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Pyre devs explore why small, 'dumb' touches lead to memorable games

July 31, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon

July 31, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon
More: Console/PC, Indie, Design, Video

"I think we try to pack our games with, for lack of a better term, dumb stuff  that we get excited about."

- Greg Kasavin on how flavorful and sometimes excessive features can endear a game to players and devs alike.

Supergiant Games scattered a ton of different variables throughout its game Pyre that help players take ownership of the game as they play. One such variable gives players the ability to help a character, Shae in the video above, remember her name by selecting one from a number of options, all rhyming with the sound 'ae'.

Beyond just seeing that name in text, the narrator will refer to her by whatever name the player selected for the rest of the game.  Something like choosing a name can seem like a small decision, but including voiced lines for each option adds both a layer of depth for players and more work for developers.

But, as argued by creative director Greg Kasavin, chasing after the small, “dumb stuff” ultimately pays off in the end, both for a game’s developers and its players. 

“It’s the small stuff in games that really matters,” argues Kasavin. “Like when you think back on your all time favorite games, the game that struck you the most when you were 12 years old, I suspect that what you really remember about that game is some dumb little detail that really mattered to you but was not what the game was about at all.”

He offers the Castlevania games as an example, saying that you’re more likely to remember that chandeliers in a certain level creaked as they swung back and forth rather than remember the level itself. That’s why, explains Kasavin, the team at Supergiant Games chases those small, dumb moments and doesn’t shy away from including them in their games. 

“I think we try to pack our games with, for lack of a better term, dumb stuff that we get excited about; [stuff] that is a little bit excessive and unnecessary or whatever but its flavorful and makes us excited as a team to work on it. We have found over and over again that players respond well to it also.”

Kasavin’s full comments on the value of small touches can be found in the clip above. Meanwhile, the interview with Kasavin and studio director Amir Rao can be found on Twitch alongside Gamasutra’s growing archive of gameplay discussions, developer interviews, and editor roundtables. 

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