A Look Back At Building The Bastion

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Posted by Jeff (3400 posts) -

The first time I saw Bastion was back in our old office in Sausalito. Greg Kasavin came by and wanted to show me a quick glimpse of a project he was working on with some of the guys he spent time with back at EALA. It was a curious little thing that immediately stood out because of its audio. Even when coming out of a tinny little laptop speaker, hearing the narrator tell his tale while also reacting to the things I was doing on-screen felt different. At times, it felt like magic. The game itself seemed reasonably cool, too. The blocks rose up from the bottom of the screen in a really neat way, forming the pathways that The Kid ran along as he grabbed a glowing stone of some kind and made his way to the relative safety of the Bastion. Weirdly enough, that was the only sequence I played for around a year or so, but that bit--the beginning of the game, which will be the demo portion of this week's Xbox Live Arcade release--was enough to make me a believer in the project. Well, that and some discussion about where the game was going from there.

I think, over the course of development, I probably played that intro sequence three or four times, seeing bits and pieces of it improve around the edges, but the core of it was still the same impressive piece that it was when I first put my hands on it. The funny thing is that even after talking to almost everyone that's worked on the game and being a part of the recurring Building the Bastion series that we produced to chronicle what it's like to strike out on your own as an independent game developer, I still didn't know what to expect from the final game. All of the bits and pieces we had seen looked cool, and from seeing the beginning of the game, I knew the main idea was sound, but I guess I hadn't really put much thought into how it was all going to come together. In a way, some of us had become way too close to it. I sort of set the whole thing up with Greg originally. Vinny went through all of the footage and cut together the clips used on the show. Ryan hosted the show and asked them a ton of questions. Brad, wisely, hung back a bit. I think he probably had the purest experience of us all. Unsurprisingly, I think he's probably the game's biggest fan. As of this writing, he's the top guy on all four of its leaderboards.

Either way, none of that really matters that much. As soon as we went ahead with Building the Bastion, I knew we'd end up seeing too much of that game and that running an actual, scored review would be right out of the question. Rather than hem and haw about that end of the coverage, I said up front that we wouldn't review the game. And I'll say again, right here, that I recommend you seek out various reviews on the topic before making a purchasing decision rather than just taking what I'm saying here on faith. Better safe than sorry, right?

That said, we talk about the various aspects of the game on this week's podcast, and I recommend you check that out when it runs later today. The short version, however, is that I'm pretty blown away by how enjoyable Bastion is. The team makes good on that core concept--the narration that's powered by your on-screen actions while simultaneously telling you everything you need to know about the world--in ways I'd never even thought of. It builds up its own conventions and then breaks them in inventive ways. It provides an arsenal of exciting weapons that are as fun to upgrade as they are to use in a combat system that rewards skillful play. The story is surprisingly emotional, taking some exciting turns during the back third that made me want to finish it not once but twice. On top of that, it looks great the entire time. Ryan was the one that pointed out that, over the course of seeing all the pieces of Bastion as just pieces, it became easy to lose sight of the "simple" stuff, like the way that ground rises up from the bottom of the screen and forms the pathways you'll take from one area to the next.

I'll refrain from going into too much detail. After all, we said we weren't going to review the game. But if you'll allow me one more recommendation... grab the demo and see it for yourself. Anyway, here are links to the show, in case you want to see what went on during the game's development.

Our first look at Supergiant happened in the above installment of the Happy Hour, hence Will and Norm's... uh... well, I'm not sure how to describe whatever it is that's going on in that shot up there. Later shows were broken out into easily found pieces, and are listed below so you can catch up with Amir, Gavin, Greg, Jen, Darren, and the rest of the gang.

