Why We Create – A Transistor Analysis

Note – This piece was originally posted at Theory of Objective Video Game Aesthetics. It has been edited and slightly revised before being posted here.
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Introduction

Transistor is one of my favorite games of all time. Upon completing my first playthrough I was enraptured by the atmosphere, visuals, soundtrack, characters… and that I understood next to nothing of what happened over the preceding six hours.

Transistor is clearly not meant to be easily understood. Its story is presented in a manner that’s somewhere between “avant-garde” and “infuriatingly vague.” The game shows a world dramatically different from our own based on unexplained rules that defy all physical and metaphysical rules. This world is populated by quite strange individuals who not only never react with as much shock as one would expect from, say, having one’s soul become trapped in a giant sword, but also never bother to just sit down explain whatever insane event happened two minutes ago, like, say, being attacked by a sentient, semi-organic building.

Yet I love Transistor dearly. I not only love it for the aforementioned atmosphere, visuals, soundtrack, characters, and bewildering narrative, I love it for the vision. It blows my mind that a group of people actually conceived this idea, sketched out every component of its otherworldly presentation and utterly unique combat, raised money from investors, and then made a full-fledged video game product out of it. There simply is nothing like Transistor1. It looks like nothing else, sounds like nothing else, feels like nothing else, and therefore stands out as the type of singularly-envisioned creation that the characters of Cloudbank would be proud of.

One of the things I love most about Transistor is that it is maybe the densest game I have ever played. For one thing, I managed to write 29,580 words about a game that takes about six hours to play through. So an experienced Transistor player should be able to play through the game again in less time then it takes to read my analysis of its world, plot, and themes. But that’s just the nature of the game. You could freeze any single frame in the entire game and spend an hour talking about the implications of every detail, from the architectural designs to the characters’ clothing. I’m not sure there is a narratively-based game out there which packs so much content into such little space.

I didn’t set out to make this work so long, but the piece just kept extending itself. Every time I tried to write about one tiny aspect of the game, I had to go back and write about five more things to put the original item in context or fit it into the larger narrative and world-building structures. Honestly, just trying to figure out what, how, and when to explain every mechanic of Cloudbank and how it fits into the general plot was enormously challenging and rewarding. So if at any point during the analysis you find yourself not understanding a particular explanation, I suggest making a note and coming back to it later after you’ve read more; the added info might make the pieces fall into place.

Furthermore, I am completely open to suggestions on where I have made mistakes or overlooked important details. Feel free to send me a message about anything worth changing or adding in this analysis.

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This analysis is broken into four parts:

Part 1: Blank Canvas – A description  of the nature of Transistor’s universe and the backgrounds of its key characters.

Part 2: In Circles – A quick timeline of events during Transistor’s gameplay.

Part 3: Impossible – A complete walkthrough of the game’s entire narrative.

Part 4: Old Friends – An evaluation of Transistor’s themes and what is ultimately the point of the whole game.

 

 

Part 1: Blank Canvas

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To explore Transistor, I will go through the game in the opposite order to which it is presented to the player. Transistor starts with its focus sharply on its two main characters, Red and the Man, and then expands outward to reveal the city of Cloudbank, some of its inhabitants, the Camerata, and glimpses and theories at the true nature of Transistor’s self-contained universe. But the best way to understand the minutiae of these characters and setting is to start with the game’s most abstract elements to establish the fundamental rules of Transistor’s world.

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Cloudbank

Within Transistor’s fan community, there is a strong consensus that Cloudbank is a digital world. Here is an excellent description of all of the programming terminology used in the game, including “Cloudbank” being a reference to memory storage, the “Process” referring to programs operating on a computer, and “transistors” being the “most basic building block of a computer.” This has enormous implications on the nature of the characters and the city in which they live.

The plot of Transistor from the player’s perspective concerns Red and the Man’s attempts to navigate the city of Cloudbank as it crumbles around them under the assault of the mysterious Process. But what we, the players, go through is only the tail end of the full story of Cloudbank. Most of the plot, which happens off-screen and prior to the events of the game, concerns the discovery of the Process by Royce Brackett, the formation of the Camerata, their attempts to control Cloudbank, and their error that causes a metaphysical calamity and incites the beginning of the game.

If Cloudbank is a digital world, then somebody in the “real” world must have designed it. This means the fundamental structure and rules of Cloudbank, like the existence of gravity, the temperature at which water boils, and the physical contents of the city, were all designed by a conscious creator. This has crucial implications for the human beings living in Cloudbank. Who, or what, are the inhabitants of Cloudbank?

One possibility is that the residents of Cloudbank are human beings in the real world who are plugged into a digital reality a la the Matrix. In that case, Cloudbank metaphysically functions in much the same way as reality does, wherein beings with free will exist in a realm which is otherwise deterministic. The only difference would be that the determined aspects of the digital world are the product of a real god-like creator and that said creator can change the world’s structures and settings at whim. However, aside from Cloudbank being a digital world, there is no evidence that the individuals within Cloudbank are human beings or have a physical form in some other realm.

Another possibility is that all the inhabitants of Cloudbank are mere digital programs – literally lines of codes that execute a function within a computer. In this case, the citizens of Cloudbank are just processes running according to their programmed orders and are not fundamentally different from the streets or buildings of the city itself. They have no free will, so their actions are entirely predetermined.

What I think is actually the case, based on the evidence presented in the game, is that the citizens of Cloudbanks are non-sentient programs run by the Process, until a few of them became self-aware beings with free will. The members of the Camerata all appear to have gained sentience, though other characters in the game may have approached this point as well.

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Royce Bracket

Though the Camerata was the brainchild of Grant Kendrell, its mission came from the discoveries of Royce Bracket. Based on his bio, Royce was a prominent engineer and architect in Cloudbank who transformed the city according to the will of the population’s democratic voting process. Royce felt pride in his work, but couldn’t become attached to anything he created because the people demanded such rapid changes to the city. Eventually Royce noticed cyclical patterns in their directives:

“Because the engineer’s work was never done, it stayed fresh. With new whims came new challenges. Bridges. Gardens. Towers. Ports. None of it lasted very long. The nature of his work led him to notice certain patterns over time. The will of the people changed in cycles. Bridges would come down in favor of railways. Railways would give way to parks. New bridges would then be build upon the parks, and so on.”1

In response, Royce used his remarkable engineering skills to build “avant-garde structures” he believed “would persist beyond the immediate urges of the population.” Not only was he unsuccessful, but his failures sank his once-promising career, and Royce fell into obscurity. Rather than toil as a minor component of a pointlessly repetitive machine, Royce opted to leave his job to pursue his own research on the city’s patterns. After much work in isolation, Royce “discovered a formula visualizing exactly how the structures of Cloudbank formed.”

All of this is very clearly stated in Royce’s in-game profile, but it gets a little more abstract near the end:

“He (Royce) studied this formula closely for it filled him with a deep sense of wonder and even deeper sense of dread. He developed predictive algorithms to determine where and when the visualization would take form, and began drawing it out with his own architectural plans, until one day he found it in its natural state. He saw beyond the confines of the city into something more, and there before him was something extraordinary. He took it, and realized the things he saw now stood at his call.”

This description is vague and requires a lot of in-game dialogue to decipher. The “natural state” of the “pattern” is the Process in its physical “bot”2 form as we see it throughout Transistor. The Process “stood at his beck and call” because Royce discovered the Transistor. This implies that the discovery of the Process and the Transistor happened simultaneously. Consider this line of dialogue from Royce:

Where I found it (the Transistor), why, I found it on a lark. Right around here, geographically speaking. Although geography was only one small factor. There was also the math. Awful lot of math involved. Wasn’t entirely myself when I found it you might say.

By my reading of this part, Royce was able to create predictive algorithms based off the mathematical “pattern” deduced from Cloudbank’s repetitive building cycles which could tell Royce precisely what type, where, and when alterations to the city would occur. He then built structures to coincide with the algorithm’s predictive models, and eventually this triggered some sort of enlightenment or awakening during which time Royce discovered the physical Transistor which caused the Process to appear in its physical forms.

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The Process

What is the Process? In Royce Bracket’s words:

What can I say about the Process? The Process is, let’s see, old. Old as this town. Stubborn too, not prone to flights of fancy, very ethical, really. Follows a certain code, a certain set of rules. Rules of course can change, everything can change.”

Also:

Whenever people make a change, whether to the sea or the sky or anywhere in between, the Process does the real work. Invisible, behind the scenes. Well I say whoever does the real work ought to get the credit. So I found a way to put the Process center stage. The Transistor was my conductor’s baton, if you will. A way to keep the Process in concert, in harmony.

Essentially, the Process is the program which orders the fundamental flow of existence within the universe that contains Cloudbank. In computer terminology, the Process approximates an operating system, or even a kernel. It is a program, but unlike the rest of the programs in Cloudbank (it’s ostensibly human population), the Process operates at the most fundamental level of the universe. The Process is described by Royce as a natural phenomenon, and at one point is compared to an alien life form. Indeed, the Process is not actually of Cloudbank, but rather is a program designed by the creators of Cloudbank to run crucial operations within Cloudbank.

Image result for transistor process

A common mistake Transistorfans make is to assume that the Process only determines the structure and design of the physical city of Cloudbank (ie. the roads, the bridges, the buildings, etc.). For instance, George Weidman’s (aka Super Bunnyhop’s) discussion of Transistor’s story frames the Process as merely a tool used by Cloudbank’s Administrators to enact the population’s will. This casts the Camerata’s revolt in a socio-political light. But really, the Camerata are engaged in a metaphysical fight for control over their own free will in an otherwise deterministic world.

While the Process controls Cloudbank’s physical space, it also controls its citizens. Every person in Cloudbank is a computer program with its own internal code that dictates its actions. When Red (or the player) absorbs individuals into the Transistor, they become “functions.” In computer terminology, a function is “a named section of a program that performs a specific task.” Thus when Red puts individuals in the Transistor, she incorporates their core code (which essentially operates like a soul in the universe of Cloudbank) into the library of the transistor.

The Process, as the core program of the entire digital world of Cloudbank, runs these programs by choosing when and how to execute their functions. Therefore, everyone in Cloudbank is controlled by the Process at every conceivable level, from individual passions and ambitions, to personal tastes and political preferences.

In other words, the Process is a deterministic force over the inhabitants of Cloudbank. The Process indicates that Cloudbank citizens do not have free will. They have no more control over their own actions than the Transistor video game application on my laptop.

Consider the careers of Royce Bracket, Grant Kendrell, and Asher Kendrell. Royce was an engineer who redesigned the city according to popular vote and eventually noticed repetitive patterns in the population’s dictates. Grant was a city administrator who prided himself in facilitating whatever the majority voted for, until he “realized he had fought for virtually every social position at one time or another” and had chronically subdued his own policy preferences. Asher was a reporter who looked into Cloudbank’s history and found “the deeper he delved, the more frustrated he became with all the dead ends and contradictions.” The commonality between all three is that they examined the long-term preferences of Cloudbank’s population and discovered trends which were simultaneously cyclically ordered, yet arbitrarily so.

From the Camerata’s perspective, the Process wasn’t just a strange natural phenomenon. It was a physical manifestation of the metaphysical structure of their universe. The Process is the very essence by which Cloudbank functions. It is an entity which steers the minds of every single person they know (with the apparent exception of the Camerata members). The Camerata discovered that the citizens of Cloudbank did not have free will, but rather had their minds controlled by an ethereal entity beyond the realm of nearly everyone’s consciousness.

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The Transistor, Users, and the Cradle

What is the Transistor? From Royce again:

The Transistor, what can it do? What can it really do? Well, um, it can build a bridge for example, that’s something… it’s good for more than just bridges of course. Why, it can make just about anything happen, really.

And:

The Transistor was my conductor’s baton, if you will. A way to keep the Process in concert, in harmony.

A transistor in real life is a device which regulates the flow of electricity through circuits. Essentially, a transistor either allows energy to flow through a circuit so it can activate whatever it’s attached to (ie. a light), or the transistor stops the flow of energy through the circuit to deactivate the device.

Within the universe of Cloudbank, the Transistor serves a similar function: it activates or deactivates programs, which includes both the physical architecture of Cloudbank, as well as the minds of its citizens. In other words, the Transistor controls the Process.

The Transistor itself is just a tool. Although it has automated functions within its programming, it requires a “User” to direct its actions. The default User in Cloudbank is the “Cradle.” Though little is said about the Cradle within Transistor, we can infer that it is some sort of device or machine within Cloudbank physically located where Royce Bracket discovered the Transistor. Geographically, the Cradle is located in Fairview, on the outskirts of Cloudbank.

Ordinarily, the Cradle runs Cloudbank with its own orders that directs the Process to follow the cyclical patterns noticed by Royce, Grant, and Asher. But when the Transistor is wielded by a citizen of Cloudbank, that individual becomes the new User and gains the ability to command the Process, and by extension, possess god-like powers over the universe.

Image result for transistor camerata

Throughout the events of Transistor, there are six Users. The following description briefly runs down how and when each User gains control of the Transistor:

The first User is the Cradle, which runs the Process through its cycles that Royce notices and decodes to discover the Transistor.

Second, Royce Bracket finds the Transistor to become its next User. He researches the Process for a while independently.

Third, Royce shares the Transistor with the rest of the Camerata. As will be explained later, the “Recorded” Trace Statuses of Grant and Asher Kendrell indicate that they were both Users of the Transistor at once point. Sybil Reisz was also a User, as indicated by the “Sandbox” she created, but she has a different Trace Status because of how Processed she was by the time Red finds her during the events of the game. The last Camerata User was Grant, as the in-game cutscene shows him leading the attack on Red with the Transistor.

Fourth, the Man’s corrupted code knocks the Transistor off-line temporarily, resulting in there being no User for a little over 24 hours.

Fifth, Red becomes the User once she removes the Transistor from the Man. However, from that moment until near the end of the game, the Transistor malfunctions due to the Man’s corrupted code.

Finally, after Red returns the Transistor to the Cradle for a system reboot, and fights for User status within the Transistor against Royce Bracket, Red regains User status, with normal Process functionality restored.

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Discovering the Transistor

The program known as Royce Bracket attained free will at some point in his existence. In doing so, his beliefs were no longer governed by the Process as they were earlier in his career when he relished his engineering work. Rather, he was able to form his own long-lasting opinions free of the programmed cycle of public opinion orchestrated by the Process. As Royce’s opinions diverged with those of the rest of Cloudbank, he began to notice the odd cyclical patterns of the population’s will. After sufficient investigation, he literally decoded the fabric of his universe to discover the Transistor and see physical manifestations of the Process.

Grant Kendrell was evidently another program which attained free will and faced similar problems understanding the patterns of the population around him. Once Royce (who is established as Grant’s friend) explained his discoveries to him, and then showed Grant the Transistor and the Process in its physical form. Grant then conveyed these findings to Asher Kendrell who, according to his bio, had similar experiences to Grant and Royce, and therefore also had free will:

“Most children learn to stop asking ‘why’, but Mr. Asher Kendrell never outgrew it. His hunger for knowledge and his eagerness to spread it made him a prolific writer, who enjoyed a career as a culture-and-current-events editor for OVC. When Mr. Kendrell wasn’t busy reporting, he occupied himself studying the history of his city. But the deeper he delved, the more frustrated he became with all the dead ends and contradictions. The facts simply did not add up, so he started piecing together the unwritten history of Cloudbank…”

We can see a repeated trend with Royce, Grant, and Asher: an individual flourishes in his work due to his personal ability, but eventually hits a professional/artistic ceiling in the immediate form of some sort of societal restriction. Upon digging deeper, the individual comes to suspect these societal roadblocks are more fundamental in nature, which leads to the discovery of Cloudbank’s metaphysical reality. We don’t get as much background on Sybil Reisz, but we can infer the same pattern.

Remember, all the individual humans in Cloudbank are actually programs that are controlled by the Process. Thus, another way to think of the individual Camerata members, are as programs which initially act in accordance with the operating system’s commands, but then attain self-awareness, deviate from the operating system’s commands, and then begin to control the Process itself.

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To summarize:

 Narrative TerminologyComputer TerminologyRoyce Example
Step 1Cloudbank citizen achieves long term success in his or her field.Program executes functions in accordance to operating system’s directives.Royce has a career as a successful engineer and architect in Cloudbank.
Step 2Cloudbank citizen attains free will and begins to notice Cloudbank cycles.Program attains free will.Royce attains free will and notices cycles of construction and architectural taste in Cloudbank.
Step 3Cloudbank citizen attempts to break cycle with unorthodox production in his or her field.Program executes different functions than ordered by the operating system.Royce builds avant-garde structures to break the cycle.
Step 4Cloudbank citizen’s attempt to break the cycle fails.Operating system erases the products of the functions wrongly executed by the program.Royce’s avant-garde architecture is rejected by public taste, his buildings are torn down.
Step 5Cloudbank citizen searches for truth behind the cycle.Malfunctioning program searches for operating system code.Royce studies the cycle with mathematical models.
Step 6Cloudbank citizen finds the Transistor and sees the Process (or is shown them by another citizen).Program finds the operating system.Royce discovers the Transistor and sees the Process.
Step 7Cloudbank citizen controls the Process by using the Transistor.Program commands the operating system.Royce controls the Process with the Transistor.

Interestingly, other citizens of Cloudbank can be mapped to some of these steps. Niola Chein (aka “bounce”) was a beloved social activist who championed the poor and downtrodden for the good of Cloudbank. All was well until she attempted a new innovative project:

“The Channel was to be a gallery space of sorts designed to showcase eclectic works from those pursuing nonstandard vocations that traditionally held little share. Instead, Ms. Chein found herself accused of stirring unrest by calling attention to meritless perspectives undeserving of notice. The group accosting her was angry for 17 different reasons in total, including how the Channel edged out a competing vote for a metro station that would have bridged the gap from Goldwalk to neighboring Highrise in one short ride. Ms. Chein publicly lost her composure for this particular incident, which would have escalated further if not for several individuals who stood in her defense. They later offered their support with any such matters in the future. She agreed to meet with them, not realizing who they were.”

By my evaluation, Niola reached at least Step 4, at which point she was killed by the Camerata and incorporated into the Transistor. This opens up a host of questions about the rest of the citizens of Cloudbank. If the members of the Camerata attained free will and eventually discovered the Process, how many other citizens would have eventually gone down the same path?

One possibility is that while other citizens did or could attain sentience, only Royce Brackett could have found the Transistor. Perhaps Royce’s programing was uniquely intelligent or sophisticated enough to comprehensively analyze Cloudbank’s structure once he achieved free will. Royce comments that he discovered the Process by using “an awful lot of math,” which is something a political administrator like Grant or a reporter like Asher probably could not have done. That might sound overly vague, but it’s not too dissimilar to the way real scientists like Isaac Newton used empirical observation and mathematical analysis to track patterns in our universe, like the existence of gravity and inertia.

