Hi there! I’m Jesse, co-host of the monthly indie game club podcast, Byte Club. This month’s episode of the podcast was about the first title from Supergiant Games, Bastion. The game has become something of a modern classic, and of course, there have been more than a few people talking how great it is. While it’s overshadowed by the rest of the studios catalogue – which is a good thing, to be fair – there has been no shortage of pieces both from developers, fans, and critics alike. As per usual, these are some of my favourites.
Story Beats: Bastion // Ian Danskin (Innuendo Studios)
There are few channels on YouTube that, with every video, find something profound to say. Innuendo Studios is one of them, and while a lot of that wisdom has been leant to more politically charged videos as of late (a welcome change), the work related to video games is the stuff that got me hooked. This Bastion video is the last entry in Danskin’s Story Beats series, and in it, he says some incredibly deep things about games, the nature of play, storytelling, and the best moment in Bastion. There’s always talk of the benefits of telling a story within a video game as opposed to other mediums, and while there are some platitudes that probably spring to mind, this video contains a handful of truly profound statements on the nature of story and how it works within the interactive medium. Like all of Ian’s videos, it’s a thought-provoking and worthwhile watch.
Bastion Was Originally All About… Gardening // Kirk Hamilton (Kotaku)
It can often feel like indie projects with as much polish as Bastion have so many of their concepts figured out before a single line of code is written, so it’s nice to be reminded that that’s rarely, if not never, the case. All the best games from the indie and the AAA space have had ideas that were scrapped in the middle of development, or that were a part of the project until those last crucial weeks when someone finally realized it didn’t work. While not so extreme, the story of Bastion’s scrapped upgrade-through-gardening system is an interesting one. I encourage you to check this out at the very least for the stellar voice lines that Logan Cunningham recorded for it. I’d really love a version of the game with this mechanic as an unlockable extra mode just to hear “found a Milli Vanilli cassette tape? Plant it,” read in that velvety voice.
Early Bastion Prototype Looked Very Different // Jason Schreier (Kotaku)
Like the Extra Bytes on Celeste, seeing early versions of something like this is humbling, but in this case it’s for a different reason. While there’s something fascinating about seeing the barebones ideas for a game right from the start, in this example, Supergiant Games did something very interesting. Their musician, Darren Korb, was a part of the game’s development pretty much from the start. Korb produced one song, and you can hear it here in this version of the game. It really speaks to how much care was put into the tone of the game that a song from the final version of the game was present at the start. It’s also just fun to see a visually skeleton like version of a game that blows most indie games out of the water even to this day.
Creating Atmosphere in Games // Greg Kasavin (GDC)
Speaking of atmosphere, there’s really no one better to hear from about how Supergiant develops an atmosphere in their games than from one of their developers. Greg Kasavin, as someone that moved from the professional journalistic games space to the professionally creative one, really has an interesting angle to all of this. There’s a lot of discussion of how atmosphere isn’t wholly its own thing but is rather a collection of individual aspects that lead to an experience that becomes wholly immersive and believable. A great talk.
If you want to know more about Kasavin, I really recommend checking out this great guest column he did over at Giant Bomb where he gives a relatively deep and heartfelt breakdown of his career and life choices.
Build That Wall: Creating the Audio for Bastion // Darren Korb (GDC)
So okay, I know I said at the top of this piece that there was no shortage of pieces from developer and fans and critics (seriously, scroll up I swear I did this). But if that’s the case, why have so many of these pieces been talks and behind the scenes footage or discussions from developers? Well, Bastion came out before the renaissance of online games writing. Not to say that there wasn’t a ton of it, but the thought-provoking pieces were limited to published magazines, and video essays were still but a dream in the minds of young, aspiring creators. Fortunately, though, the creators of Bastion did a fantastic job of archiving their thoughts on the game and the fun processes involved in its creation, and this GDC talk by Darren Korb highlights one of Supergiant Games’ best aspects: their music. And sound design. And narration. Korb is really an insanely talented person when it comes to anything related to sound, and it’s great to hear him break down how he went from a traditional musician to a talented sound engineer for games over the course of Bastion’s development.
Speaking of Korb’s music, this live rendition of “Build That Wall” and “We All Become” from the SXSW Game Awards in 2019 is so worth the listen.
Building a Supergiant Soundtrack (The music of Bastion & Transistor) // Mathew Dyason (Game Score Fanfare)
I swear we don’t do this on purpose.
At this point I feel like I’ve run out of things to say about Mathew’s work on Game Score Fanfare, so all I’ll say is: This is a good video. Everything we said that sounded smart on the podcast about the music? Every little interesting tidbit of musical talent or fun little bit of trivia? Yeah, we got it either from this video or Korb’s GDC talk. Mathew is without a doubt the best music-in-games channel on YouTube and if you’re not subscribed, you’re missing out big time. That said, this video isn’t just about Bastion – it also focuses on Transistor, and Mathew does a great job showing the vast improvement in Korb’s technical skill between it and Bastion. As per usual, more than worth the watch.
And those are my picks for this month’s Extra Bytes; I hope you learned something new, found some smart stuff, and heard some extremely good live music. Next month’s episode of Byte Club is on Campo Santo’s narratively-driven first-person wilderness explorer, Firewatch, so expect another handful of articles and videos next month.
If you have any pieces – written or otherwise – about the game that you’d like us to check out, feel free to hit up the Indie Bytes Twitter (@IndieBytesYT), send an email to nevyn (at) indie-bytes dot com, or use our contact form!
Check back next month for more #ByteClub content!