The Untold Story Behind the Design of Transistor – Documentary

The Untold Story Behind the Design of Transistor – Documentary


[TYPING NOISES] – There is a feeling,
I think, amongst most if not all
of us that, like, whatever this game
turned out to be, or was, had to be
at least as good as Bastion, so there
was that pressure. DANNY: Transistor
obviously went through a pretty significant
redesign and a lot of sort of, like,
creative struggles to try and find
its feet. DANNY: Can you tell us
about that time the story it originally had,
and kind of where you
ended up? – [LAUGHS]
What? – Yeah, but like,
how much have they revealed
to you? – Yeah. Ooh, boy, Um. [MUSIC PLAYING] – We were done with
Bastion in, like, May, even though it didn’t
come out until July in the year 2011.
So we’d been done with Bastion for
a long time. We only started talking
about Transistor seriously in September of that year
so all this time we’re kind of on
pins and needles, both kind of
cooling off from having worked,
from having pushed ourselves to make Bastion the
best it could be And also, like,
realizing that yeah, we could
make something else. So the conversat–
The kind of official conversations
about what our next game would be
didn’t start for quite some time.
We quite quickly decided that we
wanted to make something new.
It might have been the kind of
fiscally responsible, decision to just,
like, make a Bastion 2 in light of the success
of the first one, but we never thought
of Supergiant as like, the
Bastion studio. Bastion was just
our expression of the kind of game
we wanted to make, the kind of work
we wanted to do. But it was not like,
oh, we must make this one game, and
this is our, like, one great idea
that we’ve been stewing on all
our lives. We, like, many of
this ideas of Bastion just happened, you know,
while we were working on the game, so
it’s like, hey, we made this thing up,
and people liked it. Let’s see if we could
do that again and make another
game that can assert its own identity strongly,
leave players with a lasting and positive
impression, and have like a strong world-building
and atmosphere, and interesting gameplay,
and all the pieces would feel complete
in their own right. And yet, it would
be very distinct from Bastion. [MUSIC PLAYING] – We kind of wanted to make
a sci-fi love story, and we wanted a game
that had more tactical pleasures while
still building on everything we learned
with Bastion. Challenges of Transistor at the
beginning were twofold. The first thing was
how do we make a game now that all the
team members are here? ‘Cause now our creative
process from the start has to incorporate
all seven members of this team. And we
actually decided we wanted to grow our team, too.
So we had to incorporate more voices and visions
in the room from the very beginning, and we’d never
done that before. And so Transistor was
the first time we had to start a game together, and
that took a really long time. Pre-production for the game was
like 19 or 20 months. We were struggling with the
world. We were struggling with the main character.
We were struggling with the integration of voiceover,
with the musical voice, with the gameplay,
with the meta game, with the length, with the
number of characters, with the process. You know,
we were working out of an office in
San Francisco now. Everything was different, and
how could it be so different, ’cause it’s all
the same people working on the game? – Just that litany
of really hard to solve creative and
design problems all throughout that game.
And part of what made it hard for us
is that we were so concerned with
Transistor asserting its own strong identity
that really good solutions that we developed
for Bastion we felt were
off the table. We can’t do that ’cause
that’s Bastion’s thing. We have to come up
with another solution. And Bastion was, like,
our entire life experience good– Like, all the good
ideas we ever had we put into Bastion.
And then it’s like, now try to come up with
some more good ones without using any of
the ones that you did on your last game. AMIR: We explored, like,
a bunch of different camera angles, and then
came to the one we liked, and, you know
part of that was us struggling with putting a game
in a city. We don’t just want to look at rooftops.
You know, you play RTS games, you only looking at ceilings.
Like, we gotta get more character into the city.
It needs to have, like, all this blah, blah, blah. We
settle on a camera angle. It looks almost the
same as the camera angle in Bastion, and
that took forever. You know? And I can’t
say, oh, that’s Bastion’s fault. You know,
that’s us learning and growing over time. But there was
all these kinds of pressures. The second thing that was
very challenging about Transistor is something we didn’t
talk about much, which is like, the invisible pressure
of Bastion. We had made something that
turned out to be really, really, well liked.
And now we didn’t want to let people down.
Now we had rent and health insurance.
[LAUGHS] And we didn’t want to,
like, have our company just end, ’cause
everything felt like it should be something
that could last. – We never spoke
about the whole like, sophomore slump
thing through the three years of development
on Transistor. But I bet we were all,
like, in the back of our– It’s part of why, it was like
the elephant in the room. It was like, well,
don’t screw this up. [MUSIC PLAYING] Having made a kind of
very arcadey like, pick up and play
game in Bastion, we were like, hey, let’s
make things a little bit more deliberate,
suspenseful, and let’s basically
see if we can infuse, like, a
strategic component into our action
RPG mix, almost like a tactical,
turn-based tactical game. You know, we were thinking about
like X-COM and Advance Wars, stuff like that. Can we
infuse that type of drama, where you,
like, hit that enter in button, and you’re like,
oh my god, am I gonna– Is this going to be a total
disaster? Like, get that kind of drama into the
moment to moment play. – How can we get the
feelings of turn-based combat without necessarily
making a turn-based combat game? So that
was mostly what we were going for. And we tried
a lot of different things. And one of the hardest things
for us to manage in that combat style
was how, like, when is the enemy turn?
Like, when is the enemy phase? Because if you can plan
out all your moves, like, when does the enemy
have a chance to to strike, and how
