Supergiant’s Transistor Will (Sorta) Have Multiplayer

By Nathan Grayson on April 1st, 2013 at 9:00 am.

It's good to see that the City of Rapture is still finding work these days.

Bastion was absolutely marvelous, and Transistor – aka, Bastion 2: Cyberpunk Boogaloo – very much looks to be following in its pathway summoning footsteps. But while surface-level similarities (a Logan-Cunningham-voiced narrator-type, bleak yet beautiful environments, a silent main character, isometric perspective, etc) might suggest a familiar experience, Supergiant definitely isn’t sticking to Bastion’s straight-and-narrow. Case in point: Transistor isn’t entirely a solo affair. As part of a gigantic interview/preview session (the full results of which you’ll see very soon), creative director Greg Kasavin explained to RPS that the action/turn-based tactics RPG hybrid will include a fairly novel form of multiplayer functionality.

First off, the good news: Supergiant has no intention of shoehorning in a glorified deathmatch mode where it doesn’t belong.

“The combat maybe could work in multiplayer, but I don’t see this game having deathmatch arenas or whatever. I think I can say that pretty safely,” Kasavin explained.

So then, how will Transistor’s circuitry scrambling antics take advantage of our pitiful, modern Internet? Well, honestly, you might not even notice – at least, at first.

“Something we’re more interested in is a sense of feeling connected to other people who are playing in a subtle way,” Kasavin said. “You can still have your personal experience around the story, but you always know you belong in a larger [world]. For example, players can sometimes see traces of other players’ paths moving around. Things of that nature. What’s interesting to us about this world is that it lends itself to some interesting things like that.”

Which kind of makes me think of Dark Souls. Never a bad thing, that. But what about co-op, an action-RPG staple since the days of Diablo’s rascally, soul-devouring youth? For now, Kasavin explained, it’s a no-go, but it’s actually been on Supergiant’s mind since Bastion’s beginning.

“We actually prototyped co-op in Bastion, and we cut it because [it just didn’t fit],” he admitted. “Traditionally, we agree that co-op is probably the most enjoyable way to play action-RPGs – with 1-3 other people. But we found it to be quite at odds with our narrative goals. When we had three people running around in Bastion, they just started goofing off and messing up the narration.”

“We also want the narrative and atmosphere to be important in Transistor, so having two characters running around at the same time would come at a heavy cost. It may open up some interesting gameplay opportunities, but at the expense of other areas. It’s not in the cards for us right now. But again, the part where you don’t feel alone in the world is very important to us. Solitude can be a very powerful feeling in games, but we want to use it intentionally. We don’t just want it to be the default mode of being in the game. We’d rather play around with it and use it purposefully.”

Also, just in case you were worried (honestly, I wasn’t; I mean, this is Supergiant we’re talking about), it’s not in any way required. So noted Kasavin:

“If we do it properly, I think it’ll be completely transparent – offline or not. It’s not like an ambitious always-online DRM strategy. That’s not what we have in mind!”

All that said, however, Transistor’s ghostly shell of a multiplayer mode is – like the rest of the game – quite a ways out, so it could evolve pretty profoundly before its release early next year. Whatever ends up happening, though, it’s going to prop up Supergiant’s glittering vision of the future – not push it over like some flimsy cardboard background set.

“There’s a lot that we’re still exploring there. Whatever we end up doing, we’ll probably want to be pretty subtle. It’s not going to be like you select multiplayer from the main menu. It’ll be something a little more under-the-hood that hopefully adds an interesting dimension to the world.”

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55 Comments »

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  1. MadTinkerer says:

    Tuesday Papers, then?

    EDIT: Seriously, I am excited for Transistor.

  2. spindaden says:

    this is a pretty rubbish April fool…

    • Fenix says:

      People still do April’s fools..?

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        RPS did run excellent ones. Remember the “1993 Redux”? Amazing stuff, if you don’t. Search for it here.

