Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Technical Blog Post #2 - Supergiant Games, a Biography

Supergiant Games is a small studio that have created some fantastic pieces of media, today I will do a short biography of their contribution to games since their inception in 2009. They are a San Francisco based company with a meagre seven to twelve members, however have successfully produced some of the most interesting and diverse games to date. Over their career at the time of writing this they have produced two games and one more in the works.

I’ll break down each game and cover particularly why they were so successful and interesting mechanics and things of note of each game. One quite interesting fact is that they are all created with C# MonoGame/XNA, while a very useful tool for a starting game developer it is not often used at a professional level and to such high graphical fidelity and standard.

Bastion (2011)
Bastion was Supergiant’s first game, originally launched on Xbox LIVE Arcade and due to its success had following versions on PC, Chrome Web Store, Mac App Store, Linux, iPad and finally PS4, winning over a hundred awards and selling over 2.32m units on PC alone.

It is an ARPG (action role-playing game) in a hand-painted isometric based world, set after an apocalypse called ‘the calamity’. The game includes a dynamic narrator (Logan Cunningham) which provides validation on your actions and provides a very interesting way of storytelling, while allowing the user to feel they are telling their own story.

The soundtrack is composed by Darren Korb, who creates music for all three games; this won many awards itself to the self-styled genre ‘acoustic frontier trip-hop’. This is one of Bastion’s key to success as it beautifully compliments the art styling and theme of the game.

The stand out feature that sets Bastion a foot above the rest is its fantastic writing and storytelling, the immersive nature of the narrator, the complimenting music and fantastic ending provide a solid experience. Small hints of lore are slowly revealed as the player encounters or interacts with certain things throughout the story. This allows the user to slowly understand the situation they’re in without facts being crammed down their throats, with a final ending better than most leaves a very satisfied taste.

Transistor (2014)
Transistor was Supergiant’s next title, by using the proceeds of Bastion allowed the team to self-publish compared to Bastion which used Warner-Bros as a publisher for the title. It was originally released for the PC and PS4 selling just over 1m units on PC, this was then expanded to cover Mac, Linux, iPhone and iPad versions.

It continues using the set recipe of isometric ARPG although set in a futuristic setting, it provides a shorter but better polished game and arguably one of the best looking games to date, especially for an indie development game.  Using a similar storytelling methodology but with the absence of the narrator. The game built on Bastions battle action system which while good and responsive were relatively limited and non-engaging, Transistor attempts to remedy this by including a quasi-turn-based action system that can be used in instanced fights to queue up abilities and movement, rather than Bastion’s one continuous world with battles happening sporadically.

The soundtracks were again composed by Darren Korb but with the voice of Ashley Barrett to create some stunning immersive music that is heavily integrated in the story.

Functionally and visually Transistor is superior to Bastion but subjectively doesn’t do quite as good of a job as Bastion did at immersing the player in the world.

Pyre (2017)
At current not a huge amount of information has been release of their current work, however gameplay snippets and some extrapolated lore can be found from the short snippets available.
In terms of gameplay it provides a very strange mix of rugby, basketball and rocket league from an isometric perspective, using the characters you accumulate in the story in a rich fantasy world. 

Characters have varying abilities akin to MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) style games that can attack, evade or inhibit the opposition who will attempt to do the same thing. This strange mismatch of genres and games will be interesting to see if it has a rich amount of depth and complexity.

Story telling has already been shown to be a main focus of the game, which is good as it’s where Supergiant Games are in their element. Overall we’ll have to see how it actually performs, but Supergiant’s track record seems pretty good so far, a company well worth your attention and has really set a standard for storytelling and graphical fidelity for indie games.

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