do you play defense in a game with
the ability to kind of plan out
your actions? – The transistor itself
was not a factor in the
story at all. For a long time,
the name Transistor was not there. We
were like, prototyping the story and starting
to get levels up and running,
and kind of– But, man. It was,
it was just not happening. We were
not feeling it. We were trying to
kind of concept this protagonist character
and this partner character. – The original character was
initially meant to be a boxer, someone
who fought with his fists, which,
you know, I think everyone was into.
Greg and I were both into it.
Like, we both have our favorite boxer
characters for, like, Street Fighter, anime. There’s tons
of awesome dudes who fight with their fist.
He was a boxer with a spirit friend, because,
again, we had a one player game in Bastion,
or a single protagonist game where you were
kind of alone in the world. And
in Transistor, I think we may have thought, like
this was our one where we could make you feel
less alone. – So Red was not the original
protagonist of the game. The transistor guy was.
There is a theory that maybe players were
kind of slow to latch onto Bastion
because they may have been dismissing it as
like, a kids’ game. So there sort of was the plan
with game number two was like, OK, the lead
is just going to be, like, a badass dude,
like many, many other video games. JEN: Red was actually
the deceased girlfriend of the
protagonist. And she was a singer
and a star and it was kind of
like this more noir-ish feeling
storyline, I think. You know, we spent kind of
months, I think, shilly shallying through
those ideas. And I must have
drawn 30 or 40 iterations of the
character until finally Greg was like,
you know, do you want to
try something else? – We realized that
we weren’t really into this kind of
story that we were telling,
this character that we were developing.
And so we went back to an idea that
actually predates even the release of
Bastion. It was from an idea
that Jen Z, our art director, and
I talked about on the drive
back from E3. It was going to be
a fantasy game. There’s a woman who’s
just kind of like a unassuming woman kind of working
at, like, a fantasy tavern. And one day she
falls in love with a traveling wizard, but
one day after that, some people come for this
wizard and kill him with a powerful kind of
demonic blade. But in the struggle
the blade is lost. And she picks up this blade
and miraculously hears the voice of this guy
that she fell in love with speaking to her from
it, and proceeds to have her revenge. That was an idea
that Jen and I were excited about but was not
a game that we ended up making, obviously. So it’s
kind of like, well, that was cool, but
we’re just shooting, shooting the breeze
driving home from E3. So the surprise was
that that idea actually stuck, and we came back, when we
were trying to problem solve what to do with the story
of Transistor, it’s like, god damn it, why
aren’t we doing that? That was the story
that we wanted to make. But to me, I was
like, Jen, like, that only works because
it’s fantasy. Because you can’t
have, like, a– You can’t have,
like, a demonic rune sword in a science
fiction setting, right? Jen is like, hold
my beer. – I was like, OK,
I love drawing girls. [LAUGHS]
I got this. And within, like,
an hour, I had reduced a
couple drawings, I think, a couple concepts,
like very rough. And immediately I think
both Greg and I just felt like it was
so much stronger and so much
more exciting. – And she comes back
with the first illustration of Red
and the transistor, which is very, very
close to her final design. She got
it basically 95% of the way there
on her first shot. And it was one of those
things. We, like, went and showed this
to the team. Because everyone on the
team had their different feelings about where
the game should be. And we were looking for that
visceral reaction of, like, whoa, like, yes.
Say no more. And that’s what happened. – It was, like, such a
eureka moment when I first
saw Jen’s concept art for Red
with the transistor, now just wielding it.
It just made so much more sense,
and just clicked immediately. GREG: Even though
we made a really dramatic change to
what the story of Transistor was going
to be, it was still working with a lot
of what we had developed to that point.
‘Cause we were still working on a story
about, that always was going to involve
a singer who, whose voice was taken
from her, except she was actually going
to be essentially dead, and you played
as this other guy who loved her,
who was in this relationship with her, who was
committed to trying to bring her back.
We essentially role reserved that story,
where it was now going to be about Red,
and this other guy was the one who was dead,
and her quest to bring this guy back.
So when you kind of go back through
some of our earlier concepts, it’s for sure
we evolved the characters and other aspects
of the story a great deal but we didn’t completely
start over from that perspective. So that
gave us a lot of our momentum back.
We’re like, OK, This is Red’s story.
Got it. [MUSIC PLAYING] – We took a lot of
iterations actually to get to the point where
we kind of cracked what we wanted out of
the game, which was you know, Red could
stop time at any moment, plan the actions. But
the actions you took are the same ones you
can take in real time. They’re not special or
distinct in that way. They take up a certain amount
of your focus bar. And once you– or that was the
development name for it, the turn bar.
[LAUGHING] And once you’re–
Once you have everything planned, you
can hit a button. You watch her execute
all the moves in real time, but then there’s
a recovery period where only, you know,
one defensive power is able to be used.
And that recovery period ended up being
the enemy phase. It suddenly unlocked a bunch
of stuff. It meant that we could actually
have hyper-aggressive enemies, and it felt
thematically relevant to that game, where Red
is being hunted down by the Process. They could
have the kind of oppressive capabilities
that even the enemies in Bastion couldn’t
really have, because you always had in your back
pocket the ability to stop the game, plan
out your actions. – You know, when we’re
making the AI for a game, if you
focus usually is not on just how
to make it really good. You know, you can
make an enemy that just perfectly dodges out of
