SuperGiant Games have been around for a while, and whilst many PlayStation gamers may have experience Transistor first, their debut title was actually Bastion. Ahead of Bastion’s release on the Vita we caught up with Greg from Super Giant Games to find out more.
Hello SuperGiant Games! Thanks for talking with us. Can you tell us a little bit about your studio and how you got into developing games?
Sure! We’re Supergiant Games and we’ve been around since 2009, and thus far made two games: Bastion and Transistor. Supergiant started as just two people in the living room of a house and eventually grew to seven on Bastion. Now we’re up to about a dozen, though looking to stay small like that. I and the two cofounders used to work together at Electronic Arts, where we were spending more and more time playing independent games like Braid and Castle Crashers and Plants vs. Zombies, and were blown away by how good those games were in spite of — or maybe because of — the small sizes of the teams that made them. When playing these, you could just feel the care and attention of their creators, and we aspired to make games that had a similar quality. Or, as we like to put it, we want to make games that spark your imagination like the games you played as a kid.
We are talking to you about Bastion, which originally came out in 2011, before the Vita! For the benefit of those that don’t know anything about it, can you explain what Bastion is?
Bastion is an action RPG where a mysterious narrator marks your every move. You play as a character called the Kid, who wakes up to find his world shattered to pieces in a surreal catastrophe. He fights his way to his people’s safe haven, whose mysterious caretaker has a plan to set everything right.
It’s very easy to pick up and start playing, and we think it has a unique presentation, from the art style to the music to the use of voiceover. As they get into it, many players start to find the depth in the mechanics, as each of the game’s various weapons has its own feel and supports a different style of play, and they also tend to get more and more invested in the characters and narrative. The narrated journey starts to feel very personal and hopefully will leave you feeling very satisfied by the time you reach the end.
The game has a very impressive art style. How did the team decide on that look?
Bastion’s art style is thanks to Jen Zee, our art director, who was the only artist on the team during the game’s development. She painted all of the environment art, designed all the characters, and more. We had tried working with a number of artists prior to Jen during preproduction but it was her work that really stood out, and best complemented what we were going for with the tone. In some ways the art style strongly contrasts the tone of the narrative, though we loved what that did for the overall feel.
How long can gamers expect to be playing for, and what will keep them playing? What kind of gameplay will they encounter?
Bastion takes most players roughly eight hours to finish the first time through, and there’s a New Game Plus mode available after that for those who want to keep going. The New Game Plus mode we think is a lot of fun, and opens up some new content and challenges, though it was very important to us to make a complete-feeling game that you could just play through once beginning to end and feel totally satisfied. The gameplay definitely puts an emphasis on action, and is very combat-oriented, and designed to reward playing with finesse and experimentation with the various weapon combinations in the game. You also get to develop the Bastion location, building new structures there while unlocking new game systems. We wanted there to be some interesting new system or area around every turn.
Will there be any noticeable differences between the PS4 and Vita versions?
The Vita version of Bastion is meant to be an exacting translation of the original game, same as the PS4 version. If we do our jobs right there should be no significant differences between the versions.
The Vita port is being managed by Blitworks, who are well-known for working on many great Vita ports. How did that happen, and were there any plans to develop the port in house?
BlitWorks came highly recommended to us, and we were impressed with work they did bringing such games as Don’t Starve and FEZ to the PS4 and Vita. Finding a partner like BlitWorks was going to be the only way our game would end up on the Vita or PS4 at this point. Especially when you’re small like we are, decisions about which platforms to support are about as close as life-and-death as you can get. It takes a lot of time and focus to get a game to feel right on any given platform.
Many Vita owners have been waiting patiently for Bastion. How close is the game to completion?
At this point it’s very close! Toward the end of development there tends to be a period where you’re fixing relatively obscure issues that hopefully no one would realistically ever encounter. But they’re important and you have to fix them just in case, while also making sure there’s nothing else you missed. That said, we should be on track to have the Vita version of Bastion out by the end of the year, though we don’t have a specific release date for it yet.
We couldn’t talk to you about your games without talking about your other notable title, Transistor. What are the chances of a Vita version, or does that depend on Bastion’s performance?
It’s first-things-first for us right now, so we have no plans to bring Transistor to the Vita at this point. We’ll have to see how it goes with Bastion and evaluate our options once we’re done with what we have on our plates right now. For what it’s worth we think Transistor works quite well using the PS4’s Remote Play feature, so it’s playable on the Vita right now if you have it on PS4!
As we mentioned above, Bastion is four years old. How do you feel about the game, looking at it now? Is there anything you wish you could change?
Bastion succeeded beyond our wildest fantasies, and has sold more than 3 million copies to date across all platforms. It’s showed the kind of staying power that I think is very rare for single-player games of a relatively modest size. The game really struck a chord with a lot of people, so yeah, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. We poured everything we had into that game, and feel incredibly lucky that it resonated with so many people around the world. That we would still be bringing it to new platforms all these years later is certainly not something we could have expected at the time.
What was the motivation for making a Vita version? Do you think that releasing the game so much later than the PS4 version could impact the sales?
The main motivation for bringing Bastion to the Vita is that we’ve never tried releasing a game on the Vita and like the platform. Our original intent was to launch the Vita version and the PS4 version at the same time, but the Vita ended up presenting more technical challenges. Rather than delay both, we launched PS4 when it was ready and now are focused on the Vita. As the two versions are cross-buy-enabled, meaning you don’t have to purchase them separately, we don’t expect and never expected the Vita version to outsell the PS4 version. It’s more that we wanted Bastion on the PS4 and Vita to feel like a really great value for anyone who picked up either version.
Are there any Vita titles that you consider a benchmark? Which games have impressed you the most on Vita?
The Vita’s got a terrific library, and I love how it’s turned into such a great destination for certain kinds of games that aren’t as common on other platforms — I’m talking about strategy RPGs like Jeanne d’Arc and Tactics Ogre, and visual novels like Danganropa and 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors. There are other technical benchmark games like Gravity Rush, and I also love that there’s this massive back catalog of PS1 games you can get for it. I’ve spent a lot of time re-playing classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story for example.
Are there any games coming out for the Vita that you are looking forward to?
I’d have to go with The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, the follow-up to Trails in the Sky. The Legend of Heroes games are big, solid JRPGs filled with colorful characters and interesting battle systems. I really enjoyed Trails in the Sky so I’m looking forward to the next one. Danganropa 3 was announced not long ago as well. Those games are a great intro to visual novels if you’ve never tried one. Great storytelling and characters.
What’s next for SuperGiant Games? Any thoughts on Bastion 2?
Thanks to the success of Transistor, we get to stick around for a while longer and figure out what’s next! Our ambitions as a studio are quite modest — we just want each of our games to do well enough to let us keep going as a team and make something else. It’s too early to say what that’s going to be just yet, though we’ll be excited to find out. Our game ideas start small and tend to evolve a lot as we work on them, which is part of the reason why we don’t like to say too much about what we’re up to until we feel we have something more concrete to show for ourselves.
Do you have anything that you want to say to the Vita owners reading this?
Thank you for voicing your support for Bastion on the Vita! I can safely say that were it not for the community support for this version of the game, we would not be working on it now. We appreciate your patience and hope you enjoy the game! Please let us know what you think on our @SupergiantGames Twitter!
We want to thank Greg and the team at Supergiant Games for their time with this interview! We can’t wait for Bastion, and hopefully we won’t have to for much longer. Are you looking forward to Bastion?
This interview first appeared in Issue 7 of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Stay tuned to the magazine for more exclusive and magazine first content soon!