A brief interview with SgtMettool, creator of Soma Spirits

An interview with SgtMettool, creator of Soma Spirits and Brave Hero Yuusha

The latest victim of my once in a blue moon interview series is SgtMettool, creator of Soma Sprits, RMN's pick for Game of the Year 2016.

Start off by telling us a little about yourself!

I'll tell ya, when it comes to describing myself I always seem to draw a blank. Ahaha. I guess the basic things to know are that I've been a hobbyist gamedev for just over 4 years now in my spare time. By day, I am a librarian, which I've been told is a very strange combination of passions, and I'm not about to disagree.

Soma Spirits was RMN's 2016 Game of the Year! Do you have anything to say?

I'm beyond thrilled, and the community's support, as well as the support I've received from my friends, has been nothing short of amazing. I didn't think in a million years that the game would be so well-received as it was, and while I was confident enough to believe that it was perform at least decently, I was genuinely surprised that it was voted Game of the Year. I can't thank everyone enough for their support.

I'm just really glad my continuous nitpicking on the project paid off. I really did want it to be the best that it could be for my players.

What were your inspirations for Soma Spirits?

Soma Spirits came about as a by-product of the original, scrapped story for Brave Hero Yuusha, which was once going to be called The Hero and the Reaper. A key character in the narrative was the Reaper, who saves the hero's life against the Demon Lord, but holds his soul hostage until the hero collected 10,000 souls in exchange for his freedom.

The design I had in mind for the Reaper was eventually recycled into The Storyteller in Yuusha, which was then refined into Heart and Soul's design. And I kinda just went from there.

Design-wise: Soma Spirits, like Yuusha before it, draws a lot of inspiration from Dragon Quest and EarthBound. Though I do think Soma does lean more in the EarthBound direction than Yuusha did. And as some of you know, Agent Ape is a big fan of Rareware games like Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie. The cartoony whimsy of those games eventually found their way into Soma Spirits' design, and before I knew it I was drawing googly eyes on everything. I don't think the game would have turned out anywhere near as it did if Agent Ape were not on board. Without him, there would be no game.

There is a bit of Undertale inspiration in it, as well, and I can probably attribute that to listening to that game's OST on loop for hours while developing this.

Did you learn anything while making Soma Spirits or your other projects?

I think the most important thing I've learned from these projects is a fundamental understanding of how game development works, and the difficulties that many professional developers go through. Before I started making games, I was far more judgemental and critical of games, not really understanding just how difficult it is to make one. Even in an engine as user-friendly as RPG Maker, making games requires a tremendous amount of effort and work. I feel like I've become far more empathetic as a result.

What inspired you to want to get into game design?

It's hard to think of any one event that got me into this hobby, and it's probably as boring as "I got bored one day so I bought RPG Maker." Before game design, I had a focus in Creative Writing in college and wanted to be a writer. As time went on, however, I came to realize that the types of stories I wanted to tell weren't really suited for novels or even short stories. It wasn't until I picked up game design did everything start to fall into place: my stories make better games than books. It kind of just... clicked.

You've recently made the move to put a revised version of Soma Spirits on Steam Greenlight! Can you tell us about this?

Shortly after I had finished Soma Spirits I started work on another project called Crescent Eve, which I intended to be my "big one"; an 8+ hour RPG that would take me several years to finish. But as I began making the groundwork for that game, I began to feel like I wasn't really done with Soma Spirits. It felt like I could do more with it, and Crescent Eve didn't really fill that hole for me. It felt more and more like I should give Soma Spirits a shot in the limelight. I needed to know.

What I'm aiming for with Rebalance is to make it different enough from the original game to be worth buying. I have quite a bit of stuff planned, including some script revisions and the Sun King story arc (which some people commented felt thrown in and out of place) is being introduced from the get-go and will be built upon more than it was before.

There will also be more allusion to the events that transpire in the "evil" routes, which very few players reportedly played. And quite a bit happens in those routes that is never seen if you just did the regular routes. Hoping to put a bit more incentive to replay the game and do those paths!

It's far from a complete remake, but I hope it will be a much cleaner and more consistent game in the end.

You're also the creator of another short, Dragon Quest-style RPG, Brave Hero Yuusha. What is it that draws you to this style of game?

Dragon Quest... it never did quite make big here in the west, did it? Those games have so much going for them; they're practically national icons in Japan. They defined JRPGs. And they just never got the credit they deserve over here in the west. Needless to say, it's my favorite JRPG franchise and I wanted to make something in that spirit.

The thing about Dragon Quest and other games in the same vein is that their beauty is hard to see at face value. You have to really dig deep to find what makes those games special. And when you do, you can't not love them.

Are there any games on RMN you like or recommend?

Some of my favorite titles from the past couple of years include Everlong, Flatwoods, and Luxaren Allure. I'm also particularly looking forward to Weird and Unfortunate Things Are Happening, and Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass; both of which are taking RM in new and daring directions that you don't see the likes of very often. I'm very excited for those!

Any advice for other game developers out there?

Start small, and remember: your first game is never your best game.

Any other comments?

Something I'd really like to do after Soma Spirits Rebalance is completed is try to get back into speedrunning Dragon Quest games. I think I had a good thing going there; I just didn't have the time to do speedrunning anymore on top of work and game design. I love making games, but I need to remember to keeping playing games, too!

If you'd like to support Soma Spirits on Steam Greenlight, check it out here!


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Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
I worked in a library for a year during college. Maybe its not as weird a combination as you think!
Besr Richard Slayer
Very fun read! There should be more of these on RMN. I for one am very interested to know about other game developer's experiences and whatnot.
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