the way of the player at the very last second
every single time. That’s not going to be
a good experience. So the goal is usually
to make something, you know, that feels more
natural and is just kind of, like, fun for the
player to fight against, that kind of give natural
openings for the player to attack, and, you know,
doesn’t let the player fall into the same pattern
over and over again, but without doing things
that are unfair. If you take a, you know,
shooter, for example, an easier example, like
the easiest possible thing is just to have,
tell the AI always aim directly at the center
of the opponent’s head. That’s really easy.
Coming up with, like, what the, you know,
system or algorithm or heuristic is to make
them kind of like you know, miss in
a natural way, that’s actually a much
more difficult problem. JEN: We had
talked about them as being products of
what we were internally calling the virus.
In speaking of it as a virus, and especially
in a world where we were kind of following
this more art nouveau and softer look, it
just kind of felt appropriate to make these feel
a little, like, fleshier. And then the other side
of it is that I– As mentioned, I think
a lot of the enemy design in Bastion was
far too intricate. And in Transistor,
I swore to myself that I would simplify, so the
enemy designs are far simpler in Transistor, and I
think that’s for the better. [WHOOSH] The function system in
Transistor was like a joy to make because it led to
a lot of discovery on team, like you would put two
combinations together. And the discovery on team is
usually like, this doesn’t do anything. So we have to make
it do something and work, so a
lot of it was trial and error, putting
stuff together, figuring stuff out. And
we had a lot of people on the team helping us
figure those things out. – The, I mean, the whole,
you know, code theme of that game
was, of course, very intentional
on Greg’s part. Definitely throughout that project,
he would, like, ask me just little things, like
the formatting of, like, there was, like,
comments on some of the, you know, character
inspect screens there that are, you know,
look like what the actual comments
in code look like, and the name of
various functions. Or I think there’s
like a NaN, a NaN in the game,
which stands for not a number, which is
like a programming term or math term
for when you divide by zero.
So we talked about that stuff, and those were
a lot of fun. Fun little details to
add to the game. – There was so many disastrous
versions of this system that finally
culminated in an idea that I believe
Gavin had about consolidating our powers
and upgrades into a single thing. And, you know,
Greg brought the function metaphor and helped us
make sense of all of this. So you would just
take a power, you’d put it in
the slot, you could put a power
on top of it, which would change it.
And you could put a power in a passive slot,
which would change it. And there would only be
16 things now instead of like
116 things. – You know, we ended
up with, I believe, the 16 functions that
could, you know, interact with each other in
pretty much every different combination, and just
coming up with you know, what happens when
you put this function on this function, or, you know,
vice versa, or put this one in a passive slot.
We love when players kind of have an idea
of like, oh, when I see these two,
maybe if I combine these in this way and
use them against, you know, this monster,
then it might– It might be a really
cool outcome. And then having them,
you know, collect those things, and put them together,
and seeing that happen. – That simplification and
streamlining took a long time to get to, and, you know,
when you have broad, ambitious, at least
for our scale, kinds of ideas, stuff
takes longer to make. It takes longer to figure
out, and that was just the process on Transistor.
Everything was slow. – Even though this
idea of, like, her and her sort of,
like, talking sword seemed very clear,
at least to, at least to someone like me,
it turned out to be a big challenge to
convey that in a video game, and
we started testing it on people, and they
were like, oh, you guys are doing the
narration thing again. And I’m like, oh
my god. They didn’t know where the
voice was coming from. It was a mess.
So the way we where’s the voice coming
from is through through, like, we–
An engineer, Chris Jurney, who was working with us
at the time, he was able to get the
thing going, I think with help from the rest
of our engineering team, so that the sword would
flash in sync with the speech. And like,
that, it actually took quite a bit, but thankfully,
as soon as we got the sword flashing in sync with
the speech, people were like, oh yeah, it’s the
sword talking. Duh. You know, and we’re like,
oh, thank god. – I was excited
about the concept. But I also was like
incredibly intimidated, because when you
think about sci-fi, like I just think
sci-fi worlds are harder to execute
because they require you to
kind of creatively ideate around things
that are more modern and therefore
things that people have more expectations
around. I also hate drawing
buildings. But I told the guys,
you know, in isometric, you know, a building in the foreground
is just going to obscure 100% of gameplay.
So we need to have shorter buildings. We
can maybe have taller buildings in
the background. Well, we can sell the
idea of going amongst really tall
skyscrapers, but we can’t
actually show it. – When it comes to, like
the idea of a sci-fi love story, we kind of
had to drill down into what that meant.
We realized quickly that we weren’t interested
in the kind of sci-fi that was kind of
very far-flung. It wasn’t going to be,
like, laser guns and spaceships and
stuff like that. We were much more interested
in like, kind of the cyberpunk genre, something
that felt very grounded, and actually
kind of modern. In that respect, it would
take on some of the like, anachronistic
elements of Bastion. But whereas Bastion
has this, like, frontiersy feel to it,
this would have like a modern, almost like a
roaring twenties, 20th century
kind of feel, but still have, like,
a high-tech component running
through it. Though, looking at
cyberpunk in particular we realized the aspects
of it that we were really interested in is
like that kind of, the neon lit aesthetic
the kind of– The beauty of it,
the high society kind of class of it,
but less the parts that are, like, really