With the game nearly out, this seems like a good time to look back at the five installments of Building the Bastion. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since we first covered the game, right when it was getting announced as a selection in the PAX 10. When we started this site, I wanted to try doing things differently. I think we've generally succeeded in many of our goofball adventures, but I'm also proud that we're able to handle something like Building the Bastion. Not to get all "behind the curtain" on you, but conducting interesting (well, they're interesting to us, hopefully you agree) behind-the-scenes coverage of games that goes beyond the dumb "what platforms is it coming out for and when is it coming out???" interview and starts to say something more about both the games themselves and the people making them is pretty difficult to pull off, especially when you're running a reviews section. In my mind, though, you can't have one without the other. It keeps everyone honest. Pursuing something like this with Supergiant was kind of a risky move, and coming out a year ago and saying "here's a game we're not going to review" was kind of wild, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you've enjoyed it, and I hope we can do something similar in the future.

Staff
#1 Posted by Jeff (3400 posts) -

The first time I saw Bastion was back in our old office in Sausalito. Greg Kasavin came by and wanted to show me a quick glimpse of a project he was working on with some of the guys he spent time with back at EALA. It was a curious little thing that immediately stood out because of its audio. Even when coming out of a tinny little laptop speaker, hearing the narrator tell his tale while also reacting to the things I was doing on-screen felt different. At times, it felt like magic. The game itself seemed reasonably cool, too. The blocks rose up from the bottom of the screen in a really neat way, forming the pathways that The Kid ran along as he grabbed a glowing stone of some kind and made his way to the relative safety of the Bastion. Weirdly enough, that was the only sequence I played for around a year or so, but that bit--the beginning of the game, which will be the demo portion of this week's Xbox Live Arcade release--was enough to make me a believer in the project. Well, that and some discussion about where the game was going from there.

I think, over the course of development, I probably played that intro sequence three or four times, seeing bits and pieces of it improve around the edges, but the core of it was still the same impressive piece that it was when I first put my hands on it. The funny thing is that even after talking to almost everyone that's worked on the game and being a part of the recurring Building the Bastion series that we produced to chronicle what it's like to strike out on your own as an independent game developer, I still didn't know what to expect from the final game. All of the bits and pieces we had seen looked cool, and from seeing the beginning of the game, I knew the main idea was sound, but I guess I hadn't really put much thought into how it was all going to come together. In a way, some of us had become way too close to it. I sort of set the whole thing up with Greg originally. Vinny went through all of the footage and cut together the clips used on the show. Ryan hosted the show and asked them a ton of questions. Brad, wisely, hung back a bit. I think he probably had the purest experience of us all. Unsurprisingly, I think he's probably the game's biggest fan. As of this writing, he's the top guy on all four of its leaderboards.

Either way, none of that really matters that much. As soon as we went ahead with Building the Bastion, I knew we'd end up seeing too much of that game and that running an actual, scored review would be right out of the question. Rather than hem and haw about that end of the coverage, I said up front that we wouldn't review the game. And I'll say again, right here, that I recommend you seek out various reviews on the topic before making a purchasing decision rather than just taking what I'm saying here on faith. Better safe than sorry, right?

That said, we talk about the various aspects of the game on this week's podcast, and I recommend you check that out when it runs later today. The short version, however, is that I'm pretty blown away by how enjoyable Bastion is. The team makes good on that core concept--the narration that's powered by your on-screen actions while simultaneously telling you everything you need to know about the world--in ways I'd never even thought of. It builds up its own conventions and then breaks them in inventive ways. It provides an arsenal of exciting weapons that are as fun to upgrade as they are to use in a combat system that rewards skillful play. The story is surprisingly emotional, taking some exciting turns during the back third that made me want to finish it not once but twice. On top of that, it looks great the entire time. Ryan was the one that pointed out that, over the course of seeing all the pieces of Bastion as just pieces, it became easy to lose sight of the "simple" stuff, like the way that ground rises up from the bottom of the screen and forms the pathways you'll take from one area to the next.

I'll refrain from going into too much detail. After all, we said we weren't going to review the game. But if you'll allow me one more recommendation... grab the demo and see it for yourself. Anyway, here are links to the show, in case you want to see what went on during the game's development.