Another possibility is that whoever runs the Cloudbank system in real life purposefully led Royce to the Transistor. When Royce describes his discovery, he notes:

“Sometimes I think, I didn’t find it at all. More like the other ways around. You understand? Maybe it was looking for someone like me.”

If Royce was led to the Transistor by the creators of Cloudbank, we can ask many more questions with no provided answers. Why did they do it? Why Royce? Did they grant the other Camerata members their free will too?

Image result for wave tennegan

Another interesting case is Wave Tennegan (aka “load”), a controversial social commentator:

“Mr. Wave Tennegan traded the quiet life of a sanctuary vicar to become one of Cloudbank‘s biggest alternative broadcast personalities for his distinct blend of good-natured mannerisms and incisive social commentary. Straddling the generational boundry between the old guard and the new, Mr. Tennegan offered a canny perspective on the many factors influencing the city’s evolution. But during one of his many meet-and-greet events with his listeners, he met a group of individuals who would forever change the course of his life.

That evening, after his event drew to a close, Mr. Tennegan met members of the group calling themselves the Camerata. They invited Mr. Tennegan to come see what was really going on in his city, as long as Mr. Tennegan promised not to disclose any facts concerning the existence of the group. Mr. Tennegan outwardly accepted, for his curiosity could not be quenched. But he inwardly refused for his commitment to his listeners precluded the keeping of any such secrets. First, he would meet the Camerata on their terms.”

Given Wave’s apparent disagreements with Cloudbank’s mainstream social thought, the Camerata must have speculated that Wave had free will like them (Stage 2 at least). So the Camerata invited Wave into their ranks, only to somehow discover that he was not being an honest interlocutor. So the Camerata killed Wave and incorporated his function into the Transistor.

I originally thought that coming into contact with the Transistor caused individuals to enter some sort of enlightenment that reveals the existence of the Process in an immediate, visual form. Royce is described as seeing “beyond the confines of the city into something more” and being “not entirely” himself when he discovered the Transistor. This theory could also explain why Red and the Man could see the Process after they were attacked by the Camerata, as well as the Cloudbank government’s initial reluctance to identify the Process in early OVC Terminals.

But other evidence indicates that once Royce discovered the Transistor and could see the Process, they soon became visible to everyone. This led the Camerata to use their political power to isolate the Fairview district of Cloudbank for containment and study of the Transistor and Process. Some of the in-game function bios indicate that other residents of Cloudbank accidentally stumbled upon the visible Process bots during this time. Detective Henter Jallaford (aka “ping”) discovered the Process while investigating shady government operations in Fairview:

“Officer Jallaford possessed an almost uncanny ability to solve any mystery that blew into town. So it was that he became very interested in the reasons why Central Administration quietly decided to take down the northwestern edge of the Goldwalk district3 until further notice.

Officially speaking, Officer Jallaford could only do so much until the administration provided sufficient clearance, for his own safety. But, one of the side effects of Officer Jallaford’s talents as a forecaster was his insatiable desire to confirm his hypotheses. So he decided to move forward with his investigation, sensing significant trouble and not wanting to sit idly by rather than do his job. What he discovered in Goldwalk shook Officer Jallaford to his core. He has never seen anything like it and his hands shook as he prepared his report on the spot.”

Likewise, famed racecar driver, Preston Moyle (aka “jaunt”), accidentally found the Process while on a joyride:

“Tracking systems on his bike indicate that Mr. Moyle headed northwest across the canals late one night, averaging speeding 228% faster than the common standard. He surely was aware that the northwestern corner of Cloudbank was offline pending investigation, and this was likely the appeal. Having his own abandoned part of town to race through on his custom bike was Preston Moyle’s dream. And the reality lived up to the dream, judging by the volume of Mr. Moyle’s Laughter recorded by his bike. However the recording stopped abruptly.”

Finally, Lillian Platt (aka “spark”) found the Process while searching for the truth behind the disappearance of her friend, Maximilias Darzi (aka “purge”):

“Ms. Platt never learned the truth about her vanished friend, although in a brief moment she did learn the truth about the unusual phenomenon.”

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Functions, Traces, and Access Points

Functions are codes that execute an action. In Transistor, functions manifest as combat and buff abilities within the Transistor that Red (and the player) use to fight the Process. Traces are the physical manifestations of Cloudbank’s functions as what appear to be human beings. Therefore, every person in Cloudbank is a Trace that represents an underlying function.

As the “kernel” of Cloudbank, the Transistor always contains all of Cloudbank’s functions. However, whether a particular User can access a specific function at any given time depends on whether that function is contained within the Access Points. In the game, these Access Points serve as save stations and allow the player to organize Red’s weapon loadout.

To access additional functions, the User must acquire a function’s corresponding Trace. This can be accomplished a few different ways as indicated by the “Trace Status” descriptions within the function bios:

First, there is the “Integrated” category. These individuals include: Olmarq (cull), Maximilias Darzi (purge), Niola Chein (bounce), Wave Tennegan (load), Shomar Shasberg (mask), Henter Jallaford (ping), Farrah Yon-Dale (switch), Bailey Gilande (get), Lillian Platt (spark), Preston Moyle (jaunt), and Sybil Reisz (help).

A Trace is “Integrated” when a User absorbs a Trace from the body of a Cloudbank inhabitant. The Camerata accomplished this by killing a bunch of people and stealing their Traces. During the events of the game, Red acquires these same Traces by increasing her User level. In other words, the Traces had already been Integrated by the Camerata, and Red was merely unlocking their functions by gaining higher access levels to the Transistor.

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The three exceptions are Platt, Moyle, and Reisz. In the case of Platt and Moyle, Red finds their dead bodies and absorbs their Traces directly. Sybil’s case is a bit more complicated and will be explained in her own dedicated section in Part 2.

Second, there is the “Recorded” category. These individuals include: Asher Kendrell (void), Grant Kendell (tap), and Royce Brackett (flood) – three of the four Camerata members. What’s the difference between being “Integrated” and “Recorded”?

Any Trace which becomes a User of the Transistor has its Trace automatically “Recorded” in the Transistor’s Access Point. This would indicate that Royce, Grant, and Asher were all Users at some (likely multiple) points. When Red finds Grant and Asher’s bodies, she absorbs their Traces to unlock the already existing functions, just like she did with the rest of the Camerata’s victims. Also note that Red’s function is available right after she pulls the Transistor from the Man’s body to become its new User. Her function would be listed as Recorded if she lost User status to someone else. Sybil was also a User and at one point would have had a Recorded Trace Status if not for other confounding factors.

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Third, there is the “Intact” category solely possessed by Red (crash). Red’s Trace is “Intact” instead of “Recorded” because she is the current User of the Transistor when then player checks her bio.

The fourth category is “non-recoverable,” and only pertains to the Man. As will be elaborated upon in Part 2, the Man is a broken function, so his Trace data similarly malfunctions.

An important take-away from all of this is that the Transistor can only wield functions if the corresponding Cloudbank inhabitant is dead, a current User, or a former User. This has ominous implications for any individual’s use of the Transistor.

no(thing) changes

The Camerata

The common reading of the Camerata’s ideology is one of elitism (as stated in Yahtzee’s review). They are seen as a group of coercive visionaries who want to restrict democracy so they can impose their own wills on Cloudbank. But when Royce Bracket’s extraordinary discoveries, and their implications on the nature of Cloudbank’s existence are considered, the Camerata’s goals can be seen as a unique expression of free will in an otherwise deterministic world.

The Camerata discovered that the entire city of Cloudbank and its inhabitants lived by the will of a supernatural phenomenon. No one was free. Every art trend, every new administrative policy, every alteration of the city’s design, every supposedly impassioned pursuit of individual creativity, was done at the behest of the Process rather than the people of Cloudbank. The inhabitants of Cloudbank were little more than slaves. Or rather, all the citizens of Cloudbank were slaves except for the members of the Camerata.

Given that Royce, Grant, Asher, and Sybil are the only known citizens of Cloudbank who are aware of the Process and its influence, and that they possess the Transistor, the Camerata set out to end the pointless cycles and establish a new Cloudbank based on their individual creative visions. In Asher’s words:

What good could four individuals ever hope to accomplish in this city with only their own four voices? Well, we found out answer, you have it right there, in your hands.

Is this such a horrible goal? The Camerata discovered that their entire careers have been farces, that the citizens of Cloudbank don’t have wills of their own, and that their whole world is essentially run by an omnipotent and unknowable will. So they wanted to change that. The Camerata wanted to set themselves and the people of Cloudbank free. They wanted to create the great works of engineering, policy, and reporting which were never permitted under the regime of pointless repetition. The members of the Camerata wanted to live by their own wills.

2014_06_24_camerata_emblem_by_valorcrow-d7nwb98

The Camerata’s Plan

The Camerata controls the Transistor, a god-like device that gives them the power to literally manipulate the fabric of reality. Thus the Camerata can reshape Cloudbank according to their plans, not just on an architectural level like Royce initially intended, but on a civic, societal, and maybe even metaphysical level.

How does this work?

In the game, functions manifest as weapons, tools, and buffs for combat, but we can infer that they could also be used for creative purposes, like building structures, encouraging behaviors, and literally changing the fabric of reality. Given the Transistor’s power to control the Process and shape the universe, these functions could presumably physically shape Cloudbank like magic.

Every function in the Transistor represents the refined purpose of the program from which it was derived. Admittedly, some of these connections are easier to deduce than others, but here is my best shot at a few functions:

TraceBioFunctionIn-game Function effect
Preston MoyleCar RacerjauntIncreased maneuverability
OlmarqCloudbank version of football player known for excessive forcecullPhysically hitting opponent with great damage
Farrah Yon-DaleSky painter who enraptured crowds, inspired by suitorswitchConverts enemies to allies
Shomar ShasbergAn elusive, illicit trickstermaskHides Red from enemies
Sybil ReiszA consummate socialite with endless connectionshelpConjures a friendly Process bot to assist Red
Asher KendrellWriter, investigative journalist dedicated to revealing the truthvoidWeakens enemies, strengthens other functions
Maximilias Darzi4Drug addicted designer encouraged to resist his habitpurgeApplies long-term negative effect to enemies

(The libertarian in me wants Grant Kendell’s function, “tap,” which leaches life points from enemies, to represent his position as a leader of Cloudbank’s government. But I admit that is a reach.)

We can see how the functions manifest as weapons, tools, and buffs in combat. From this we can infer that the Camerata wanted access to these same functions for use outside of combat. How exactly each particular function manifests isn’t actually shown. Maybe Red’s function controls sound? Maybe Royce’s function control buildings? Maybe Preston Moyle’s Function controls movement? We can only speculate.

Where we can see more direct evidence of the power of the functions is at the very end of the game when Red has control of the Transistor and access to all of Cloudbank’s functions. This is the Transistor at the height of its potential power. We briefly see Red rebuild a small chunk of Cloudbank from Processed scrap just by wishing for it, but theoretically her power is nearly limitless. She could rearrange the entire city, change the weather, create new people, or even alter fundamental laws of nature like gravity and inertia.

But when the Camerata first get control over the Transistor, their tool is nowhere near as powerful.

While there is no potential limit to the Transistor’s power over Cloudbank, there is at any given time an actual limit. The Transistor’s power at any given moment depends on the amount of functions the User has access to. The amount of functions the User has access to depends on its number of allied Users (for Recorded and Intact Traces) and the number of dead bodies a User can find (for Integrated Traces).

Upon discovering the Transistor, Royce Bracket’s Trace was recorded, and his function became available for use. But as far as we know, that was the only significant function Royce had at his disposal. I believe that the Transistor likely has “base functions” which are always available and provide some level of power to its User (for instance, Red can use the Transistor to open doors, fly with the Process, etc.), but these meager functions were clearly insufficient for Royce’s ambitions.

transistor game的圖片搜尋結果

Royce introduced the Transistor to his friend, Grant Kendrell, who came up with the idea for the Camerata, and invited Asher Kendrell and Sybil Reisz into its ranks. This team formed a new vanguard that could stop the repetitious cycle and usher in a new era for Cloudbank. But first they needed to increase the Transistor’s power. To do so, they could either:

  1. Invite more members into the Camerata, or
  2. Kill people and steal their functions.

From the perspective of the Camerata, the only advantage of the first option was the debatable ethical superiority of not killing sentient programs. Otherwise, inviting more members into the Camerata risked knowledge of the Transistor going public, which could result in a power struggle or democratized control, which would defeat the whole point of the Camerata in the first place. Grant also likely feared that increasing the size of the Camerata would dilute each individual member’s influence over the new order, hence Grant’s bio:

“The Camerata was just the two of them at first, and its ranks were never meant to exceed a number to be counted on one hand. They encapsulated their beliefs in an expression, that when everything changes, nothing changes. And they had in their possession something that would move their mission forward. Administrator Kendrell, ever familiar with the solemn burden of responsibility, knew more about the administration than anyone. If anyone knew what was best for Cloudbank, it was him.”

So that left just option 2. We don’t know enough about Cloudbank life to say if there was a more efficient way to find dead bodies than just my murdering people, but Royce’s Terminals near the end of the game and the function bios indicate that the Camerata purposefully targeted noteworthy individuals whose absences could be easily explained away to the public. Presumably the Camerata believed that powerful functions created powerful traces, so the more influential or important the person, the more useful their function would be in shaping the city. Eventually this belief brought them to attack the young, rising music star, Red, to launch the events of the game.

transistor concert的圖片搜尋結果

Life, Death, and Time in Cloudbank

We never see any children in Cloudbank, even though there are numerous romantic couples in the game. There is no reference to old age as a precursor to death, nor of illness besides the Process-induced sickness. It’s also worth noting that the youngest character in Transistor is Olmarq at 22 years old (well past childhood), and the oldest character is Grant Kendrell at 55 (well before old age). There aren’t even references to guns or weapons of any sort, even when the city is being torn down by a hostile invasion force. We never hear of crime or criminals, even though there is a government with a totalitarian level of control over Cloudbank.

When you put these pieces together, we get an image of a rather stagnant society. There is simply no evidence that individuals in Cloudbank are born, grow old, and die in the same way that ordinary human beings do in our world.

Given that Cloudbank is a digital city, it’s entirely possible that Cloudbank has only existed for a few years or decades. The fact that the function bios list ages would suggest that at the very least there is time progression in Cloudbank, but given the cyclical nature of the city’s existence, Cloudbank may very well be trapped in an endless time loop where after a set number of years, the city (including the ages of its inhabitants) revert back to a prior point. While there is no conclusive evidence to support this time loop theory, there are a few points in the game which makes me think it is more likely to be true than not. First, there is Asher Kendrell’s research into the city’s history:

“When Mr. Kendrell wasn’t busy reporting, he occupied himself studying the history of his city. But the deeper he delved, the more frustrated he became with all the dead ends and contradictions. The facts simply did not add up, so he started piecing together the unwritten history of Cloudbank.”

Perhaps the history of Cloudbank makes no sense because there is no history of Cloudbank.

Second, when Red and the Man reach Highrise on their way to confront Grant and Asher Kendrell, the Man notes:

“Top of the town. This town’s changed a thousand times. It’s gotta be pretty old.”

Granted, the Man is not a historian, but it’s odd that a resident of Cloudbank doesn’t seem to have any clue how old the oldest part of his home city is. There isn’t even a temporal frame of reference offered (ie. “this has been here since the beginning”), just the suggestion that Highrise must be “pretty old.”

Third, the key indicator of the time loop theory is Transistor’s “New Game+.” When a player starts Transistor for the first time, the first thing heard is the Man saying:

“Hey Red, we’re not gonna get away with this, are we?”

When the player starts the game a second time (or any time after the first), it’s called a “Recursion” in the title screen. Generically, a recursion refers to any action that repeats itself. When starting the Recursion, the player hears the same line, but this time spoken by Royce Brackett, presumably because he has since been sucked into the Transistor at the end of the last cycle. This indicates that the entire universe of Cloudbank is on a massive loop which the player is choosing to rerun.

While we can’t say for certain how time and aging operate in Cloudbank, we can connect these inferences to some other clues presented in the game to figure out the nature of “the Country.”

transistor the country的圖片搜尋結果

The Country

What is the Country in the world of Transistor? In short, the Country is a storage space inside the Transistor which holds non-operating functions. It serves as a sort of afterlife beyond Cloudbank that the city’s inhabitants go to once they “die.” To understand this, we need to dive into the evidence provided by the game as well as some heavy speculation.

The first clues as to the Country’s nature are the function bios of Maximilias Darzi and Lillian Platt. Like many individuals, Max was lured into seclusion to be “murdered” and integrated into the Transistor. After his disappearance, the public assumed he left Cloudbank for the Country:

“The public would readily accept that such a man, publicly disgraced, would decide to head to the Country away from the bustle of city life. And indeed, the public took this news at face value — all but Mr. Darzi’s confidant, whom the Camerata dealt with separately.”

Lillian Platt’s bio reflects the same sentiment:

“In private conversations, several of her former colleagues indicated that Ms. Platt left following the sudden disappearance of a close personal friend, Mr. Maximilias Darzi, who according to official OVC transcripts decided one day to move to the Country.”

Likewise, the Man states:

Henter Jallaford went to the Country, precinct did a press conference and everything.”

Notice the language here: “move to the Country” and “head to the Country.” This would seem to imply that Cloudbank inhabitants voluntarily leave for the Country with some regularity, and that the event is not necessarily unfortunate or tragic.

Second, Asher Kendrell mentions the Country in his final OVC Terminal message to Red:

“I couldn’t stay. To meet with you in person. Grant, he couldn’t wait any longer. Why he would leave me…I’d sooner take an eternity in the Transistor…But, he was no longer seeing straight. Or perhaps he decided he’d seen enough. We knew the stakes of what we wanted to accomplish. And we knew that if we were to fail, we would do so together. As one. See you in the Country.”

Red echoes his statement with the response:

“See you in the Country. –R”

Another illuminating quote from Royce Bracket:

“Grant, the others, they’ve gone ahead without me now, haven’t they?”

Though Royce doesn’t explicitly mention the Country here, referring to Grant’s killing himself as having “gone ahead” would seem to imply movement to the Country.

Third, Royce Brackett brings up the Country in a different key context:

Funny things about the Transistor, let’s see, you can get in but you can’t get out. How about that! You can get in but it’s a one-way street, a one-way road. It’s like the Country. You don’t just go for a visit, you go for good. The Transistor, I have no idea what’s inside it, really.

