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GamingWe are the dev team of Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. Ask us anything!

Jul 21st 2017 by SG_Greg • 25 Questions • 218 Points

Hey Reddit! It’s been five years (https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/lwljh/iama_dev_team_of_bastion_the_action_rpg_where_an/) since last we did such a thing, and we figured, we’re still alive, we’re still in business, we’ve learned a lot, and we’ve got a third game coming out real soon, so why not invite you to AMA once again?!

A bit about Supergiant: We were founded in the living room of a house in San Jose, CA in 2009. Bastion was our first game, launched in 2011. Transistor was our second game, launched in 2014. Pyre is our third game, launching... Tuesday! On Steam and PS4.

We’ve grown a little since Bastion and have 12 people at the studio. Just about all of us are in here:

Proof (https://twitter.com/SupergiantGames/status/887724037643751424)

EDIT -- Aaand, that's a wrap! Thanks everybody for all the great questions! We're @SupergiantGames on Twitter if any other burning questions arise in the coming days. Thank you for your support!

Q:

Any chance for a Supergiant artbook? the design work in all your games is so good I'd love it in artbook form.

A:

Hey, thank you for the interest! It's something we've thought about though don't have any plans for straightaway. The good news is, the longer we wait, the more art there's gonna be to work with if and when we get around to pursuing this as an idea...!


Q:

Just wanted to say supergiantgames is my favorite videogame company ever, I love how unique the gameplay is in every one of your games and the music and artstyle are just so amazing.
I really love the artwork on pyre, you guys really outdid yourself.

My question is how do you come up with such unique and yet different themes for each one of your games? what's the process of creating a new world from scratch?
Also, did you come up with the idea for pyre and transistor a while before they were created? Or do you have a brainstorm to discuss what to do next each time?

A:

Hey, thank you very much for the kind words. Really hope you find Pyre more than lives up to our previous work!

The process of creating our worlds and themes happens pretty gradually over time. We tend to latch onto a few specific tonal ideas early on, that aren't necessarily too well-formed but that are intriguing to us in some ways.

Then we just start building. Darren starts making music, Jen starts painting, I start writing, Amir and Gavin start prototyping, and so on. And then we look at it and see if anything about it sticks.

Gameplay comes first for us, though with an eye toward theme and with some sense of where the narrative could go. From a story standpoint I spend a lot of time outlining early on and looking for opportunities to build up the world based on the ideas we're implementing. Slowly, it all takes shape.

We don't have complete ideas for games before we start building them.


Q:

Hi guys! can't wait to play Pyre. I met you with bastion but i fell in love with transistor, it's one of my favorite games.

I need to do this question. How are the chances to have the 3 games on Nintendo Switch?

A:

Hey, thanks for your interest in seeing our games on the Switch. Bringing our games to new platforms tends to be a big undertaking for us so it's not something we approach lightly, and we tend to have to focus on just one or two versions of our games at a time. We have no plans for any other versions of our games right now for these reasons, though we appreciate your interest and haven't ruled anything out for the future.


Q:

How do you guys come up with your game ideas?

A:

There's this massive, metal pit beneath a trapdoor in our office floor.

Once every three years, we send in members of our team, two at a time, in there, to fight, barefisted. Sometimes, other members of the team throw in things like 2x4s or small pointed objects. We wait until one person can no longer fight, then send in the next. It's ordered by drawing lots. Whoever is the last one standing, whatever game they want to make, we make it.

Serious answer: We start by talking through all of our various preoccupations, which can be anything -- a gameplay idea, some bit of tech we'd like to pursue, a narrative theme, an idea for a setting. We start looking for common ground, and more importantly we just start building. And we start to see what sticks, and how we could make more of the ideas stick together.

It's an organic process. It can be slow. There's no design document and we mostly just talk through everything, one small idea at a time. That's how Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre all came about.


Q:

How many details did you guys iron out regarding Red's bodyguard? Did he have a name, or just an alias? I remember seeing things referring to him as Blue or Boxer, but I don't remember if either of those were from data-mined files. I loved the world Transistor was set in, and I've always wanted to know more about the person that you spend the entire game with.