Our first look at Supergiant happened in the above installment of the Happy Hour, hence Will and Norm's... uh... well, I'm not sure how to describe whatever it is that's going on in that shot up there. Later shows were broken out into easily found pieces, and are listed below so you can catch up with Amir, Gavin, Greg, Jen, Darren, and the rest of the gang.

With the game nearly out, this seems like a good time to look back at the five installments of Building the Bastion. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since we first covered the game, right when it was getting announced as a selection in the PAX 10. When we started this site, I wanted to try doing things differently. I think we've generally succeeded in many of our goofball adventures, but I'm also proud that we're able to handle something like Building the Bastion. Not to get all "behind the curtain" on you, but conducting interesting (well, they're interesting to us, hopefully you agree) behind-the-scenes coverage of games that goes beyond the dumb "what platforms is it coming out for and when is it coming out???" interview and starts to say something more about both the games themselves and the people making them is pretty difficult to pull off, especially when you're running a reviews section. In my mind, though, you can't have one without the other. It keeps everyone honest. Pursuing something like this with Supergiant was kind of a risky move, and coming out a year ago and saying "here's a game we're not going to review" was kind of wild, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you've enjoyed it, and I hope we can do something similar in the future.

Staff
#2 Posted by urban_ryoga (83 posts) -

I want this now~

#3 Posted by wafflez (521 posts) -

I cant wait for this game

#4 Posted by DrFidget (215 posts) -

Memories.

#5 Posted by FMinus (387 posts) -

will give it a try for sure, tho it's not my type of game

#6 Posted by This_Dude (294 posts) -

Tomorrow will be a great day for Indie game downloads.  Glad to have been given the great inside look from Super Giant Games in Building the Bastion.  I hope the game is a huge success for those guys.

#7 Posted by honeycut1 (142 posts) -

Must have this right now!

#8 Posted by DazzHardy (661 posts) -

I've loved the coverage of Bastion, it's been really cool seeing all the stuff they guys at SuperGiant have been doing to get this game done. Now, roll on tomorrow so I can fork over MS points and play it myself =D

#9 Posted by Jumbs (232 posts) -

Goddamn it why isn't this out now :(

#10 Posted by Cornman89 (1579 posts) -

Awwwww~

#11 Posted by Shadowjester (93 posts) -

Bravo Jeff.  
 
I was getting curious how you guys would handle reviewing this game, since you were so close to it throughout it's development. I applaud your decision to not review it.   Well done. 

#12 Posted by Mijati (875 posts) -

Will be buying this the second it comes up on XBLA tomorrow morning.

#13 Posted by Thoseposers (773 posts) -

I'm so pumped to buy this on thursday and just sit down and play through as much as possible. I'm glad you GB duders were able to really get behind the scenes and i think that would make for excellent features in the future

#14 Posted by PootieThang (10 posts) -

Oh man, im so doin a let's play of this epic game

#15 Posted by AllanIceman (1322 posts) -

Great write up Jeff. Keep doing what you're doing, it's great!

#16 Posted by zameer (605 posts) -

That's all I needed to hear. Will snap this up when it comes to the PC.

#17 Posted by ComradeKhan (687 posts) -

MUST HAVE!

#18 Posted by buft (3300 posts) -

I cannot wait for this game, tommorow im going to be hitting the xbox.com refresh button all morning

#19 Posted by Gutterkisser (182 posts) -

Nice write up, really speaks to the integrity of Giant Bomb. I've only recently become hyped for this game, so other than the trailer I plan on going in fresh - sounds like Brad got a lot out of it that way.

#20 Posted by ferratus (13 posts) -

I understand why you are not reviewing it since it's obvious many would accuse you of being biased, but in a way I kind of wish you were reviewing it anyway. If the game is really that good (and Brad's tweet seem to say he adores it), the game "deserves" a good review from this site, especially given the unfortunate importance of meteoritic for game developers.