(Royce is actually wrong about not being able to get out of the Transistor, as indicated by the end of the game. But by his own admission, Royce is wrong about many things.)

These brief mentions of the Country imply that it is some sort of realm beyond the confines of Cloudbank. Asher speaks of the Country like an afterlife, but the more mundane references to it by other characters, as well as the absence of any doubt towards its existence, indicates that the Country is just as real as Cloudbank.

The final and most important clue about the Country is Red’s fight against Royce Brackett which takes place inside the Transistor in a geographic area that looks very much like a rural countryside. The details in this area tell us a lot about not only the Country Likewise, the game’s final scene shows Red meeting the Man inside the Transistor near a house in the same countryside. Though it is never explicitly said that this place is the Country all of the other characters refer to throughout Transistor, it seems like too much of a coincidence to be random.

Therefore, the Country is inside the Transistor. The Country is a digital storage space for programs not currently operating in Cloudbank.

transistor royce fight的圖片搜尋結果

The Many Existential Statuses of Cloudbank Citizens

The inhabitants of Cloudbank do not live or die like regular human beings. Instead, at any given time they can be in one of four different existential states.

First, Cloudbank inhabitants can live within Cloudbank. In computer terms, these are programs executing their functions within a given system. This is the status for all the characters prior to the events of the game or their encounters with the Camerata.

transistor characters的圖片搜尋結果

Second, Cloudbank inhabitants can enter a state which we would call “death.” When this occurs, the character’s Trace (or soul) still exists in Cloudbank, but it is not operational. We see multiple characters in this state throughout Transistor. Red and the Man encounter Lillian Platt, Preston Moyle, Asher Kendrell, and Grant Kendrell after their bodies had already been “killed.” In all of these cases, the Man is still able to talk to these “dead” characters, though their voices are muffled to the player (and by extension, to Red), thereby indicating that only through the Transistor can the Man talk to these individuals:

“Hey Mr. Moyle, you in there? It’s him alright, but I can barely hear him.”

Upon encountering Lillian Platt’s body:

“She Awake? Hi, you ok?… I see… sure. She wants to come along. We can use her.”

transistor dead body的圖片搜尋結果

Analogously, these characters are in the same state as a program (such as a video game) you run on your computer which freezes. The program is activated, it was running, but it’s no longer running. In these cases, there is only one thing for the computer to do – exit the program. This leads us to the third existential status…

Third, when a Cloudbank inhabitant dies, it can go inside the Transistor to its storage space known as the Country. All of the programs that the Camerata and Red absorb into the Transistor end up in the Country. This is just like when you exit out of a frozen program on your computer. The program doesn’t entirely disappear from your computer, rather it still exists in storage, but it isn’t operational.

In Transistor, Cloudbank inhabitants are programs. When they are operational, they consciously execute a function in Cloudbank in the form of a Trace. When they are turned off, they don’t blink out of existence, rather they are stored in the Country in a state of semi-consciousness, as indicated by Royce’s analysis:

There’s these Traces inside the Transistor. Everyday people once upon a time, but now, well, not quite themselves. And they’re trapped. No walls in there, mind you, it’s just, they’re on their own. Listen close enough and maybe you can hear them. Some of them, I mean. The ones you know.

Here is the Country as seen during Red’s fight with Royce:

transistor royce fight的圖片搜尋結果

The 15 containers on the battlefield represent all the functions absorbed by Red and the Camerata into the Transistor, with the exception of the absent Man (breach). As we see at the very end of the game, this is because the Man exists in a “physical” form elsewhere in this realm near a farmhouse. We can also see other containers outside of the battle zones, all of which also presumably contain functions. These containers hold every other function within Cloudbank, including those of the hundreds of thousands of Cloudbank inhabitants we never see during the game.

If the Country is a massive storage space for all of Cloudbank’s functions, then these containers are discrete storage spaces for individual functions. When a program is not activated, the function just sits in the container. When a program is activated, it creates a Trace or some other effect in Cloudbank. When the program is again deactivated, the Trace returns to the container in the Country.

In other terms, when an individual citizen of Cloudbank is living a normal life, he or she is a program performing its ordained function within the digital world of Cloudbank in the form of a Trace. The Trace’s corresponding function is stored within the Country in the Transistor. When that Trace dies in Cloudbank, the function continues to exist in the Country, but is no longer being expressed in Cloudbank. Instead, the Trace returns to its particular container.

It is my speculation that prior to Royce Bracket’s discovery of the Transistor, any individuals who died in Cloudbank were automatically returned to the Country. This would explain the common parlance of “moving to the Country” spoken throughout the game. However, as soon as the Transistor came under control of an individual program within Cloudbank, this must have disabled that automatic mechanism, thereby requiring the Transistor User to manually send programs to the Country. We see this happen throughout the game as Red manually brings the Traces of Platt, Moyle, Grant, and Asher into the Transistor.

In our glimpse of the Country, unlike the containers of the functions Red and Royce are using, the other containers don’t light up and reveal bodies during the “turn” combat phase. This implies that the programs which once inhabited these containers are gone. Why? That leads to the final existential state…

Fourth, when Cloudbank inhabitants are consumed by the Process they are wiped from existence. This is presumably the fate of nearly everyone in Cloudbank. It’s the equivalent of a program being deleted from a computer. The storage containers that don’t light up in the Royce fight are the former holding places of programs that have been deleted from the system by the Process.

Though Royce Bracket’s understanding of the Transistor and Country are fundamentally limited, he still knows more than anyone else in the game about these issues. Near the end of the game, When Red rushes to bring Royce the Transistor to return it to the cradle and stop the Process, he states:

“I’ll level with you… yes, I would like (the Transistor) back… I’d very much if you must know, but you know what? At this point, I would settle for not being wiped out of existence. I would happily settle for that.”

Every other character refers to death as “going to the Country,” including Camerata member, Asher Kendrell. Yet Royce fears that being consumed by the Process won’t transfer his consciousness to some other realm, but rather eliminate it entirely.

transistor precht q的圖片搜尋結果

The one example we see in the game of a character being destroyed by the Process is “Precht. Q.” His full name is unknown, but his body is found by Red early in the game, in Goldwalk. Like Lillian Platt and Preston Moyle, Red attempts to absorb him into the Transistor, resulting in this conversation between Precht and the Man:

“Hi. Where’d everybody go?… Well, we’re gonna get you out of here… he says the Process wiped them out… He’s too far gone”

The Transistor reports over Precht’s body – “PROCESSED: 84%.” He is absorbed into the Transistor, but unlike Lillian and Preston, his function is not usable. Apparently too much of Precht’s code had been deleted by the Process to preserve his function.

To summarize:

 Organic TerminologyComputer TerminologyExample
1Individual exists in CloudbankA stored program executes its function in the Cloudbank systemGrant Kendrell lives in Cloudbank prior to the events of Transistor
2Individual is dead in CloudbankA program ceases executing its function (freezes) in CloudbankGrant Kendrell drinks poison and dies in Cloudbank
3Individual leaves Cloudbank for the CountryA program is closed in the Cloudbank system and storage externallyGrant Kendrell is absorbed into the Transistor where he is kept semiconscious in a storage container in the Country
4Individual is consumed by the ProcessA program is deletedPrecht Q. is broken down by the Process to the point of not being salvageable by the Transistor
transistor country的圖片搜尋結果

If the Country is in the Transistor, Why Doesn’t Anybody Just Say That?

Because nobody knows.

Royce Brackett is the single most knowledgeable man about the nature of Cloudbank and the Transistor in the entire universe. Yet, by his own admission, Royce still doesn’t know about much going on in the grand scheme of thing:

“You know, I truly thought how could the Tranistor be anything other than one of a kind? But I’ve been wrong about a lot of thing here I admit. All part of the job, of having theories, being right sometimes and also being wrong.”

And:

Funny things about the Transistor, let’s see, you can get in but you can’t get out. How about that! You can get in but it’s a one-way street, a one-way road. It’s like the Country. You don’t just go for a visit, you go for good. The Transistor, I have no idea what’s inside it, really.

As with many components of Transistor’s lore, there is no explicit answer to this question, the best we can do is make inferences on the evidence the game presents. Given Royce’s humility during his descriptions of Cloudbank, the Transistor, and the Process, it’s safe to say that he does not have all the answers.

Image result for transistor royce bracket death

The Man

The Man is Transistor’s narrator, the protagonist’s love interest5 and primary motivator, and incites the entire game’s plot, yet little is directly stated about who he is. What little information we do get about his identity comes from his bio and some his own statements, but these vagaries don’t reveal much. To figure out who the Man is and how he fits into the greater world of Cloudbank, we need to piece together a lot of details.

The Man’s bio is unique among the game’s 16 functions for many reasons. To start, it’s the only bio without a picture, which follows the game’s cinematics that also never reveal the Man’s face. It is also the only bio with an unknown age and gender.6

A major insight into the man’s identity rests in “Reasons Cited.” This section refers to the reason why each individual pursues his or her passion (or alternatively, why each program executes its function). For instance, racer Preston Moyle’s “Reasons Cited” is “I want to go fast and far,” and fashion designer Maximillias Darzi’s is “pursuit of beauty. 

While Royce and Red both have “declined” as an answer for reasons I can’t explain, all the other functions besides the Man express positive motivations for engaging in their domain. In contrast, the Man’s “Reasons Cited” is “still figuring things out.” This indicates that the man does not pursue a passion, artistry, or profession unlike the rest of the known residents of Cloudbank.

This might seem like a minor detail at first, but when compared to every other known character in the game, it strongly sets him apart. The characters in Transistor include a singer, an architect, a government official, a reporter, a socialite, a philanthropist, a scientist, a fashion designer, a racer, an athlete, a prankster, a detective, a sky painter, a historian, and a social pundit. All of these characters are considered titans in their respective fields, if not famous or even beloved throughout Cloudbank.

Then there’s the Man, who, as far as the player can tell, has no vocation or creative commitment to speak of.

This point is further supported in the “Selections” section. For every other function, this section indicates the subject domains to which their skills and passions apply. For instance, as an architect, Royce’s selections are “Engineering” and “Mathematics,” and as a singer, Red’s selections are “Music” and “Linguistics.” But the Man’s selections are simply “Declined.” This is elaborated upon in the Man’s bio:

“Recovered data indicates Subject had no Selections on record. There is a remote possibility (less than 5%) that this information is inaccurate due to data corruption. In the more likely event that the information is valid, Subject by definition cannot be matched with the census data, as 0% of Cloudbank willingly chose nonselection.”

Here is where some serious speculation comes into play.

Cloudbank is a digital universe filled with programs which execute functions upon the directives of the Process. The way we, the player, see this is as a city of human beings pursuing their individual passions and vocations to produce the rich social/cultural fabric of Cloudbank. If the Man is a person in Cloudbank who doesn’t serve an apparent sociological role in the community, then he must be a faulty program.

The Man is a damaged program which fails to execute its functions. Transistor’s real life programming files refer to the Man as “The Boxer,” so I believe that his program function within the digital world of Cloudbank was to be a great boxer, just as Royce was a great architect, Red a great singer, and every other character great within his or her respective field. However, apparently there was a problem with the Man’s programming which prevented him from executing his function, and therefore he languished in Cloudbank as what amounts to bloatware, or a massive underachiever by his society’s standards.

With this understanding of the Man, the inciting incident of Transistor takes on a new meaning. This will be explained in Part 2.


1. Excerpt from Royce Bracket’s bio.
2. The term “bot” as used here never appears in Transistor, I made it up for this analysis for the sake of clarity as a way to refer to individual Process units.
3. Fairview is on Goldwalk District’s northwestern edge.
4. My reading of Max’s function indicates that he too may have been self-aware. His bio states:

“Not everyone wears the Darzi brand. However, two years ago, more than 56% of individuals between age of 16 and 42 showed interest in or complimented someone wearing Mr. Maximilias Darzi’s clothing. The self-styled Cloudbank Clothier became a fashion icon in his early 20s when he introduced to the world a garment line that boldly eschewed formal tradition. Not only that, so prolific was his work that seemingly everyone in Cloudbank (in reality it was only 8% of the population at the time) found garments that spoke to them as individuals. In spite of this, all was not well in Mr. Darzi’s life.

In private Mr. Darzi suffered from certain dependencies he believed were the source of his talent, or rather the source of his inspiration. Unfortunately, he was correct in this assessment. When he decided to come forward and wean himself from these dependencies, after an initial public outpouring of support, his career started to falter. His ideas came less quickly or he could not act on them as quickly. And so, against the wishes of his closes confidant and partner, he resumed his old habits. It was then that Mr. Darzi met certain individuals professing knowledge of his condition, who invited him to participate in an experiment that could cure him without compromise. Believing he had little to lose, Mr. Darzi decided it was worth a shot.

It may seem mundane for the Camerata to take interest in a man like Mr. Darzi. Yet from the Camerata’s perspective, he was perfect. Here was someone with the capacity to sway thousands in a subtle way, and whose career appeared to be waning. The public would readily accept that such a man, publicly disgraced, would decide to head to the Country away from the bustle of city life. And indeed, the public took this news at face value — all but Mr. Darzi’s confidant, whom the Camerata dealt with separately.”

Max’s function is “purge,” which is a way to describe kicking a drug habit (ie. purging a substance from one’s system). When Max decided to fight his drug habit, the “public outpouring of support” and encouragement from his romantic partner could both be considered a form of the Process triggering Max’s purge function. While Max initially obliged, he found that being free of the habit hindered his creativity, and thus he relapsed on purpose. This can be read as Max willfully disobeying the Process, and therefore indicates that Max had free will. Unfortunately, the Camerata killed Max regardless.

5. Red’s wedding ring suggests they are married.
6. Bailey Gilande’s bio has an “X” for gender, which could indicate transgender status.

 

Part 2: In Circles

transistor game的圖片搜尋結果

As with pretty much everything else in Transistor, the timeline of events is vague and the best we can do is piece together a few details with a healthy dose of speculation. Everything described here will be discussed in greater detail later in Part 3 so it might be helpful to refer to this timeline while reading the next section.

Transistor’s Timeline

To create a timeline of events that happened in Cloudbank before and during the game itself, we need to rely on the timestamps in the OVC Terminals throughout Cloudbank. However, this is more difficult than it seems because time stamps can only tell us when a message was posted, not when Red reads it. Here is a linear chronological timeline of events described by the Terminals1.

DateTimeEvent
04-30-6603:19Royce Discovers the Transistor
06-03-6609:19Royce suggests using Fairview as the Process research site
08-21-6605:04Royce suggests Cloudbank citizens to target for function acquisition
04-22-6720:41Vote on Red vs. Facsimile to perform in Goldwalk Auditorium
06-26-6701:17Red attacked (NOT A TERMINAL)
06-26-6713:00Vote on building a bridge connecting Goldwalk Bay to Fairview
06-26-6719:21Northwest quadrant of Cloudbank evacuated, Administration downplays connections to disappearances
06-26-6719:36Vote on tomorrow’s weather
06-26-6719:40Junction Jan’s Deliveries
06-27-6702:48Hammers vs. Clientele game indefinitely postponed
06-27-6704:41Vote on Highrise sky color
06-27-6705:04Traverson Hall gone, area placed under OPI
06-27-6705:54Report of attack on Red at 1:17AM on 06-26
06-28-6701:00Junction Jan’s giving away food as Cloudbank falls
06-28-6701:3366% of Cloudbank infected by Process, western half of Cloudbank offline, 100,000+ missing, government urges citizens to register with Terminals for relocation
06-28-6701:33Report on the Spine rampaging in Highrise, government attempting to lead it away from population centers
06-28-6702:01Registration in Highrise for relocation (malfunctions)
06-28-6703:19Warning about Process symptoms
06-28-6709:08Report on vigil held for Red, one of many influential Cloudbank residents consumed by the Process
06-28-6713:40Final report, Cloudbank nearly destroyed, Cloudbank citizens nearly eradicated

Let’s break this down into manageable chunks to follow Cloudbank’s downfall and Red’s progress throughout the events of the game. For the sake of trying to reduce the complexity of explaining when each event occurred, I will use notes to cite most claims. Other claims will be explained in the following sections in Part 3.

Image result for transistor royce bracket

Year 66

Royce Bracket discovers the Transistor on (or shortly after) 04-302. Over the next month he shows Grant Kendrell the Transistor and they form the Camerata. Royce first proposes attacking Traces to acquire more functions on 08-213, and over the following 10 months, the Camerata collects over a dozen new functions. The city of Cloudbank notices influential citizens disappearing but assumes the affected individuals left for the Country.

06-26-67 

The Camerata attack Red at 1:17AM4 backstage at Goldwalk Auditorium after a show. The Man intervenes and is stabbed by the Transistor, though Red is wounded in the attack. This triggers a System Crash of the universe of Cloudbank which causes the Process to become visible and begin physically breaking down Cloudbank and its inhabitants. Red, the Man, and the Transistor vanish.

Grant and Asher Kendrell flee to their home in Bracket Tower in Highrise, while Royce Bracket retreats to his lab in Fairview built around the Cradle. Sybil Reisz decides to stay at Goldwalk Theater and wait for Red to return, but over the next two days she is attacked by the Process and nearly completely consumed by the time Red returns.

The Administration becomes aware of the Process but has no idea of what it is or how dangerous it will be. At 7:21PM5 the Administration declares a portion of Cloudbank Offline Pending Investigation (O.P.I.) and sends in agents to investigate. Meanwhile, the rest of Cloudbank continues to operate normally (as indicated by a weather voting station and Junction Jan’s sending out Terminal messages at 7:36PM6 and 7:40PM7 respectively).

transistor attack red的圖片搜尋結果

06-27

Tension rose in the morning as the Process continues to spread but the Administration tries to conceal its damage and extent. At 2:48AM8 a sports game is cancelled at the “last minute” likely due to either the stadium’s destruction or player absences, but the Administration refuses to comment on why.

At 5:04AM9, the Administration reports that Traverson Hall, a major landmark, has completely disappeared. Although no direct reason is given, at this point it’s becoming more and more difficult for the Administration to hide the dire situation Cloudbank is in.

Throughout the rest of the day, the Process continues its advance. Likely tens of thousands of citizens are processed and entire sections of the city are erased.

Red and the Transistor probably rematerialize sometime after 5:45AM on 06-27 at the Bay in the Promenade on the edge of Cloudbank. Red becomes the new Transistor User and makes her way across the Promenade to Goldwalk District. There she confronts a mostly-Processed Sybil and absorbs her Trace into the Transistor. After the Man interrogates Sybil inside the Transistor, he learns that the Camerata’s leader, Grant Kendell, fled to his home in Bracket Tower in the Highrise District. Red uses a boat to make her way along a river to the Canal District on the outskirts of Highrise.