A:

We know an awful lot about him. There were times when he was going to be the game's principal character. Things evolve a lot in the early stages of prototyping and ideation.

He had a variety of names we considered. Names go through a lot of iterations, sometimes, too. What ended up most compelling to us was this idea of an 'Unselected' character, someone who was a bit of an underachiever in the context of this world... and, as a result of him not opting into some of the privileges provided by Cloudbank, we consequently know very little about him (as players of Transistor), other than the information he volunteers along the way and what can be gleaned from that, and his relationship with Red.


Q:

A follow-up question, then: any chance of us having the opportunity to learn more about him in the future, such as a sequel, prequel, or another form of media?

A:

We don't have any plans for stuff like this right now, though I appreciate your interest. All our focus has been on Pyre lately. As to what the future holds, your guess is as good as mine...!


Q:

Why are the endings from Bastion and Transistor deep but very depressing?

A:

We want for the endings of our games to feel personal and thought-provoking, and to feel emotionally honest and fulfilling. We want them to feel true-to-life in the sense that, at the end of a long road, feelings tend to be mixed. I don't think either Bastion or Transistor are coming from a place of cynicism about the world. So, with all that said, I am sorry to hear that the prevailing sense they left for you was that of depression.

I'm the writer of our games and I think my colleagues could attest I am not the most happy-go-lucky guy in person... my views on things do not always take the most optimistic slant. Writing the worlds and characters of our games is deeply therapeutic for me. I get to write about themes of solidarity and friendship and truth and self-discovery and overcoming regret, all things that are so difficult to achieve in life, and are so important to experience in any form.


Q:

Supergiant has one of the best group of personalities at a game company and Building the Bastion is my favorite behind the scenes look at game making. Any chance that we will get to see more of your process in the future?

A:

As a former game critic, I think there aren't enough stories out there about what goes into the making of games (although these days it feels like there's a lot more good stuff like this than there used to be, e.g. Danny O'Dwyer's NoClip series or 2 Player's work with Double Fine and so on). Hopefully we will have chances in the future to show more of how we work, too.

I think it's really important for prospective game developers to see just how messy the process is. When you play a finished game you like, it's really intimidating and difficult to imagine how that came together. When you see a terrible prototype, you think... 'wait... I could do that!'


Q:

Are you guys against the idea of sequels?

I can't help but notice that you guys have jumped from one "franchise" if you care to call them that, to another. Virtually every other studio out there would have seen the smash hit that was Bastion and slapped a number two on the end of that and made a clone of what they already did with the first game, but you guys didn't. Why is that?

A:

It's more that we're in favor of creating original worlds.

We're in a unique position as a studio, having made two (and hopefully soon three) original worlds for our games and succeeded at it. It's a struggle to make a successful game, much less in an original setting. And, if you do succeed, it can be the case that you get bound by that success -- some of the biggest studios out there are 'stuck' having to make sequels to their huge IPs indefinitely because it would be fiscally irresponsible (i.e. too risky) for them to do anything else!

We operate on a smaller scale and our games don't need to sell 10 million copies for us to stay afloat and be able to make something new. After Bastion, we were pretty sure that a Bastion 2 would have been a safer bet than anything else we had in mind, but we were more excited by the idea of making Transistor, and decided to pursue that instead.

We love the worlds and characters of our games and don't build our games thinking we would never under any circumstances come back to those worlds. But we also build each game to feel complete in its own right, so that if we never made another game in that setting, it'd be OK, because there's still this fully faceted glimpse of it in the game we did make.


Q:

So on the face value, Pyre sure doesn't look like a combat-centric game compare to your previous titles since it plays like a "sports" game but I beg the differ. I think it is still very combat-heavy game because getting your hands on the "ball" require player's finesse and characters' abilities, the goal is just an add-on. So my question is which way would you prefer the majority of your audiences perceive the game? Would you like them to perceive it as a sports game, or lean towards thinking it is a tactic heavy fighting game with a little sport twist in it? I know the wonder of this game is in-between those 2 lines. Aaaaand congratulations on the launch, I can't wait for Pyre.