seedy and really could be really gory. – It was incredible
that they were, they were on board with this,
because I think it’s unusual to think
about cyberpunk without invoking something
like Bladerunner. Camilo, our 3D artist,
he came on a couple months in. And then
I think like two or three months laters Josh showed
up on the scene and added incredible
particle effects, and beautiful UI
and UI transitions, and screen transitions
to everything. And I was like,
oh my god. This is amazing. [MUSIC PLAYING] TRANSISTOR (VOICEOVER): Hey.
I have a favor to ask. Let me go. DARREN KORB: At the beginning
of transistor, I would say I spent, like six months
prototyping the music. I think for me, the
tone of that game and the world really
crystallized when we made this tone video
where we had some voiceover from Logan, some incredible
concept art from Jen, writing from Greg, and
this piece of music. And we put it all together
in a little video. And once that all came
together, that was the time when I was like,
yeah, oh, this. This is where we’re going.
Let’s go there, and go there as fast
as we can. TRANSISTOR (VOICEOVER): I’m
going to ask them why. Why you? Why
the white walls? Why end like this? DARREN: Once it became
Red, I knew the music had to be her music.
Red being a singer and being silent, and
Red’s role in the world of Transistor
and Cloudbank was a really important
part of my process, considering that, considering–
Figuring out what kind of character Red was, what kind
of music she’d make what kind of lyrics she’d
write, ’cause I had to try and embody
this character while writing the lyrics,
and I want to make the songs sort of, in a way
applicable to what’s happening in the story,
but I wanted Red to have already written these songs
in advance of the of the game.
So it was a real tightrope walk. [MUSIC PLAYING] – I moved to New York
in 2007. I had a lot of friends
there who were in the theater, kind of singing arena,
and they introduced me to Darren. I think it was
his brother Dan introduced us ’cause
I was doing some singing stuff, trying to
make it in New York. And he gave me a
couple fun things to do outside of video
game stuff. And then I remember when he started
doing Supergiant Games, he came to me, and he said,
do you want to sing on a video game? And I
was like, sure. [HUMMING] We got the VGA
nomination for “Build That Wall,” so there
was a lot of, like, excitement around that
song in particular for Bastion. So I knew
that it was, like, going well, but, you know, when
they asked me to come back and do some more stuff
for Transistor, I was over the moon, and
so yeah. I had no idea what that was
going to turn into. I thought it was going to
be like another kind of like one and done song, but
it felt like they kept coming, like, you know, like,
we have another one. We have another one, like this
is where the story’s going. I think we did everything
from Darren’s apartment in Brooklyn. He had
like a closet. It wasn’t even a walk-in closet.
It was just like a built in closet, and
he would like cover it with these
soundproof blanket things. And then I would, like,
face into all of the clothes. And he would have
the mic cord like snaking through the other
room to his living room. And then he would be
on the other side. So we would have to,
like, kick Michelle and Milo, his wife and
son, we’d have to kick them out while
we did our recording. And he would just feedback
to me, like, let’s do it again, but a little
differently, you know, we could see each other.
It was like a very hilarious setup. [DANNY LAUGHS] And I stared at, like,
all of his graphic tees and Converse. I can
like, memorize on the shelf. It
was very funny. [CRASH] [HUMMING] – The idea to have Red
humming, for example, that you could only hear when
you enter turn mode, was something that I
knew I wanted to do once we’d figure out
what her deal was, that she was the protagonist,
that she was a singer, who couldn’t speak,
who’d lost her voice. I knew that if we’re
going to put you inside as you’re sort of planning out
what you’re going to do, there has to be some sort
of vocalization in there. – Some of them are really,
like, intricately weird. Like it took me a long time
to get the first take. So I was like having
to hum that was definitely like a project,
but I’ve actually heard a lot of people think that,
or say that they want, like, the
soundtrack of just the humming, which
is really funny. But I think
that that’s genius, like whenever I try
to tell non video game people like how the
songs that I work on are incorporated into the game,
that’s like, always my go-to. [WHOOSH] – For Transistor, I think
we saw that a lot of people, you know, it had
this broad experimental system. But I would be surprised if
the way a lot of people play it is they find something
they’re comfortable with and they just kind of
roll with it for a long time. I think that’s like, pretty
common kind of action RPG behavior. I think that’s
like a standard way for players
to play. We try to do some stuff in
Transistor to push their comfort zone,
so like when you get defeated, instead of
just losing and re-checkpointing, you lose
your highest value, highest memory value
function gets popped out, and you have to
finish the fight with the other three, then the other two,
then the other one, and then you have to
start over. so we were trying to
do stuff to move people off their comfort zone, and that
was part of the CCG model too. But honestly, a lot of that
stuff comes from a point of view, a very designery point of view,
which is like, kind of like, eat your vegetables game design.
You know, it’s like hey, player. You always do this
fun thing you like doing. But there is this interesting thing
you could be doing. And let’s get you
to do that interesting thing. And
I think Transistor struck a pretty good balance of it,
but that also means a lot of players found a couple
combinations that really worked for them, and they probably used
a lot of them through the game even though there are
3000 combinations they could be using, you know,
they were using 12. But that’s OK, because
we didn’t, we didn’t make a game to just feel good
about the number of function combinations in the game.
We made a game to be a full experience. And if
part of their experience was I’m in danger. I’m unsafe.
I want to use stuff that works so that Red, like, achieves her goal,
that’s totally OK. There are enemies in the