(Note – It’s also possible that all or some of the events from Red, the Man, and the Transistor rematerializing to them taking the boat to the Canals occurred before during 06-28, but before 1AM.)

Image result for transistor wallpaper

06-28

Cloudbank is in mid-apocalypse. Junction Jan’s announces that it is giving away food for free at 1AM10. In the early morning, the Administration finally admits the severity of the situation and declares a state of emergency. In a rapid series of reports, we get a picture of how the Administration attempts to respond to the Process outbreak.

At 1:33AM, two reports are released simultaneously. One states that 66% of Cloudbank has been consumed and 100,000 inhabitants are missing. In response, the government is attempting to coordinate mass movements of the population to safe zones currently free of Process activity, and urges all citizens to register for relocation at OVC Terminals in their districts.11 The other report mentions a “huge serpentine creature” (ie. the Spine of the World) rampaging through Highrise.12 At 3:19AM13, another report is issued to warn Cloudbank inhabitants about Process sickness symptoms.

Red and the Transistor likely arrive at the Canals on the outskirts of Highrise sometime after 3:19AM. She makes her way to the center of the district where she encounters a processed version of the Spine of the World (a Cloudbank landmark turned into a hostile Process bot) which causes the Transistor to temporarily malfunction. After destroying part of the Spine, Red enters Bracket Tower to confront Grant and Asher Kendrell only to find that both have committed suicide. After the Man interrogates the two inside the Transistor, he learns that the final member of the Camerata, Royce Bracket, is in Fairview. Red uses the Transistor’s core functions to ride a group of tame Process bots out of Highrise.

As Red makes her way through Highrise, the Administration tries to evacuate Cloudbank inhabitants to safe zones, but to little effect. One Terminal Red encounters reports over 200,000 missing citizens (and climbing by the second) while another reports that only a few thousand citizens have been relocated (also climbing, but more slowly). Eventually the remaining Cloudbank inhabitants end up huddled together on the outskirts of the city and mourn its fall together. At 9:08AM14 there is a report of a vigil held for Red.

The final report sent by any Cloudbank citizen (except possibly Asher Kendrell15) is issued at 1:40PM16 where a reporter acknowledges the imminent end of Cloudbank and its inhabitants. Presumably the reporter and the remaining survivors (besides Red, Royce, and possible Asher and Grant) are consumed by the Process shortly afterward.

Red and the Transistor arrive back at Goldwalk Auditorium sometime after 1:40PM. The time progression for the rest of the game is unclear as there are no more new messages from OVC Terminals. The district is far more degraded than when she first arrived and continues to deteriorate before her eyes. Red makes her way through Goldwalk back to the Promenade and to the Bay where she first materialized next to the Man’s body. There she uses Cloudbank’s voting system (which gives her almost limitless power as one of two Cloudbank citizens left alive) to build a bridge to Fairview.

Guided by Royce’s Proxy machine, Red progresses through Fairview until she comes to Royce’s studio built around the Cradle where Royce first discovered the Transistor. Red placed the Transistor back into the Cradle to initiate a system reset. This is successful, but both Red and Royce are sucked inside the Transistor where they fight for User status. Royce loses, and his function is contained in the Transistor while Red reemerges in Cloudbank on the bridge between Fairview and the Promenade Bay after an unspecified period of time. Finally, Red uses the Transistor to absorb her Trace and live with the Man inside the Transistor in the Country.

transistor attack red的圖片搜尋結果

How Do we Know When the Events of the Game Take Place?

Red, the Man, and the Transistor most likely rematerialize in Cloudbank sometime after 5:45AM on 06-27, but sometime before 1AM on 06-28. Furthermore, Red most likely arrives at Highrise sometime after 3:19AM on 06-28. She then arrives back in Goldwalk sometime after 1:40PM. The rest of the game’s time frame is indeterminant. These inferences are based on a few different observations:

First, Red visits a few OVC Terminals multiple times which change their messages. We can assume these Terminals updated as new messages come in. Thus we can infer at least the earliest time Red passed by the Terminals. Specifically –

  • Red visits a Terminal in the Goldwalk Box Office which first has a message from 06-27 at 5:54AM. The second time she visits, the message is from 06-28 at 1:40PM (the final chronological message).
  • The first time Red visits Junction Jan’s Terminal, it has a message from 06-26 at 7:40 PM. The second time she visits, the message is from 06-28 at 1AM.

This indicates that Red entered Goldwalk sometime after 5:54AM on 06-27, and returned to Goldwalk later in the game sometime after 1AM on 06-28.

Second, Red finds a Terminal in Highrise with a message from 2:01AM on 06-28. The Terminal is used for Highrise citizens to register for relocation elsewhere in the city to evade the Process. As Red approaches the Terminal, the Transistor provides up-to-date information about how many Cloudbank inhabitants have been relocated. The number starts at just over 1,000, but continuously increases over time. This indicates that as Red moves through Highrise, there are still living citizens in other parts of Cloudbank trying to evade the Process.

We know that the Process kills the last few remaining inhabitants of Cloudbank (besides the Camerata and Red) shortly after 1:40PM on 06-28. So this means that Red encounters this Terminal sometime after 2:01AM but before 1:40PM. But the fact that she finds the 1:40PM Terminal in Goldwalk means that it’s at least 1:40PM at that point.


1. This does not count Asher’s Terminals nor the broken Terminal in Highrise.
2. Sent 04-30-66 03:19 by Royce Bracket | Last Read 1 Yrs Ago
tonight i will be going in again.
this time i’m 100% positively certain.
i’ve figured it out!
tomorrow you will see it too.
exciting times! exciting times.
soon we will celebrate. –royce

3. Sent 08-21-66 05:04 by Royce Bracket | Last Read 10 Mos Ago
…subjects of a certain status, whose utter disappearance could be explained away. examples:
+ niola chein (flighty advocate behind Goldwalk)
+ wave tennegan (that broadcaster)
+ maximilias darzi (clothier always in the news)
+ shomar shasberg (brave or foolish? either way)

who else? use your imaginations. encrypted channel so go on, put it in writing, live a little! –royce

4. Incident at the Empty Set
BREAKING: The popular Goldwalk open air venue has been evacuated.
NEWS BRIEF
At approximately 1:17am last night, after all scheduled live performances had ended, OCV received several independent reports of suspicious activity at the well-known concert pavilion. Authorities are evaluating reports that at least two people were critically injured, potentially including Red, the headlining act. More news as it develops.

5. Goldwalk Still Offline
More questions than answers following the evacuation of the popular Cloudbank district
NEWS BREIF
The northwest quadrant remains Offline Pending Investigation (O.P.I.). Authorities are downplaying any connections between their investigation and recent disappearances. Chief Inspector Walther Nees praised the work of the 18th Precinct charged with the task. ‘This is the most thorough procedure ever conducted on my watch,’ said Mr. Nees. Presently there is no estimate for when Goldwalk citizens will be able to return home.

6. 06-26-67 19:36
Tomorrow’s Forecast
Tomorrow is another day in Cloudbank! How would you like it?
Which Climate is more to your liking?
WARM, CLEAR, LIGHT BREEZE
MILD, SCATTERED CLOUDS

7. 06-26-67 19:40
Hungry? Grab a Bite!
Satisfy your craving with a complimentary Junction Jan’s Gourmet Flatbread!

8. 06-27-67 2:48
Postponed: Hammers vs. Clientele
This week’s hotly awaited pennant play-offs to be rescheduled for a later date.
THIS JUST IN!
Word from Central Authority is that the Highrise Hammers will NOT be playing against defending champions the Sunset Clientele as preciously expected.
Authorities declined to comment on the reasons for the last-minute delay but assured fans of both teams that the season is expected to resume soon, and that all ticket holders will be entitled to a complementary gift. More news as it develops.

9. 06-27-67 5:04
Traverson Hall is Gone
Administration scrambled to explain sudden disappearance of historic Highrise landmark.
DEVELOPING STORY
The ever-changing facade of Traverson Hall may be gone for good as independent reports confirmed the entire structure has vanished. A 100-square-block area surrounding the structure’s location has been designated Offline Pending Investigation (O.P.I) as Administrators conduct a thorough search of the premises.
If you have any information pertaining to this report, please contact your local Administration.

10. 06-28-67 01:00
Junction Jan’s is Closing its Doors
Circumstances beyond our control! Have one last flatbread – on the house!

11. 06-28-67 01:33
‘Process’ spreads to 66% of Cloudbank
Unexplained outbreak causes mass relocation efforts across the city.
DESIGNATED URGENT
The entire western half of Cloudbank is now Offline as Central Administration scrambles to contain the threat and relocate citizens to designated safe zones. Casualty rates are unknown though missing persons reports crossed 100,000 as of writing. Authorities denied foreknowledge of the epidemic and urged citizens to travel east as soon as possible and to register relocation requests at their local OVC Terminals.

12. 06-28-67 01:33
Monstrosity Attacks Bracket Towers
Eyewitness reports confirm presence of a massive organism in downtown Cloudbank.
DEVELOPING
A huge serpentine creature was seen clinging to Bracket Tower South in the Highrise District early this morning, amid spreading panic and devastation caused by the Process outbreak ravaging the city. Administration warns that the creature is extremely dangerous and is to be avoided at all costs. The 18th Precinct is launching a full-scale effort to draw the creature away from populated centers. Any residents remaining in Highrise are urged to leave the area immediately.

13. 06-28-67 03:19
URGENT: List of Known Process Symptoms
Are you or anyone you know experiencing the following?
Known Symptoms of Process Infection:
Skin Pallor
Fever
Forgetfulness
Fatigue

14. Posted 06-28-67 09:08
OVC Terminal
“Red, 27, Mourned as ‘Process’ Toll climbs
Vigil held for popular musician after she vanished in the week’s catastrophic outbreak.
In Memory
One of Cloudbank’s most influential voices has gone silent amid the Process epidemic spreading through the city unchecked. Red became active as a musician at a young age, though her popularity surged in recent years, as her songs consistently charted in the top tenth percentile for the past five years according to OVC data. While Red is but one of thousands of disappearances this week, thousands more gathered to honor her life and her music on the eastern perimeter, as the sound of her voice cut through the darkness.”

15. It is unknown when Asher uses the Terminals to send messages to Red.
16. 06/28/67 13:40
Farewell to Cloudbank
One reporter’s eyewitness account of the city’s final hours.
Editorial
As I stand here on the eastern perimeter awaiting the inevitable, I am surrounded by my community, and I am at peace. It has been my honor and my privilege helping spread the news of the day among the people of this city, and my only regret is having no more time to share with you all. To the west I see nothing, and to the east, there is nothing, and so we wait, together, shoulder to shoulder. We will not leave our fair city under any circumstance. I suspect even the Process has figured that out by now. Farewell.

 

Part 3: Impossible

相關圖片

Transistor starts in medias res after the story’s inciting incident. For the sake of simplicity and logical progression, I’ll go through the game in chronological order. My goal is to explain just about every plot event and detail presented in the game.

transistor sybil的圖片搜尋結果

Sybil’s Plan

Sybil Reisz operated as the Camerata’s reconnaissance agent tasked with finding Cloudbank’s best and brightest for incorporation into the Transistor. Sybil’s bio indicates that she met Red as she was an up-and-coming star and swiftly fell in love with her. However, eventually Red met the Man and entered into a romantic relationship with him, much to Sybil’s dismay:

“Ms. Reisz met Red while putting together a small program for up-and-coming artists, and became infatuated first with Red’s music then with her. According to diary entries there was something inscrutable and confident about Red that Ms. Reisz could not explain. However, Ms. Reisz was frustrated to find that Red grew distant. Through all this, Ms. Reisz observed the aloofness of one of Red’s companions, and decided he must have been insinuating Red against her. Ms. Reisz thought through various ways to rectify this.”

Out of jealousy and rage, Sybil advised the Camerata to incorporate Red into the Transistor. Then Sybil chose a time to attack Red when she knew the Man would be at her side, knowing full well that the Camerata would have to incorporate (or at least kill) the Man to get to Red:

“One night Ms. Reisz nominated Red as a target for her Camerata colleagues, citing Red’s surging popularity in the city and her unusual set of selections. Red could substantially advance the Camerata’s agenda, and was not yet so ubiquitous that her sudden disappearance couldn’t be sufficiently disguised. Ms. Reisz promised that the Camerata could get to Red at a time when she would be completely alone. Trace data reveals an 85% chance she falsified this claim.”

Sybil, Grant, Asher, and Royce, armed with the Transistor, confront Red and the Man backstage after a show at Goldwalk Auditorium. The Camerata “use” (throw? It seems to be a telekinetic thrust) the Transistor at Red to incorporate her function into its library, but the Man jumps in its path and gets hit, thereby forcing the Transistor to unlock his function instead. Red, the Man, and the Transistor then blink out of existence.

相關圖片

System Crash

This accident changes Red, the Man, the Transistor, and the city of Cloudbank irrevocably, and starts the chain of events that constitute Transistor’s plot.

Although the Man’s function was absorbed into the Transistor, there was an error in the transfer caused by his malfunctioning code which altered the Man’s form of existence (for lack of a better phrase). The Man’s function bio states this explicitly:

Although Subject’s trace data was corrupted during integration, nonetheless such data has its uses, and consequently derived a suitable Function. Subject’s trace data remains disjointed and cannot be recovered.”

Normally individuals “killed” and incorporated into the Transistor exist as a sort of semi-conscious ethereal presence. As Royce says:

There’s these Traces inside the Transistor. Everyday people once upon a time, but now, well, not quite themselves. And they’re trapped. No walls in there, mind you, it’s just, they’re on their own. Listen close enough and maybe you can hear them. Some of them, I mean. The ones you know.

Despite his Trace (ie. Cloudbank body) being killed, the Man’s consciousness persisted in the Transistor not as a floating, ethereal voice, but as a self-aware being. He could even speak (and shout) and perceive his surroundings via the Transistor, as he can clearly see everything Red does throughout the game. Mid-way through the game, when “drunk” from the Spine’s interference, the Man described his perspective with:

“Think anybody else… is in here… besides me? I’ve seen… no one. But when I look up… to where the sky should be… I see you… and I know… you can hear me.”

Another component of the Man’s existential status (again, for lack of a better phrase) can be found at the end of the game. During the final fight against Royce Brackett, the Man is no longer present for the first time in the game. Furthermore, a farmhouse can be seen in the distance. This is the very same farmhouse that Red and then the Man appear in front of at the game’s conclusion after Red inserts herself back into the Transistor. Thus we can infer that while the Man speaks and perceives in Cloudbank, he simultaneously exists in a “physical” (or digital-physical) form inside the Transistor. Presumably while Red fought Royce Bracket, the Man was at the farmhouse waiting for Red’s return to the Transistor within Cloudbank.

A secondary effect of the Camerata’s attack was the loss of Red’s voice. Red’s bio explains:

“Red survived the incident, becoming separated from the Camerata due to these unforeseen events on their part. Although her trace data remains intact, partial transfer did occur, including transfer of ownership status of something the Camerata believed theirs.”

We don’t know enough about the Transistor to explain exactly why something like this occurred to Red but no other character. Likely Red lost her voice specifically because it was the physical manifestation of her societal programmed function. However, it’s likely that the “partial transfer” of her programming was a result of the Man’s corrupted programming interfering with the short-term functionality of the Transistor.

transistor_by_shalizeh-d7jj7ov

While the Camerata’s attack had serious consequences for the Man and Red, it had far more dire effects on the universe of Cloudbank.

Activating the Man’s malfunctioning programming in the Transistor has the same effect as activating a severely broken program on your computer – a System Crash. But this broken program wasn’t installed on a gaming laptop or video game console, but the Transistor – a device which controls the Process and the entire reality of Cloudbank.

While we don’t know in technical detail precisely what caused the System Crash, what is known is that it had three distinct consequences.

First, Grant Kendrell lost his User status, and the Transistor was left without a User during the 24+ hour period it blinked out existence along with Red and the Man.

Second, the function library the Camerata had amassed over the preceding ten months was lost. The Transistor was reduced to its most basic form.

Third, the Process became visible in Cloudbank and began to break down the city along with its inhabitants.

When the Transistor attempted to absorb the Man’s corrupted programming, it caused the entire Cloudbank system to crash, like if your computer’s operating system was corrupted beyond repair. In response, the Process initiated a complete system wipe in anticipation of a clean reboot. This caused the Process to begin deleting all the programs in the system, which in the world of Cloudbank, means the Process rampaged around the city as physical bots turning everything and everyone into eerie, white, featureless blocks, representative of the system’s most fundamental digital components (sort of the equivalent of rocks and biomass in our world).

With the Transistor having vanished and Process bots appearing out of thin air to destroy Goldwalk, the Camerata panic. Grant and Asher flee to their home in Highrise where they have an anti-Process defense system set up in Bracket Tower. Royce decides to go on his own to the presumably superior safety of his studio in Fairview where he first discovered and began to study the Process. Meanwhile, outraged and saddened by her failed attempt to murder Red, Sybil decides to stay in Goldwalk to find Red even as the Process overruns the region. Royce confirms this near the end of the game:

Everyone knew Sybil… but only we knew her as the Camerata’s eyes and ears… and for her part she knew where to find everyone we needed, but when it came to you, she said you’d be alone. Well, after that we all split up, and Sybil… she said she’d track you down herself.

cropped-tumblr_static_cfo64k6fmb4skgc88kcog8og4.jpg

The Bay

Over 24 hours later, Red, the Man’s body, and the Transistor rematerialize at the Promenade’s Bay. Next to Red is the game’s first OVC Terminal which holds a petition for extending a bridge from the Bay to Fairview. Red hears the Man’s voice nearby but with a computerized alteration. She finds him speaking through the Transistor which is still sticking out of his deceased body. The Man is relieved to see Red but soon discovers that her voice is gone.

Though it is never explicitly said in the game, the Transistor provides an information overlay on many objects and places throughout Cloudbank. When Red approaches the Transistor sticking out of the Man’s body, the overlay reads, “USER SIGNED OFF,” which indicates that Grant Kendrell lost User status and the Transistor had no User since the attack.

Red pulls the Transistor out the Man’s body to become the new User and Transistor begins.

(At some point Red takes off her fancy performance gown and dons the Man’s jacket, though we never actually see her do this.)

At the start of the game, the Transistor’s only usable functions are Red’s (as the User) and the Man’s (whose incorporated function triggered the System Crash in the first place). All of the functions amassed by the Camerata over the previous ten months or so were lost with the System Crash. Thus the Transistor is at a relatively weak power level, though as we see with Red’s ability to clear white block debris, open doors, and even fly with the Process, the Transistor still retains its core functions.

transistor game的圖片搜尋結果

After Red and the Man wrap their heads around their situation surprisingly quickly, Red encounters the first Process bot (a “Creep”) and destroys it. The Man’s dialogue here and elsewhere suggests that they were already familiar with the Process before this point. This implies that Red and the Transistor didn’t blink out of existence immediately after the System Crash and subsequent Process outbreak began. Rather, they must have witnessed the beginning of the Process rampaged before their time jump.