A:

We prefer for Pyre to be regarded as a party-based RPG.

It happens that the game's battle system can be seen as having some common ground with some sports, but really, sports can be seen as a simulation of pitched battle. The main difference is that in sports, you don't just straight-up die if you fail (in most cases...), and the nonlethal nature of the competitions in Pyre was very important to us. We wanted the characters in this game to have to live through failure and deal with it, both personally and together as a group. You'll find this is core to the themes of the game -- this group of characters, having to strive together through thick and thin, unable to succeed on their own.

Really hope you enjoy the game!


Q:

Oh, silly, I can totally relate to that, I really like the scumbags in Bastion, I even got some on my steam profile, thanks for the answer it was some neat insight :)

A:

My pick would be a yet-unrevealed character from Pyre.... I'm envious of his hair, among other things.


Q:

I've seen a lot of theories about Cloudbank, and nobody agrees on whether it's a real place or a virtual reality "matrix" of some sort, for example. Have you established a canon answer for this? (Not asking you to reveal it, just curious whether you have an answer or not.)

A:

We have very long-winded documents all about Cloudbank, and where and when it came about. What's revealed in the game is just the tip of the iceberg, since most of the information you get in the game is from the point of view of the characters, who have their own perspective but still have gaps in their own knowledge and understanding.


Q:

I'm pretty sure your fans would pay for it. (Including me.)

A:

No plans for something like this right now though I appreciate the interest. We've been heads-down working on Pyre for a long time!


Q:

Any chance of returning to Caelondia or Cloudbank in the future?

A:

We don't know what the future holds for us! We design the worlds of our games both on the premise that 'maybe this will be the last game we ever make, so let's make the best game possible and make sure it feels self-contained and complete' -- but that also means creating worlds that feel rich enough to potentially support any number of different stories. We have never approached one of our games as, like, the first in a trilogy or something like that, but we love the worlds of Bastion, Transistor, and now Pyre, and are not inherently opposed to ever coming back to them. Though, we love creating new worlds from scratch a lot, too!


Q:

Have y'all ever thought about releasing PS4 physical copies of your games through Sony or an independent group such as Likited Run Games? It would be a day one purchase for me and many collectors.

A:

Hey, yeah, as a studio whose games exist exclusively as data on people's hard disks, we see a lot of appeal in creating physical versions of our games or aspects of them. That's why we've invested so much in our online store, with soundtrack CDs and figurines and stuff like that. We've never put our games in a box, though! It's something we've thought about for sure, it's just never really come together for us thus far. Maybe someday! Thank you for your interest.


Q:

The setting of Transistor leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The story brings up a lot of questions that are never truly answered. (For example, what does it really mean to leave for the Country?) Do you have a canonical explanation for these things in mind, or did you write Transistor with the intention of everything being so ambiguous. I love your games and I'm super excited for Pyre!!!

A:

Hey, thank you for the kind words.

We do have an explanation for everything in the game in mind, but the canon is the game itself. Aspects of the game left open to interpretation are left open that way on purpose.

I feel one of the mainstays of cyberpunk fiction themes is a sense of uneasy ambiguity around the self and one's environment. Aspects of Transistor's fiction that are left open to interpretation are there in part to express this, but also because games, being an interactive medium, I think invite players to have a personal experience. Lastly, I think narrative can and sometimes should be a source of challenge in games, to the extent that challenge is pleasurable and interesting. Narrative needn't be relegated to serving as a reward between action sequences.


Q:

Can we expect the soundtrack to be released in the near future? If it's even half as good as the last two I can't wait to hear it!

A:

Yes, the Pyre Original Soudntrack will be there on Tuesday alongside the game's launch! It will be available on Steam and also from our web site. We will shortly announce details of the physical CD edition. It's our biggest soundtrack ever, weighing in at close to two hours of music by Darren. I'm sure Darren will have plenty more to say about the music in the game in this AMA!


