Drifter launches Superior co-op shooter on Steam

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Drifter launches his Superior co-op third-person shooter on Steam today. You can also play a blockchain version on Gala Games.

It’s a title that pits you against superheroes who have been corrupted and turned into evil abominations. And it represents a major milestone in Drifter’s journey, which has turned in several directions in the name of survival as an indie game creator. The game itself is quite interesting, but so are Drifter’s choices when deciding to make two different versions of the game.

The game from Drifter from Jackson, Wyoming, and Seattle is available on Steam in early access for $25, though it will be selling at a 15% discount in launch week. The game also has a blockchain version available through the publisher Gala Games.

Drifter CEO Ray Davis and co-founder Brian Murphy said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company originally focused on virtual reality games like Robo Recall: Unplugged, Lies Beneath, and VR shooter Gunheart. Davis was proud of what the company had achieved in VR, but it didn’t go as expected. The company decided to go back to making PC games like Superior.

“We actually launched our last VR title published by Oculus. That was Lies Beneath. And we had a lot of fun with that game. And you know, we’re still big fans of virtual reality. But as I’m sure you know, the market was in a weird state,” Davis said. “So we decided to take a break from this and go back to our classic gaming roots.”

It’s taken about 2.5 years to get to this point, which is a long time for a startup.


Superior is also published by Gala Games as a blockchain game.

“Co-op PC shooters – that’s in our DNA, you know,” Davis said. “And we looked at what happened when the superhero arc went mainstream. Marvel has been so successful. This is the backdrop that’s perfect for the kind of games we love to play, and more importantly, love to make. The superheroes are evil and now you hunt them and steal the superpower.”

The company was working on a villain game at the time, similar to Hades, which was so inspiring.

“Hades was like such a masterpiece,” Murphy said. “And we wanted to see if we could apply some of the mechanics that they brought out in such a polished way to a third-person shooter sensibility. We were also really excited about the return to co-op. At that point, we hadn’t seen rogue co-ops yet, which is going to be a very interesting challenge in itself.”

I asked why the team didn’t just make a game about hunting super villains.

“We’ve seen a lot of superhero stories that follow exactly that storyline. And we were just interested in creating a world where the superheroes got everything they wanted. And then that power starts turning them into monsters,” Murphy said. “And I think we just want to do something different. We love the genre, but we didn’t want to try to just perfectly emulate what other people in the genre are doing. We want to do something that was uniquely ours.

In that respect, BioShock was also an inspiration, where people get divine powers and actually do nothing to save humanity. Another source of inspiration was that of Brandon Sanderson Steel heart novels.

And while that sounds dystopian, Davis said the game also has a silly sense of humor.

The gameplay of Superior

Superior has different environments.

You start each mission with no power and no weapons as you hunt down superheroes, steal their powers and save the world. As you succeed in your mission, characters are upgraded with a branching skill tree, giving them more powers and abilities to take on more horrific heroes.

“Superior is non-stop, moment-to-moment action, challenging players to embark on a supercharged survival feast,” said Davis. “Whether playing solo or in our favorite co-op mode, Superior gives players countless objectives, inventive power sets, unlocks and abilities that result in infinite play options.”

Armed with a powerful arsenal and your teammates, you’ll make your way through a vast hyper-stylized superhero universe with multiple locations and dynamically configured missions. With hundreds of unique super powers, weapons, items and abilities to upgrade and choose, Superior lets you create your very own Hero Hunter.

Superior has a ton of features such as customizable characters, upgradeable through play. It has boosting skills, where players earn XP each session and unlock new skills and overdrive skills such as satellite death blasting or stealth mode.

You start your run with lower level weapons such as pistols and a baseball bat. As you run and shoot, pick up more powerful equipment such as grenade launchers, railguns, and plasma blasters. There are dozens of superpowers you can unlock, such as launching fireballs or incinerating enemies while leaping into the air with flames. You can create ice caps to speed up allies and deal frost damage through ice spikes.

You can use force fields that deal damage, cause explosions and knock enemies back. You can use Xeno, an alien blob that comes to your aid in battle and allows you to shapeshift at will. You can use Volt to control electricity and transform your character into a creature of pure energy.

