‘Transistor’ Gameplay Natural Fit for Sci-Fi Setting, says Designer

by Joseph Leray

“Transistor,” Supergiant Games’ follow-up to “Bastion,” has been one of the brightest stars in Sony’s cabal of PlayStation 4-exclusive indie games. It’s got a a talking sword, a heroine on a motorcycle, and stop-and-go tactical combat set in a vibrant cyberpunk world. It’s white-hot.

No surprise, then, that Sony’s official PlayStation Blog would be interested in interviewing writer and creative director Greg Kasavin — which they did during E3. The full interview is kind of self-serving — which is to be expected from a company mouthpiece — but there are a few choice tidbits to glean nonetheless.

Here’s how “Transistor” was dreamt up, per Kasavin: “When we sat down to think about what our next project was going to be after ’Bastion’ we threw all our ideas up on a board,” he said. “We talked about our pre-occupations, from the fiction, to the gameplay, to the tech, and so forth. We just tried to find common ground.”

“One of the things we really enjoyed about Bastion was the world-building aspect – creating this fantasy universe from scratch. And thankfully that aspect of the game was well received, so we wanted to try and do that again.”

The game’s combat borrows plenty from older tactical RPGs — such as a grid-based environment and the ability to queue up attacks in advance — but it’s was also designed with the futuristic world in mind. You can see an example of it here.

“We were interested in pursuing a more strategic, deliberately-paced mode of play that had more inherent drama to it — more of a back and forth,” Kasavin explained. “And from that, we wanted to see what we could do in the sci-fi genre. We felt our gameplay ideas more naturally lent themselves to a science fiction setting.”

Sony made waves during the PlayStation 4 announcement by highlighting its 8 GB of RAM, an improvement that Arkane Studios, of “Dishonored” fame, have already called a “joy.” Even for small indie games like “Transistor,” though, the new specs have proven useful: “You’d be surprised. The extra power of the PS4 is actually super-useful for us, especially the added memory capacity.”

“This game is much more animation-intensive than ’Bastion’ already. The fidelity of the animation — I’m not sure we could achieve that on the current gen without significantly scaling it back,” he continued. “It really helps not having to spend all our time squeezing the game into a much smaller memory footprint. That allows our content creators on the art side and audio side to be more expressive.”

Maybe I’ve been suckered by Sony’s marketing efforts, or maybe my affection for “Bastion” is clouding my judgment, but I am unabashedly, unreservedly, perhaps un-journalistically, excited for “Transistor.”

It’s slated for the PlayStation 4 and PC sometime next year, with Linux and Mac ports planned for later.

[PlayStation Blog; image is “Cloudbank” by Supergiant art director Jen Zee]

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