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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