Behind the trailer: Co-op single-player Reset a mix of Dear Esther, Portal

Alpo Oksaharju and Mikko Kallinen are the two men behind Reset, the upcoming single-player co-op puzzler that has spawned one of the most intriguing trailers of the year so far.

Together, Oksaharju and Kallinen are Theory Interactive, a Finnish indie PC developer that quietly began work on Reset "from scratch" in late summer last year.

But in contrast to the project's humble beginnings, the past two days since Reset's first trailer released have been "crazy", Oksaharju told Eurogamer.

"It's totally - it's like madness, I can't believe it. It's really crazy. Reset is a dream project so getting this kind of coverage... we didn't expect it.

"We hoped people would like it, but nothing of this scale. It's so much more than we hoped for."

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Reset is a first-person puzzler, part Dear Esther, part Portal, but without the "grey boxes and buttons". The trailer revealed a beautifully-realised post-apocalyptic world, where a mechanic figure slowly returned to life.

"It's not a robot," Oksaharju reveals. "It's an exo-suit, with someone inside." That someone will be you.

Writer, artist and designer Oksaharju first met Kallinen, the company's programmer, composer and fellow designer, at Finnish software development company Futuremark. Kallinen is responsible for the in-game engine visible in Reset's initial trailer and is "a computer guru", Oksaharju said. "The guru-est guy I know."

But, 10 months into the project, Oksaharju and Kallinen still "have a long way to go".

"We had a few problems with the term 'single-player co-op experience'. We hoped it would get people interested."

"I'm really careful to say when the game will be out as we can't make that estimation yet," Oksaharju said. Will it launch this year? "Yes... or 2013. The next stage is that we'll be working on the gameplay elements." These will be the focus of the game's next trailer.

Reset's gameplay is co-operative, but "planned as a single-player experience only". Players will interact with a time-travelling version of themselves to solve puzzles.

"We had a few problems with the term 'single-player co-op experience', but we couldn't figure out a better way around it," Oksaharju explained. "We hoped it would get people interested. The puzzles are spatial. You have to move around the world to do stuff, and move things. If you like Portal, you'll probably like this game."

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The player will awake inside an exo-suit.

Gameplay will dole out a "50-50 mix" of gameplay and non-linear story explaining the game's world. Players will soon discover that Reset's world is our world, set sometime in the near future. The game's time travel will also be explained as part of the story.

"The puzzles play a part in the story in that, when you solve one, that solved puzzle becomes part of the story," Oksaharju teased. "And those pieces form another kind of puzzle which is the story. This all might sound weird and illusive but it's the only way I can describe it right now."

"This all might sound weird and illusive but it's the only way I can describe it right now."

The storyline involves other characters, but players shouldn't expect to discover logs or be told expository dialogue from NPCs. "The player will be the only character in the game you interact with," Oksaharju hinted.

Playing Reset will be "quite a sombre experience," Oksaharju said, comparing its tone to fellow indie title Dear Esther. "It's a step in that direction, although it's definitely not that. It's a calm experience, and there is sadness to it."

"I think the coolness comes from starting to play the game and unravelling the story and starting to understand what's happened in the world - the consequences and actions. It becomes very gripping."

Overall, the experience will last gamers between six and eight hours.

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Theory Interactive's two man team built Reset's engine from scratch in ten months.

"We would be hard-pressed to come up with 100+ hours of content," Oksaharju reasoned. Instead, Reset is "planned to be something you can sit down a couple of times and enjoy, with good puzzles that you can wonder about afterwards."

The experience will be supplemented with user-created content. There will be "tools for user generated bits", and the ability to "record the world from different camera angles so you can make your own videos as a bonus feature".

Reset's development is entirely funded by the two men, and Oksaharju admits they "could use a few helping hands with the project. But we planned this project from the beginning so that we could pull it off with just us the two of us, even if we can't get anyone to help."

"We can't get Kickstarter in Finland. It's sad and it sucks."

The team's limited resources mean the game's PC version is the only one they can currently focus on. "Next-gen consoles have been talked about but PC is our focus right now," Oksaharju said, although he was definite in ruling out the likelihood of handheld or tablet device support. "High quality visuals and technology is really who we are," he said. Theory Interactive has no plans to support "inferior" technology that "can't produce the same fidelity".

Seeing the recent success of some Kickstarter projects, Oksaharju said he had been intrigued by the idea of calling for aid using the crowd-funding site - until he realised such a thing wasn't possible.

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Gameplay will be first-person, but the trailer is made entirely in-engine.

"We can't get Kickstarter in Finland," Oksaharju explained. "We would really like to get a Kickstarter project going. It's sad and it sucks that we can't." Theory Interactive is looking into the logistics of getting a project set up from another country, or using another website entirely.

The duo have also had publisher interest "on differing levels", but Oksaharju is firmly against signing a deal that could jeopardise the studio's individuality. "The prime directive is we want to remain independent. We will not be selling any part of us for this project and hopefully long-term."

That said, Theory Interactive is trying to sort a deal for digital distribution, once Reset is complete. "Steam would be very nice. But we can't depend on getting any money from other sources."

In the near future, Theory Interactive will continue weekly updates to its blog, with something else "visual" coming in the next couple of weeks. "We're very eager to show stuff now we're finally out there," Oksaharju concluded. "These two days have been totally wacky. We will have to see what we can come up with next."

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-04-27-co-operative-single-player-reset-a-mix-of-dear-esther-portal

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