Bastion's axed gardening feature revealed

Supergiant boss details a year of scrapped work.

Last year's phenomenal indie adventure Bastion at one point featured a substantial gardening feature, the boss of developer Supergiant Games has revealed.

Speaking at a session during this week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco titled "The Failure Workshop", studio director Amir Rao admitted his team spent a year trying to shoehorn an elaborate gardening-based upgrade system into the game.

"When you think about what Bastion has, it has a few main features," he explained.

"It had a reactive narrator, it had a rich hand-painted 2D art style and it had this finesse-based combat system.

"And then, on top of that, it was going to have a rich and exciting... gardening feature," he added wryly. "We were super, super excited about gardening on the team."

The system would see you picking up seeds while out in the game world and then returning to the Bastion to plant them. These would then slowly grow into upgrades or new areas to explore.

"You might find a seed for a whole new world to explore. You'd bring it back to the Bastion and you'd have these planters that would open up gradually," said Rao.

"If you only have four planters you'd have to choose - do I plant this new interesting thing that I got that I don't know what it does, or this other seed that I do know what it does?

"You would water your plants with cores - which were these blue things you'd find out in the world. Slowly you'd get a sprout, you'd see what it would grow into and then suddenly you'd have its fruit. Every time you opened the fruit you would get a binary, interesting choice."

Rao explained that the feature was eventually scrapped because it was too hard to communicate to players exactly what was going on.

"Players had no idea what was happening," he admitted.

"I find a seed in the world, I plant it in the Bastion and it upgrades my hammer? That was a real thing that was going on. Nobody knew what was happening.

"It's really hard to communicate the intermediate states of planting. There's the seed part, there's the intermediate part where it's sprouting and then there's what it became at the end, and there's almost no connection from the original seed to what it ends up being."

As you'll know if you've played the game, the upgrades system ended up being incorporated into good old fashioned menus.

"It took us a year because we were solving the wrong problem. We were tackling this huge thing - we were trying to make this one thing be everything.

"The conclusion is: you know the one thing that people understand a lot better than planting? A menu. A menu is something that's a good place to make decisions at and understand what's going on."

To much amusement from the audience, Rao played a recording of some improvised narration, in which the game's gruff voice-over actor Logan Cunningham tried to explain exactly how the system would work. In the absence of an actual audio clip, you'll just have to imagine how this sounds in your head:

"Plant whatever you feel like. Find an old shoe? Plant it. Find an old boot? Plant it. Find a rusted old pocket watch? Plant it. Find a copy of Terminator 2 on Laserdisc? Plant it. Find a pair of socks? Plant it. Find a Milli Vanilli cassette tape? Plant it. Find an original trilogy Jawa action figure? Plant it. Find an unopened Marvel Legends Spider-Man? Plant it. Some plants sprouted, others not."

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