Red sets out through the Promenade to reach a road that leads out of this region of Cloudbank. The Man assumes Red wants to head for safety away from the Process, but Red actually intends on returning to Goldwalk where it all began.

The trek through the Promenade is primarily for world-building as the player gets introduced to a frankly overwhelming amount of background information on the nature of Cloudbank.1 A Terminal reveals the voting system which controls every aspect of Cloudbank, including the weather. A poster of Red indicates her star status and the gravity of losing her voice. The Bodies of Lillian Platt and Preston Moyle introduce the absorption of additional functions. Eventually they reach a miraculously untouched motorcycle and ride off to Goldwalk.

transistor motorcycle的圖片搜尋結果

Goldwalk

This section also doesn’t contain much plot but is packed to the brim with world-building. I won’t go over every bit of dialogue, but I’ll cover a few key moments and events.

On the way to Goldwalk, the Man speculates that the Camerata is using the Process to attack Red and retrieve the Transistor. It’s a simple bit of exposition to frame the rather confusing events of the game thus far, but it actually begs a lot of questions:

  • How does the Man know what the Camerata (a secret organization/conspiracy) is?
  • How does the Man know its members?
  • Why does the Man mistakenly believe the Camerata is using the Process to attack Red and retake the Transistor when they have just as little control over the Process as he does?

My best guess is that the Camerata did some monologuing before attacking Red. Grant or someone else must have announced their organization’s name, and the Man recognized all four members since they are all well-known Cloudbank citizens. He must have assumed the Camerata sent the Process to retrieve the Transistor.

transistor junction jan's的圖片搜尋結果

Anyway, Red heads back towards Goldwalk Theater where she was attacked last night. On the way, she finds “Junction Jan’s” a popular restaurant which subtly does a lot of world-building. From Red’s brief interaction with Junction Jan’s Terminal, where she has the choice to order one of four dishes we learn:

  • Although Red and the rest of Cloudbank’s inhabitants are computer programs, they eat food.
  • Upon making an order, Red’s food is automatically delivered to her home even though she didn’t enter an address or delivery site. Every time Red signs into a Terminal, it says “USER AUTHENTICATED. WELCOME, RED” in the top-right side of the screen, which indicates the Terminal knows it is her specifically. The OVC system must have every Cloudbank inhabitant and all information about them registered.
  • Red didn’t pay for her order. Either money doesn’t exist in Cloudbank, food is free, or her payment is deducted automatically by the OVC system.2

We get some more world-building shortly afterwards through a couple of Terminals which describe the Cloudbank Administration’s3 reaction to the Process. Both Terminals contain reports which express in a professional and straightforward manner that there is mysterious unrest in Goldwalk, but that the authorities are investigating it. The Man and Red (through typing) cynically suggest that the government is covering up, or at least downplaying the severity of the Process outbreak for the sake of keeping public order.

Concurrently, the Man comments numerous times how odd it is to see Goldwalk empty. We get the sense that Goldwalk is somewhat like Cloudbank’s Times Square, and is expected to always be packed with theatergoers, artists, or Junction Jan’s enthusiasts. As the game goes on, the surprise at seeing deserted streets is vocalized less and less often.

transistor precht q的圖片搜尋結果

Outside Goldwalk Theater, they find the body of “Precht. Q.” As mentioned in Part 1, Precht is the only example we see in the game of a function being too Processed to be absorbed into the Transistor. Despite Precht’s Trace going into the Transistor, his function never becomes usable for Red or the player. When Red approaches his “PROCESSED: 84%” body, the Man says:

“Hi. Where’d everybody go? Well, we’re gonna get you out of here… he says the Process wiped them out. He’s too far gone”

Before entering the theater, Red finds yet another voting Terminal, but this one is about Red herself:

04-22-67 20:41

Next Month’s Show

It’s down to the final round for next month’s headliner at the Number One venue in Cloudbank

It’s the sensational Red vs. downtown’s hottest act, Facsimile! Who will it be? You decide!

Like politics, infrastructure, architecture, and the weather, Cloudbank’s musical performances are decided by vote. Red’s huge lead in the voting (72%-28%) further indicates her rising popularity in Cloudbank. It’s also worth noting that the author of this post is Coby Tessel, the Manager of the “Empty Set.” As with Junction Jan’s, private businesses and organizations in Cloudbank all seem to operate through the OVC structure.

Finally, Red enters Goldwalk Theater and walks through the audience seats to the stage. On her way there, the Man says:

“When I first saw you back on that stage up there it was like… everyone loved you. Everyone except for them.”

This line further indicates that though the Man knows who the Camerata is, he doesn’t seem to know the first thing about their ideas or goals.

Upon reaching the stage, Red hums into the microphone, which triggers a flashback to her waking up after the Camerata’s attack.

transistor sybil的圖片搜尋結果

Processed Sybil, Backdoors, and the Sandbox

When the flashback ends, a scary-looking, highly processed (98% according to the Transistor’s overlay at the end of the battle) Sybil Reisz appears. As stated, Sybil decided to stay at Goldwalk Auditorium after the Camerata’s failed attack on Red, where she was overrun by the Process over the following 24+ hours.

This is the only instance in the game when we see the Process in the, uh, process of processing a Cloudbank citizen. Apparently deletion is not an instantaneous affair, as also indicated by the many Process bots we see slowly chipping away at the physical architecture of Cloudbank. By the time Red finds Sybil, she is nearly completely deleted, but a small portion of her program remains. This heavily Processed Sybil attacks Red to trigger the first boss fight in the game.

Though it’s difficult to hear, Sybil has a number of muffled dialogue lines before, during, and after the fight. This dialogue, though clearly filtered by some sort of distortion caused by her processed state, sheds light on her character motives:

“You are here you are here you are here I knew you’d return I knew I knew…”

“Help us help us help us won’t you we only wanted your help…”

“Alone alone alone I told them you’d be alone I told them…”

“You knew I would wait I would wait I would wait for you.”

We had you, we had you, we had you!”

“That voice, that voice that voice, we killed him, we killed him, we killed…”

The Process cannot be stopped, cannot be stopped, cannot be stopped…”

“Your voice it is gone it is gone it is gone…”

“Give it back, give it back, give it back!”

It’s not yours, it’s not yours, it’s not…”

“I saved you I saved you I saved you I always I always wanted to…”

(Upon death) “Finally finally finally we can be…”

We know that Sybil was in love with Red and jealous of the Man, so Sybil purposefully arranged for the Camerata to attack Red at a time when the Man would be with her so he would be killed in process. My speculation is that this dialogue indicates that Sybil was so dejected by Red’s affection for the Man, that Sybil decided to absorb Red into the Transistor as a means of possessing Red’s most precious attribute: her voice.

transistor sybil的圖片搜尋結果

More evidence for this theory is the existence of the “Backdoors” which lead to a sunny, beach zone called the “Sandbox.” We can infer that this zone is actually inside the Transistor, like the Country. A parasol similar to the one owned by Sybil, and a pet Process Fetcher (a Process dog, just like the one spawned by Sybil’s function), are always in the Sandbox, thereby implying that Sybil created the Sandbox. This indicates that Sybil had a rather sophisticated understanding of the Transistor’s functionality, and likely could have used it to produce Red’s treasured singing voice to her heart’s content.

Eventually Red defeats Sybil and absorbs her Trace into the Transistor to unlock her function (help). It’s an open question as to how Sybil’s function is captured despite her Trace being 98% processed while Precht. Q.’s function was too degraded at 84% to be successfully incorporated. My best guess is that since Sybil was a User at some point (as indicated by her creation of the Sandbox), her Trace must have been Recorded. With the System Crash her function was lost from active use, but her Trace must have still been Recorded in the Transistor’s memory just like Asher’s and Grant’s. So when Red used the Transistor to absorb Sybil’s Trace, the Transistor pieced it together with the Recorded Trace, which provided enough unprocessed data to reform the function.

As Sybil is absorbed, the Man interrogates her and learns that Grant and Asher Kendrell fled to Bracket Tower in the Highrise District after the System Crash. Thus Red commandeers a nearby boat and sets off for Highrise with the intention of tracking down Grant to understand why she was attacked and how she can save Cloudbank from the Process.

transistor boat的圖片搜尋結果

Outskirts of Highrise District

As Red pilots the boat to the Highrise Canals, the Man briefly lays out a plan for confronting Grant Kendrell.4 He also admits that he doesn’t actually know why the Camerata hunted Red or anyone else, so Red and the Man are nearly as in-the-dark about Transistor’s story as the player is by this point. However, we can infer that the Man specifically wants to talk to Grant because of his well-known stature and power in Cloudbank.

This suggests that the Camerata were not the only Cloudbank inhabitants who tired of the constant voting and city changes. The same sentiment is reflected in the next section when Red finds a Terminal for voting on the color of the sky and the Man sarcastically laments the “hard-hitting poll.”

More worldbuilding can be found at an OVC Terminal:

Postponed: Hammers vs. Clientele

This week’s hotly awaited pennant play-offs to be rescheduled for a later date.

THIS JUST IN!

Word from Central Authority is that the Highrise Hammers will NOT be playing against defending champions the Sunset Clientele as previously expected.

Authorities declined to comment on the reasons for the last-minute delay but assured fans of both teams that the season is expected to resume soon, and that all ticket holders will be entitled to a complimentary gift. More news as it develops.

First, the cancellation of a major sporting event at the last minute without explanation lends further credence to the Man’s belief that the Cloudbank Administration is trying (or rather, was trying) to cover up the Process outbreak.

Second, Cloudbank has some form of rivalry between its various districts. The only districts we ever hear about are Goldwalk, Highrise, the largely uninhabited Fairview, and now Sunset. Presumably there are far more districts that are consumed by the Process and never seen by the player.

Third, ticket holders receiving compensation in the form of a “complimentary gift” is more evidence that money doesn’t exist in Cloudbank.

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Process Behavior and Limiters

As Red and the Transistor make their way towards Grant and Asher, they encounter clusters of Process bots breaking down the city. Between their observations and Royce Bracket’s research notes about the Process found in the Limiters, we can gain insight into how the Process operates.

Despite ostensibly being a sophisticated computer system, the Process follows a nature motif. Both the behavior and physical structure of the Process is highly reminiscent of fauna, flora, and an entire ecosystem. Various Process bots are modeled after dogs (Fetch), birds (Cluckers), plants (Weeds), and microbiology (Cells and Bad Cells). The sudden activation of the Process bots and their gradual conquest of the city resembles a back-to-nature transition that cities in real have gone through during dire times of destruction and abandonment.

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In the early stages of the game, the Process starts to break down the physical architecture of Cloudbank as well as any citizens who happen to be in their path. Red herself witnesses this destruction in the form of whited out walls and a few partially processed bodies as she makes her way around Goldwalk and later Highrise, but the worst of the destruction occurs elsewhere. At one point, Red faces an overlook of Cloudbank and the Man notes that an entire building, Traverson Hall, has completely disappeared. Later on, as Red climbs Highrise, she finds a Terminal with a missing persons counter at 130,000 that rises every second. Thus we can even infer that Goldwalk and Highrise are so devoid of other Cloudbank inhabitants because they had likely already been deleted by the Process (either in these districts or later on after being relocated to safer districts by the Administration).

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The Process is an adaptive system which mimics the structure and behavior of what it interacts with. We don’t know what the Process used to look like, but once Royce and the rest of the Camerata began studying it, the various Process bots took on the behavior and appearance of Cloudbank humans. Royce states this explicitly in his notes regarding the “Man” Process bot:

“the process, i believe it is beginning to take on certain characteristics of its environment, its environment in this case consisting of your truly i suppose, and my associates. one of the others who shall be left nameless suggested this might be a form of tribute, like a living sculpture, but he or she does not know what he or she is talking about and i fear something else is going on here, something rather troubling. precaution thing but i’ve implemented a number of interlocking safety limiters that should keep the process well in line for just in case, can never be too sure. royce”

Likewise, in Royce’s description of the “Young Lady” Process bot:

“most embarrassing, though i must admit i can’t explain this one’s rather conspicuous appearance, specifically its resemblance to the body of a woman. now, mathematically there is a chance this is coincidental, there is always a chance. but i find that hard to believe, and rather, i suspect the process is taking a bit of a liking to us, started taking on some of our quirks, like how one might subconsciously assume the mannerisms of a friend? at any rate this one is very unusual, very much so, and rather temperamental too, so i’ve yet to gain a sense for all her intricacies. royce”

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We don’t know how long Royce studied the Process, but these descriptions indicate that he was concerned by its rapid rate of adaptation. Given that Red encounters more and more Man and Young Lady bots as the game progresses, it’s safe to say that we too see the Process adapt and become more efficient. Royce’s notes on the Man bot even indicate that the “Limiters” Red (and the player) can activate or deactivate are safety mechanisms Royce built for the Process to keep their strength in check in response to their continual evolution.

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Process Infection, the Spine, and Drunk Transistor

As Red arrives at the center of Highrise, which the Man states is where the most influential and powerful citizens of Cloudbank reside, she takes a short detour to her home where some delicious Junction Jan’s delivery is waiting. The Man’s demeanor in this brief scene indicates that he has been to Red’s apartment many times. As Red exits, the Man notes with trepidation that she leaves her keys behind. Apparently by this point Red has given up hope that Cloudbank will ever return to normalcy and decides to leave her keys in her apartment as a symbolic commitment to getting to the bottom of the Process outbreak. This may seem like a relatively unimportant gesture, but it informs the Man’s general character arc, and especially his behavior in the near-future.

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Red resumes her journey and begins to make her way up Highrise to Bracket Tower at its summit. Before long, Red feels the ominous rumbling of a massive Process bot. A Terminal and the Man’s commentary indicate that the bot is actually a Processed form of the “Spine of the World,” a long-standing landmark of Cloudbank which now rampages throughout Highrise. Once the “monstrosity” comes into view the Man/Transistor suddenly begins to act strangely. The Man’s speech slows and slurs as he begins speaking like he’s drunk, while the Transistor switches from its normal blue-green to an ominous red.

What’s happening here with the Spine and the Man is admittedly one of the most speculative parts of this entire analysis… but I have a theory.

While travelling up Highrise, Red finds a Terminal in which the Administration describes signs of “Process Infection:”

URGENT: List of Known Process Symptoms

Are you or anyone you know experiencing the following

Known Symptoms of Process Infection:

Skin Pallor

Fever

Forgetfulness

Fatigue

This is the only time in the entire game that “Process Infection” is mentioned, so it’s hard to know what to make of this information. Is this a disease contracted by people who spend time around the Process? If so, why don’t Red, Asher, or Grant display any symptoms? The Transistor wiki suggests that Royce Bracket’s odd speech patterns could indicate symptoms of Process sickness, but I agree with its addendum that Royce is probably just a weird, introverted guy who was never very good at talking to people in the first place. This is especially likely given that Royce spent months studying the Process in person before the events of the game, and as far as we know never became sick.

My best guess is that “Process Infection” is a group of symptoms that individuals feels while being deleted by the Process. For instance, Sybil Reisz’s behavior and speech patterns could be aligned with the listed symptoms on the Terminal.

The Man would appear to have an acute form of Process Infection when he got near the Spine, but that’s not the whole story. Rather, this terminal and only-once-mentioned concept of Process Infection are supposed to indicate to the player what the Man is actually going through:

The Man acts drunk because the Transistor’s anti-virus system is attacking him.

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(I don’t know enough about actual computer anti-virus programs to connect the events of the game to a real life computerized parallel, so I’ll stick to biology.)

When a human body is infected by a bacteria or virus, it often gives itself a fever. This increased temperature causes cells to “denature” (ie. become deformed) and slow down their metabolic functions. By doing so, the body hopes to slow the spread of infection by either crippling the bacterial infection or the body cells which the viruses use as vectors.

A fever is analogous to what happened to the Man inside the Transistor. Whatever the Transistor is doing, it caused the Man to become slow, woozy, and uninhibited, sort of like what happens to a bacteria cell inside a feverish body. The Transistor’s bright red glow could even imply an analogy to fire or increased temperature.

The best evidence for this “Fever Theory” is what triggered it – the Spine:

“Ya know, I have a theory… about what’s come over me. I think what’s causing this…it’s big… real big. It’s white, red polka dots, pointy tale.”

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The Spine of the World was a massive monument at the center of Cloudbank in the Highrise District. As indicated by another Terminal5, it became infused with the Process and began a rampage even before Red arrived in Highrise. But once Red begins her climb to Bracket Tower, the Spine begins aggressively pursuing her and the Transistor. Note that this is the only Process bot in the entire game to display this level of aggression towards Red. While nearly all the other Process bots attack Red on sight, they only become aggressive once Red crosses their paths in close proximity. In contrast, the Spine pursues Red relentlessly over a long period of time until she has a final showdown with it at the top of Highrise.

The Spine is the Transistor’s defense system. It attacks invaders who have infiltrated the Transistor by spreading a fever-like infection within the Transistor, and physically attacking the holder of the Transistor. This is why the Spine of the World is a massive monument at the center of the city. It sits like a sentinel ready to strike in case the Transistor is threatened. The fact that Red has an entire song about the Spine indicates that unlike the rest of the architecture in Cloudbank that is subject to the pre-programmed cycle the Camerata fights against, the Spine is a permanent fixture of Cloudbank.

So why did the Spine attack Red and the Man, but not Royce or the rest of the Camerata when they controlled the Transistor?

For one, unlike the Camerata members, the Man’s Trace was conscious inside the Transistor, which may have been the threshold to trigger an immune response. But I think an even more likely reason is that Red and the Man used the Transistor to fight the Process. The Camera studied and steered the Process, but there is no indication that they ever attempted to hurt or destroy Process bots.

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Grant and Asher Kendrell

After killing the Spine (or at least part of it), Red and the Man make their way to Grant and Asher Kendrell who are hunkering down in Bracket Tower behind some sort of anti-Process shield Royce must have developed. By this point the Kendrells know the Camerata’s plan is in shambles and they don’t have a way to fix their mess without the Transistor, so they let Red into the tower voluntarily. The problem is that their anti-Process failsafe has no internal release, so it’s up to Red to externally turn it off:

“It’s really you, come all this way. I never had a chance to introduce myself. I am Asher. But you’ve come for Grant. I’d let you up, it’s just, we’re stuck. Precautionary measure, so they won’t be joining us either. I better go, Grant needs me.”

