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PAX East 2013: Bastion’s Art Director talks Transistor, the latest from Supergiant Games

Bastion Screenshot - transistor

Can we all agree that Bastion was an amazing game? Anything coming out of developer Supergiant Games after that was going to be exciting. Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise to find their latest game, Transistor, fully playable at PAX East 2013.

Featuring a fiery red head hefting a giant, talking sword, Transistor blends turn-based strategy and action into an exciting, new style of gameplay. It may look and sound similar to Bastion (complete with the return of that game’s narrator as the aforementioned talking sword), but the combat is more methodical, and the futuristic setting is completely new.

I had a chance to play the game, and it’s certainly less action-oriented than Bastion -- if you want it to be. In my time with it, I bounced between pausing the action, queuing up attacks, and micromanaging every bit of damage or simply hacking away at the nearest enemy. Both approaches seem to work in the right circumstances.

I also had a chance to speak with Jen Zee, Art Director on Transistor, about the game’s unique new vision and hybrid gameplay. 

Transistor

 

GZ: What’s the premise behind Transistor?

Jen Zee: Transistor is our next venture and it’s into the sci-fi world of Cloudbank. You play as a young woman who has found a weapon of power, and there are people after you because they want it back. So your job is to go up against these... I’m sorry! I can’t reveal too much of the story.

The rest we would really like if people played and found out. There is a faction that you must go up against... it’s still a mystery!

GZ: The gameplay is a really interesting mix of turn-based strategy and action.

Jen Zee: Yes, that’s exactly it. A lot of the games our team likes to play are turn-based games like Final Fantasy Tactics, and we really like XCOM. The pacing of the action in Bastion is just so frenetic that we felt like slowing it down and doing something more turn-based, or allowing you to slow it down if you wanted.

GZ: The visuals in Transistor are similar to Bastion but seem to pop a little more. You get a better sense of perspective. Was that a conscious decision?

Jen Zee: It’s funny, we had the technology in Bastion, but we didn’t really use it very much. One of the difficulties going into this project was like, how are we going to sell buildings?  How are we going to sell a city? Isometric perspective is unforgiving with tall buildings. The way we got around that is we thought, let’s put these buildings in the foreground and leave them on the edges, but parallax them so they feel like they’re really close to you. You feel this added layer of depth as a result.

GZ: What’s the concept behind the main character?

Jen Zee: I don’t know how much I should tell you, but she is a woman of repute in this city. She’s a singer and she’s not used to wielding a weapon.

GZ: The voice of the narrator from Bastion has returned. Does he serve a similar purpose?

Jen Zee: The hope was that in this game he’d be less of a narrator and more of a companion. We have a lot of things we want to do with that as well.

Transistor

 

GZ: In blending action with turn-based strategy, do you encourage the players to focus on one or the other?

Jen Zee: Well we would love if people used the turn-based stuff because that’s the part of the combat that we’re really excited about. At the same time, we feel like there’s a high barrier to entry with turn-based games for a lot of people. It makes you slow down and it makes you think a lot and we would really like people’s exposure to the game to be smooth. We would love if people could fight through the whole game using real time. But the focus mode is something we hope catches and introduces new people who have never played turn-based RPGs or turn-based strategy games and hook them into that genre.

GZ: Any final thoughts?

Jen Zee: We’re really excited about this game. We’re having a lot of fun making it. It’s something new that a lot of us have never tried. We hope you like it!

 

Follow @JoeDonuts if you love movie reviews, game industry musings, or the Sega Saturn.

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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