Reset creators aim for the heart with their lush, time-traveling puzzle game

Earlier this year, the debut trailer for time-traveling puzzle game Reset dazzled viewers on YouTube with its quiet, haunting beauty. The brief teaser, focusing on a mysterious mechanical exoskeleton and its pilot, both somberly still in an empty rain-soaked city, received more than 400,000 views in just a few weeks.

The gorgeously rendered teaser promised it wasn't pulling any visual trickery. "Everything you see in the trailer is straight from the in-game engine," Reset's creators said. "What you see is what you will get. Except hopefully a little bit better..."

Since then, the creators of Reset — a two-man team, writer/artist Alpo Oksaharju and designer/composer Mikko Kallinen — have kept the PC game mostly under wraps.

In an email interview with Polygon, Oksaharju says the duo is concentrating on building out Reset's gameplay, which they plan to show publicly later this year.

The first-person puzzle game puts players in control of a mech — an exosuit piloted by a human named Zero-Two — with the ability to perform short temporal jumps. Reset is pitched as a single-player co-op game; Zero-Two will solve puzzles cooperatively with time-traveling versions of himself, a mechanic explored in games like Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Flash puzzler Cursor*10 and Unreal Dev Kit mod Prometheus.

"Our approach to the subject is similar but on major difference is that in Reset players decide when and where they want to return after performing an action," Oksaharju says.

Reset's developers hope to further distinguish their PC game with a unique atmosphere and thoughtful story, Oksaharju says, a game that looks and feels bigger than its budget and two-person team.

"We were both bummed that so many developers seemed to be moving toward the casual and mobile games sector..."

"I've compared Reset to popular indie movies such as Moon, Cube and District 9 because of the form," he says, citing inspirational projects with "relatively small budgets but rich niche(ish) content."

"That's where the comparison ends, since we're not making a movie, but trying to contribute to the search for good storytelling methods in games. Methods that embrace interactivity and non-linearity. We wanted to make a game that had a thoughtful story, immersive and atmospheric world and entertaining gameplay for gamers that craved something different than your mainstream everyday shooter or typical indie platformer."

The two-person team behind Reset, Theory Interactive, are both former employees of Futuremark, the Finnish developer of benchmarking software 3DMark and first-person shooter Shattered Horizon. Oksaharju says the pair plans to keep the team size minimal; just the two of them.

"We met while working at Futuremark and just started talking about what kind of games we like and would like to see in the future," Oksaharju explained. "We were both bummed that so many developers seemed to be moving towards the casual and mobile games sector with more and more games coming out that stimulate only our fingers and not our brains or hearts.

"We wanted to see and play something that was very atmospheric and smart but not complex. Something that had a good story and didn't rely on movie storytelling methods. We were and still are intrigued by the still unexplored possibilities of storytelling in games."

Oksaharju says the overgrowth of foliage in the game's trailer — and the longer passage of time — connects to the game's narrative, but the role both time and exosuit pilot Zero-Two play in the game are still to be revealed.

Theory Interactive says that it will soon launch a crowd-funding effort to help push Reset through its final stages of development. Oksaharju says the pair are looking to fans and likeminded gamers instead of external funding "to keep full control over the artistic view" of Reset.

Since the public debut of Reset in April, Theory Interactive has been posting updates in fits and spurts on its website, focusing on the technical aspects of the game's lighting, animation and shading and the methods used to accomplish the game's rich look. Much of the game's story and gameplay remains a welcome, well-hidden mystery.

Kallinen and Oksaharju are targeting a 2013 release on PC for Reset.

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