RETSNOM is a recent puzzle/platform game created by solo indie developer Somi. Released on July 23rd, the game’s unique selling point is it’s mirror mechanic, where players can flip parts of the map in order to progress to the next level. I was given the honour of interviewing Somi to discuss his new title.
Sheldon: Thank you again for taking the time for this interview.
Somi: Thank you! It’s an honour.
Sheldon: Your latest title, RETSNOM, has recently been released. How did you decide on the name?
Somi: The title is based on the mirror aspect of the game. It’s backwards for monster, as monster relates to the plot also. At first I wanted to find a word that can be related to a mirror, so I found the novel, Shining. It’s written by Stephen King. There’s a word in the book, REDRUM. That was the key.
Sheldon: So on your site, it states that you are both a full-time office worker as well as developing games in your free time. Do you ever find it hard to keep the two separate?
Somi: It’s really hard to do both. I’ve majored in law, and that’s what I’m doing for a living. And in my free time I make games. It’s the only time I can really be me. After I get home from work around 7 pm, and finish taking care of my baby around 11 pm. From there I spend 2-3 hours a day developing.
Sheldon: Oh wow, you certainly have a busy schedule! RETSNOM’s most unique feature is the mirror mechanic, where you can flip parts of the world to solve puzzles and platform challenges. What was your inspiration behind the mechanic?
Somi: I wanted to make an inventive, unique game. And thinking about just the new mechanic was not good for the game’s development. After long thought, I decided to focus on one thing: describe and find all the parts of one thing and put them in the game is the way to create an innovative game. And the thing I focused on was a mirror. In RETSNOM, all of the features and aspects of the mirror. I spent many hours focusing on and finding out every aspect of a mirror. So in conclusion, in RETSOM, there’s 5 worlds that contain different parts of a mirror’s features.
Sheldon: Was there much challenge creating levels that were 100% challenging and without an easy way to beat them with the mirror mechanic?
Somi: The mirror mechanic is very free and easy to use. So there can be many ways to solve the puzzles. It made it difficult to make levels. I made and play-tested a lot to find different ways that I missed. And through the beta testing I rebuilt many levels. So now the difficulty is even and gradually growing. There’s also no special or easy way to beat a level, and every level needs deep thought to beat it.
Sheldon: Was there any extra mechanics that you had to scrap during RETSNOM’s development?
Somi: There weren’t really. The most difficult thing was how to mix each mechanic. You can flip the sections left and right, and there’s another world where you can flip them vertically. There’s another world that causes blocks to disappear like fog on a mirror. Mixing the mechanics was the hardest thing because mixing them inappropriately can give players too much freedom, where nothing can block them. It can make puzzles to be nothing but stacking cubes. And that’s not fun. So I had to mix all mechanics in a positive way. There’s also some mixes that I couldn’t put in the game. There’s 3 hidden stages in RETSNOM; they’re a bit different from the other stages. They’re very different and mix the mechanics interestingly.
Sheldon: Obviously a platform/puzzle game about a scientific experiment becomes labeled as a clone of Portal. How do you feel that RETSNOM differs most from Portal and games like it?
Somi: It’s a great honor to be labeled with Portal. I’ve not really thought about it, but Portal is 3D while RETSNOM is 2D. I haven’t really thought about it, though.
Sheldon: The atmosphere of a game can be heavily influenced by it’s soundtrack. What pushed you to use such somber classical pieces as the game’s audio atmosphere?
Somi: First, I wanted to make my game desperate and sad, since the protagonist is running to save his daughter from death. I’m not interested in games that I can’t see myself as the protagonist. That means that if I can’t understand the main character’s emotions, all the puzzles, spikes, and jumping around are useless. So I wanted to make the players feel the same feeling as the protagonist. Second, I like the cello very much.
Sheldon: What’s been your biggest challenge as a solo indie developer?
Somi: Believing in my game’s potential and making my game complete. As a solo indie developer, there’s not as many people who can give me feedback about my game. It’s also difficult because of my job type, because not many people care about games at work. So I had many times I would want to quit making the game. Because as the development is going on, I would lose my conviction that my game is fun. I ask myself constantly, “is my game fun?” And then try not to make the game anymore. So I can say that believing my game is fun and making my game to 100% completion was the hardest thing.
RETSNOM is available now on Steam for $4.99 and is a great little indie title to add to your Steam library.