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AusGamers Bastion Video Interview and Transcript
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:05pm 14/07/11 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Greg Kasavin of Supergiant Games at this year's E3 to talk about one of the surprise hits of the show, Bastion. Read on for what he had to say...

Watch the full interview embedded above or click here to stream it in HD

AusGamers: Hey guys, welcome back to AusGamers. We’re still at E3 and we’ve come across a bit of a surprise hit here. A game called Bastion, which has come out of a very small team -- Supergiant Games. And I’m here with Greg, who is the Creative Director, but really a jack-of-all-trades; put a lot of effort into the narrative and the level-design and that sort of stuff.

So let’s start at the beginning: this has come out of left-field; you guys are a very small team. What was the inspiration? Where did it all come from?

Greg Kasavin: Well basically, the co-founders and I were working together at Electronic Arts on the Command and Conquer franchise, so that’s where we all met and went through some fires together. And we decided to leave and do our own thing because we were really inspired by some of these smaller games like Braid and Castle Crashers -- smaller, digitally distributed games -- that had left a real impact on us on an emotional level; aesthetically and so on.

So we really looked up to these games and thought “maybe we could do this too”. Basically Gavin and Amir -- who are the co-founders -- dropped everything, quit their jobs, moved into a house in San Jose and started working on Bastion. And nearly two years later, the game is pretty much complete.

We started at just two people and grew to the grand size of seven including our voice actor. So for this game, we wanted to do something a lot more personal than the games we could do working with a hundred or more people.

AusGamers: What was the key decision behind the contextual narrative, because that’s obviously one of the key features that stands out. Despite that, the game is fantastic. It’s got this great level of energy and challenge that comes out at you really quickly which is awesome. But that’s a pretty unique feature.

Greg: Yeah, the narration wasn’t there from the very beginning. It happened during the course of prototyping the game. What we knew from the beginning was that we wanted a game that had some emotional weight to it. We didn’t want to make a game that was just purely... we wanted to make it more than just fun to play.

The fun of the moment-to-moment experience was essential to us, but we wanted something more than that. At the same time, we wanted to make an action RPG and have a story to it but we didn’t want a game where the storytelling was very indulgent. You know, where you start playing the game and you’re running into cut-scenes or “here’s a wall of text with the back-story that you have to know”.

We miss the days when games had an immediacy to them. In the mid-90s, the golden-era of the Super Nintendo and what-not, you hit start and you just start playing. We didn’t know how to reconcile that for a while and the narration was just something that we tried at a certain point because we knew this great actor who’s an old friend of one of the co-founders. He recorded a few lines and we’re like “hey, that’s pretty cool”. Then we realised that we wanted it everywhere because wherever we didn’t have it in the game, we missed it. And we started crafting it around the level design. Personally, there’s some games I play where’s there’s some really cool moments where the game feeds back on something I did, but usually it’s only one or two moments like that in the entire game. So what if we just had that all throughout the game? It’s like “we could do it”. So we just started going from there and never looked back.

AusGamers: It’s crazy because it’s a simple idea but it’s a level of dynamism that so many games completely lack. Everything you do is being fed back to you on the fly in a narrative context, but with emotional weight behind it.

Greg: It’s awesome that it has that impact on people because that’s exactly what we were going for. Some people get nervous when they hear... it’s like “wait, so he’s talking at you the whole time, and this is like an eight to ten hour game? Won’t that get old?” but he never repeats anything; it’s all original content and it’s a story-driven game so he’s never relegated to being a play-by-play commentator like in a sports game or something.

Instead, he’s adding... he’s telling you things that you could have never determined on your own. He’s adding context to your actions and unveiling the back-story of the game and hopefully he’s only ever talking about stuff that actually matters to you in the moment in which it happens, rather than -- as I said -- telling you about stuff you don’t care about, because you don’t see it, and so on.

AusGamers: How was the process in creating these lines of dialogue then -- based on gameplay input? Because -- for example -- it hit me just before, I thought “you know what? I’m just going to roll through the whole level and not actually attack anything” and he started saying “Now this kid’s running really fast” and “he’s somersaulting everywhere”; “except to stop and beat that guy up”.

Greg: Yeah, basically some of it we just anticipate and other moments we identify through play-testing the game with a lot of feedback from players -- the guys that we’ve seen. We observe people playing; we look at their behaviour. So yeah, we noticed in that chase sequence that a lot of people would roll through it, because you roll a little faster and we’re like “why don’t we have him say a little something there?”.

We try never to repeat the same gags as it were. They’re all meant to be little unique moments. But every single area in the game includes little moments like that, where no one player is going to see all of that stuff pretty much. That’s the idea, because we want it to feel very personal, but at the same time, he’s telling a coherent story that’s going somewhere -- striking that kind of balance.

AusGamers: So at the moment it’s only slated for Xbox 360 is that right?
Greg: There’s a PC version as well later this year, so it’s Xbox 360 and PC. We’re a small team so we’ve decided to tackle these one at a time.

AusGamers: Are you guys looking at... obviously there’s a lot of platforms out there, in the mobile space and the 3DS and now the NGP, the Vita or whatever it is.

Greg: As a small studio, it’s really important to us to maintain our independence and avoid... even if it looks like we’re exclusive to the Xbox 360, in fact we’re building this game out one version at a time and in terms of the future of our studio, we want to be maneuverable and go wherever the action is and do whatever makes sense. But at the same time, never bringing our game to platforms where it will in any way be compromised -- whether from the controls or the narrative standpoint.

We want each version of every game we make to feel like it’s homegrown to that platform, that’s kind of our desire. But obviously right now, all we have is this game, and hopefully people like it so we can keep making games after this one.

AusGamers: Well plenty of best-of-show nominations, so congratulations on it. We’ll leave it there. Fantastic and all the best to you guys, I hope you conquer the world.

Greg: Thank you.

AusGamers: No worries, cheers.
Read more about Bastion on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

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Posted 06:11pm 14/7/11
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