Known for challenging combat, stunning pixel visuals, and a palpable, post-apocalyptic fantasy atmosphere, the world of Alx Preston’s action-RPG Hyper Light Drifter earned major praise when it arrived in 2016. Now the game’s ready to return to screens — but this time, as a television show.
Preston confirms to Polygon that he and producer Adi Shankar, whose game adaptations include Netflix’s Castlevania and upcoming series based on Devil May Cry and Assassin’s Creed, are actively in development on an animated series based on the title. Hyper Light Drifter, developed by Preston’s indie studio Heart Machine, debuted in the spring/summer of 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version arrived in September 2018.
In conversation with Polygon, Preston said he and Shankar are actively reaching out to writers to lead the TV adaptation, and are still working on exactly how to translate Hyper Light Drifter’s gameplay experience to a non-interactive medium.
“The difference between a series and a game is vast in a lot of ways,” he says. “Hyper Light as a game was pretty atmospheric and kind of overbearing at times. For a series, the question is: how do you sustain and keep your attention on a non-interactive run? Does it get really, really dark and serious? Does it have some levity?”
At this early stage, Preston says he and Shankar are “leaning a lot more towards something that’s representative of the game on the style side,” although the visuals will likely trend toward anime-esque animation rather than a straight interpretation of the game’s pixel designs.
The films of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli animation studio were a major influence on Hyper Light Drifter, and should be again as Preston and Shankar conceptualize the story, and storytelling, of the series. Of all the guiding light Miyazaki’s films provide, the director’s formal purity seems especially essential in these nascent moments.
“There’s still a question of how much dialogue we really have, if any,” Preston says. “Could it be a more silent series or would we have voice acting? Considering Hyper Light was wordless, there’s an idea there of how much that would carry over to to a show.”
Speaking at Polygon’s panel at the Vox Media SXSW event The Deep End, Shankar emphasized that his recent streak of adapting games is one driven by a love for the medium and a desire to translate the work of passionate creators like Preston.
“[I’m doing this in] the same way that, back in the day, a director or writer would read a book and say, ‘Oh my god, this book’s amazing,’ not, ‘Oh my god this book’s sold so many copies,’ and then they’re seeing dollar signs like a cartoon,” he said at the panel. “It’s important for me not to just all of a sudden become the AAA junkie. To just go like, ‘OK, what are the biggest franchise, I’m going to jump on all of them.’ That’s not why I’m trying to do this.”
Asked if there’s anything else fans of Hyper Light Drifter should know about his and Shankar’s series, Preston makes the biggest promise of them all: “We’re going to make it cool.”