'Pyre' Creative Director on Taking Risks to Make Innovative Games

Pyre Art - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Supergiant Games
"Our entire audience consists of players willing to take a chance on stuff," says Supergiant Games' Greg Kasavin.

Indie game studio Supergiant Games has made a name for itself over the past six years with innovative, award-winning titles such Bastion and Transistor. Now, the studio has released its third game with Pyre, a mash-up of sports-style gameplay and text-based RPG storytelling.

The game's combination of vastly different genres, as well as its artwork, world building, expansive story, large roster of characters and standout music, have made it a quick hit on the Playstation 4 and PC. Players take control of a Reader, an outcast who meets a number of other exiles forced out of the ruling society, who is one of the only literate people in the new world — a skill that is of great value. The game is split between traveling the colorful world, meeting new characters and participating in the Rites, the rugby/soccer/basketball-esque "sport" at the core the game's story.

Supergiant creative director Greg Kasavin recently joined the Namek vs. Saiyan podcast, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter's Patrick Shanley, to talk about the game's innovative design and possible future mulitplayer modes. 

"It’s been a really exciting time for us," Kasavin said. "Considering it is a big departure from our previous games, I think the general consensus is that the soul from our previous games is still very much intact. We don’t try to make something for everyone, I think our games are very specific."

While Supergiant is an indie game publisher (not one of the industry giants like Activision or Ubisoft), its games have found an audience of avid gamers who are looking for fresh material that doesn't easily fall under categories such as "first-person shooter" or "Madden." 

"I think it can be quite risky to propose new type of gameplay and combine genres of games that aren’t commonly combined because you risk players feeling left out in the cold," Kasavin said. "Our entire audience consists of players willing to take a chance on stuff."

To the game's blending of different genres, Kasavin explained the process happened organically: "We developed the narrative and the gameplay side-by-side. I think the first point of origin was to make a game with a lot of characters. Making a game around an ensemble cast was very compelling because we love world-building. We wanted characters who have to work together as a team and pick themselves up after they get knocked down. I think that, in turn, is what gave rise to this almost sports-like influence."

Speaking on the game's sports-like Rites, Kasvin seemed surprised by the response. "It's really interesting how players observe how sports like it is," Kasavin said. "It's not meant to be like any particular sport. We meant it to be like sports in the real world, which were derived from some sort of ritual."

Given the game's potential for multiplayer competition in the Rites, and e-sports growing in popularity, Kasavin was asked whether Pyre would support such gameplay in the future. "I think bad online play is worse than no online play at all," Kasavin said. "We really recognize that as biting off more than we could chew, but we certainly think it has that potential. We have no real plans, but hey, if the game becomes wildly successful and that's all people want us to do then we'll certainly consider it."

Listen to the interview in full at 19:13 below.