Celsius Game Studios

It took 45 hours, 20,000 screenshots, and a 1.16GB video file to create Drifter’s latest trailer

It took 45 hours, 20,000 screenshots, and a 1.16GB video file to create Drifter’s latest trailer

Games with massive budgets often hire outside help to create loud, flashy, cinematic trailers that tend to run together. Smaller teams don't have that option; it's too much money for an arguable boost in visibility. So what do you do?

The answer is to create a trailer that shows off what your game does better than other games, and you do so by being clever. That's why the 14-minute trailer for Drifter is such an interesting attempt to sell an independent game to an audience hungry for space exploration.

How it was done

Go ahead and watch the trailer before we explore the hows and whys of its creation. It's something else, and I'll forgive you for not sticking around through all 14 minutes.“I wrote some extra code into the game that takes over the player's ship and automatically jumps through each system in the game's galaxy in turn, placing you just outside the orbit of the outermost planet,” Colin Walsh, the game's creator, told the Report. “It rotates the ship to face the host star, takes a screenshot, and then jumps on to the next system.”

Walsh removed the cooldown period between jumps and the ship's need for fuel, and just let the thing rip. The process took 45 hours, although he claims it would have taken 14 days for the program to visit every system with those systems in place.

“I then took the 20,000 screenshots and converted them into a video running at 24fps, with one screenshot per frame, which compresses the entire experience down to about 14 minutes,” he explained. “It's actually kinda neat because even at 24fps you can still make out each screenshot pretty much and every so often planets swing into view or another ship just happens to jump in at the same time to photobomb the screenshot.”

In some ways you've just seem much of what the game has to offer, but with the right set of eyes that video looks more like a buffet than a teaser. The joy isn't seeing the galaxy, but going out and exploring everything it has to offer. And this galaxy offers so much.

The freedom to explore

One of the things you'll notice is that the screenshots often look somewhat bland, but Walsh says that's due to the way the screens were taken. “It's kinda hard to see much from so far out but each system has 1-15 planets, both rocky and gas giant, with the possibility of an asteroid belt at any of the orbits instead of a planet, along with a number of space stations. Also the nebulae in the background are randomly generated as well,” he said.

“As things progress I plan on adding more interesting visuals but for now I'm pretty happy with how the game looks so my focus is mostly on game play at the moment. That brings a lot of 'under the hood' variation which gives each system a political system and a level of technological development which determine things like the system's economy. Also there's a 'safety rating' which factors into how often you might get attacked by various unpleasant NPCs,” he continued.

The larger systems will take around an hour to travel across if you don't use the game's fast-travel system, and many will be filled with NPCs busy mining or hauling their goods here and there, heading to space stations to do their trading. You can attack these ships for their goods if you'd like, but that sort of choice is yours. Drifter is a game that's more Privateer than Wing Commander.

Drifter isn't the only game to benefit from an interesting trailer. Vlambeer created a looping, six-second trailer for its upcoming Ridiculous Fishing and posted it to Vine. Like most things that are both effective and simple, the process of creating the trailer was much more intense than it seems. I've seen hundreds of trailers that were too loud, over produced, and left me curious about what shooter was being promoted. I'll take these weird, personalized, and ultimately compelling videos any day.