later game that basically add considerations to
the combat, like now you need something
that can burst down multiple enemies, or you could
turn on limiters that now add a shield to all the cells
that you have to pick up. So you need to find a way to
pop shields very easily, and you can’t just make
a very high damage burst build. So there are things that the
game tries to do to put you into different builds,
into different setups. And the limiter system
in that game, which like, you know, creates
these multiplicative sometimes strategic and
sometimes just like challenging considerations
in the fights with something, well, it’s
always sort of been– It’s been, like,
our staple to have these elective difficulty
systems that you can layer on into the game
so that you can tailor the way in
which you want to make it hard. We’ve
always shied away from sort of
the traditional. easy, medium, hard
type stuff. Especially at the beginning.
If we don’t think the game needs it, we would
prefer to kind of focus on a single
experience that you can tailor as you go. And, you know,
Bastion ended up having a no sweat mode where
you did have unlimited lives and this type
of thing, but those are, those are
sort of not our kind of starting points for
a lot of this stuff. Like, if you’re going to
find a design theme in all of our games,
it’s 100%, it’s player failure. We’re thinking about player
failure all the time. We’re thinking about
ways to make the failure experience interesting,
or support it narratively, or justify it in
the game world, or make it interesting to
have a setback. And all four of our games
have something like this, which is a result of
dozens of hours of conversation and things
we’ve tried that end up not working. [MUSIC PLAYING] – Before we announced that game,
we collectively as a team were terrified that
we were going to fall on the wrong side of,
like, similar to Bastion. There’s the similar to
Bastion that’s like, oh, awesome, it’s a whole
exciting new game from the creators of Bastion.
And there’s a similar to Bastion of, oh,
dude, they just you know, swapped the kid
with a girl and kind of like palette swapped all the art
and called it a day. We were really afraid of that
assessment and of people being really
angry that we didn’t just go on to make
a Bastion 2, because a ton of the feedback we were
getting on Bastion was oh, dude, that game was so cool.
When’s the sequel? And we’re like, heh,
heh, heh, yeah. Even for those of us
who were more optimistic about how
that was going to go, it wildly exceeded
our expectations as far as the like, excitement,
the raw excitement over the announcement. We were,
we were shocked. Because just days before,
we were so concerned about how the announcement
was going to go, that we were, like, very close to just
pulling the plug on it. Like, we should wait.
We’re not done. We’re not ready. We need
to, we need more time. So Transistor came out,
and unlike Bastion, within a month, we knew it was
going to enable us to make another game.
In Transistor’s case, you know, we self
published it, so you know, we know, we had to
do all the little bits and pieces to get it on the PS4
and get it up on Steam, were the first two places
that it appeared. It was really incredibly good
to have made a game that did not
necessarily make everyone hate us.
[LAUGHING] So that is such a lukewarm
way to talk about Transistor’s accep–
So, the reason I sound like this when I talk
about Transistor is ’cause of how scared we were.
Like we were just terrified. And so everything
I say about Transistor, when I
transport myself back there, is from a
completely fear-based point of view, of like,
oh my god, this is the game that kills the company.
And this is the game that undoes the legacy of Bastion.
And this is the game that you know, all these
little decisions we made, maybe we made too
many ones that are too esoteric, and aren’t
for certain players, and people were really
kind to that game. And they were even more kind
to it like a year or two or three years later. It’s
the kind of game where I feel like the reception
just got better and better, and better,
and better. – Five plus years after the
fact, it’s actually bizarre to me
that I see more– I see much more love
for Transistor now, even than Bastion.
I think part of it is because Bastion is
just kind of old. And Transistor maybe
just kind of reached peak nostalgia
for people, so people who are like, you know,
maybe played it at 13, they’re like 18, 19 now. And they’re
like, oh, you know. So we hear from these people
for whom Transistor hit them at the right place
at the right time. – Like it turns out, what I
ended up really hoping for from Transistor is that
it was some people’s favorite game of ours,
and it was. And then it turned out it was many
people’s favorite game. And I’m not saying, oh,
we should have been fearless. It’s just, you know, the
best thing about Transistor no matter how it would have
ended up doing, is that it came out, and we were
done with it. Because we needed to
do that. We needed to go through whatever
that was. We needed to figure out how to work together,
how to start a game together, how to finish
another game together, how to work in an
office together, how to make big decisions
as our own publisher. We needed to go through
all of that in order to make the next set of decisions that we
were going to have to make. [MUSIC PLAYING] – I think “Paper Boats”
actually is the one that I get the
most comments on. Someone at a recent show who
told me that it was their song for their wedding,
like during their first dance or, oh, it’s my lullaby, for my baby to go to
sleep, or it’s my alarm when I wake up.
You know, it’s just really fun
to see how it’s kind of gone out
into the world. I had just met my
now-husband, so I remember thinking
about it as like a cool song about, you know,
love, partnership. Two– in my feeling,
it has like two very distinct parts, so
it’s like I liked kind of going from
one to the other. And doing that vocally
was fun. SINGING: I will always find you
like it’s written in the stars. You can run, but
you can’t hide. Try. I will always,
always find you. I will always,
I will always, always find you,
I will always. I will always find you
like it’s written in the stars. We can run, but
we can’t hide. Try. I will always find you
like it’s written in the stars. We can run, but
we can’t hide. Try. I will always, always find you.
I will always.

