Supergiant's Greg Kasavin explains the process behind Bastion's narration
No single element of Bastion has received as much attention and praise as the narrator, and justly so. The context-sensitive narrator, voiced by Logan Cunningham, made Bastion a richer and more personalized experience. But as Bastion's creative director and writer, Greg Kasavin, explained to RPS, the narrator emerged as the solution to a problem: how could Bastion give players a thought-provoking, memorable narrative experience without disrupting the action?
"We wanted to have something that had narrative depth to it, something that stuck with players after they stopped playing," Kasavin said. "It had to be more than the moment-to-moment play experience, and feel deeper than that. But then we didn’t want to interrupt the player with conventional story-telling – we didn’t want the player to have to stop and pick from a series of list options, or anything like that. That can be very jarring, or it can be done really well, such as in The Witcher 2. We knew we had to do it differently, and the narration allowed it to be key for us, because it kept with the player’s own pace, and never pulled them out of the flow of the game."
The context-sensitive narrator was a straightforward solution, but according to Kasavin, the trick was making him live by certain rules. He could not be too aware, breaking the fourth wall with winks and nudges to the player. He also had to be a story-teller, "not just being like a sports commentator."
Timing, and avoiding repeated lines, were the other pieces of the puzzle. "We made sure that the narrator was keeping up with you in an appropriate-sounding way," Kasavin explained. "It requires a lot of iteration, a lot of playing over and over. Feeding back on what the player is doing is important, but also not repeating your gags. Right at the beginning of the game there’s the 'falls to his death' joke, which is a pretty important moment for us, because players are delighted in that moment. But we never repeat it, and players can go through the game without ever experiencing it. And that’s okay, because there are other things they will experience later which will make the story personal to them."