Supergiant Games has achieved in the past decade what many developers (and publishers) spend an entire lifetime running after. Bastion, Transistor, Pyre, and now Hades have all been critically acclaimed for their design and gameplay, and more so for boasting a unique, captivating style of storytelling.
Such success would have any indie studio rummaging through publishing deals after publishing deals with the biggest names out there are. Supergiant Games, however, has never jumped onto such opportunities and continues to self-publish, and there’s a valid reason why.
Speaking with SegmentNext in a recent interview, senior writer and designer Greg Kasavin stated that being a relatively small independent team of developers is vital to how Supergiant Games operates. Being able to self-publish means that key decisions can be made really quickly and individuals are always empowered to push their new ideas across the board.
When asked if Supergiant Games would do better with a notable publisher, Kasavin replied that none of the games released would have been possible in any other environment. He explained that while bigger studios can have a lot of advantages, things can move slower with a bigger communication overhead at every turn. Supergiant Games would not have been able to create games like Bastion and Pyre otherwise.
Within the same interview, Kasavin also clarified that Supergiant Games has no plans to make any sequels to existing games. Hence, you can forget about there ever being Bastion 2. In addition, all focus is on Hades right now. Supergiant Games is not working on any new project, at least not for now. You can go through the entire interview below.
How do you reckon Bastion holds up in retrospect to the other games you’ve released such as Pyre, Transistor and Hades? Do you rank it above all of those?
Considering I still get questions about Bastion close to a decade after the game’s launch, I’d say it’s held up very well! As our first game, it’s what put our studio on the map, and its success let our team stick together and go on to create our subsequent games.
We’ve resisted the trap of simply trying to make bigger, better games each time. Instead, we’ve tried to push ourselves out of our creative comfort zone with our projects. Our hope is that each of our games is fully capable of being someone’s favorite game of ours, and we’ve heard that about each of them thus far — including Hades, which is still in development in Early Access.
Having worked on each of our games myself, I can also say they’ve all been different to work on. Aspects of the experience of working on Bastion back in the day were magical, as our team was still just getting started. But we’ve learned so much since then, and gotten so much better at so many aspects of our craft, and I think it shows in our newer work. So anyway, I’ll leave it to others to rank our games if that’s what they want to do. Our commitment is to make sure each of our games is worth your while.
Is there any sort of connection between the universes of your games? Like are there more than just subtle hints and easter eggs? Different timelines perhaps?
It’s fun to hear players brings this up from time to time! It’s an especially interesting question now that we have Hades in the mix, since that game technically takes place in the real world, since it’s the world of Greek myth. I’d say our foremost goal with each of the worlds of our games is to make them feel distinct and fully realized, as much as possible. If players then sense deeper connections between them, I think that’s great. We want our games to get your imagination going, so to me this question is a sign we’re doing it. When players have theories about our worlds or characters, I don’t like to go in and say that’s right or that’s wrong — it’s their experience.
Are there any new projects you’d like to fill us in or hint us on right now? Something underwraps maybe or something you plan to share soon?
We’re all in the thick of working on Hades right now, and will be for the foreseeable future. It still has a number of big Early Access updates still to come, then we have the full v1.0 launch sometime next year, and from that point, we’ll see what’s next. We tend not to think too far ahead to future projects while in the middle of working on one of our games. After all, how our current project fares is going to be the single biggest factor in what we go on to do. Each of our games has been something of a reaction to the last game we worked on, and I suppose whatever we do after Hades will be no different.
Taking from all your games, you mentioned how you wanted them to spark the same imagination as games did when you were kids. Does that mean your target audience is mostly grown ups or late teenagers?
I think our games are best suited for teenage players and up. They’re easy enough to pick up even for younger players, but I think they deal in relatively mature themes that aren’t as well suited for kids. That being said, I have a couple of younger kids and they’ve each played my games at least since Pyre. We want our games to be able to have broad appeal, but we’d rather a smaller number of players really love them than try to appeal to everyone.
In terms of who our games are for: Our aim is for anyone who’s enjoyed our games in the past to be able to enjoy them in the future. We try to make games that are respectful of your time, and leave you with a lasting, positive impression once you’re finished playing. Our games owe a lot to classics from the golden age of the mid to late ’90s, and I think if they follow in this classic tradition, they have a better chance of standing the test of time themselves.
What genre would you define your studio as? An rpg genre? Side scrolling? Dungeon crawling? Considering the diverse roster of games.
We have tried to avoid getting pigeon holed, by pushing ourselves out of our creative comfort zone with each of our projects. We could have just made a bunch of Bastion sequels after the success of our first game, but we had more ideas we wanted to explore. I do think we’re finding there is so much we can do within the action RPG genre, which broadly contains three of our four games, and we love working in it. Conversely it’s not an explicit goal of ours to switch genres every time, so I don’t know that you’ll ever see a racing game or a puzzle game or something like that from our studio. I think we love character-driven stories within RPG-like structures and with plenty of responsive action, but we can do a lot within those parameters.
Are there any plans for a sequel to any of your titles? Or are they all going to be standalone games with little connection to each other? If so, is there any game you still think warrants a sequel?
We’ve designed each of our worlds both to stand alone and also to potentially support any number of stories. I think that’s what it takes to make a compelling setting for a game — it has to feel richly detailed, so that you can imagine new stories in it, but it also has to leave you feeling satisfied so that you want those stories. Thus far we’re really enjoyed being able to develop a completely new setting with each of our games. But we love our past games and have no inherent misgivings about returning to their worlds if the timing felt right and it’s what all of us really wanted to do next. So, who knows? Your guess here is as good as mine. Though, let me reassure you again that we have no other games in the works other than Hades. We’re a small team and work on one new game at a time.
What’s it like being a relatively small independent team? Do you feel like you would do better with a publisher or you’re content with how it is?
Being small has been vital to how we operate. I don’t think any of our games could have been created within a different environment.
We can make decisions really quickly, and individuals on team are empowered to push forward their respective aspects of our games. Bigger studios can have a lot of advantages but things can move slower, and there can be a bigger communication overhead in making key decisions. At Supergiant, we just need to convince one another, and sometimes not even that — we can try things quickly, learn from it, and move on. We’ve really enjoyed being able to self-publish our titles and handle pretty much every aspect of development internally.
Let’s talk about next-generation of consoles a bit. How do you think the new generation is going to affect AA/small scale studios?
I think the next generation of consoles is going to make for a great opportunity for studios of all sizes. If you look back at what happened at the start of the PS4 and Xbox One cycle, large-scale AAA studios needed a lot of time to get their titles ready to take advantage of the new hardware. It was games from smaller independent studios that helped fill the void, and I expect this is going to happen again in this next round.
I think smaller independent studios have asserted a vital place in the entire ecosystem of the game industry, so it’s not going to be something that the big console manufacturers ignore going into this next round. I’m really excited to see how these platforms pan out! The start of a new console cycle is always an incredibly exciting time in gaming, as it has a ripple effect across the entire industry, and I think ultimately always helps push the medium forward.