As a small aside, one of a million tiny details that players easily miss here is that before getting to the entrance to the elevator to the top of Bracket Tower (where Red has to turn off two locks), Red proceeds through a series of looping “Clearance doors” with “Status: Cleared.” These must be something like blast doors set up by the Kendrells as the first line of defense against Process intruders, but are purposefully turned off to allow Red in. The Man even notes “they’re letting us walk right in.”

With the Kendrells locked inside, Red has to disable two locks on the outside by going through the building’s maintenance area and archives. As she proceeds through Process waves, she is periodically contacted by Asher through terminals where he explains more about the Camerata’s motives and ideology. If the player so chooses, Red can respond to each message briefly, and Asher’s follow up message answers her question or prompt (though I haven’t tested it, I’m pretty sure Asher always says the same thing regardless of Red’s response). Since most of this material was covered in the first section, I won’t recap it here, but there are a few details worth pointing out.

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First, Grant is severely distraught with the Camerata’s plan taking a disastrous turn, and Asher foreshadows Grant’s eventual fate:

“Grant can’t talk right now because he isn’t well. Listen, I’m doing everything I can for him. I know there’s still time. But the truth is ever since you took the Transistor from him, he just hasn’t been the same. When you see him, I think you’ll understand.”

Second, Asher implies that the Camerata attempted some means of controlling the Process after the loss of the Transistor, but this operation apparently failed:

“The Process…those things. They don’t answer to us anymore. They don’t answer to anyone. We thought maybe we could stop them without the Transistor. As you can see that isn’t going well.

Once the doors to the roof of Bracket Tower are unlocked, Red takes a long elevator ride up. The game primes the player to expect a big boss fight, with the Man even warning Red to be ready for anything. But when Red opens the door to the Kendrells’ hideout, she finds both men dead, apparently by poison as indicated by the mysterious blue liquid both on the ground near Grant and in a glass nearby. A final message left by Asher states:

“I couldn’t stay. To meet with you in person. Grant, he couldn’t wait any longer. Why he would leave me…I’d sooner take an eternity in the Transistor…But, he was no longer seeing straight. Or perhaps he decided he’d seen enough. We knew the stakes of what we wanted to accomplish. And we knew that if we were to fail, we would do so together. As one. See you in the Country.”

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We don’t have a clear timeline on how long it took in-universe for Red to get from Bracket Tower’s entrance to the rooftop, but in that timeframe Grant was overcome by his hopelessness and committed suicide. Asher’s final message indicates that he and Grant assumed Red was coming to incorporate them into the Transistor as functions, but instead Grant killed himself suddenly without warning Asher. As his loyal husband, Asher followed suit. The fact that Asher believed that by killing himself he would be going to the Country, but instead was left “dead” in Cloudbank indicates that he did not understand the nature of life, death, or the Country in his universe.

There are a couple of interesting objects to examine around the room, including some tamed Process bots and papers on a desk which the Transistor describes as “Grand Plans: 14% Achieved.” Given that 12 Cloudbank citizens had been absorbed into the Transistor prior to the events of the game (all of the Camerata, and all of the other characters besides Preston Moyle and Lillian Platt whose functions were incorporated by Red), this likely indicates that the Camerata intended on capturing about 85 more functions.

As Red approaches the corpses with the Transistor, the Man briefly speaks to Grant and Asher, with both replying in garbled voices that are inaudible to the player. To Asher, the Man says:

“Hey Buddy, how do we stop this? Fairview? How are we supposed to get over there? Oh… Ohhhh… Really?”

This is the Man asking Asher how to stop the Process outbreak, which Asher was supposed to tell Red in person. Asher tells the Man to go to Fairview to find Royce Bracket and that Red can get there by breaking one of the Process containers in the room to ride the bots.

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Return to Goldwalk

The tame Process bots fly Red and the Man towards Fairview. Along the way, the Man looks out at the now shimmering white city and comments:

“Look at this town, it’s time is up”

The bots drop Red back at her stage in Goldwalk Auditorium where she performed a few days ago, to find the District in a far greater state of decay than before. The Process have rendered far more of the architecture into its blank, white slate. Entire streets have been dissolved into cubes as both hostile and passive Process bots litter the avenues. The Man ominously comments:

“White blocks like these. They weren’t just trees and houses and things…”

As Red and the Man progress through Goldwalk’s processed streets, they run into the other section of the Spine for a brief encounter. The Transistor is once more effected, and the Man returns to his “drunken” state. It seems only during these vulnerable moments that the Man’s optimistic façade fades and his more pessimistic outlook emerges. Through slurred words the Man ponders if he will ever meet Red again face-to-face. It’s a revealing character moment that indicates the Man’s real priorities in the midst of the apocalyptic destruction of his world.

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This brief section of the game doesn’t include much plot but is used to recap the rapidly declining state of Cloudbank under the Process onslaught. In addition to what Red and the Man see for themselves, three terminals reveal the fate of the rest of Cloudbank.

The first terminal mourns the supposed death of Red. The fact that the OVC is still concerned with individual celebrities dying even as the entire city is being swallowed up further drives home the paramount importance of individual achievement and artistry in Cloudbank:

Posted 06-28-67 09:08

“Red, 27, Mourned as ‘Process’ Toll climbs

Vigil held for popular musician after she vanished in the week’s catastrophic outbreak.

In Memory

One of Cloudbank’s most influential voices has gone silent amid the Process epidemic spreading through the city unchecked. Red became active as a musician at a young age, though her popularity surged in recent years, as her songs consistently charted in the top tenth percentile for the past five years according to OVC data. While Red is but one of thousands of disappearances this week, thousands more gathered to honor her life and her music on the eastern perimeter, as the sound of her voice cut through the darkness.

The second terminal, found in Goldwalk Auditorium’s Box Office, is the final report from the OVC and Cloudbank media:

06/28/67 13:40

Farewell to Cloudbank

One reporter’s eyewitness account of the city’s final hours.

Editorial

As I stand here on the eastern perimeter awaiting the inevitable, I am surrounded by my community, and I am at peace. It has been my honor and my privilege helping spread the news of the day among the people of this city, and my only regret is having no more time to share with you all. To the west I see nothing, and to the east, there is nothing, and so we wait, together, shoulder to shoulder. We will not leave our fair city under any circumstance. I suspect even the Process has figured that out by now. Farewell.

By this point everyone in Cloudbank except Red, Royce, and (sort of) the Man are dead. Entire Districts have been wiped off the map and the few zones that remain in existence aren’t far behind.

This terminal also gives us a bit of tantalizing insight into the physical structure of Cloudbank. The reporter and the remaining population of Cloudbank hid in the eastern-most part of the city. But what is to the east of the eastern-most part of Cloudbank? A giant wall? Outer space? According to the reporter, “there is nothing.” What “nothing” is or looks like is left up to the imagination.

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Finally, the third terminal reports the tragic closing of Junction Jan’s:

Junction Jan’s is Closing its Doors

Circumstances beyond our control! Have one last flatbread – on the house!

Unfortunately the system malfunctions, so Red does not get one last delicious flatbread.

At the edge of Goldwalk Red finds the old motorcycle which is miraculously unscathed by the Process attacks. She once more mounts the bike and rides off towards the Camerata in search of answers.

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Return to the Promenade

Red returns to the exit of the Promenade where the entire game began. Her trusty bike finally breaks down, to which the Man quips “see you in the Country.” The two continue back through the opening level in reverse.

Like Goldwalk, the Promenade is significantly more processed than before. Red runs into an ambush early on filled with Young Ladies from which the Man urges her to flee. It’s not clear why these are the only indestructible Process bots we encounter in the whole game, but it may be an artificial gameplay restriction to prevent experienced players from trying to fight off the ambush.

After a narrow escape, Red finds Preston Moyle’s body, now in the form of a pile of white cubes. She is then ambushed again, this time by being flung across a newly opened gap in the ground towards a Jerk Process bot. The Man wonders aloud:

“They took a chunk out of the floor. Took it where though?”

That’s a good question. In all likelihood, they took it nowhere. Rather, the Process entirely deleted that material from Cloudbank’s existence. The fact that the Man automatically assumed they moved rather than destroyed this material could indicate that the concept of complete destroying physical matter didn’t exist in the world of Cloudbank until the Process outbreak.

Next Red and the Man find the curious site of five Snapshot Process bots huddled around Red’s prominently displayed poster on a wall. After destroying the bots, the player can see a Transistor description on the poster – “Snapshots Taken: 101.”

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In the Legacy Limiter, Royce gives the following description of Snapshot bots:

< !– spent many many hours staring into these unblinking eyes, rather calming really. the process keeps meticulous records, very responsible, and this is sort of their book-keeper near as i can tell. now i can’t make heads or tails of those records, yet, but there are timestamps, they have to be timestamps, which is how i know. in any case the sense of feeling monitored constantly, while troubling at first, i found with time it fades. royce –! >

Since the Snapshots keep records for the Process, they must be recording the content of Cloudbank for posterity, including Red. Given the intense focus of so many Snapshots on one poster, this may indicate that the Process is paying special attention to Red, likely due to her possession of the Transistor. Though of course, this is heavily speculative.

Before moving on, Red takes a final look at the poster representing her old self. The Man gives some encouraging words about getting to Royce and finally ending the outbreak, but it’s clear that both understand their old lives and world are over.

After briefly passing over the former body of Lillian Platt in a similar state as Preston Moyle, Red revisits the old weather voting terminal. This time, it’s a bit different:

***>ROOT>LIB>SYSTEMS>WEATHER***

Cloudbank Weather Control Administrative Override. Authenticate Results:

Permissions Authenticated :: Cloudbank Central Authority

Weather State Change setting available. Set new state:

LIGHT PRECIPITATION

PLACID SNOWFALL

Instead of merely casting one of presumably tens of thousands of votes, Red now has the power to change the weather with her decision alone. It’s tempting to assume she has this power due to her possession of the Transistor, but this is not the case. At the end of the game Red does directly use the Transistor to reshape Cloudbank, but here she uses an OVC Terminal. We know that by this point, everyone in Cloudbank besides Red and Royce Bracket are dead, processed, or in the Country. This leaves the Cloudbank voting system which acts as the most proximate cause of Cloudbank’s physical structure without any inputs. This, combined with the general destruction of Cloudbank, seems to have triggered an emergency “Administrative Override” which allows anyone who accesses the Terminals to have complete control over the system.

Further evidence of Cloudbank’s almost complete destruction is seen shortly after at the overpass to the end of the Promenade. Red must travel through a “High Pass,” whose doorway has the description – “AIR QUALITY: VERY LOW.” This does not appear in the beginning of the game and indicates that the Process is even breaking down Cloudbank’s air. In the following area, the destruction of Cloudbank’s universe will progress to even more fundamental levels.

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Next Red encounters a “Proxy” deployed by Royce Bracket through which he asks for a truce, declares his intention to stop the Process, and invites Red to his location. This Proxy bot guides Red through the rest of the Promenade and Fairview while Royce tells us more about himself, the Camerata, the Process, and the Transistor. Royce’s dialogue and character will be covered more extensively in Part 4 of this analysis.

Finally Red arrives at the very starting point of the whole game, where the Man’s body once lay but is now a pile of white blocks like everyone else, albeit with the unique description – “USER SIGN-IN SITE,” which indicates that Red has been the Transistor’s User throughout the game. At the end of the road, Red once again accesses the Terminal to vote on extending a bridge from the Promenade to Fairview, but as with the weather Terminal, she now has the power to command the bridge’s construction at will. Notably, the newly arisen bridge has no sign of Process degradation.

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Fairview and Royce Bracket

At this point, about two days after the start of the Process outbreak, Cloudbank’s decomposition has reached apocalyptic levels. Fairview looks like an abstract dreamscape. In the background, massive white cubes dominate the skyline. In the foreground, Red moves through buildings without walls and roofs. The Transistor no longer displays the names of geographic locations, but just lists X and Y coordinates. But the degradation isn’t just limited to the physical structure of Cloudbank, nor its inhabitants.

Shortly after entering Fairview, Red passes through a door on the bottom floor of a mid-processed building and ends up on the roof. With no apparent path forward, she turns around and heads back through the same door… only to end up exiting from a different door behind the building. As Red progresses, she runs into more and more strange instances like this. The boundaries between streets and buildings fade away into white nothingness, so Red begins teleporting between isolated platforms in space. On two occasions, she passes through doorways and the entire world flips upside down on the other side, only for gravity to revert to normal after passing through another door.

What’s going on?

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Cloudbank’s buildings and living inhabitants are just the surface of the programming within this digital world. As a simulated reality, every facet of reality must be programmed at some level – this includes fundamental aspects like time, space, gravity, and inertia. By this point, the Process is slowly breaking down these programs, leaving wormholes and gravity warps spread throughout the city. Royce is likely protected from this destruction within his base, but Fairview is falling apart at the metaphysical level.

Seeing the imminent end of Cloudbank, the Man uses a brief respite between fights to offer:

“Everyone always said, you can be anyone you want in this town. This is me, I could get used to this”

This dialogue is spoken during a brief cutscene where we see a still image of Red lovingly holding the Transistor, but it’s a key moment for both characters in the story. More than ever before, the Man is aware that there will never be a return to normalcy. Cloudbank is over. Nearly everyone is dead. The odds of figuring out how to get him out of the Transistor and back into Cloudbank to feel Red with his own body is rapidly vanishing. Though being trapped in a giant sword is not ideal, as long as he gets to be with Red in some form, the Man accepts it.

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Despite Fairview’s destruction, Royce Brackett guides Red through the crumbling city via proxy. Along the way, he “lectures” (in the words of the Man) Red on the Process, the Transistor, the Camerata, and his own beliefs. Red finds three Terminals containing notes left by Royce for the other Camerata members written between 10 and 14 months ago, which give a bit more insight into their plans.

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The first Terminal, with a message from about a year ago, lays out Royce’s argument for using Fairview as a place to contain and study the Process:

+ low registered population density

+ access to civic resources (i do need light from time to time)

+ distance from administrative centers

(It is also implied elsewhere that Grant used his powers in the Cloudbank government to keep Fairview isolated so Royce could continue his research in secret.)

The second Terminal, from about 14 months ago, (along with some dialogue from Royce) indicates that the Transistor and the Process were discovered in Fairview. Royce’s bio adds that after leaving his disgraced career as an architect, he spent quite a bit of time in isolation in Fairview conducting his research on the Process cycles. This is quite conducive with Royce’s personality:

Fairview… what to say about Fairview? It’s calm… gorgeous view really. Want a little distance from town, somewhere I can do my work. Real work, I mean. Free from… distraction.

And:

Fairview wasn’t ever finished, wasn’t ever a priority. I mean, what good is a suburb when the town has got it all? Well I’ve been around enough, seen thing change, and change, and change enough, that well I realized I like the quiet here. I like the quiet.

The Third Terminal, from ten months ago, is Royce’s preliminary list of targets for incorporation into the Transistor:

…subjects of a certain status, whose utter disappearance could be explained away. examples:

+ niola chein (flighty advocate behind Goldwalk)

+ wave tennegan (that broadcaster)

+ maximilias darzi (clothier always in the news)

+ shomar shasberg (brave or foolish? either way)

who else? use your imaginations. encrypted channel so go on, put it in writing, live a little! –royce

As we know from the function bios, the rest of the captured Cloudbank citizens either accidentally stumbled into Fairview and saw Royce’s work, or were investigating mysterious disappearances and were subsequently taken out of the picture by the Camerata.

Finally, Red arrives at Royce’s “studio.” Presumably this was a research lab set up by Royce to study the Process in Fairview. It’s ample anti-Process defenses kept Royce safe throughout the Process outbreak after he fled the failed attempt to kill Red. Once we finally see Royce in person, he explains that his facility houses the “Cradle.” We soon see that the Cradle is a station which holds the Transistor, but little else is known about it. Royce explains:

Now, full disclosure… full disclosure here… here it is… I am one – positively certain, one hundred percent that this will… work… which is, Transistor plus Cradle equals no more Process.

So somehow putting the Transistor in the Cradle will return the Process to a resting state and cease the destruction of Cloudbank. The conclusion of the game shows that it makes the Process invisible once more, even when Red uses the Transistor to rebuild a piece of Cloudbank. This would seem to imply that the Cradle is where Royce originally found the Transistor. At that point, the Process was run on autopilot by whatever system or being runs Cloudbank as a whole. Since Royce first saw the Process when he obtained the Transistor, he must have speculated that returning the Transistor to the source would deactivate the rogue Process programming.

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There are two details I love about Royce’s studio:

First, if the player hangs out near the entrance and doesn’t proceed down the single path, Royce gets rather anxious:

Here’s the uhhh thing… now if the Transistor doesn’t go back in its Cradle, then why, you and I both… well we just won’t be anything anymore in a little while. You, me, and the rest of this town. So please… don’t let my work go to waste. I’m being reasonable.

Look, if this was, if this was all just some kind of ruse on my part, I mean how… base? Why would I lead you all this way?

I’ll level with you… yes, I would like (the Transistor) back… I’d very much if you must know, but you know what? At this point, I would settle for not being wiped out of existence. I would happily settle for that.

Ok, so now I’ll wait. If you want me to wait, I’ll wait. But the Process… the Process as you can see, patience isn’t one of its virtues… always busy… busy, busy, busy. Whenever you’re ready… which I hope is going to be soon… but I will say no more.

Second, upon entering the studio, a bass guitar riff plays in the background which serves as musical foreshadowing for the next scene. When Red and Royce fight inside the Transistor, the song, “Impossible” plays in the background. But during Royce’s turns(), an altered bass-heavy version of “Impossible” plays.

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Finally Red arrives at the Cradle, a massive red structure extending deep into the ground (or whatever’s left of the ground) with a slot for the Transistor. With Royce and the Man’s urgings, Red offers the Transistor to the Cradle. It breaks into multiple pieces and disappears before reassembling itself and sliding into the Cradle. After a few explosions the world goes dark.

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Inside the Transistor

The dark screen turns white, and the Man’s voice can be heard:

“I know you can hear me. I won’t let you go. Stay with me… Stay with me.”

Red awakens in the Country, which is revealed to be a realm inside the Transistor (for a full description of the nature of the Country and the contents of this zone, see Part 1). They stand in a particular section of the Country which holds all of the functions to which they have access in the form of metal containers, though other functions can be seen outside of their zone. Both Red and Royce wield Transistors, though the Man is notably absent from both. Royce explains:

“Let’s see… the good news… well, the Process… I think we got it… contained it. So, the town is going to be alright. It’s just, well… someone’s going to have to rebuild, but we flew a little close to the flame there, so… now, we’re here, not there… we’re stuck… and… unfortunately the only way back that I’m aware of is… well, unpleasant.”

