Post Script

EDGE - - PLAY - Greg Kasavin, cre­ative di­rec­tor

Be­fore mov­ing into de­vel­op­ment, Greg Kasavin, Su­per­giant’s cre­ative di­rec­tor and co-founder, was edi­tor in chief of Gamespot. Here, we dis­cuss how his time writ­ing about games in­formed his phi­los­o­phy for mak­ing them, the stu­dio’s move from sci-fi to fan­tasy, and why a team that made its name on 360 has seem­ingly switched al­le­giance to Sony. How im­por­tant was it to turn Bas­tion’s pas­sive nar­ra­tor into an ac­tive part of pro­ceed­ings? With Tran­sis­tor, we wanted to cre­ate a new game with its own dis­tinct iden­tity and feel, [but] we did come back around to cer­tain ideas. The nar­ra­tion in Bas­tion we felt worked re­ally well, and in some re­spects is kind of a sig­na­ture as­pect of Bas­tion, so with Tran­sis­tor it was re­ally im­por­tant that we take a dif­fer­ent an­gle that made sense for the kind of story we wanted to tell. We wanted to make Lo­gan [Cunningham]’s char­ac­ter an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant, some­one re­act­ing to the events of the story as they un­fold, as op­posed to hav­ing seem­ingly om­ni­scient knowl­edge of events still to come. We think it helps give Tran­sis­tor its own dis­tinct feel. You’ve made two games in the same genre with sim­i­lar me­chan­ics, which many stu­dios try to avoid. It wasn’t a con­scious de­ci­sion. The kind of games we make are born from our love of games. There are cer­tain gen­res, such as the ac­tion-RPG, that we have, I think, an un­lim­ited amount of love for. Hav­ing made a very ac­tion-ori­ented game in Bas­tion, we wanted to see if we could take it in this more de­lib­er­ate, more strate­gic and rather more thought­ful di­rec­tion with Tran­sis­tor. We’re the same small team that made Bas­tion, so I think to some ex­tent you can tell that it’s the same people, though we hope that comes across in a pos­i­tive way. What used to frus­trate you about sto­ry­telling when you were writ­ing about games, and how has that in­formed the way you make them? The short shrift it tends to get in so many games. I feel strongly that at­ten­tion to de­tail in nar­ra­tive can make just about any game bet­ter. It’s [about] us­ing nar­ra­tive to try to tie to­gether the dis­crete com­po­nents of a game and to es­tab­lish a sense of in­ter­nal con­sis­tency and con­ti­nu­ity [for] the world. At Su­per­giant, we feel that nar­ra­tive and game­play can, and re­ally ought to, ex­ist in a har­mo­nious state. We do our best to try to weave those as­pects of the game to­gether and make them feel as closely con­nected as pos­si­ble. In Tran­sis­tor, this meant ty­ing key as­pects of the story to the sys­tems them­selves, and let­ting play­ers piece to­gether the story from a va­ri­ety of sources. Not just the voiceover, but also in­for­ma­tion gleaned through other parts of the game, even bits of in­ter­face. The en­tire story is cen­tred on this mys­te­ri­ous weapon… Hope­fully, play­ers’ un­der­stand­ing of its nar­ra­tive sig­nif­i­cance will co­in­cide with their grow­ing un­der­stand­ing of all it can do from a game­play stand­point. The game seems to be say­ing some­thing about our at­ti­tudes to, and use of, tech­nol­ogy. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to pin it down to a spe­cific set of ideas. As a work of sci­ence fic­tion, Tran­sis­tor can be taken to re­flect on cer­tain con­tem­po­rary val­ues. I think that’s true of any work of sci­ence fic­tion, [which] is fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause of its abil­ity to re­flect the time from which it emerges. It’s al­most a his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment, even though it’s about far-flung times. In Tran­sis­tor, we do ex­plore some of that, but we wanted to leave it open [to in­ter­pre­ta­tion]. As a writer, I’m rather op­posed to al­le­gor­i­cal, di­dac­tic writ­ing that has a mes­sage you’re sup­posed to take away. You built Bas­tion for 360 us­ing XNA. How have you found the tran­si­tion to dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy? Tran­sis­tor is based on some of the same tech we used for Bas­tion, though in­stead of us­ing XNA, it uses a fork of the MonoGame frame­work, which lets us get on to more plat­forms than XNA. The tran­si­tion has been smooth. We like hav­ing our own en­gine. Hand­made 2D en­gines are not su­per-com­mon these days, so we think it con­trib­utes to the par­tic­u­lar feel of our games. Why are you re­leas­ing on a Sony con­sole first? Sony came and played the game when we first showed it at PAX East last year, and they re­ally liked it and wanted to see the game on PS4. We re­ally liked their at­ti­tude to our work – they re­ally be­lieved in what we were do­ing. We re­ally wanted Tran­sis­tor to be on both con­sole and PC, be­cause we love both. We’re a small team, [and] we knew we couldn’t re­lease Tran­sis­tor on ev­ery plat­form un­der the sun at the same time, so we made a de­ci­sion to go for PS4 first. You’ve ex­plored both fan­tasy and sci-fi now. What will you try next? We don’t know. We put ev­ery­thing we had into this game, and we don’t plan ahead. It’s al­most a taboo at Su­per­giant, be­cause noth­ing re­ally mat­ters un­til we see the re­sponse to what we’re work­ing on now. Since we’re small, we don’t have mul­ti­ple projects brew­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously. We in­vest ev­ery­thing we’ve got into a sin­gle project, and I re­ally like it that way. I think with games it’s im­por­tant not to plan too far ahead, not to try to de­sign the whole thing on paper, be­cause a lot is go­ing to change. We like to take things as they come.

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