The full game pits you against six unique ex-super hero bosses and an army of their henchmen. Each character unleashes their own brand of super-powered mayhem, from force fields to fireballs.

Players will encounter new challenges and monstrosities on their mission as they fight their way through hours of dynamically changing environments. Mission objectives, routes, and opponents are also dynamically reconfigured, revealing new content as players progress through the challenges.

The blockchain hub

Superior has some nice places to fight.

While still an indie, the company is heading back to where it came from as it has developers coming from working on triple-A games like Gears of War, Doom, Halo, and Apex Legends.

The developers have made difficult choices when developing the new game. Davis said the studio decided not to raise venture capital even during the heyday of recent years when VC money was finally available en masse to fund games. Then the pandemic hit.

“This is certainly our pandemic game,” Murphy said. “We got off to a good start when the pandemic started. It has been our life raft.”

Instead of turning to VCs, Davis said the company decided to embrace blockchain technology. Gala Games offered to finance the studio and the game in a publishing deal. But that meant Drifter had to make a version of the game for blockchain technology, as Gala Games is a publisher of non-fungible token (NFT) titles. Founded by CEO and co-founder of Zynga Eric Schiermeyer, Gala Games has been extremely successful with token sales and funded many projects.

“A lot of it was certainly complicated by the pandemic. But I think when we started Drifter almost seven years ago, we had a shared passion for game development and emerging technologies. And looking at the virtual reality era, we asked, ‘What can we do with this?’”

When Web3 hit the market, the team had a healthy dose of skepticism that persists even now. It was a controversial decision to use Web3, both internally and externally.

“I see so many parallels to when we started VR,” Davis said.

But Davis believes the fundamental technologies allow players to own and sell their games if they want to.

“We essentially treat them as two completely different products,” Davis said. “There is the Web3 version through the Gala platform. And what we’re mainly focusing on right now is the Steam release and, ideally, we’re bringing it to other platforms very soon as well.

The Steam vision will not have a blockchain, which would block Steam anyway.

“We give players a choice,” Murphy said. “We don’t like trying to force one business model down the throat of players. We just want to make great games that appeal to people.”

The Drifter game debuting on Steam is a normal Web2 game and the team wanted to make sure people could play the game using normal payment systems instead of cryptocurrency and still play the game without having to buy any blockchain assets.

Superior has been in the making for over 2.5 years.

In that sense, it’s a normal game that Drifter made without giving up a ton of equity in a venture capital deal. However, Drifter is also releasing a version where players can purchase NFTs. Funding from Gala Games allowed the company to grow to 36 people and survive during Superior’s development. And it also allowed them to create both Web2 game and Web3 game at the same time.

But unlike many other blockchain games, Drifter has something real to show. The game can be Hades-like in its roguelike gameplay. It can take up to 15 hours to take down a boss, and the game currently has three bosses, Murphy said.

More bosses will be launched after the game comes out, he said. Over time, the company hopes to add more modes such as player versus player.

Davis noted that the response to blockchain games is similar to generative AI. Some people think it’s cool and others think it’s full of scams. But the team focused on the idea that players can decide to sell their game character if they decide to do so. The blockchain technology enables them to do that. Web3 players can purchase character cosmetics or character variants. But the team stayed away from using NFTs to allow players to “pay to win”.

“What we’re focused on is making sure we’re making the most fun, playable game and then engaging an audience that’s passionate about these different technologies,” said Davis. “And our early previews with the Gala community have been incredibly positive. You know, people are super excited. There is a strong desire for real content. This is a fun game to play with your friends. Let’s start with that.”

Will the Web3 version make more money? It’s a toss-up, as last week’s news of another crypto winter with the FTX debacle could add more ice to the blockchain gaming market. Still, the Web3 version might be more attractive in markets in Asia, where blockchain games are more popular.

“I wouldn’t even dare to predict how this is going to turn out,” Murphy said. “We don’t want the business model to ever hurt the gameplay experience. We recognize that there are two very different audiences that we are trying to serve. We pay close attention to what is happening around us.”

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