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Bastion dev: DLC can compromise atmosphere and immersion

In-game transactions threaten the fourth wall.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

DLC and in-game transactions can compromise a game's atmosphere and make it very difficult for players to get properly immersed in the experience, so says the creative director of acclaimed action RPG Bastion.

Speaking in a GDC panel today about why it's important to create atmosphere in games, Supergiant Games' Greg Kasavin mooted that breaking off the gameplay experience to ask players for real world money is rarely compatible with full player immersion.

"I think that's really tricky and a really tough problem," he said

"If your business goal is to make many bits of content and have in-games stores and stuff like that, I don't know how compatible that is to having an atmospheric experience. I think it's pretty tough.

"I think when the game asks you to pay real money it's hard to make it atmospheric. In fact I've never played a game that has achieved that."

Kasavin also singled out social games, such as Zynga's Mafia Wars 2, as examples of titles that could never offer immersion or atmosphere. He argued that regular pop-ups encouraging players to go and play other Zynga titles "shatter the fourth wall with a baseball bat".

"Certain design decisions make achieving atmosphere virtually impossible. I can't imagine how somebody could have an atmospheric experience playing something like Mafia Wars 2. Because this is a game that is constantly prompting you to go and play a completely different game."

Elsewhere during his talk, Kasavin stressed that "atmosphere is not limited to sweeping epics" such as Metroid Prime, Final Fantasy 6 or Demon's Souls.

He cited cult free-runner Canabalt and iOS sword combat hit Infinity Blade as great examples of mobile games successfully building atmosphere despite their humble scope.

Kasavin stressed that a game doesn't need to be atmospheric to be fun, though the video games that reside in his memory the longest all had it in spades.

Supergiant's delightful 2011 adventure certainly nailed it.

"Once the dust settles on The Kid's journey, though, you are still likely to want to return for another: listening out for deeper meaning in Rucks' narration, storming through previously tough areas with a meatier arsenal, soaking up details you didn't linger on previously," read Eurogamer's 8/10 Bastion review.

"Any concerns you had are likely to be drowned out in wistful hindsight by the dazzling visuals, artful commentary and moving score that made up your adventure."

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