        Also, for some strange reason (not really, we are talking about “fool” and old) I got reminded of Alec’s ancient “A Fool in Morrowing”. Not really an April fools, it was published the next month, but can read as one. Just add it to your must read collection and pretend we are in 2013.

        • Fenix says:

          Ahhh, thanks for that, the 1993 redux articles were quite humorous. Also I assume you meant Morrowind there no? Bookmarked ‘em and will read those later.

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          Lambchops says:

          1873 was also excellent: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/1873/

          I imagine such shenanigans will be limited today as April Fool’s have coincided with the British bank holiday.

      • kwyjibo says:

        People still do April fool’s when it doesn’t land on a bank holiday.

  3. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Reminds me of SimCity social features. Which was another April fools joke.

  4. Alexspeed says:

    Is this now confirmed for PC?
    Because it was only anounced for consoles before if i am not mistaken?

    • Cold Steel says:

      TotalBiscuit has a video of him playing it at PAX 2013, the dev there says it’ll be on PC too.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPyD4FuvuOE

      Also he plays a bit of the new ROTT and it feels like Quake & Unreal Tournament all over again!

      • Commissar Choy says:

        Does he? I thought he said something along the line of “they were keeping their options open” and it would be weird to confirm/deny given that the demo states platforms: ??
        However, it had better come to PC (and we all know it’s going to).

        • cbanana says:

          Who knows till it’s released? It might happen that one of Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo offer them very large amounts of money to keep the game on only their console and away from from PC.

        • rustybroomhandle says:

          Might also just be Windows 8 and XBLA if Microsoft have their way.

          • Teovald says:

            Judging by W8 sales, Microsoft would have to offer a very large sum (or just impose no XBox version unless the game is w8 only on desktop..) to make this interesting for the devs.

  5. GameCat says:

    I’m moving, you’re shooting. That kind of multiplayer?

  6. televizor says:

    Is that Greg Kasavin of Gamespot fame, from way back when Gamespot was relevant?

    • Jimbo says:

      Yes it is. He also worked on Red Alert 3, and I seem to recall him having something to do with Spec Ops: The Line at some point during that game’s 400 year development.

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        soulblur says:

        How true! I was saddened by when he disappeared into the corporate giant. But now at Supergiant, I freaking love his games (well, the one so far). So a happy ending.

  7. Commissar Choy says:

    Dark Souls style multiplayer indirect interaction? Praise the Sun!

    • aliksy says:

      Gorgeous view ahead.

      I mean, Dark Souls’ passive multiplayer was pretty innovative and neat. So long as the game works fine without it (Dark Souls had a perfectly functional offline mode), I’m excited to see it here.

      • pakoito says:

        Need humanity to understand the ramifications of passive multiplayer

        • aliksy says:

          For anyone who doesn’t know, in Dark Souls you could leave messages for other players (composed via a set of predetermined phrases. So you couldn’t write “lol noob”). You would also see blood stains where other players had died, and a ghostly replay of what they had done. They couldn’t affect your world (other than things like writing “Try jumping” at places where you really shouldn’t try jumping).

          There was also a more active multiplayer where you could show up in other people’s worlds, either as a hostile invader or beneficial phantom.

          • Brun says:

            Praise the sun!

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            darkChozo says:

            One other thing, for completeness. You’d occasionally see other players as ghostly figures within your world, usually only for a couple seconds. They wouldn’t affect anything gameplay-wise, but were fairly cool none the less, given the game’s aesthetic. They’d also appear more solid near bonfires, to the point where they’d just be rendered in full color with all equipment if they were actually sitting at a bonfire.

            Oh, and, um, beware of fatty.

          • lordcooper says:

            There were a few other nice little touches such as being able to hear when other players ring a certain couple of bells. I found it helped add a nice sense of camaraderie.

