Zoomo: Hyper Light Drifter’s Boss Rush, 60fps Support

I hardly see 60fps support as essential in games but I won’t say no to it. So coo, look, gorgeous fight-o-explorer Hyper Light Drifter [official site] can now run at 60fps, thanks to a new update in public beta. This also boshes in a Boss Rush mode, for people who simply want to duff up big monsters. Good things!

Boss Rush mode is, y’know, Boss Rush, where you get to fight all the game’s bosses in a row. It’s unlocked by beating the game. If you want less challenge, not more, hey, developers Heart Machine have also added an easier ‘Newcomer’ mode – though it has fewer achievements and won’t unlock Boss Rush.

If you don’t fancy waiting for the update’s full launch, check out the announcement to see how to try the beta. Now let’s talk frames.

“Hyper Light plays as intended at 30fps locked, and we feel confident, great about the end result,” Heart Machine said in April, addressing the surpisingly controversial topic. “We realize some may not agree, and some refuse to play games at 30 these days.”

They added that going to 60fps would be “a HUGE endeavor” for such a small studio, taking at least three months. Well. They did it. And yep, it was far more complex than flicking a switch from ’30fps’ to ’60fps’. Alex Preston explains:

“This conversion was indeed a massive task to undertake: we worked through over 115 thousand lines of code the past several months in order to make this happen, manually changing timings of each object and enemy, fixing the dozens upon dozens of little problems that arose when changing frame timing, optimizing the game and testing the bits out of it internally.”

Not many small studios can afford the time to do this, mind, so probably don’t expect it from every game which has the temerity to run at 30fps.

I still don’t get the ’60fps or death’ contingent of PC gaming. I entirely agree that 60fps (or higher) looks lovely in many games, and is especially better in 3D first-person games, but I won’t scorn games which run at 30fps. It’s not that big a deal. Maybe this is a side-effect of having rubbish PCs for so long – after years of Quake 2 at 20fps (limited by both hardware AND Internet speed, back in the day) I’m not that bothered. I’ve got a fancy PC now and am glad when games take advantage of that, but they’re not ruined if they don’t.

Speaking of Hyper Light Drifter’s gameguts, do also check out The Mechanic’s investigation of its recharging ammo and the consequences thereof.

To celebrate this update, Hyper Light Drifter is on sale on Steam. It’s down to £10.04/13,39€/$13.39 until Friday evening.


  1. wcq says:

    Thank goodness.

    I won’t say no to more frames for my eyeballs, but the main thing is that now internet discussion about this game can finally be a bit less tedious.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      Ha, yes. It seems the value of time invested in enabling 60 fps is less in any major benefit to the game and more in time saved fielding complaints about it not being 60 fps. ^^

    • Jekadu says:

      The one time the 60 FPS Brigade actually pick a valid game to complain about and they can’t even complain about the right thing. As I recall people were mostly outraged that the game wasn’t meeting an arbitrary technical milestone that was irrelevant to how the game would have played in the abstract.

      In reality the low framerate created accessibility issues — the blurriness it caused induced headaches — but the people who were downright angry and calling the devs lazy never seemed to care about that…

  2. Antlia says:

    For a fast-paced game like this 60 fps is definitely a major improvement, no doubt, but I could play the game just fine on 30 as well. While X or death is too far to go in a subject matter I understand complaints from the people that can’t handle a lower framerate and commend the devs for listening. They certainly didn’t have to upgrade the game but did it nonetheless.

  3. Jediben says:

    Goddamn Luddites. Bet you wish you could still use valves and levers to power your pc as well. Babbage wasn’t the final word you know.

  4. Jaykera says:

    Good news and good job Heart machine ! I’m addicted to high framerate.

  5. Halk says:

    “manually changing timings”? What? How come they did not make the game framerate independent in the first place?

    • Faults says:

      Because a lot of Game-Maker’s logic is explicitly frame-dependent. Search ‘Game Maker 30fps’, and there’s a really in-depth post on Reddit regarding the exact nature of why this is.
      But yeah, bottom line is that ‘manually changing timings’ is both correct, and unfortunately, out of their hands to change. That said, their next title is being written in Unreal Engine 4, in which manual frame-timing is not an issue at all.

      • Halk says:

        Thanks for the clarification. It seemed so strange, I should have guessed it was a limitation of the engine they used.