100 thoughts on “The Untold Story Behind the Design of Transistor – Documentary”

  1. If you'd like to support us (and help us keep getting docs out at this rate) please consider becoming a patron: https://www.patreon.com/noclip
    (Closed Captions are coming today)

  2. All your supergiant documentaries have been incredible, an absolute joy to listen to and really fascinating. I don't know if it will be possible, but I really encourage you to do a documentary on Pyre as well! It seems to be considered a black sheep among the supergiant games and I would love to hear their thoughts about how they feel about it, and how it was to really step out of their comfort zone. Thanks for the great work!

  3. Transistor is one of my most favorite games ever, played through it about 8 times. Would love to see Super Giant games move away from top down games and try their hand at an RPG of some sort.

    Ashley Barrett is the voice of super giant games, astounding voice.

  4. It is really sad to think that in a different dimension he failed to save her, but then he managed to in this one, but in the end he can't save her for she can't live without him. I'm going to go cry in a corner.

  5. Awesome documentary of my favourite supergiant games…game 😀
    I love the music (still listen to it regularly), the gameplay, function system, art style, story, mood…so many things that work together really well, although it initially seemed to be such a struggle to create
    And yes, Paper Boats (as well as Build that Wall and Mother, I'm here from Bastion) also ended up being lullabies to my baby daughter 🙂

  6. UnreasonableOpinions

    It must be very difficult even for a small team of very skilled people to make a game by just -making a game and letting it happen, but the outcome is consistently games that just feel so incredibly contained to themselves and complete as worlds and games that it never occurs to you that it could be another way. You only realise that these games are actually quite odd combinations when you have to explain them to someone else.

    As much as the e ceptionally complete worlds seem to want for more, I’m glad they stick consistently to making new worlds. Sequels would mean less overall new stuff and a shame, and I suspect for all some of these game worlds feel flawless having to press on making more would push them to the point cracks begin to show.