Q:

Any chance of seeing some Supergiant Games in VR?

A:

We have no idea what the future holds, and have no firm plans after Pyre's launch, so, who knows?

Given our focus on creating 2D games with painterly artwork, it's not necessarily an obvious fit for us, though we're always thinking about new things we could do.


Q:

Hey Supergiant team,

Love the games you create, everything from the gameplay and world to the atmosphere and music are breathtaking.

My question is, do you have a long term plan to expand into another medium? A Transistor film, Bastion TV series etc with the wonderful storytelling in your games would be amazing.

A:

Thank you for the kind words!

I think the 'Games' part of Supergiant Games is important to us as a point of focus. We've branched out a little bit at least in terms of making stuff like soundtrack CDs though as a small studio, I think it's really important that we remain focused and specialized around something in particular, and games are the thing that units us as a team. All the same, we don't know what the future holds and are always open to new possibilities. It's important to be willing to adapt and change over time if you want to stick around for the long haul as a small studio like ours!


Q:

what do you do when you feel uninspired to do work at work? or this never happened? or how do you make youself inspired and motivated? any downtime?

A:

I'm sure we each have different strategies to deal with lack of motivation, and I'm sure we each experience it from time to time.

My strategy as a writer is to push through it. Just. Write. Just write. It can be trash but write something. Write about why you're not writing.

The other thing I discovered in recent years, and it's something that's very common as a piece of advice, is that physical exercise is really really really important. I go for a run. I work out my frustrations that way, and I change my scenery. It may not break me out of it right away but it can help.

Taking breaks is really important too.


Q:

Once you finish a game and move on to the next, how much time do you spend coming up with the idea for the next game? Do you have any expectation as to when you'll be in full production on your next game?

A:

It's varied a lot after each new game. We didn't start Transistor for like... well over a year after we were done with Bastion. We kept doing Bastion stuff, bringing it to new platforms and whatnot!

After Transistor, we were eager to get started on a new game ASAP, and got to work on Pyre about three months later.

No idea what the future holds this time. It really depends on how things go with Pyre.


Q:

Soooo.... How much fire does Pyre have/feature...? e3e

A:

In the parlance of certain regions of California: hella.


Q:

Would you guys ever consider 4K updates/rereleases for Transistor or Bastion? I remember hearing that the art assets were created specifically for 1080p, but they're such beautiful games I'd love to see them in 4K if possible.

And to Greg -- once you get done with the whole "putting out a video game" thing, get back on Giant Bomb more!

A:

It would be difficult to back-solve 4K onto Bastion or Transistor because the hand-painted assets were not generated with those resolutions in mind. 4K just was not a thing back in 2010 when Bastion was in production! Though, who knows, nothing is impossible I guess. Just not something we're actively considering right now.

I'm happy to be on Giant Bomb as often as those guys will let me! They know where to find me. I love that that crew is still together after all these years and the Bombcast keeps my Tuesday commutes sane.


Q:

Hey everybody! Thank you for making my two favorite games. Everybody on the team is incredibly skilled!

Have you ever thought about making a horror game or a game with horror-like elements?

A:

I like horror games a lot. Amnesia: The Dark Descent, SOMA, Resident Evil series (especially RE4), Condemned, and P.T. are some of my favorites.

I think it's one of those things, though, where you need buy-in from everyone having to do the work, and not all of us are into that sort of thing. I think we like that our games have been fairly accessible from a content standpoint. For example both my kids (ages 6 and 11) played a bunch of Pyre while it was in development. If I was working on something like Condemned, I doubt I could have ever shown it to them.

I'm glad to see lots of interesting horror-themed games still being made these days. I still need to play Resident Evil 7!


Q:

Will the PC version have 4k support? I saw the tweets mentioning PS4 pro having it but what about steam?

A:

Yes, indeed! The PC version of Pyre has support for 4K resolution with compatible displays.