        • Faults says:

          No bother – I always feel it’s worth clarifying these things. I’m no coder, but I have a little bit of technical know-how with game engines; and I feel there’s a lot of situations like this in gaming at the moment where it’s not clear exactly why something can’t be done, and often people cry ‘developer laziness’ when really a lot of times there are legitimate reasons as to why.

    • DantronLesotho says:

      Keep in mind as well that the game loop for processing code is dependent on the framerate as well. You basically have to update all of your objects and determine their draw positions (not to mention any background global code and of course, queuing up audio clips, etc) all within one of these frames. So if you are working at 30 and it’s working well, if you suddenly switch it to 60 frames per second you now have half the time to make the calculations than you did before. Some optimizations would need to be implemented, and in some situations you have to chop up your code into segments in a totally different way so that it doesn’t impact the framerate, which is noticeably different going from 60-down, than from 30. It’s no easy task.

      • inspiredhandle says:

        Why didn’t they start with 60fps to begin with though? Isn’t it the standard now?

        • Faults says:

          60fps is way harder to implement, because by default, Game Maker’s logic is both frame-dependent and per-pixel – to implement 60fps scrolling using Game Maker’s default technique, the game camera and sprites would have to scroll at double-speed to maintain coherency.

          I’m not a programmer, so I couldn’t accurately speculate on how they eventually achieved 60fps scrolling, but it will likely be through no small measure of technical trickery and working hard against Game Maker’s limitations.

  6. Faults says:

    The amount of post-launch support the devs have given this game is truly heartening…

    I’m sorry.

    But seriously, given that the main dude working on the game has a pretty debilitating condition, I would not have been disappointed if the game was left as it was at launch, but they’ve continued to refine and add stuff to the game they once stated was nigh-impossible. Best Kickstarter pledge I ever damn well made.

  7. PancakeWizard says:

    “I still don’t get the ’60fps or death’ contingent of PC gaming”

    It does look better, but I’ll always be sceptical of the “I couldn’t play it without being physically sick!!!11” types.

    • Starayo says:

      I usually have no problem with 30fps (other than it looking terrible) but I refunded hyper light drifter after about 20 minutes because it WAS giving me severe motion sickness. Never really had that happen before.

      I think it was the janky camera movement? In any case, I’ll be glad to pick this up again.

  8. epmode says:

    30 FPS isn’t a dealbreaker for me but it hurt Hyper Light Drifter more than most. Due to the nature of the game, the camera moves along with your character. It’s never static. So just walking around made everything feel stuttery, like when there’s a fast camera pan in a 24 FPS film.

    That said, I loved the game before the update and it’s even better now. Beautiful game.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      This. A static shot is no problem, it’s when the camera moves you need the 60.
      The perception cutoff for me is 60fps, so am still delighted with 60hz 1080p monitors.
      (I felt that 720p at 30hz was as good as it could get a decade ago. I’m glad to be a bit behind the curve)

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    Earl-Grey says:

    Uuuuuuuuuugh, 60FPS-bastards.

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    Oakreef says:

    Just AFTER I finished it!

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    Oakreef says:

    staring eyes tag?

  12. DantronLesotho says:

    I would have just said it was 60fps and everything runs twice as long, but good on Heart Machine to do their update. I know that it’s difficult to do, especially in such a frame-dependent environment such as gamemaker. Also I love the game. Kudos!

  13. USER47 says:

    Not all 30fps games play the same, even when it comes to same genre. For example WRC games from milestone feel absolutely sluggish, choppy and unresponsive when running at 30fps (or anything below 60, frankly). On the other hand, NFS Rivals and bunch of other racing games designed around the same framerate run nicely and without direct comparison you wouldn’t even notice the lower framerate.

  14. Merus says:

    I am looking forward to the day when a Steam dev releases a game that will do an API call to find out what groups a player is in, and if they’re in a 60FPS framerate group, will lock their framerate to 42FPS.

    And enable an FOV slider, despite their game not having a field of view.

  15. Halford9000 says:

    This is actually my favourite game of 2015. The atmosphere and the music especially touched me in places I’ve been never touched before. *blush*

  16. Jekadu says:

    This is probably the only game I’ve played where 30 frames per second gave me any kinds of issues. It probably works fine on a TV screen, but on a computer screen at close range it’s migraine-inducing.