  7. I love this game so much:
    1: The game music is on CD, in my car, at all times. (Stacker position number 1)
    2: I purchased a pile of Jen's art that is signed by her, and every time I look to where it's sitting, it drives me to have my own place so I can hang it on a wall where it belongs.
    3: I purchased the first run of the Red Vinyl figure, that sits in a box above my PC screen.

    I enjoyed Bastion, Pyre was amazing, I'm looking forward to Hades, but Transistor, that's the game that really reached me.

  8. Transistor is genuinely my all time favorite video game, it's absolutely gorgeous in every aspect and I genuinely don't think I'd be the same person I am today if I hadn't played it, so thank you so much Supergiant for everything. I have Red's concert poster framed on my wall and the soundtrack is absolutely unparalleled

  9. I just want to hug all of them. Transistor is my all time favorite game to this day and I listened to the soundtrack again just the other day.

  10. Greg Kasavin's Splinter Cell review from Gamespot where he's wearing Sam Fisher goggles is a really random memory that's ingrained in my head. I think about every once in a while and I don't know why.

  11. Supergiant Games is like a mass of incredible talent. Every single aspect of their games is so god damn interesting and the art and music always make me emotional. Great documentary!

  12. I need to replay this. It's a bloody good game. Every part of the game just clicks. The music, the art, the story, the combat, the world. I had no idea they had such a hard time with it, because when I first played Transistor it all seemed like the most well put together game I have ever played. Everything in Transistor is just right. Everything seems like it was always supposed to be that way.

    PS: I am so happy that you are doing this documentary. I love Supergiant Games!

  13. I’m not sure if the developers will ever see this – but Transistor is still in my top 5 game’s of ALL time. And for the record, I played Transistor before Bastion.

    From art, story, innovative gameplay and the incredible soundtrack – nothing yet has filled the hole that Transistor filled years ago. Truley a masterpiece.

  14. I have such a weird relationship with Transistor. I love the art to death. Love the music. I bought the game TWICE but I haven't actually played the game. I just like owning it and something always comes up that stops me just after the tutorial. Gotta go back and finish it…but I'm mid way through Sekiro….uuuggghhhh

  15. Everything about this game was done so perfectly, story, design, music, gameplay. Five years later, it is still among the top 3 of my favourite. Still getting goosebumps when I hear the soundtracks and see the visuals. Gets teary eyes when remembering all these feelings I felt when playing through the game.

  16. Катя Мазурчак

    Damn it I have to go back and finish it, got stuck close to the end and rage quitted after loosing like 5 times in the same place. In my defence it was the first and only game I have ever played except Journey. Love soundtrack and the design and a concept so much! <3

  17. Greg Kasavin! I remember him from Gamespot even before Danny… now he's not a critic but making games while Danny is a critic but no longer with Gamespot… weird progression feeling.

  18. Now get us the story of why Pyre was so far away from all the cool concepts they learned and was not nearly as strong as the other games in the Supergiant portfolio.

  19. Transistor has a really good atmosphere and art directon, but I feel they gameplay it is just too easy or automatic, I don't think that combat style has not full realized. Everything I'm they combat feel like half way done. Some this is it just too easy and in others times is is just too hard for no reason

  20. So, you're telling me I could've played a boxer with a stand? Well now transistor's ruined for me.

    Just kidding, of course. Transistor's still phenomenal, I just thought that premise sounded awesome.

  21. I havne't even watched this yet but I have given it a thumbs up and I can't wait. I love Transistor so much. Beautiful fun game with beautiful music. Can't wait to learn more! Thanks for the video! I love Supergiant games! I hope they put more of their games on Switch!

  22. Definetely my favourite game from them- As i become more and more involved in the process of making games, my appreciation on the world of Transistor grows too
    Also i love how they describe it as more cyberpunk~ish and i def like that aspect of not being to dependant on Blade Runner, to stand on its own identity

  23. I am 38yrs old, I jumped on this when It came out and I still love it to this day. I just played through it again a couple weeks ago. I loved hearing the "story of Transistor" One of my Favorite games ever.

  24. I love Transistor so much. It really makes my heart sing. The gameplay, the music, the art, the characters, the writing…I have absolutely loved every part of it. Even years later after playing Pyre and Hades, Transistor remains my favourite Supergiant game and one of my absolute favourite games.

  25. This video is so good, it doesn't rival anything that is on TV it surpasses it with ease. It is a work of art in itself.Obviously the level of love that went into the game was the drive behind making this video as well. Very very well done!

