The Story Behind Supergiant Games’ Transistor


Coming off the heels of our latest issue, which features a profile on close-knit studio Supergiant Games, we’re additionally sharing elements of the indie developer’s wonderful journey online by posting the tales behind its ingenious titles. Last week, we took an in-depth look at Supergiant’s formation and its debut game, Bastion. Now we’re shining the highlight on the studio’s hotly-anticipated follow-up: Transistor. The studio’s second recreation actually modified issues up, bringing in a recent new setting and twist on the motion/RPG style. The sci-fi RPG follows a well-known singer named Red who will get greater than she bargained for when she avoids an assassination try on her life and picks up a sword-like weapon that may talk together with her. All eyes had been on Supergiant to ship one other hit, however Transistor turned out to be a venture filled with highs and lows, because the group labored to show they weren’t only a one-hit-wonder. 

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 Under Pressure


Transistor stays Supergiant’s most difficult venture to launch. Bastion took 18 months to finish; Transistor’s pre-production cycle alone took longer than that. It was additionally the primary time a venture began with a full group available. Not to say Bastion’s success was nonetheless in full view, due to a part of the group specializing in getting it to work on cell. The studio was additionally rising, including a number of new roles (like a 3D artist) that it had beforehand employed freelancers for. Eventually, the employees grew as much as 12 members.

“We were starting the game with a full team – including more voices and perspectives and learning how to do that,” says studio director Amir Rao, including that issues that took weeks to determine for Bastion took months for Transistor. “There was also all this invisible pressure of wanting to live up to [Bastion] – a game that was really well-liked and seemed with time to be getting more well-liked.” 

The group had put all that they had into Bastion, all of the concepts that they had dreamed up in the event that they ever had the prospect to make their very own recreation. “It’s like you have your entire life to make your first album and a year to make your second,” says composer and audio director Darren Korb.  “All of the ideas you’ve ever wanted to use, you can use on your first thing, and then you have to make all new ideas for your second thing in this much shorter time.” 

After having most of her artwork go immediately into Bastion with out a lot time for iteration, artwork director Jen Zee welcomed the pre-production section because it gave her extra time to ideate on her artwork. “I’d say I’ll differ from the opposite guys in that I bear in mind Transistor fairly fondly,” she says. “It represented an opportunity for me to basically evolve what I had done on Bastion into something slightly different –  and in what I hoped would be better. I had all these issues [in Bastion] with how I’d made some of the environments too overly detailed and the color was a little too strong here and there. I had no compositional control over certain things and didn’t work with light and shadow enough. Transistor represented where I could improve that stuff, having learned off of Bastion, and it was also basically a fresh start.” 

Supergiant knew it didn’t wish to do a Bastion 2, even when that will have been the protected alternative. The group additionally determined early that Transistor would characteristic a science-fiction love story in a cyberpunk setting – however with out the gritty backdrop. “We were really interested in kind of slowing things down and having a game with a more deliberate pace,” says inventive director Greg Kasavin. “We were seeing if we could capture the kind of drama and suspense of turn-based strategy games where you’re biting your nails, wondering if things will go horribly wrong. We wanted to see if we could capture it in an action/RPG setting. I think we got to them in the end, but it was a long, winding road.”

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 Tensions Rising


While the group agreed on these points of the sport, they nonetheless struggled to agree on Transistor’s route and the difficulties continued to mount the longer it took to get issues going. “It was really challenging for that game to find its point of view and to find its gameplay,” Rao says. “It was challenging across the board to find its specific artistic and musical execution, to find the character voices, everything.”

Being on the venture from the start this time round as inventive director, Kasavin mentioned he bumped into his personal frustrations determining precisely what his position needs to be and bringing collectively the work of a a lot greater group. It even led to his relationship with Rao being a bit strained as they discovered the sport. “Amir and I clashed on Transistor,” Kasavin says. “Nothing bad, but after having worked together quite harmoniously overall on Bastion, the pre-production on Transistor was more fraught. We just had more disagreements and struggles to align on what the game should be and what it should feel like. I think it’s attributable to the part where we literally had never had a pre-production phase like that before.”

Kasavin and Rao weren’t the one ones who felt hardship. After getting such reward for Bastion’s rating, Korb struggled to search out the sound for Transistor, saying he experimented for six months earlier than he received it, calling it a “hair-pulling, frustrating experience,” because of the added challenges of attempting to write down from a selected character’s perspective and having major character Red be a well-known singer. “The music, like it had to, was given a lot of responsibility for some of the emotional beats,” he says. “I’m glad it worked out.” 

Getting the venture previous the conception section took for much longer than anticipated, inflicting tensions to rise. “The sort of the honeymoon phase of having pre-production time ended after a couple of months,” Kasavin remembers. “And suddenly we were just wandering in the woods in a way that was new to our team.” 

Things reached a breaking level proper because the group was about to unveil the sport at PAX East 2013. “We were so nervous about how it was going to be received that we almost pulled the plug,” Kasavin says. The group was set to announce Transistor on a Tuesday, however was nonetheless having conversations on Sunday if they need to change course. “That’s how tense we were about how the Transistor announcement was going to go over,” Kasavin says. “Because even at that point when we felt we had something to show that was like a real expression of what we were working on, we were still getting kind of mixed playtest feedback.” 

Ultimately, the group determined to maneuver ahead, figuring even when that they had additional time, it wouldn’t basically change something. “If people didn’t like it, it would be better for us to know that sooner,” Kasavin says. “But the announcement went over way better than any of us expected. It was just incredibly encouraging.” 

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 Avoiding The Sophomore Slump


When it launched in May 2014, Transistor was a hit. Our personal Matt Miller gave the sport a 9 out 10, writing: “Supergiant Games’ follow-up to Bastion is a powerfully imaginative action/RPG that evokes a sense of wonder and revels in experimentation.”

It wasn’t only a success critically, both. Since Supergiant Games self-published Transistor at the next value level than Bastion, it introduced in extra money – shortly. “I think history may show that Transistor was our most important title because of its immediate success,” says principal voice actor Logan Cunningham. “Because it was just like, whatever else the team behind Bastion had next, there was a huge audience in place that was going to get it no matter what.” 

But it didn’t precisely present all members with the completely satisfied emotions they felt after the launch of Bastion. “I love that people love Transistor so much,” Cunningham says. “But I don’t have very fond memories of that process. It was really hard. It took the most time and we didn’t know what it was for a while.” 

Zee differs a bit from the others, as she’s going to at all times have a particular affection for it. “Transistor was the closest to my heart, in the sense that it is in a style that is closest to what I would naturally end up creating on a daily basis.” 

Either means, the group had confirmed themselves as soon as once more and received what they wanted: the flexibility to maintain working collectively on one other recreation. Kasavin mentioned it greatest: “We survived another round. Even if we could financially withstand a bit of a failure, I think culturally, it would have been really difficult for us to move on.”

You can take a look at our earlier characteristic on the story behind Bastion here. Stay tuned for Supergiant’s journey by Pyre hitting later this week!

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