Building Bastion

Supergiant's Greg Kasavin on crafting this year's Summer of Arcade standout.

While perhaps not quite scaling the heights of previous years, the current Summer of Arcade season has thrown up a fine harvest so far - from the cute Metroid-with-Martians stylings of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, to Eric Chahi's ambitious attempt to breathe some life into the god game genre with From Dust. However, it's Supergiant Games' delightful isometric action RPG Bastion that has come closest to providing the class of 2011 with a Limbo or a Braid.

Though it offers fair few innovative touches, it's a title that's custom-made to tickle the nostalgia glands of the don't-make-'em-like-they-used-to demographic. Duly, according to the game's creative director Greg Kasavin, the project was born out of a frustration at a lack of titles out there for those who, like them, favour The Old Ways: classic level design, tight controls and the "sense of wonder" that the SNES games of his youth inspired.

"We really miss certain types of play experiences," he admits. "There's a whole era of gaming that people have a lot of love for, and I think those players are feeling pretty under-served these days. There are some really great FPS games out there, but if you miss classic-style RPGs, or action adventure games, or Metroidvania games, there isn't a lot of stuff to choose from.

"There was real mastery in game design in that era, before the advent of 3D gaming and the PlayStation. But when 3D gaming came around a lot of that institutional knowledge and mastery sort of went away. People had to re-learn to make games. In our case, we do take a lot of lessons from games of that era as we think there's so much great stuff there."

Take those vintage influences and then stir in some more modern trimmings - such as the gravelly, enigmatic in-game narration and the thoughtful Shrine system that lets players customise the game's difficulty - and, as Kasavin argues, "suddenly it's a fresh experience."

Refreshingly, there's no talk of a sequel or further DLC - Bastion's been created as a standalone experience.

And it's that 21st-century frosting that Supergiant hopes will help bring in a younger audience too, who've likely never played Secret of Mana, A Link To The Past, Ultima or any of the other 16-bit touchstones that count among Bastion's myriad influences. That said, Kasavin adds that the game should also appeal to a younger crowd for exactly the same reasons that the aforementioned classics did: because they're well made and they have that elemental whiff of magic about them.

"Our game isn't meant to be directly referential to old games, like some kind of nostalgia trip. It's just meant to be a good game on its own merits that anyone can appreciate whether they've played stuff that's similar to it or not. We make no assumptions about player's experience level with the design, other than assuming they know how to read a little bit, and how to use a controller.

"Our goal is to make the kinds of games that spark people's imaginations like the ones they played as kids."

"Personally I feel there aren't enough quality titles out there that are suitable for younger players," he continues.

"When I was a kid, there was a lot of terrific stuff for young players to choose from and that stuff turned me into a life-long fan of video games. I sometimes wonder what the modern equivalent is. You have super-young children playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, y'know?

"Our goal is to make the kinds of games that spark people's imaginations like the ones they played as kids. Or, for younger gamers, we want to make games that spark their imaginations period, and fill them with a sense of wonder and discovery."

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