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            darkChozo says:

            Other (ranging from completely to moderately passive) things:

            * If someone kindles the bonfire you last rested at, you get a free Estus Flask charge, even if you’re in the middle of an area.
            * If a player dies to curse, they leave a spiky stone figure in other player’s worlds.
            * Some miracles have a chance of leaving a little circle thing in other player’s worlds; if the other player uses that miracle near the circle it would be slightly more powerful.
            * Players dying with large amounts of souls/humanity have a chance of spawning “Vagrants” in other players’ worlds, which can be killed to get moderately rare items.
            * Not really passive, but those in the Gravelord covenant could cause strong variants of common enemies to spawn in other players’ worlds.

            And I’ve probably forgot some things. Dark Souls has a lot of hidden mechanics.

  8. kwyjibo says:

    Transistor is about as cyberpunk as Final Fantasy. Future Big Sword 2.

    • JackShandy says:

      This is a nice town, mister, we don’t want any of your genre-warrin’ here. Folks are still shook up about that RPG ballyhoo.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Or TRON. ;)

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      darkChozo says:

      Swords? In cyberpunk? Madness, I say!

      • dubusadus says:

        Yeah man, it’s not like Snow Crash revealed Neal Stephenson’s early enthusiasm about swords at all with all those sweeping expository scenes featuring Hiro’s trusty katana (appropriate since Hiro is a massive nerd stereotype from the 90s and qualifiably racist because Hiro is also half-Japanese).

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Your mom is about as cyberpunk as Final Fantasy. OH SICK BURN

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    Anthile says:

    They should have co-op where one player plays the game regularly and the other one narrates.

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      Lambchops says:

      Anthile poised over his/her keyboard, pondering over what comment to make. Would it be insightful, snarky or a witty pun? Finally the answer came and his/her fingers flew over the keyboard at an incredible rate of wpm. The red button lay invitingly before him/her and his/her cursor hovered over it before, with a confident motion, his/her finger depressed upon the mouse button. Opinion, away!

  10. TechnicalBen says:

    “Regions” of players games can interact and “gift” resources to others in the “vision” of the creators “design”. “MMO” like gameplay with “four” players can help dynamically shape the “simulation”. “It’s how it’s meant to be played” was the comment from the lead. “Always online” will be needed for the “not singleplayer” part of the game. The fastest mode “realtimecheeta” will be removed to help stability. “It’s what the players want” we were told…

  11. x1501 says:

    “When we had three people running around in Bastion, they just started goofing off and messing up the narration.”

    God, I hate this pathetic excuse. Not everyone has retards for co-op partners. Some of us can actually, you know, cooperate with each other.

    • Stochastic says:

      I personally think Kasavin’s point here is very valid. Actually, this is one of the reasons why I’m a little concerned by the trend to try and cram co-op into everything. Even if you do have mature and sensible partners, playing with others can ruin the atmosphere of a game and get in the way of the narrative. I’m personally in favor of the Portal 2 approach where there are separate singleplayer and co-op modes, although that obviously requires a lot of resources as you effectively have to make two games.

      • x1501 says:

        I’d be more willing to accept this argument, if not for the fact that I’ve been playing co-op games for almost two decades without ever actually encountering this hypothetical problem. Aside from my LEGO-addicted nephews who usually keep close and look for my guidance in the first place, all my regular co-op partners are mature experienced gamers who care about immersion just as much as I do.

        Again, if you feel like playing with others can ruin the atmosphere of the game and get in the way of its narrative, don’t play that game in co-op. It’s this simple. If, say, one of my partners is an impatient action junkie unable to handle the slower pace of Mass Effect or Dead Space without ruining my experience, I’ll invite him to L4D2 but play Dead Space 3 with someone else. If one of my partners only shows interest slow strategy games, we’ll keep playing those half-year-long Civilization IV and Anno 1401 sessions, but when I turn on Saints Row 3, I’ll just send my invitation to somebody else.

        As a sensible adult, I’m perfectly capable of using my own discretion in deciding how and with whom I play my games without anyone else’s “help”. Aren’t you?

