Exclusive: Interview with Supergiant Games; The Creators of Bastion

Gaming Bible Editor Ryan Cross sits down with Developer Greg Kasavin of SuperGiant Games to talk about the making of Bastion, DLC, and the future of the company.

 Ryan: How did you guys over at Supergiant come up with the idea of Bastion? Did you guy’s have any influences?

Greg:  We came up with the idea for Bastion gradually over time, so it’s not the sort of thing that happened in a single flash of inspiration. We made only a few decisions up front: For one thing, we knew we wanted to make a 2D game, because we miss the look and feel of classic 2D games and don’t think 3D games have ever managed to fully replace them. We also chose to make a game from the isometric perspective, mainly because we like it and were familiar with it from having worked on real-time strategy games in the past. We were interested in making an action role-playing game in which you build the world around you, so we came up with this technique of the ground forming up around the player to help direct him through the environment. That became the basis for the game world and fiction. Lastly, we knew we wanted to make a game that could leave a strong lasting impression on players through its story.

The game’s feature set expanded from there, bit by bit until we felt like we had a complete game. Major aspects of play went through significant revisions during the prototyping phase, and even things like our narration technique weren’t there from the front.

Our influences on the project are too varied to mention really, because each individual on the team brought his or her own influences to bear on different aspects of the game, then we did the work to tie all those things together in a cohesive way. There weren’t any one or two games we kept coming back to, as we weren’t attempting to re-create the experience of any specific games, but rather to make something that felt fully realized in its own way. For me personally, my gaming influences range from classic computer RPGs and arcade games to modern shooters and action adventure games, to pen-and-paper games, and more – and that’s not even counting the various books, movies, and music that inspire me. I did think a lot to the late-era Super Nintendo classics such as Super Metroid, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger for spiritual inspiration, as those games and many others have always stuck with me, but I don’t think you’ll find clear traces of them in Bastion.

Ryan: If I’m correct Supergiant Games is a talented team of only 7 people. Was it a daunting task for you guys to complete a game such as this with such few people?

Greg:  Supergiant Games is indeed a team of seven people, and it started with just two, Amir Rao and Gavin Simon. They were building a team, a technology base, and a game all at the same time. It’s true that the project felt daunting on occasion, but we all feel that nothing good ever comes easily, so it’s a positive emotion overall. We managed through it by staying very practical while pushing to do our best, knowing this game was our only chance to keep going as an independent studio. We work in a very tactical fashion, taking on numerous small tasks that can be completed quickly. By reducing the game down to a series of small tasks, we’re able to make rapid progress and get to something playable straightaway, and that creates strong momentum.

The game itself is a product of the skill sets of the team, meaning we avoid wishful thinking about features we don’t think we can execute on our own, and we always think in terms of what we can achieve with the resources that we have. It’s a very refreshing feeling on the whole, and by being this small we can move very quickly and iterate rapidly. Another thing that helped was, even though we’re a new studio, most of us on team have known one another for a long time. Having good chemistry among the members of the team, knowing that each of us is willing to do our best to help one another, really helps us get to better results.

Ryan: Obviously, the Narrator is a huge part of the story, but how did the Narrator come to be a part of Bastion? Was he planned from the beginning?

Greg: Our narration technique wasn’t planned from the beginning, though we knew from the start that we wanted to make a game that could create an emotional impact through its use of narrative. We just didn’t know exactly how our narrative would work, because we knew we didn’t want it to interrupt the flow of gameplay, which meant no cutscenes or walls of text or anything like that. Using narration emerged as a good solution during the course of the nine months Bastion spent in a prototyping phase.

A big part of the reason we were able to do something like this is our voice actor Logan Cunningham, who’s a longtime friend of Darren Korb our audio director and Amir Rao our studio director. Having a close connection to a talented actor meant we could do something big with voiceover, and as it turned out, Logan was able to give this voice performance that perfectly captured the kind of tone we wanted. The more we played with the narration technique, the more we liked it, and so it became a pervasive part of the game and our method of delivering story at the player’s own pace.

The cast of Bastion –  The Kid, Zulf, Zia and Rucks.

Ryan: The art style in Bastion is certainly beautiful, is there anything you can tell me about how it was created?

Greg: Finding the right artist to work on Bastion was a real challenge, and several different artists worked on the game on a part-time basis before we met our art director, Jen Zee. At the time we didn’t quite know what we wanted from the look of the game, we only had a sense of the fiction and the tone. Jen was able to get in there and create this lush, beautiful, high-contrast look that we felt was just right for what we were trying to accomplish. It instantly communicated an emotional range we were interested in, and was warm and inviting to look at. It added a lot to the atmosphere we were trying to create.

Ryan: Bastion has clearly received very high praise from the press and player community a like.  How does it feel for your game to receive such amazing success?

Greg: It feels great…! Bastion was our one chance as a small up-and-coming studio to create a game that lived up to our standards and showed players around the world both what we could do as a team and what we think is valuable in games. We’re very happy with how it turned out and with the response it’s been getting. For me personally, I’ve wanted to make games since I was a little kid, and Bastion is the first one I’ve been able to work on in a writer/creative director capacity, so it was a very rewarding and fulfilling experience for me. I hope we can keep making games in this fashion for a very long time to come.

Ryan: Does Supergiant have plans for Bastion DLC in the future?

Greg:  We have no plans for DLC at this point, as we held nothing back in the making of Bastion. We’re continuing to support the Steam launch these days and have made some incremental updates such as by adding new Steam achievements, though our goal with Bastion was to make it feel complete in the first place. Those interested in keeping up with the latest news from our studio should keep an eye on our @SupergiantGames Twitter feed, as that’s where we tend to post any announcements.

Ryan: So, what’s next for Supergiant? Any chance for a sequel?

Greg: It’s too early to tell where we’ll go from here as a studio, though we have no shortage of ideas, and we fully intend to keep going! While Bastion was designed to be a stand-alone game, I suppose I shouldn’t rule out the possibility of us ever returning to the world of this game, just because we like the world of it a lot and it has enough depth to where it could support any number of different stories. At the same time, we never imagined ourselves as a one-game sort of studio, and we have lots more we’d like to do. It’s important to us that each of our games create a sense of wonder and intrigue for players, so I don’t think we’d revisit and of our past ideas in a predictable way.