Upon Royce’s initiation, he and Red use their function-loaded Transistors to battle one another. Eventually Red wins – Royce’s Transistor rises into the air and explodes above Royce’s protestations. The screen goes blank once again and Red wakes up back in Cloudbank.

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What just happened?

The Cradle was the original User of the Transistor (or at least connected Cloudbank to an external User). By putting the Transistor back into the Cradle, Red loses her User status to the Cradle. However, the Man’s brief dialogue upon being inserted into the Cradle indicates that he purposefully pulled Red’s Trace into the Transistor. Why? Because when the Transistor was returned to the Cradle, it initiated a complete reset of Cloudbank. The darkness that comes over Red and Cloudbank after Red puts the Transistor into the Cradle is not a scene transition like you would see in a movie. Rather, it’s literally Cloudbank shutting down. This would presumably kill Red’s Trace, as she is just another program in the Cloudbank system, so the Man absorbed her into the Transistor to keep her safe. However, in doing so the Man accidentally brought Royce along as well.

So Red and Royce find themselves inside the Transistor (ie. in the Country), and both hold Transistors. These Transistors are… Transistors for Cloudbank’s Transistor. Just as the Transistor Red has been using the whole game controls Cloudbank, these Transistors control that Transistor.

How does this happen?

Ordinarily when Traces (ie. Cloudbank inhabitants) are absorbed into the Transistor, they are “killed” in Cloudbank. The only time this doesn’t occur is when the Man is absorbed in the beginning of the game. Since the Man is still functional due to his damaged coding, he apparently gains some control over the Transistor’s functions. We witness this throughout the game as the Man uses the Transistor to speak, which no other absorbed Trace can do.

In this case, there are two living Traces absorbed into the Transistor. But there can’t be two Transistor Users, so Red and Royce fight each other to be the new User. Although Royce doesn’t explicitly spell this out for Red, his dialogue (“unfortunately the only way back that I’m aware of is… well, unpleasant”) and decision to attack Red first indicate that he is aware of what’s going on.

Once Royce is defeated, his function is locked in the Transistor, so his Trace is destroyed (or possibly just trapped in the Country like the Man’s Trace, as will be explained soon), while Red gets to return to Cloudbank as the new User.

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Return to Cloudbank

Red wakes up back in Cloudbank, on the bridge connecting the Promenade Bay and Fairview. The Process is gone, but the damage is still done, with the whole area in its white block form. The city of Cloudbank itself is saved, so it won’t be deleted from existence, but Red is the sole surviving citizen along with the Man still trapped in the Transistor. The Man laments:

“We got away. Red we got away. Now you’re here… and me… that’s it.”

However, now Red is the User. She has complete control of the (now invisible) Process and Cloudbank. Prior to this point, Red was picking up Traces in Cloudbank to activate the functions that already existed in the Transistor, but were offline. Now all functions are fully operational, so the Transistor is at its maximum power. She flexes her new abilities a bit by restoring the bridge to its old glory by channeling the Process through her humming. The Man seems encouraged by this and suggests going to other parts of the city to rebuild, but Red has other plans.

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Red walks a short distance to the pile of white blocks where the Man’s body once lay. She reassembles the Man’s body. This isn’t done for any practical reason but just to see the Man one more time in case her plan doesn’t work. Red hugs the Transistor once last time, and takes a seat next to the Man’s body. As the Man figures out what Red is planning to do, he tries to talk her out of it, but above his protestations, Red uses her power to kill her Trace with the Transistor.

This triggers a cutscene which gives us a rare glimpse into Red and the Man’s life before the Process outbreak. As hinted throughout the game, he served as her muse. Much of her music was inspired by, or created for him.

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Finally, it’s revealed that Red made it to the Country inside the Transistor, where she exists in “physical form” complete with an intact voice alongside the Man. Presumably the Transistor is left to eternally stick out of Red’s Trace body in Cloudbank. Ordinarily when Traces are absorbed into the Transistor they end up as semi-conscious ghosts, but because Red was the User when she absorbed her Trace, she could presumably control how her Trace was absorbed, much like how Sybil could go inside the Transistor to the Sandbox when she was a User. Rather than using her own Trace to access the underlying function’s use in Cloudbank, she instead kept her Trace intact and inserted it into the Country.

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Red gave up her User status over the Transistor to live alongside the man she loves. Red greets the Man, now in his physical form, with her restored voice. It’s implied that they continue to live in the Country indefinitely, away from Cloudbank, the Process, the Camerata, and all the madness of the world they knew.

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Recursion

However, whenever the player starts a new game (or “Recursion” as it’s called in the title menu), we hear Royce Bracket’s voice say the opening line (“Hey Red, we’re not gonna get away with this, are we?”) instead of the Man. There is no clear explanation for why this occurs, but I have a theory.

As stated in Part 1, a “recursion” is any action that repeats itself. In programming, a “recursion function” is a function which triggers its own repetition. As also explained in Part 1, Cloudbank likely exists in a time loop. This ability to launch recursions of the events of the game is further evidence to support this.

The Recursion playthrough is slightly different from the first playthrough within a single game file. The changes include:

  • Unlocked functions and Limiters carry over from the last playthrough.
  • The player starts with the same active functions and Limiters as when the previous game was finished.
  • There are leveled up Process bots and more difficult Process bots earlier in the game.
  • The tutorial for using turns() malfunctions.
  • Cloudbank is in a more advanced state of decay throughout the game.

To take a step back, we know that the universe of Cloudbank is digital. It must exist inside some sort of computer or machine in an external world. Thus when we, the players, start the game, we are activating the Cloudbank digital universe to watch it play out its operations. The game ends with a nearly destroyed Cloudbank being left to stagnate without a User as the two remaining sentient functions retreat inside the Transistor to “live” their lives.

When we start a New Game+, we are triggering a recursion of this entire Cloudbank program. But apparently due to the self-aware nature of some of the programs within Cloudbank (e.g. Royce Bracket), irrevocable alterations have been made to the Cloudbank system, some of which have minor effects on the recursions of the program.

For instance, perhaps the Process’s deleterious effect on the first progression of Cloudbank’s timeline was strong enough to cause residual damage to the recursion timelines. This is why Cloudbank is in a worse state of disrepair during Recursions than the first playthrough.

Figuring out why Royce Bracket speaks the first line instead of the Man is trickier, and far more speculative.

My best guess is that the manner in which Royce’s Trace was destroyed in the Country resulted in a unique incorporation of his code into the Transistor which left him conscious in some sense, not entirely unlike the Man. For all we know, in the final scene when the Man and Red reunite in the Country, Royce could be sitting in another farmhouse not far away. From this position, and with his unique intellect and understanding of the nature of Cloudbank, he may have developed some way to keep his Trace alive through Recursions. Perhaps when a Recursion is triggered, a new Royce Bracket Trace is created for the Recursion to play out the events of the game’s timeline, while the older Royce Bracket Trace continues to persist in Cloudbank’s system storage. Royce’s single new line in the beginning of the game at least indicates some form of continued sentience.


1. As much as I love Transistor, the game is too opaque for its own good. If it had taken some time to slow down and lay out some basic rules about the game world at this point, the game would have been much improved.
2. When Red revisits this Terminal later in the game, it says that food is “on the house,” so maybe money or credit exists in some form.
3. The “Administration” is Cloudbank’s government. We also hear of a “Central Administration” so there are presumably regional or local Administrations too.
4. This is a good example as to why Transistor can be so confusing. At this point, the player is about a third of a way through the game, yet the basic motivations and sense of plot progression are still muddled. It doesn’t help that the Man misleads the player by stating a lot of blatantly incorrect speculations about the Camerata and the Process.
5. HIGH RISE 4
06-28-67 01:33
Monstrosity Attacks Bracket Towers
Eyewitness reports confirm presence of a massive organism in downtown Cloudbank.
DEVELOPING
A huge serpentine creature was seen clinging to Bracket Tower South in the Highrise District early this morning, amid spreading panic and devastation caused by the Process outbreak ravaging the city. Administration warns that the creature is extremely dangerous and is to be avoided at all costs. The 18th Precinct is launching a full-scale effort to draw the creature away from populated centers. Any residents remaining in Highrise are urged to leave the area immediately.

 

 

Part 4: Old Friends

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Transistor tells a story about sentient AIs, quasi-utopian political systems, the dangers of limitless creative vision, metaphysical alterations, body-horror, and dozens of other highly abstract themes and concepts that are quite difficult to convey in a single 3-4 hour video game. What often gets lost in discussions of Transistor, and what I personally had trouble conveying in Part 3’s complete walkthrough of the game, is that behind all the sci-fi tropes, endless barrage of minute world-building details, and highly avante-garde plot structure, Transistor is ultimately a love story.

This seems to have caused a lot of confusion in the critical response to the game. Transistor was well-reviewed overall, but critical praise focused on the atmosphere, visuals, music, and novel combat. The story itself was treated with befuddled curiosity. Critics seemed to realize there was something interesting there, but they (understandably) were left feeling cold when even multiple playthroughs didn’t adequately reveal a story so needlessly buried behind vague presentation.

However, arguably the single-clearest story/thematic moment in all of Transistor is its ending. Players may not have what was actually going on (like how Red could control Cloudbank, how/where Red reunited with the Man, how Red got her voice back, etc.), but the aesthetics of the scene were strong enough to clearly convey the thematic sentiment. She had forsaken the great power she possessed, rejected Royce Bracket’s ambitious goals, and had refused to rebuild her destroyed home, all for the sake of reuniting with the person she loves. In other words, Red chose love above all else.

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Given the tone of the scene, it’s easy to see this ending as a disappointing love-conquers-all cop-out to the sophisticated moral and metaphysical concepts that Transistor had just thrown at the player over the last three to four hours. The best distillation of this point-of-view comes from George Weidman’s (AKA Super Bunnyhop) Story Discussion of Transistor. He states:

“That ending is the one part of this story that I can’t really say I dig though. It’s the hardest to figure out, and if it really does mean that our main character is committing suicide because of loneliness, then that suddenly seems like a bit of a selfish motivation.

But we are often reminded that Red is her own character and we’re not in control of her personality. But it is sappy though. It’s the love-conquers-all schtick that also seems to cop-out the responsibility to write in her new-founded responsibilities. She now understands the Transistor’s world-building potential, but decides it’s ultimately worthless without anyone to share it with.

I don’t know, I mean, it’s a rational decision, but it all happened very fast, and we as players did it without a lot of input from her side… what that ending presents to us is the idea that this game isn’t just about grand philosophical, sociological theories, but also about the power of love and humanity – which I still think is sappy. But it’s got a relatable message in there about what makes life worth living and what makes relationships meaningful.

Red’s supposed suicide doesn’t happen because ‘she’s helpless without her man,’ but rather because she actively makes the decision to value human interaction above the social perception of greatness, which pits her at the polar opposite of the Camerata’s ideals. The greatness of rebuilding Cloudbank in her image, or even of the image of the people absorbed in the Transistor, means nothing to her…”

Weidman (understandably) gets a lot of the story details wrong, and I think he misses the essential thematic thrust of the story, but he does get a lot right. Transistor is a game about the importance of love and human relationships, and it does purposefully contrast these values with more abstract, less person-oriented values like creativity, power, and greatness, but the end result is not a “sappy” assertion of the magical power of love.

Rather, Transistor is about what makes life worth living. It asks the player to consider what truly matters in life and how one’s values should be hierarchically arranged. The grandiose concepts of free will, realizing creative visions, social restructuring, etc, are ultimately sort of red herrings for the player on a thematic level. They exist in the game to some degree to be examined, but their primary function is to serve as rabbit holes that lesser characters and the players themselves get pulled into while the plot truly revolves around a more benevolent central theme: what makes life worth living is ultimately the joy, energy, challenges, beauty, and even love, provided by other people.

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Transistor presents characters whose values exist on a spectrum. On one side is an individual who sees existence as a conduit for channeling his own will to reshape the world. On the other side is an individual who in many ways shares this same moral paradigm, but ultimately realizes that her ability to express her creative will is meaningless without the incommensurable presence of another individual to feel her emotions, share her values, and experience her creations.

Or to put it as simply as possible, Transistor is about the importance of human relationships as the foundation for all values in life.

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The Camerata – Creation at the Expense of Beings

What does the Camerata want? To quickly recap some key points from Part 1:           

Royce Bracket, Grant Kendrell, and Asher Kendrell were highly accomplished Cloudbank inhabitants who became dissatisfied with the status quo and began to investigate the city. Royce studied its architecture, Grant its politics, and Asher its history. All three found that that the population’s voting patterns didn’t make sense, and Royce eventually found that the entire city ran on an endlessly looping and mathematically reducible cycle. This led Royce to discover the Transistor, the Process, and the true nature of Cloudbank. After Royce shared his knowledge with Grant, Asher and Sybil Reisz were brought into the fold to form the Camerata, a clandestine organization which would use the Transistor’s power to break the cycle and reform Cloudbank according to the vision of its four Users.

Putting aside the murderous, city-destroying consequences of this plan momentarily, I sympathize with the Camerata.

Remember that Cloudbank is a city of creators. With the exception of the Man, every inhabitant who we know of is some sort of artist, influencer, activist, or highly-skilled professional who dedicates his or her life to furthering a passion. The programmed beings of Cloudbank are made to visionaries, creators, builders of better and grander products, achievers of wondrous goals. By all available accounts, the society of Cloudbank fully reflects this sentiment. We never hear of crime, corruption, or social strife in Cloudbank, we only hear of music concerts, sporting events, and artistic premiers. This is a world where productivity and self-fulfillment are the expected outcomes of each day, not unlike many people’s idealized vision of real life.

Then a few members of this idyllic society discover that all their creativity is pointless. All of Royce’s buildings are products of a mathematical code, and the buildings that truly reflect his aesthetic values will all be torn down by a blind, mindless mob. Grant’s tireless public service as an Administrator was nothing more than a show; all he really did was push the buttons and pull the levers that same mob ordered him to. And Asher’s exploration of Cloudbank’s history revealed that there is no history. Nothing survives posterity. Nothing is remembered. No rapturous songs, no beautiful sky paintings, no close sports matches, no iconic skyscrapers, no great leaders, and no fearless reporters.

In other words, nothing matters.

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The Camerata members discover that their world, their cities, their work, their creativity, their lives are all pointless. Anything they do will either be immediately erased, or will not be of their will and will be erased soon anyway. They may as well be tears in the rain.

To put all of this in simpler thematic terms – the Camerata members just wanted their lives to have meaning. They wanted the productive passions of their lives (architecture, politics, journalism, and whatever Sybil does) to be the products of their own wills and to leave a lasting legacy in history.

Can we really blame Royce, Grant, Asher, and Sybil for wanting to change Cloudbank? I don’t. The Transistor gives the Camerata the power to alter Cloudbank at a metaphysical level. The User can raise bridges, construct buildings, create artwork, and potentially even control/create people. With the Transistor as a “conductor’s baton” in the hands of a “camerata,” to be used on the “canvas” of Cloudbank, the members of the Camerata could finally change the system.

The problem of course is what they actually have to do to change things.

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After Royce discovers the Transistor and the Process, he quickly discovers the immense power it wields. But he also realizes that its current power is only a tiny fraction of what it could be. Royce knew that if he wanted to increase the Transistor’s power, and therefore the Camerata’s ability to reshape Cloudbank and allow its members to grasp the meaning in their lives they all crave, he would need to access more functions. But as discussed in Part 1, the only ways to access more functions are to add more members to the Camerata (which would dilute each individual’s ability to self-actualize through this plan) or to kill Cloudbank citizens and steal their souls.

This paradigm is crucial to understanding the core themes of Transistor.

The Camerata believe that their lives have no meaning unless they can express their passions through their own will, and leave lasting legacies. But due to the way the Transistor increases power, the more the Camerata can achieve its goals, the more people they have to kill. Therefore, the greater the extent of self-expression the Transistor permits, the fewer people there actually are to appreciate this self-expression.

To put this more concretely, let’s say that Royce Bracket wants to build these beautiful buildings that he loves. The stronger the Transistor, the more power he has over Cloudbank to create these buildings. However, the stronger the Transistor, the fewer living beings there actually are in Cloudbank to see Royce’s buildings.

The Transistor’s nature creates a trade-off between the power of the User to express his creative will and the potential for other people to appreciate his creations. 

This paradigm is expressed in its purest and most extreme form with the Camerata’s original member – Royce Bracket.

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Royce Bracket – The Pure Visionary

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we know more about Royce Bracket than any other character in Transistor. He is not only the primary driving force behind the events that precede the game and the ultimate antagonist in the game, but also serves as an avatar for the themes that Transistor most strongly condemns.

Throughout the game’s long third act, Royce speaks to Red extensively, both through a Proxy as Red walks across Fairview, and then in the Country as the two fight for User status over the Transistor. Throughout Royce’s musings on the Transistor, the Process, the Camerata (and its individual members), we get a good sense of Royce’s personality and outlook on life.

To a certain extent, everyone in Cloudbank seems like a passion-focused introvert, but none more so than Royce Bracket. He has stilted vocal patterns and a meandering, airy voice. Both his speech and writing (as seen through three Terminals and the Limiter notes) patterns form a stream-of-consciousness style, full of repetitions, tangents, and informalities. It’s actually difficult just to transcribe Royce’s dialogue, I’m not sure what punctuation to use with his pauses and repeated phrases. This is especially the case when Royce is excited and his communication streamlines into bursts of information without structure, like his Limiter notes which lack capitalization, punctuation, and any semblance of organization.

Royce comes off like a person who is not accustomed to communicating with other people. This makes sense given the nature of his work as an architect and engineer. He was once one of the most popular architects in Cloudbank until he left his job to dive into the esoteric nature of Cloudbank. The history we get from Royce’s bio states

“…he became obscure, and left his job to pursue personal interests on his own. It was then that he discovered a formula visualizing exactly how the structures of Cloudbank formed.

He studied this formula closely for it filled him with a deep sense of wonder and even deeper sense of dread. He developed predictive algorithms to determine where and when the visualization would take form, and began drawing it out with his own architectural plans, until one day he found it in its natural state. He saw beyond the confines of the city into something more, and there before him was something extraordinary. He took it, and realized the things he saw now stood at his call.”

It takes a special kind of person to leave his work, relationships, and the whole world behind to study the nature of the universe in complete isolation for an extended period of time. We know that Royce purposefully moved to Fairview for his research to be alone, far from the interference of other people:

“Fairview… what to say about Fairview? It’s calm… gorgeous view really. Want a little distance from town, somewhere I can do my work. Real work, I mean. Free from… distraction.”