        • Erinduck says:

          Or, crazy idea, if the developer feels that co-op would detract from the narrative that they’re trying to deliver they could not include co-op

    • Kusz says:

      Yeah, because every game needs a coop option. Spec Ops: The Line would benefit greatly if you could play it in coop with friendly fire permanently on, and infinite lives, Serious Sam style.

      • Baines says:

        Spec Ops would probably at some point tell one player to kill the other player, or at least suggest that the other player might be planning to kill you.

      • derbefrier says:

        because that’s all co-op is limited too am i right?

        • Kusz says:

          No, but x1501 wrote his statement as if all games should have coop, and developers that give pretty valid arguments about not including it in the standard version, that a lot of games have, are giving “pathetic excuses”. As stated in the article, they are toying with some multiplayer options, but they want to introduce them in a way that won’t detract from their biggest forte.

          • x1501 says:

            “but x1501 wrote his statement as if all games should have coop”

            Actually, what I wrote is that the popular “people goofing off and messing up the narration” argument is a cheap and lazy excuse for not including co-op in one’s game. If you have other priorities or simply don’t want to spend extra time on co-op development, fine. Your game, my money. But don’t make it look like the only reason you’re not doing it is because people who enjoy playing together all turn out to be incapable imbeciles who couldn’t even get through something as straightforward and simplistic as Bastion’s narrative delivery.

            As I said, most players are capable of using their own discretion in deciding how and with whom they play their games. Given that co-op is almost always an optional, non-invasive feature that can easily be avoided, the argument is borderline offensive and makes very little sense.

          • Kusz says:

            They are (IMO) not treating people, as you assume, as idiots incapable of enjoying a game without constantly dicking around, it’s about people who don’t know anything about the game or know little.

            Generally, you don’t know beforehand if you will get most out of a game playing in single or coop without extensive research. People just assume it will be better played in coop, because friends = fun, right? They will get on a skype call, or whatever, play the game while talking about normal stuff from their lives, blaze through it, and the only thing they will remember is a bland hack and slash. Later, someone will tell them, that this game they played earlier has a great story, but by that point, they will not care, and they will not return to it, because they have a massive backlog of games, and might as well play something new. And those people will not care about the next game Supergiant will make.

            It’s hard as it is to make an engaging story in a video game that makes sense from a narrative and gameplay standpoint. The only thing they will achieve is that they will introduce another variable that they will have to take into consideration. Considering that most people play through a game only once, they might as well make that one play matter as much as they can.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      They don’t want to make a co-op game. Let them do what they want since it’s their game and their decision to make. If it means it’s not a game you want to play, then don’t. They obviously have a very specific idea of how they want to deliver the narrative and I feel it’s best they just stick with their gut, rather than shoehorning something in there that they had no plans for to begin with.

    • Ragnar says:

      Given that the narration exactly echoes your actions as they happen in Bastion, I can’t think of any way they could have multiple kids running around without destroying the careful narration they created.

  12. engion3 says:

    I loved reading Greg Kasavin’s reviews back in the day on Gamespot.

  13. BreadBitten says:

    “…creative director Greg Kasavin…”

    Man, I remember back when I used to read his reviews on games…I feel old.

    • Stochastic says:

      You’re not the only one. It was thanks to guys like Greg Kasavin, Alex Navarro, Brad Shoemaker, and Jeff Gerstmann that I was an avid Gamespot reader back in the day. Fortunately, they are doing quite well these days it seems!

      • gritz says:

        I just want to know what’s up with Scorpia and Desslock these days.

  14. pakoito says:

    Praise the sun!

  15. Erinduck says:

    Did you even read the post or did you just read the headline and type from there?

    • lordcooper says:

      Reading the posts is for nerds.

      • Zorn says:

        Wonderful. I thank you for this comment, good sir. I’m more cake and chips on this very day, and I will inevitably explode in the course of this evening. But now, at least, I can go with a smile!