According to creator Colin Walsh, it really will come out some time in 2016, four years later than its initial scheduled launch date. According to Walsh, the delays have been down to the fact that there's only ever been two people working on the project.
"We're hoping to finish it some time this year," he said, during a Game Developer Conference interview with Polygon. "Most everyone [who backed the game] understands and has been accommodating. We're a small team, just me and the artist, but we've stayed on top of keeping everyone informed and delivering regular updates."
Drifter is an Elite-style game in which the player pilots a spaceship through a randomly generated universe of 20,000 star systems. But its design eschews the complicated systems of modern space trading games, for a relatively straightforward game that's easy to grasp.
Players move between planets buying and selling goods, while upgrading their ship. Piracy is an option. Combat is set on a single plane. Zones are marked as hostile or safe, allowing dedicated traders to get on with their business, unmolested.
The Early Access version includes the basic bones of the game, including missions and combat NPCs. But the final version will include a more complex crafting system as well as exploratory missions, in which players can attain artefacts. It will also add government factions, allowing players to cozy up to powerful interests and to make vested enemies.
As well as Linux, Mac and Windows PC, Drifter is also coming out on iOS, PlayStation 4 and Vita.