    The issue is that the game is very intense visually — not in the sense that it’s overloaded, but in the sense that every single line on the screen goes blurry each time the camera pans to follow your movements.

    I managed to push through it and have fun, but I know a friend who refunded it after an hour or so. He claimed the 30 FPS lock was impacting the timing on the chain dodging — which, by the way, is bollocks, as that is not how input works — but I suspect the headaches were just as big a part of it.

    • Geebs says:

      If the game logic is locked to 30 fps and coupled to rendering, and in HLD it is, it absolutely will impact responsiveness. The average person can type 40-60 words per minute, so it’s perfectly possible for someone to want to perform two actions within the 1/15s “reflex arc” of the game. HLD played via a wireless controller was a soggy mess, even if it was still a pretty good game.

      • Jekadu says:

        Sorry, you lost me. What does typing speed have to do with anything?

        Regardless, frame rate shouldn’t affect how input is handled. Having a higher frame rate allows for more granularity, which is important in fighting games, but in HLD that’s not an issue.

        Now, if HLD were poorly optimized and used unbounded timesteps (Psychonauts comes to mind), then there would be an issue, since input would be linked to frame progression. But that is not the case here.

        • Geebs says:

          Sorry, it seemed straightforward when I wrote it! Point being that a person can physically make individual inputs within the timeframe we’re talking about – if humans were only capable of pressing a button once every second, 30 vs 60 ticks per second would make no difference.

          Input in HLD certainly is linked to drawing – otherwise, the developers could have just ticked the “make my game 60 fps” box and all would have been well. 30 vs 60 ticks per second makes a minimum difference of 1/15s vs 1/30s for a controller input to appear on screen, which is a human-noticeable space of time.

          Even if a game is running with physics and rendering uncoupled, the difference in “feel” introduced by irregular frame timing is noticeable; a lot of people, me included, can’t bear to use vsync even in a game that mostly runs at 60 fps.

          It remains to be seen whether 60 fps actually helps this particular game, of course. They’ve made some pretty esoteric decisions regarding animation that really don’t help the feel either. It’s really not up there with, say, A Link To The Past in terms of responsiveness, and making some of the game’s systems reliant on precise timing on top of all that jank was a mistake IMO.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I don’t think it’s the FPS affecting the dodging, that’s just how the dodging works. It isn’t a steady rhythm until you do like 3 or 4 dodges.

      • Faults says:

        Yeah, the dodging is dependent on some pretty precise timings. I’ve gone between using a wired 360 pad and a wireless Steam controller, and I’ve generally got on better with the Steam controller.

        • Jekadu says:

          I tried explaining to him that the chain dodges are just notoriously finicky, but no dice.

          Still, he seems excited for the 60 FPS mode.

        • inspiredhandle says:

          Using a ps4 controller connected via Bluetooth I get between 3-5ms of input delay. I’ve recorded through cubase back in the day with 17ms or so and not known it was there.
          Correct me if I’m stupid and am completely wrong, but doesn’t the jump from 30 to 60fps effectively cut the perceived input lag from 33ms to 16ish?
          Maybe not that the inputs are processed slower, but their effect is drawn later. I know zero correct terminology, I apologise.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I really hope a lot of the people who put up a stink about this end up purchasing the game. It’s a definite bonus for those who already own it but it would be nice if people put their money where their mouth is.

  18. Lim-Dul says:

    I wish people stopped dismissing the 30 fps issue as some kind of arbitrary technical downside. Depending on the type of game – and yes, quick-moving 2D games are affected too – it can give people motion sickness.
    As someone who thought to never-ever experience those issues I was taken by surprise while watching a Let’s Play of Freedom Planet on Youtube in 30 fps. It really made me feel uncomfortable.

    For Hyper Light Drifter it wasn’t as bad but I most definitely felt being affected by it, especially during the stuttery screen transitions.

    So please, lasses and lassies, even if 90% of the crowd is using stupid, invalid and elitist arguments against 30 fps games, do understand that there isn’t ever, ever, ever any argument FOR using 30 fps locks in a game if 60+ fps could be chosen instead.

    It’s similar to lacking rebindable controls or color options (if colors matter for the gameplay).