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.”