Ritual, Drama, and Sport: An Interview with Darren Korb of Supergiant’s ‘Pyre’

We chatted with Darren Korb, the audio director of Supergiant’s ‘Pyre’ about the game’s unique aesthetic, sport-like gameplay, and sound.

Written by Drew Dixon

Pyre, is a party-based RPG currently in development by Supergiant Games (creators of Bastion and Transistor) in which you lead a band of exiles to freedom through an ancient competition spread across a vast, mystical purgatory. We chatted with Darren Korb, the game’s audio director about the game’s unique aesthetic, sport-like gameplay, and sound.

Tell us a little bit about Pyre, what makes it unique?

You lead a band of exiles through a series of ancient rituals in a mystical purgatory with the goal of earning back your freedom.

The demo very much feels like a sport, only in a ritualistic environment. Where did you get that idea?

One of the things that was really compelling to us about sports was their alternate consequences for failure. In most videogames you fail when you die and you just start over and try again. What was compelling to us was that [with a sport] you have to sort of continue to deal with consequences of a loss and that creates drama going forward. For instance, maybe you have a team that becomes your rival and the next time you face them you want to defeat them even more. We are intrigued by the structure of a sport as it allows for a different fail state.

So if you lose a battle or a game, the narrative progresses and you have to deal with the consequences? 

The game changes a bit depending on whether you win or lose and the teams you face will remember what happened the last time you faced them and that will create drama for the next encounter.

All of Supergiant’s games have a unique aesthetic, particularly with regard to their sound—I can’t think of Bastion without thinking of the the unique way it was narrated. What are you doing differently with the sound of Pyre?

We are experimenting with some new things. We’ve been working with stem based music even more so than in the past. Its been really cool to adapt the music to the player’s particular game state and have the player influence the experience of the music they are hearing. And this time we have a narrator that acts almost like a play-by-play announcer in that he sort of presides over the rituals. We have Logan Cunningham, our voice actor who was the narrator of both Bastion and Transistor, serving in that role and we are excited about the unique way he will be narrating the player experience.

We also have a new made up language that all the other characters speak and we have a lot more characters in this game than our previous games—they are all voiced in a made up language.

If you had to narrow it down to one thing, what do you hope players gain from their time with Pyre

My goal with all the games we make is to strive to achieve a fully immersive experience with a very well realized tone that allows players to soak in the tone of the game. That is my goal with everything I do personally is to soak in the art, the writing, the story—so that all the pieces, the sound etc. nestle the player in the place we’ve created.

Why do you make games?

I have loved games my whole life and making games allows me to do anything that inspires me creatively and that is a really fantastic way to be able to work.