In any case, I really enjoyed the coverage. It's rare that we get to see so much of the behind the scene stuff while the game is being built and that was interesting. Hope you can do it again.

#21 Posted by benstewart84 (22 posts) -

Can't wait till tomorrow.

#22 Posted by Mayu_Zane (606 posts) -

Waiting for the PC release. I wish my Xbox 360 wasn't broken.

#23 Edited by Klei (1768 posts) -

Not reviewing this game is being biased in a way. This is not very professional and I think your obvious frendship with Kasavin should remain unscathed even i you gave it a four star rating. 
 

#24 Posted by Addfwyn (1917 posts) -

Nice, would love to pick it up if it comes out on PC or PSN (preferably PSN) but in the meantime, will see how it is received on XBLA

#25 Edited by zameer (605 posts) -
@ferratus: I really think they've done much much more for Bastion by forgoing a possible 4 or 5 star review (assuming it's along these lines since Alex, Jeff and Brad adore it) and releasing all this preview coverage to get everyone hyped for it. 
#26 Posted by HT101 (1151 posts) -

I know people have said this before, but this is why Giant Bomb is the greatest video game site on the internet.

#27 Posted by Meltbrain (2968 posts) -

That pretty much answered all the questions I had regarding the experience you guys had with the whole thing. Great stuff! I think I'll definitely look at some reviews, but I'm confident I will enjoy the game.

#28 Posted by gosukiller (2324 posts) -

I'm proud of you guys.  
 
I wasn't sure how the review was going to go, seeing as you guys are close friends with Greg and being smothered in coverage, but actually showing real integrity and not reviewing it at all is exactly why I listen to you guys every week. 
 
Well, that and teaching me how to fart. 
 
Will be playing this myself once it eventually reaches Steam, which I'm sure it will.  

#29 Posted by Dany (7887 posts) -

@Klei said:

Not reviewing this game is being biased in a way. This is not very professional and I think your obvious frendship with Kasavin should remain unscathed even i you gave it a four star rating.

They were given exclusive behind the scenes look in the development of the game for months. They had an exclusive feature built for this one game alone. It is unfair to be given so much access and be so close to the game and give it a review, no matter the score.

#30 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1223 posts) -

Nice conclusion to your Bastion coverage. Can't wait to get some further insight from the Bombcast and I do hope you'll do something similar in the future since it gives Giantbomb more of that unique feel I am always looking for. My interest had been piqued ever since "Black Powder, Red Earth" (was that the title?) back in the Gamespot days and I'd love to see this trend continue in some form. Also, I don't see your not reviewing certain games becuase of the editors involvement in the development as a problem at all.

#31 Edited by Sil3n7 (1176 posts) -

This is the type of integrity and honesty that is far too uncommon on the internet. Its no surprise people respect this site so much.

#32 Posted by dantey (244 posts) -

 A great article. Don't have an Xbox 360, but will play it on a PC. Congrats to Supergiant Games on releasing the game and to Giant Bomb on such a great coverage of the game.

#33 Posted by rjayb89 (7716 posts) -

I'll admit that I'm mainly buying this game because you guys covered it so much, and also because I'm getting cold sweats from not buying many games during this summer.

#34 Edited by michaelawesome (3 posts) -

Mad respect to Giant Bomb.  I think I might try out this game.  It looks sick.

#35 Posted by RobotHamster (4169 posts) -

This is probably the reason I'm buying the game tomorrow, don't think I would have been as interested if I didn't.

#36 Posted by LiK (915 posts) -

Feel the love.

#37 Edited by I_smell (3925 posts) -

I hope this turns into a regular thing on Giant Bomb!

+It's funny that Brad is the game's biggest fan, I can totally see that.

#38 Posted by Peacemaker (1101 posts) -

I'm actually kinfd of glad I didn't see the bastion stuff.  I know basically the stuff said in the article, but that's really it. It'll be nice going into the game pretty fresh.

