accent in Peridum. I thought he’d do an awesome job of an old Aussie bloke, drifting from town to town. And that’s where the character (and later, the game’s name) came from.
More broadly, I’ve been consuming as many thriller novels and films as I can get my hands on. I’m trying to give it a John Carpenter/David Cronenburg vibe, and using a lot of the tropes you might see in Stephen King and Michael Crichton novels.
Did you design all of the art in the game yourself? What was your inspiration for that choice of art style?
The finished art so far has all been Barney. I build the game with placeholder art, and he makes it pretty. We both really like pixel art, and picked a low-color, high-contrast style to make it as eye-grabbing as possible.
What sorts of puzzles can we expect in the game?
I think of puzzles as the glue that holds the game together, but not the focus. So the job of the puzzles in The Drifter is to control the pacing and flow of the game. Get the player thinking about where to look and what to try, but then feed back into the story. I’m trying hard to get puzzles to feel natural in the world. So I favor an “obvious” puzzle solution that makes real-world sense, over a more complex, but sillier alternative. It’s a constant balancing act to try and get right though!
How much do you anticipate the game costing once its released?
I haven’t decided! Likely the $15-$20 USD mark.
Why is this game considered ‘pulp adventure’?
I like the idea of The Drifter being a bit like a dog-eared paperback you got at an airport. Trashy but a real page-turner!
Who are some other characters we will encounter aside from Mick Carter?
Hard to avoid spoilers, but here’s a few:
Mick’s sister, Annie, is one of the first characters you speak to. She’s a psychiatrist and enjoys poking people to get a reaction, a little too much. She’s intense, abrasive, and speaks her mind, a big contrast to Mick.
Then there’s the man the papers have dubbed the Bucket Butcher, on account of the floppy bucket-hat that’s obscured his face whenever he’s been caught on camera. Wanted for a bunch of killings, he’s linked to the mess Mick’s got himself into, somehow.
Ando Hara’s a detective with a philosophical streak, investigating the butcher murders, and not yet aware how deep the rabbit hole will go.
And, Helena Clarke is half-arsing a dead-end reception job while she writes the next great novel. (About a mortician, Maggie Macabre, who’s sleeping with the corpses. Maggie falls for a guy, but then gets rejected… “But the dead can’t say no, can they darl?”)
Do you have any concept art you could share from early development?
Here are some examples of my mockup placeholder art that goes into the game before a “real” artist does their magic:
The game has been in development since 2017, though production had ramped up a bit back in 2019. Made with a combination of Unity and Dave's own PowerQuest, it's been slowly getting through its production stages. Currently, Dave is working chapter-by-chapter going through playtesting to ensure the game is perfect
Are you developing The Drifter on your own?
Aside from the art/music for the demo, I’ve been solo so far, but now I’ll be getting Barney and others to help out with art, and another friend Louis Meyer with music.
What was it like casting and working with voice actors?
We’re really lucky to have a good friend, Adrian Vaughan, who’s actually a 3d artist by trade, but loves doing voice work on the side. We have lots of fun recording together, and we tend to always try and get at least a couple of characters for him to do in our games. Aside from working with him though, casting and directing is something that’ll be a learning experience when it comes time for it!
What has been the most difficult part about creating The Drifter?
Scaling up from the smaller games I’m used to making to a full length game has been the biggest challenge for me. Smaller games you can kinda fit in your head all at once, so I can get a rough idea of how the whole thing will work before starting. But with a longer game, it quickly gets too complicated to manage the plot, puzzles, exposition, character arcs, etc. And because I haven’t done it at scale before, there’s a lot of doubting whether ideas will work out once the game’s done. Luckily I’m through that part of the project now, and I think it’ll all turn out fine!
What advice would you give to new and aspiring developers?
My number one tip is to do game jams. The first game I ever made was a month-long jam. And all our major projects have started as game jams, or been inspired by them. It’s great having such a tight time limit, since you have an excuse to make something really terrible, and no one will judge you! You learn really fast from your mistakes, and from the things that work, in every little game you make!
We'd like to thank Dave for taking the time to answer all of our questions. We're looking forward to playing The Drifter the minute it's on sale! In the meantime, we recommend you check out Powerhoof's itch.io page, their website, and some of their other free games. Until next time, Quick Droppers!