Post Release Bastion Interview – A PS3 Version of Bastion isn’t Out of the Question
SuperGiant Games’ own Bastion was the first title to kick off this years ‘Summer of Arcade’ on Xbox360. Even before release we knew we had something special here – through it’s rich setting as the world builds around you.
If you didn’t know, this spectacle was brought to you, not from a big budget development team, but from a small devoted group of people. One of which agreed to bring you the following interview to recap the post release feelings of Bastion, how it come to life and what’s in store for us next.
Let me introduce to you, the man who was in charge of writing and design, Greg Kasavin:
- Did you find that working in a smaller team was more beneficial and rewarding? And do you think it provided a sense of charm to Bastion?
Greg: I can’t say enough good things about what it’s like working on a smaller team and on this team in particular. The cofounders of Supergiant Games and I used to work together at Electronic Arts in Los Angeles, on the Command & Conquer team. It was a great, high-performance team, but at the same time, we never could have made a game like Bastion working for EA. Our small team size here at Supergiant not only meant fewer people were around to shoot down any of our ideas for what could make an interesting play experience, we were also able to work much faster than usual. If someone on the team has an idea, we can typically get it into the game in the same day in some form. Rapid iteration is the best way to get to a high-quality result.
What’s more, each individual on our team was as invested as possible in the end result, because he or she owned a major portion of the game experience. For example, without Darren Korb our game wouldn’t have had its incredible soundtrack or audio. Without Logan Cunningham, it wouldn’t have had its voice that’s so essential to its character. And so on. Gavin Simon wrote all our tools and created a game engine that could run fast and smooth, plus he did all the gameplay programming. Andrew Wang got the whole thing running beautifully on the Xbox 360 — we couldn’t have shipped a console game anytime soon without him. Amir ran the whole studio while serving as lead designer. I wrote the story and narration. To whatever extent the game is charming, I think that’s partially a byproduct of the game being unfiltered. We didn’t have too many cooks in the kitchen so the output of our individual efforts I think was very true to our intentions.
- How daunting was Bastion, knowing it was the first project as a studio?
Greg: This was by all means a daunting project in some ways, though our team has a good amount of experience both working in the industry and working with each other, so I think we knew what we were in store for. We pushed ourselves to the limits, knowing what those limits were, in the interest of making the kind of game that we hoped could leave a lasting positive impression on players. It was a real sink-or-swim situation, as well. We knew that if this game didn’t succeed, neither would our studio, and at best then we could come crawling back to working for other people. But the feeling of being an independent studio was so refreshing that we were fully prepared to fight for that through our work on this first game.
I think we’re rather pragmatic as a team. We have confidence in our abilities but also know that it’s very easy to fail and very difficult to succeed, so if nothing else, we work hard to try and make the most of this opportunity we have to create games on our own terms. Not everyone is so lucky.
- Did Bastion turn out exactly as you envisioned? Or did you have to change throughout production?
Greg: It’d be dishonest to say that Bastion turned out exactly as we envisioned because it’s not the sort of game that started with a grand and specific vision. I can say, though, that the experience of playing through the game does create the kinds of feelings and sensations we hoped the game would provide. We wanted to explore the action role-playing genre from a different angle than most games in the genre, and create a more active type of game that could leave a lasting impression through its narrative. Also the central idea for the game’s story and theme came about pretty early on and is very close to what we had in mind. Even the name “Bastion” dates back to the earliest stages of the project. But the specifics of the play experience happened iteratively, and major aspects of the game like its art style and even its use of narration weren’t there from the start. The game’s feature set grew over time as we looked at what felt lacking and built it up piece by piece.
- What was the inspiration behind Bastion? It feels like a mix of retro role-playing, but with a focus on action adventure.
Greg: Bastion started with a small idea, which was to create an action role-playing game where you built the world around you. It was meant to explore some of the positive feelings we had around returning to town in other action RPGs like the Diablo series. Sometimes returning to town feels like a total slog in games like that, but at other times you get all these great feelings of planning your next move and feeling safe and secure – we wanted to build on that. Through the course of making Bastion, we also gravitated toward this idea of wanting to make the kinds of games that sparked players’ imaginations like the games they played as kids. So if you get kind of a retro feel from it, that’s part of the reason, though we always knew we were going for more than just nostalgia.
Other than that, there’s a huge list of games that inspired us, but there were no one or two “go-to” games we looked to during development since we were focused on doing our own thing. I also need to give credit to some of our predecessors in independent game development, such as Braid and Castle Crashers and Plants vs. Zombies. Back when we were at EA we were blown away by the quality and character of games like this, and they helped motivate us to want to strike out on our own.
- Do you have any plans on releasing Bastion, or any future titles, on platforms other than Xbox360?
Greg: We have a PC version of Bastion in the works and slated to be out there later this year – hopefully soon! We’ve opted to develop versions of the game one at a time in the interest of hitting the best possible quality, since we’re a small team and multiplatform development carries some pretty costly trade-offs. Beyond our PC version, time will tell. We can develop for any platform that makes sense, we just need to be very smart about how we apply our resources since we want to keep on doing what we’re doing for a long time to come.
- The visual style of Bastion is very bold and beautiful, was there a particular focus on the games look?
Greg: Bastion’s look and entire presentation were very important to us because we wanted to make an atmospheric game that just about anyone could pick up and start playing. A strong and cohesive visual style, a rich setting, and great audio I think are all essential to creating atmosphere in games. And in our case, we found our look when Jen Zee our art director joined the project. This was at a time when the game’s visual style was still undefined but we knew the kind of tone we wanted and knew the fiction. Jen was able to take those details and create a look that felt just right to us. It captured the beauty and whimsy of a storybook, but with the kind of richness and emotional depth we wanted for our game.
- Are there any plans to release Bastion related merchandise such as art books, posters and models etc? We’ve noticed a lot of people on Twitter and discussion boards asking about them.
Greg: It’s awesome that people want more Bastion! It’s funny in some ways because we aimed to make the game feel very complete and self-contained. First and foremost, we’re very interested in releasing our soundtrack in an appropriate form, though we’re still looking into that as of this moment so I can’t make any promises. The response to our soundtrack has been just incredible. We’re open to extending Bastion in the kinds of ways that folks out there have been asking for, as long as we can find ways to do it at the right quality level. I hope people keep telling us what they want when it comes to this stuff.
- What are SuperGiant Games’ plans now that Bastion is out of the way? What’s your next step?
Greg: We don’t consider Bastion out of the way just yet, especially with the PC version still to come and the 360 version fresh out the gate! It’s safe to say our lives will be revolving around Bastion for some time still to come, and considering how much we love this game and this world we’ve created, we’re plenty happy about that. At the same time, we have a lot of ideas about where we could go from here. We just want to keep on making games using the type of process that led to this first one. I believe games can be incredibly powerful both through the physical sensation of play and also through their unique ability to communicate with players through the use of narrative, and I sincerely hope we will one day be able to look back on a streak of games from our studio that express these qualities.