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Designing The Apocalypse

Marc N. Kleinhenz | 23 Aug 2013 18:00
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The Matrix also has this resolution where the humans' war with the Machines doesn't end in genocide - it ends in peace, with both sides needing the other. That seems to be a big element in Bastion.

Yeah. To me, that aspect of the game is more influenced by history, actually. The idea that you can't just paint another society as evil - it's never that simple. And people who try to reduce things to that level of simplicity are generally just wrong. Thematically, the story is exploring this idea of overcoming regret, so it had to have some sense of redemption there. You just can't have these purely unsympathetic ideologies; you had to be able to see it from the other side's perspective and kind of empathize with what was happening on both sides and recognize the bigger issue at stake, and then decide what you wanted to do with that.

In fact, I hate when games remind me of the Iraq War; I like when games transport me to new places rather than remind me of everything that's wrong in the world today.

I don't know what in particular preoccupied me with that idea; that's just something that is an interesting subject, for me, personally. I think regret is something that everyone experiences from a very young age, no matter how rich or how poor or how well-off they are. A little kid losing a favorite toy experiences it. It just seemed like one of those rich and open-ended themes to explore, and something that could be done in a nuanced way, so that players didn't feel like, here's this game that's going to preach to them about some lofty topic. It was just meant to be an exciting story, but one that, hopefully, had a meaningful substance to it, as well, for people who care to have that. I think everyone wants their stories to be substantive - they just aren't used to it, necessarily.

My other big influence question was how much, if at all, did the Iraq and Afghanistan wars get in there?

It's actually not those wars in particular. It's interesting that you should bring those up. I think it is war between nations in general - it's always the same theme, almost every time. It wasn't meant to feel contemporary. In fact, I hate when games remind me of the Iraq War; I like when games transport me to new places rather than remind me of everything that's wrong in the world today. I didn't want people to think of Iraq when they played the game, although, if they did, that's fine - they can think of whatever they want. But I did want the game's world to feel familiar in some way, that the issues that were at stake felt like things that people recognize from the real world, whether from history or from the present, I suppose.

In the case of Bastion's world, the two factions of the backstory, they're neighbors, and the war between them happens as these kind of neighborly wars tend to do throughout history, when they're two societies next to each other, and each one of them gets bigger. Suddenly, the borders rub up against each other and friction starts to occur and a lot of problems can happen, through no particular fault of one side or the other. I think they're countless - it even gets back to biblical times, and that's more where my mind was at.

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