“Fairview wasn’t ever finished, wasn’t ever a priority. I mean, what good is a suburb when the town has got it all? Well I’ve been around enough, seen thing change, and change, and change enough, that well I realized I like the quiet here. I like the quiet.”

This all conjures an image of Royce as a loner lost in his thoughts and theories. He’s a man who has never really cared for the world around him and just wants to follow his mind’s whirlwind of thoughts wherever they take him, regardless of what other people think. The one apparent exception to this rule is his friend, Grant Kendrell:

“Grant, I’ve known… I knew Grant… half my life. Principled, persuasive man… very persuasive. I’ll miss him. He appreciated my work, supported my endeavors. The Camerata, it was his idea, I was all for it, all for it at first… but, then, well… I’d say the rest is history, but… that’s not quite the case.”

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But even in Grant’s case, Royce’s attitude seems to be closer to professional admiration than affection. Royce seems to like Grant because he sees the same visionary drive reflected in him. Apparently that respect extended far enough for Royce to allow Grant to access the Transistor and even introduce it to two more individuals. By that point, Royce had been introduced to a small team of visionaries who he could conceivably get close to. These were people so intensely dedicated to a shared vision that they were willing to murder other people and plot to take over the universe. And yet Royce’s reaction to their deaths seems… not overly-sentimental:

“Grant, the others… they’ve gone ahead without me now, haven’t they? Just you and me now… isn’t it? You and me… and the Transistor.”

We don’t know if Royce allowed the Camerata to be formed because he genuinely thought it was the best way to further his goals of self-expression, or if he just went along with his “very persuasive friend.” But it seems clear from his dialogue that Royce’s year or so spent developing a plan to secretly take over Cloudbank with the Camerata did not change his fundamentally self-centric outlook. Likewise, Royce does not seem particularly upset or emotional over Cloudbank’s destruction:

“The Process, it’s just doing a job… doing its job. I much preferred it when it did mine, but our old friend Grant, I mean, I let him, I let him borrow it. And he… well, anyway, here we are. Trying times, very trying times these days.”

At no point does Royce express regret that his discovery of the Transistor and the Process led to the deaths of nearly every person in his universe, nor that his small organization tracked down and murdered about a dozen individuals. Royce is even openly hostile to the notion that he should regret his decisions:

“Asher though, he had a way of helping us keep a low profile, work in private. And he meant something to Grant… helped fuel Grant’s fire. Poor Asher. Before the end he just… he went and told you our whole plan, did he? Expecting what? Your sympathy? Your mercy?”

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The closest he comes to considering the ethical ramifications of his actions is:

“We knew we’d have our detractors. What we were doing was wrong… in the traditional sense… in the contemporary sense.”

But even here Royce frames the murderous and apocalyptic results of his ambitions as only “wrong” from the perspectives of others. According to Royce’s own moral framework, he did nothing wrong.

Royce’s grandest expressions of his personality and values come during his fight with Red. Here he not only fights for survival, but also for User status of the fully-powered Transistor and therefore absolute mastery over Cloudbank:

“The Process can’t be stopped… can’t be stopped. However, the Process could be impelled to simply go away… take its business… elsewhere. And we’ll be well enough alone… as for the town, we’ll have ourselves a blank canvas. And as for the Transistor, we’ll have ourselves a brush.”

“Think of what you could do now. The town, it’s yours… be whatever you want it to be, any shape or form… all sounds nice to me at least. I don’t know about you.”

Take a step back and think about what Royce is actually suggesting here. Royce is saying that he can’t wait to kill Red and get his hands on the Transistor so he can go back to the deserted husk of Cloudbank to build a new world. Every single person he knew, including the only three people who arguably counted as friends, is gone. The physical city he lived in and wanted to reshape is now so completely annihilated that gravity barely functions, and what streets still remain are littered with corpses. And Royce can’t wait to get back and paint this canvas!

More concretely, with Royce’s understanding of the Transistor, the Process, and Cloudbank itself, he could become a god. He knows the Transistor can make “just about anything happen.” With the device finally at full power, Royce could not only rebuild the physical city of Cloudbank, but fill it with beings of his own design. He could produce not just every house, street, bridge, and canal, but every song, painting, and person entirely from his own creative will.

Most people would be intimidated by the notion of taking divine power over a universe, but Royce is excited by it. For a loner and consummate visionary, this is the ultimate opportunity for Royce to self-actualize. The sad state of Cloudbank at the end of Transistor is not an apocalypse to Royce, but a paradise. For Royce, the destruction of Cloudbank was probably preferable to the Camerata’s plan all along.

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Perhaps my favorite of Royce’s dialogue during the final battle is:

“We’re in a good spot here, a good spot. Bit morbid, but I kill you… I get my town, the Transistor… not bad, not bad… or you kill me, and well, I’ve often wondered what it’s like in (the Transistor), so in a way, no matter what, I win.”

This is perhaps the best summary of Royce’s character in the entire game. Not only does Royce disregard the moral concerns of murdering another person, and celebrate his impending ascension to god-hood over the universe he just destroyed, but he adds that even if his plan fails and he doesn’t get to take over Cloudbank, at least he will get to explore one final curiosity. That is Royce Bracket.

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Red – Creation as Love

Red is more difficult to understand than Royce Bracket, because Royce never shuts up and Red never talks.

Transistor does something very clever with Red as a character through her inability to never speak. By placing all of the player and plot’s agency in the hands of a character who has no ability to express her desires, the player is left to speculate on what motivates Red. I think the narrative purposefully misleads the player on this point, and creates red herring motivations for Red which are ultimately revealed to be falsehoods at the end of the game.

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Let’s break down Red’s apparent motives throughout the game into a few chunks:

At the start of the game, Red grabs the Transistor and moves towards the exit of the Promenade, where she finds the motorcycle and can move along a highway. The Man encourages Red to head towards the outskirts of Cloudbank to safety away from the roving Process bots, but Red instead heads towards Goldwalk where she was first attacked. We assume that Red’s motive was to find out what happened to her and the Man by returning to the scene of the crime.

After encountering and defeating Sybil, the Man interrogates her and learns of Grant and Asher’s hideout in Bracket Tower in Highrise. Red commandeers a boat and sets off towards Highrise. We can assume that Red’s motive is to confront the head of the Camerata and use the Transistor to save Cloudbank from the Process.

On the way to Bracket Tower, Red stops off at her home briefly for a meal and a quick break, but upon exiting she leaves behind her apartment keys. The full implications of this action aren’t clear at the time, but it appears that Red doesn’t expect that her life will ever return to normal.

When Red finally makes it to the top of Bracket Tower, she finds Grant and Asher dead by suicide. Once again, the Man interrogates a dead Camerata member to find the location of a living Camerata member, and Red sets out towards Fairview to find Royce. We can assume that Red’s motive at this time is still to use the Transistor to defeat the Process and save Cloudbank, despite its rapid deterioration.

Eventually Red reaches Royce and upon his and the Man’s request, she returns the Transistor to the Cradle. This triggers the System Reset, Royce and Red get sent to the Country, they battle for User Status, and Red emerges back in Cloudbank.

Only in this final scene of the game do Red’s motives become clear.

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Red tests the Transistor’s powers a bit while the Man begins planning how to rebuild Cloudbank. But ignoring his suggestions and then panicked protestations, Red sits next to the Man’s body and uses the Transistor to seemingly commit suicide. Rather than kill Red, this sends her Trace to the Country where she can “physically” live alongside the man indefinitely.

Transistor opens with a still image of Red crouching next to the Man’s lifeless body, and after the entire plot of the game plays out, it ends with the exact same image, but now with Red lying beside him.

The key to Red’s character is understanding that her final decision represents her real motives all along. Red didn’t specifically plan on living the rest of her existence inside the Transistor with the Man, but the ending reveals that her ultimate goal throughout the entire story was to reunite with the Man. Everything else Red did, including going back to Goldwalk Auditorium, traveling through Highrise, confronting Grant and Asher, working with Royce, and restoring the Transistor to the Cradle, were all in service of finding a way to bring the Man back to a normal life in Cloudbank. When after all her efforts Red ends up with the Transistor at its maximum power, but Red still can’t figure out a way to bring the Man’s soul back into his Cloudbank body, she instead decides to abandon her body and send her soul to his location.

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Thus, Red represents the thematic opposite of Royce Bracket.

Royce creates purely for the sake of himself. He neither needs nor wants other beings to experience his creations. He is somewhere between indifferent and hostile to the inhabitants of Cloudbank and sees the population’s extermination as an opportunity to further realize his goals.

In contrast, Red creates purely for the sake of others. Or more precisely, she creates for the sake of one other person – the Man.

After Red absorbs her Trace into the Transistor, we see a stylized flashback of Red and the Man’s relationship in Cloudbank. Still images depict the Man with Red before one of her shows, the Man bringing tea/coffee to Red while she writes a song, and Red wearing the Man’s trademark jacket as the two read over one of Red’s newest creations. Finally, we see the Man alone in the Country as Red miraculously appears before him and they greet each other in person at last.

This is the clearest presentation of Red’s moral outlook.

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Like Royce, Red is an artist whose life is in large part based around expressing her creative vision. We know this not just because Red is a famed singer in Cloudbank, but by how devastated she is by losing her voice in the Camerata’s attack. We hear the Man comfort Red throughout the game, especially when she stands longingly before her picture in the Promenade, even though the Man is certainly worse off than Red.

Yet as important as Red’s music is to her, it’s all in service to a higher value. She writes, sings, and performs songs because that process serves as the foundation of her relationship with the Man. I don’t mean that they only have a relationship because of music, but the final scene purposefully chose to show the Man supporting Red’s music career for a reason. Red creates her music for the Man. It is Red’s way of articulating her love for him. In response, the Man demonstrates his affection by acting as Red’s support system to encourage her creations and see her star rise in Cloudbank.

Royce Bracket creates for its own sake. He sees creations as ends in and of themselves which represent the ultimate purpose in life. Royce’s ideal world is one of pure creation where no other beings can interfere with the expression of his personal vision.

Red sees creation as a service to human relationships. She sees creations as tools for bonding, communication, and expression to other beings. Her ideal world is one where she and the man she loves can share their creations forever.

If Royce Bracket and Red are on two ends of a spectrum regarding the value of creativity and interpersonal relationships, then Sybil Reisz, Grant Kendrell, and Asher Kendrell are located on various points between the two extremes.

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Sybil Reisz – If You Can’t Have the Person, Have their Creation

Sybil Reisz’s jealously-inspired attack on Red that inadvertently caused the System Crash and triggered the events of the game reflect a darker version of Red’s final decision.

Like Red, Sybil was deeply in love with another person. This affection was strongly attached to the target’s artistic creations. But unlike Red with the Man, Sybil’s love for Red was unrequited. It’s not clear how far Sybil actually went to ignite a relationship with Red or even reveal her feelings, but Sybil could tell from afar that Red’s connection with the Man could not be broken easily.

A normal person would probably accept reality and move on, but Sybil’s possession of the Transistor gave her the unique ability to change the situation. By targeting Red with the Transistor, Sybil would destroy Red in her current form as a sentient person who thinks, feels, and lives in Cloudbank, but Sybil could capture Red’s soul or essence, so to speak. Furthermore, Sybil’s creation of the Sandbox inside the Transistor indicates a rather sophisticated understanding of its functionality. With Red’s function under her control, Sybil could conceivably rebuild Red in the Sandbox, or at least listen to her voice for eternity.

Thus Sybil demonstrates her own value priorities. Royce values creation above all else. Red values creation for its basis in human relations. Faced with the impossibility of being with the woman she loves, Sybil chooses to destroy her for the sake of completely controlling her creations. In other words, Sybil values both people and their creations, but sees creations as ultimately the more meaningful of the two.

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Grant and Asher Kendrell – People as Building Blocks

Transistor is full of visionary characters who live for their creations, and Grant Kendrell is arguably the most domineering of them all. As one of the most experienced Administrators (which are implied to be the equivalent of politicians) in Cloudbank, Grant knows more about the problems with the city on a societal level than anyone, even the reclusive Royce Bracket. His age, appearance, and home at the top of the most exclusive building in the wealthiest district of Cloudbank all indicate that he is one of the most well-respected and powerful figures in this world. The fact that Grant was willing to risk all he has to gamble with the Transistor indicates an iron will to carry out his goals.

Not coincidentally, Grant is yet another creative character in Transistor whose romantic life play a strong role in his creative will. Grant is married to Asher (as indicated by their last names), and they live together in Bracket Tower. Royce describes Asher as being essential to Grant’s motives:

“Asher though, he had a way of helping us keep a low profile, work in private. And he meant something to Grant… helped fuel Grant’s fire. Poor Asher.”

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Despite being the Camerata’s leader, we hear relatively little about Grant’s explicit plans. We can infer from Royce’s descriptions that Grant was similarly inclined to alter Cloudbank to express his vision, but there was a crucial difference in the two friends’ outlooks. Royce creates for the sake of creating; he is happy with, or maybe even prefers “painting a blank canvas.” Other people do not enter into Royce’s equations. In contrast, Grant is specifically concerned with influencing other people. As his bio describes:

“Administrator Kendrell was one of the longest-tenured public servants in the administration’s recorded history. More than two younger generations of administrators came and went as he remained on the job. His abilities as a judicious and sharp-minded administrator never faltered as his age advanced, so instead, his constituency’s respect for him only grew. By contrast, Administrator Kendrell found his own feelings beginning to change. It was a period of crisis, a time when lesser men would have retired, but Administrator Kendrell took it all in stride as far as anybody knew. By now he had realized he had fought for virtually every social position at one time or another, always pleasing the majority. Over time this left a hollow feeling in his heart. He had his own position on many matters, his own dreams and desires. But he had learned to keep those thoughts in check.”

Thus Grant’s formation of the Camerata and use of the Transistor was motivated by a genuine desire to improve Cloudbank for its people. He may have had authoritarian or even totalitarian methods, but his motives were benevolently oriented towards other people. In reference to the Camerata’s attack on Red, Asher explains:

“It was nothing personal, you know. You were valuable, hand-picked, unique… but one of many. All we needed was your point-of-view to give the people what they didn’t know they wanted. That’s all we ever wanted, all Grant ever tried to achieve. The rest was merely incidental.”

However, whatever Grant’s plans might have been, they came to an end shortly before Red tracked him and Asher down in Bracket Tower, as Grant chose to commit suicide via poisoning rather than continue to watch Cloudbank crumble around him.

Why would a man of such intense power and will choose to kill himself? Even Asher was tragically perplexed by Grant’s decision, especially since Grant’s husband was still by his side at the end:

“I couldn’t stay to meet with you in person. Grant… he couldn’t wait any longer. Why he would leave me… I’d sooner take an eternity in the Transistor… but he was no longer seeing straight. Or perhaps he’d decided he’d seen enough. We knew the stakes of what we wanted to accomplish, and we knew that if we were to fail we would do so together… as one. See you in the Country.”

Grant is one of four Transistor characters to commit suicide in some sense (the Man, Red, Asher, and Grant). Of the four, he is the only one to not do so for the sake of a loved one. In fact, Grant kills himself with complete disregard for Asher. Presumably Grant killed himself because his grand plan to restructure Cloudbank’s society came to a disastrous end. Even if he could help Red get the Transistor to Royce and stop the Process, Cloudbank as he knew it would be over. All of the people he sought to help (or control) would be dead. Whatever feelings Grant had towards Asher were apparently not enough to make his life worth continuing as the ultimate purpose of his life had ended.

Grant’s moral outlook on self-expression lies between Red’s and Royce’s. Like Red, Grant sees creation as a value for beings. But unlike Red, his priority is dispersed to society at large, or even the “greater good.” Were Grant more like Red, he would have stayed alive for as long as possible with his husband, Asher. Thus Grant also has some of Royce’s impersonal mindset. Grant may seek to use his creative vision to help people, but he prioritizes distant manipulation over personal connections. To some degree, Grant sees the citizens of Cloudbank just as Royce sees the physical city of Cloudbank – in both cases they are materials to be shaped for a self-contained end.

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Next to Grant, Asher Kendrell comes off as a tragic figure. Asher’s relative age and the way he reverently speaks of Grant indicate that he is the more passive of the two men within their relationship. Yet Asher’s affection is genuine, and discovering that Grant didn’t value his company enough to continue living was understandably devastating.

Asher’s choice to commit suicide after Grant indicates that he is much closer to Red on the spectrum. The context of the choice was rather similar to that of Red’s near the end of the game – both individuals were faced with a choice between continuing to live in Cloudbank without their loved ones1, or to face an uncertain future with Cloudbank’s version of death. Prior to Grant’s death, Asher was apparently willing to meet with Red and probably try to bring the Transistor to Royce for a solution, but with Grant’s suicide, Asher no longer saw the point. The Camerata’s vision of reshaping the city meant nothing to Asher if the person he loved the most no longer inhabited it. Thus Asher chose to follow his husband out of existence.

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The Man

Despite speaking far more than any other character in the game, we know little about the Man directly. He doesn’t seem to have a vocation or passionate pursuit, he doesn’t seem to fit into Cloudbank, but he is worth more than the rest of the universe combined to Red.

Thematically, the Man is a crystallization of Red’s outlook on creativity. He is unable to produce anything of value himself, yet he revels in the creations of another, acting to fan Red’s flame and fill the world with her beautiful music. Arguably even more so than Red, he treasures human relationships as the primary value in life, thus he consistently urges Red to seek safety rather than save Cloudbank, and is even content at the end of the game spending the rest of his existence in a giant sword as long as it’s carried around by the woman he loves.

Yet the Man’s ultimate thematic purpose in Transistor is to serve as a contrast to everyone else. As the only individual literally in the entire universe who doesn’t have a societally programmed function, the Man is seemingly unmoored. He will never create beautiful buildings, launch great legislation, or write great reports. He should have no incentive to get out of bed in the morning, no purpose to his actions, no reason to exist. Yet, he does. He lives for the feeling of being beside Red and helping her feel the creative fulfillment which he never personally will.

The Man is actually sort of a loser within the world of Cloudbank. In a society where productive action is valued above all, an individual who shouldn’t produce has no value. And yet the Man is arguably more fulfilled, driven, and happier than any other character in the entire story. Apparently love is enough on its own to fulfill his soul and make life worth living.

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As a story, Transistor is clearly concerned with the value of creativity, but the Man seems to suggest that creation isn’t all there is to life. A person can still be happy even if he will never be the one to change the world with his own artistic vision. In that sense, despite basically splitting the universe open, the Man represents everyone, or at least the vast majority of people. He is the unnamed, unknown embodiment of random people who will never be great but lead meaningful lives nonetheless.


1. Or at least without the “physical” presence of their loved ones, in the case of Red and the Man.


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