Post Script

Greg Kasavin, writer/de­signer, Su­per­giant Games

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Af­ter more than a decade in games crit­i­cism, Greg Kasavin moved to EA and then 2K Games be­fore join­ing Su­per­giant Games, where he has writ­ten and co-de­signed the stu­dio’s three games, Bas­tion, Tran­sis­tor and now Pyre. Here, he dis­cusses crit­ics, team­work and why the stu­dio’s lat­est game was the big­gest chal­lenge of his ca­reer. You seemed un­sure about how Pyre would be re­ceived. Does your back­ground in crit­i­cism make you more anx­ious about that crit­i­cal re­sponse? If any­thing my back­ground as a game critic makes me more re­silient to crit­i­cism. I would be the worst kind of hyp­ocrite if re­views up­set me, hav­ing re­viewed games for 12 years. I feel deeply at peace with what crit­i­cism is; I find it in­cred­i­bly valu­able. I’m happy that each of the games we’ve made has pro­voked some thought­ful crit­i­cism that I’ve en­joyed tak­ing in – and that’s not just when some­one thinks our game is great (laughs). It seems like this was a very per­sonal project for you. I’ve known for three years that we were mak­ing some­thing pretty un­usual. Each of our games on pa­per has been deeply ill-ad­vised as a con­cept. We would al­ways joke with Bas­tion that it’s an ac­tion-RPG where an old man talks to you the whole time. It sounds ter­ri­ble when you put it that way, and I think all of our games can be de­scribed in a deeply re­duc­tive way that re­ally doesn’t cap­ture what I know is spe­cial about them to a lot of peo­ple, be­cause we’ve got­ten that feed­back. This one is def­i­nitely our big­gest project, it once again pushed us out of our cre­ative com­fort zone, and in terms of my own con­tri­bu­tion to it, it’s the big­gest writ­ing chal­lenge I’ve ever had in my life. But it’s been a very per­sonal project for all of us. There’s 12 of us on the team, and we put a lot of our­selves into our games. It’s never part of our thought process to make things that are dif­fer­ent for the sake of it. We just make things that are ex­cit­ing to us as a team and that’s al­ways been a good North Star for us to fol­low – that if we’re ex­cited about what we’re do­ing, then it’s go­ing to trans­late to our au­di­ence and cre­ate a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for them. In the pre-al­pha build we played a year or so ago, you had to main­tain your wagon’s fuel sup­ply to get to each Rite. Why was that cut? At the time we were ex­per­i­ment­ing with more re­source sys­tems and things of that na­ture. So you had a cer­tain amount of days to get to the next Rite, and if you ran out of fuel, you would have to waste a day scroung­ing for it. A lot of these sys­tems were in­ter­est­ing to us in­tel­lec­tu­ally, but when we played with them, they slowed the pace of the game down much more than we liked. Pyre is a game that takes its time, but we wanted for play­ers to be able to get to the next Rite quickly if they wanted. A lot of the nar­ra­tive con­tent in the game is op­tional, and if you just want to bee­line from one Rite to the next, you can do so in a few min­utes. But with all those other sys­tems, it made travers­ing the world feel re­ally grindy – and it also set up con­se­quences that were at odds with the idea of not hav­ing fail­ure states. Lo­gan Cun­ning­ham does a great job as the Rites’ MC – maybe too good, as it seems some peo­ple don’t recog­nise it’s him. It’s been ironic for us, it went from be­ing amus­ing to us ac­tu­ally start­ing to feel bad be­cause so many peo­ple don’t re­alise it’s him. If I was some­one who could ex­pe­ri­ence pride in any­thing, some­thing I would feel proud of would be that ev­ery­one who worked on Bas­tion also worked to­gether on Tran­sis­tor, and now on this game. The fact that we’ve been to­gether as a team for a long time is some­thing that feels good. With Pyre, we were all chas­ing af­ter things that we thought would be fun to do, and we’d fig­ure out how to make it all fit to­gether later. In the case of Lo­gan, he’s por­trayed these rel­a­tively stoic-sound­ing char­ac­ters in our pre­vi­ous games, but in per­son he does this re­ally funny im­pres­sion of Gan­dalf, and this hi­fa­lutin wiz­ard voice that he does def­i­nitely in­spired as­pects of the char­ac­ter. We wrote the char­ac­ter for him, and it hap­pened to align with other ideas that we had. It was fun to write and for him to record, and it felt good to us re­ally quickly. Did that strong team bond help you to cap­ture that sense of ca­ma­raderie among the Nightwings in your writ­ing? For sure, my ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing as part of a team be­came deeply in­spi­ra­tional to that as­pect of the story. That sense of char­ac­ters who are not alike hav­ing to, in some cases, set aside dif­fer­ences to work to­gether, where these char­ac­ters’ per­sonal goals are in­ter­twined with a shared goal. It felt re­ally sat­is­fy­ing to work on a story where these char­ac­ters were ul­ti­mately very gen­uine with each other, de­spite ini­tial ap­pear­ances. So much char­ac­ter-driven media to­day goes to a place of build­ing up emo­tional in­vest­ment, only to quite lit­er­ally as­sas­si­nate the char­ac­ters, and one’s emo­tions. You can get that kind of re­ac­tion from peo­ple by killing off a char­ac­ter they love, but I wanted to write a story where the emo­tional depth came from some­thing more pos­i­tive. And that is very much tied to the pos­i­tive emo­tions in­volved in be­ing on a team that can work through thick and thin, where peo­ple can pick each other up through their set­backs and cel­e­brate their suc­cesses to­gether.

Each of our games on pa­per has been deeply ill-ad­vised as a con­cept

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