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Beyond Bastion: Supergiant Feels It Can Do 'Anything'

When I say “Supergiant,” what do you think of? No, no, after an image of a particularly muscular giant wearing a cape. OK, no, but before the word loses all meaning and deconstructs into “Superg Iant,” which… what? Yes, correct, you think of Bastion. And that’s perfectly fair. After all, it is, so far, the only game that’s found the magically materializing path out of the little colossus that could’s lair. So naturally, SG’s “the Bastion company” in the eyes of most. It does twangy Western-flavored tales and narrators with voices made of gravel-bedazzled silk. But, while there are certainly far worse ways to be pigeonholed, co-founder Amir Rao isn’t interested in confining his company to a nigh-inescapable box.

“I think anything is possible out of us,” he told RPS during a recent interview. “Like, Gavin Simon, our co-founder, used to be a competitive Red Alert 2 player. He used to be on a team that was ranked in the top-100 ladders. He’s amazing at RTS games. And I’ve played hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of DOTA 2. Greg [Kasavin] is really into fighting games. So for us, there’s certainly a lot of pleasure in competitive games, and it’s possible we might do something like that someday.”

“From our perspective, it’s more about making games that fit with the preoccupations of the people on the team than [staying in a specific wheelhouse].”

Interestingly, Supergiant’s intentionally small team size is one of the major reasons for that. Rao explained that every individual member plays a very large role in deciding what sorts of games the studio creates. Case in point: Bastion.

“With Bastion, it was ‘What if we had an action-RPG where you build the whole world yourself?’ It was a really mechanical idea. But a lot of the tonal ideas came from Greg wanting to do something a little like Cormac-McCarthy-does-fantasy. And Jen brought in the lush 2D art she’s able to make. And Darren had musical ideas. It’s all of that mixed together that created what was special about Bastion. It’s hard to pin down any one thing.”

That said, staying (paradoxically) tiny and maneuverable can have its drawbacks. Project scope’s often the first thing to be sacrificed at the altar of creativity. That said, Rao doesn’t think that’ll ever end up being an issue for Supergiant – especially in light of the way the gaming industry’s evolving.

“We certainly don’t feel limited by the talent on the team,” he said. “I think you see things like Antichamber, which is totally 3D and it’s all just one guy. He made really smart stylistic choices that allowed him to do that. Things like The Witness, which Jon Blow’s working on, are also pretty small-scale. So, from that perspective, I don’t really think we’re limited.”

Which brought us to the natural next question: what’s, er, next? Unfortunately, Supergiant’s process is too amorphous to declare anything set in stone just yet. Basically, Rao and co won’t make a peep until they’re good and ready. But, conjuring up all the cunning my sleep-deprived journobrain could muster, I found a secret passageway into a treasure trove of details.

RPS: Can you at least say if Bastion narrator Logan Cunningham be involved? 

Amir Rao: [laughs] It’s still too early to say for sure what kind of talent we’ll have involved.

RPS: It’s going to be a Logan Cunningham simulator, isn’t it? Admit it: I’ve got you cornered. 

Amir Rao: I would play a Logan Cunningham simulator for sure.

So that’s obviously confirmed, then.

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Nathan Grayson

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