#39 Posted by SDHero (43 posts) -

Personally, I think getting the in-depth coverage and access you guys got with Building the Bastion was absolutely worth not running a review. I hope it paid off for you guys in terms of pageviews and whatnot, but I really appreciated the look into how a game (especially an indie game like this) comes together. Admittedly, you show me a game like Bastion that wears its influences so clearly on its sleeve, and I'm not really needing a detailed review of the game so much as a confirmation that Supergiant Games found a way to deliver on its implicit promises.

Heck, to be super fair, you tell me Greg Kasavin's left EALA and he's making some indie game, and I was going to give the thing more than the usual cursory look at indie projects. Obviously I don't know Greg personally like you guys do, but at the same time I know more about him than (let's say) 99% of indie developers just by virtue of knowing who he is. I started paying for a Whiskey membership when that became available not just because I love Giant Bomb, but because you guys have been a very welcome presence in my internet for the better part of a decade. For the same reason, I'm not looking for a review to tell me if I should buy Bastion. The game has always looked great, and I figure I owe Greg a little something too.

#40 Posted by Slow_pC (241 posts) -

Still have my autographed poster from the devs here ... they were so awesome and so nice when I met them at PAX.

I cant wait to play it tomorrow again!

#41 Posted by Sammo21 (3198 posts) -

Added points to my account for this today. I cannot wait.

#42 Edited by DexterKid (666 posts) -

I understand why you guys are making such a point of this matter, but to be honest I personally don't buy into this whole ''review score sanctity'' business and don't think it is really necessary to have all this explanation nor would it have mattered to me if you did review it (I care much more about any video and podcast discussions on the game). That was one of the reasons why I came to this site in the first place over sites like Gamespot and IGN, because you guys didn't seem to bother too much with the review/preview nonsense (so called 'games journalism'). Instead you guys have fun in talking about games; that is really the only way to go about video game coverage, as far as I'm concerned.

PS: I would love it if instead of reviewing them you would cover more (all) games in this long-form manner. I know that's too radical a change for many and probably won't ever happen, but that would be my ideal path for games coverage in the future.

#43 Posted by Vexxan (4611 posts) -

Not far away now!

#44 Posted by TerraDelu (500 posts) -

The coverage that the site did on this game just fueled my excitement for a game I already wanted. Really great stuff, and I cannot wait to play.

#45 Posted by probablytuna (3521 posts) -

I wonder when it's coming out on PC.

#46 Posted by Zaapp1 (657 posts) -

More segments like this will always be welcome, Jeff.

#47 Posted by VicRattlehead (1398 posts) -

i shall purchase it when it comes out on PC.... pitty its not day and date with the 360 version but hey thats life

#48 Posted by golguin (3830 posts) -

I put some points in last night and I'm ready the hour it comes out. I've already seen enough to know I'll like the game.

#49 Posted by Thoseposers (773 posts) -

@gosukiller said:

I'm proud of you guys. I wasn't sure how the review was going to go, seeing as you guys are close friends with Greg and being smothered in coverage, but actually showing real integrity and not reviewing it at all is exactly why I listen to you guys every week.

Well, that and teaching me how to fart.

Will be playing this myself once it eventually reaches Steam, which I'm sure it will.

Wait..what?

#50 Edited by DancingJesus (68 posts) -

Not only have I been blown away by Bastion itself, but also Giant Bomb's behind the scenes coverage as well. 
 
No other website offers the unparalleled access that Giant Bomb has into the making of a video game. I found it utterly fascinating to travel along the journey of the highs and lows of game development. I insist that you must do more things like that in the future, be it through SuperGiant or other studious. It is some of my favorite content on the site. 
 
As for Bastion, I already bought my Microsoft Points and I'm eagerly anticipating Wednesday's arrival. I need to commend the absolutely stunning art that SuperGiant is responsible for. I simply can't wait.

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