  26. André Luís Martins Bezerra

    Not gonna lie, Transistor design, music and art direction sold me the game when I first saw a trailer. Played till completion in my PC then bought again on my PS4 then I got a platinum trophy. Great game

  27. the best way to kick off this amazing year. my all time favourite game, and now I can see why it became that awesome! thank you supergiant, you gave me power for the rest of this year! <3

  28. I love all their beautiful games, and if I know someone who haven't played one of their game I usually give it to them as a side-Christmas present <3

  29. Ратмир Одеков

    Спасибо большое! Эта игра настоящее произведение искусства. Мне было очень интересно "заглянуть за ширму" и узнать побольше о ее создании, а также людях, которые нам ее подарили.
    Supergiant, вы большие молодцы! Спасибо, что радуете и вдохновляете.
    И особенное спасибо за финал transistor! Он просто невероятно крут!

  30. Love these videos, thank you for doing them. Really looking forward to the Pyre one, such a unique game taken in a completely different direction from their other games.

  31. The discussion of “player failure” at 29:00 (ish) – is it any surprise that they went on to make a rogue like? Haha. One of my favourite studios, amazing quality games.

  32. This was awesome, thank you that was so great and informative. I love this game so much and I hope the developers know the uncertainty of their creation turned out well.

  33. Game Time With Manny

    These Supergiant Games documentaries have been amazing. Seeing their thoughts and worries about such fantastic games is fascinating. Hopefully we get Pyre at some point to close the loop.

    Keep up the amazing work!
    Edit: Pyre is coming in February and I'm so excited.

  34. YES… finally the Documentary about my TOP #1 game of my Entire life. I was waiting for this for a long time Noclip. THANKS THANKS THAAAAANKS. ❤️

  35. Transistor is a masterpiece. If Supergiant had only made those first two games, they would be legendary. Thankfully, they have continued to make incredible games (and music!) that have solidified their reputation, and I am happy to call them one of my favorite devs… and I have been playing video games for almost 40 years now.

  36. Got the game free on Epic Games and thought I'd give it a go. I didn't get how to play this game, combat wise, and didn't feel drawn into it enough to bother learning. It didn't seem to teach me or have a tutorial that I can recall or maybe I'm just dumb. Idk, pretty game with some nice music though from what I did play.

  37. That made me watch the "WTF is… Transistor" video from Totalbiscuit. Good times… Still love this game and the soundtrack to this day

  38. One thing they screwed up was time moving at the execution of turn. It makes the whole game convoluted. And a lot of times you can't see shit. I'm not sure why they thought that's good.

  39. This is a fantastic documentary, cheers to Noclip! I love Transistor and I shed some tears when I reached the ending! 😛 The soundtrack is beautiful and is intertwined with the gameplay in a perfect way.
    Playing the game I felt the passion and love the developers put in this title, how much they struggled to come out with the perfect idea shows how important it was for them and how much they wanted to create something new that reflected their creativity.
    As a gamedev from a two person team, it's always very interesting seeing how much from small to bigger indie games we always face similar problems. The important thing is never stop and always be ready to change everything if it makes it better! 😀

  40. Transistor is this game with beautiful art, clever gameplay and nice music that I wont recommend to anyone simply because of its terrible ending.
    The idea that suicide is the answer to your problems is not something that should be propagated in any way or form!

  41. Between Bastion, Transistor, Pyre and Hades… I really could not even begin to fathom how to rank them. They are four of the strongest games ever made. SuperGiant are like the "Muse of Videogames", a capricious goddess that always gives you gold, even when you are expecting dross.

  42. Why am I crying during a video game documentary…

    As everyone highlighted; this game was a paradigm shift in how we understood games and what they could mean. Those who made this, and what this was, touched us deeply, creating a place that we didn't fathom existed. It transcended its delivery > it became a love story shared with us, and gave us the chance to understand that soul-crushing love they had for each other. It blindsided our naivete with a blatant disregard to … the universe and how we understand it.

    That's why it has changed us, for the better. When we say, "it's my favorite game", we mean it. But what we really mean is, "it's my favorite because it's existence has meant that I have what I do, now, and I don't ever want it to be taken away by it's non-existence". My greatest wish – perhaps ours – is that we would never want it not to exist. It's crazy, but maybe that's what makes it truest.

    I've followed this journey and this game for so long – as we all have, but this documentary is profoundly more insightful than anything I have yet to see. Thank you for sharing this with us and thank you to the Patreon supporters for making this possible. I love you all. Supergiant, Darren, Ashley, everyone; you're amazing. Bless.

  43. The only gripe I've ever had with Transistor was just the fact that I was so desperately craving more from the world by the end. It was innovative and stylish and unlike anything I'd been a part of before as a player. Even to this day, I yearn for more from it. I wouldn't necessarily want a sequel, because the story of Red and her sword boyfriend was wrapped up in a way that definitively closed the door on further character exploration, but I had so many questions about Cloudbank, about the country, about Royce and the Camerata and more! And after watching this video I really can see the ways that maybe Supergiant was scared and more focused on getting it done at the time.

    But man. This was Supergiant in the throes of anxiety, in the midst of some of their worst growing pains as a studio… and they still pulled Transistor off. What a fucking game.

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