Indie Dev Interview: David Söderström – Somber
30 Oct, 2022
The aptly named Somber from Swedish game developer You Will Get There is a mesmerising platformer, which takes inspiration from the likes of Limbo and began life as a diorama.
With the game playing out through black silhouettes on colourful backgrounds and with an eerie but calming soundtrack, you’ll be gradually drawn further into the wonderful world that the team describe as ‘cute, but also twisted’.
We caught up with David Söderström – the team’s lead developer, experienced games industry professional and lecturer – to find out more about the game’s origins and evolution.
Somber is out now and you can find it on Steam
Please could you introduce yourself?
Hi! I’m David Söderström, a game development instructor and indie developer based in Sweden – focusing on 3D-rendering and programming. I’ve been in the industry for more than 15 years … and loved every minute of it!
Could you introduce your studio?
You Will Get There is a small studio that creates games and 3D-environments, drawing from highly skilled professionals with a deep well of knowledge across all sorts of different areas.
Beyond making games, we also do a lot of 3D work; for example, we’re currently documenting a huge construction site here in Stockholm.
But mainly, we do it for fun and because we love making worlds come alive. I’m the main developer, but I had help from two very talented artists (Mikaela and Evelyn) on Somber.
Can you tell us about Somber? What were your decisions around the look of the game? The “colorscape” you went for?
Somber actually started as a bet with my students during a 3D rendering course. We talked about the game Limbo and how the developer Playdead played with silhouettes and “basic” rules to create a very good looking game.
Somber was created as a diorama put up during a break and I just thought, “Hey, it’s time to create something bigger than those smaller doodle-projects that I create just for fun”. It was relatively easy to come up with a lot of assets for this kind of game, so I started to flesh out the details. Thus Somber was born!
Initially, Somber was a platformer with a 2D character I had lying around. Once I started doodling on a solid Metroidvania kind of map, the game as we know it today came to be. Mechanics might have come before story, but it was a fun world to build for sure.
How did you come up with the name and is the mood of the game reflected in the title?
Every bit of Somber is molded by the team’s personal art style and background. Our mood boards and inspiration follow the precept “Everything is Cute, but also Twisted.” It’s dark but, at the same time, heart-warming in a way. The world of Somber is a dark yet familiar place with some seriousness to it! Of course, the player’s character might not see it that way …
I’m especially happy with a comment we got during development: “That’s some spooky stuff.” They were referring to an art piece from the game and it made my day.
Can you tell us a little about your inspirations?
Limbo for sure. It was one of the main inspirations in the beginning because Somber started out more or less like a tech demo! Regarding the pacing and mood, it’s not that far away from Playdead’s masterpiece. But we’re also huge fans of games like Celeste and Ori. In fact, the core gameplay is more similar to them.
Why did you choose to go down a hand drawn route?
I’m not an artist myself, so my first thought was looking and masking silhouettes from photographs of everyday items. The curve of your sweater’s wrinkles makes for a really dynamic snowy ground, a flower’s shadow shining through your curtains is an in-game tree or plant. That worked as planned, but as the game grew I just knew that two of the students currently in my classes could really make a difference here.
Mikaela and Evelyn came up with things I never could have on my own. It’s hard to find houses and other man-made items that would have done justice to Somber. I really appreciate all the outstanding art they created for the game!
Can you tell us a little about the gameplay?
Somber is a moody game, drawing you in with a slower pace at the start then building up to the finale. It’s a platformer at heart with some partial inspiration from Celeste and Ori. It’s easy to learn if you’re into platformers! Oh, Somber has got some secrets hidden around the world as well …
Is this the sort of game you could get lost in for hours?
The game is meant to be enjoyed as a somber experience. Play it at your own pace, breath in the atmosphere and explore the world as you are. The narrative itself is pretty linear. Also, there’s a solid group of speedrunners trying to beat it already 🙂
Is there a deeper meaning behind Somber?
Somber is an open-ended, somewhat classic struggle between Good and Evil, Power and the People – but who’s who in this scenario? We’d love to see our players come up with their own theories on what’s really going on!
When is it out and how can people stay updated?
It’s out now on Steam. Enjoy!
For more interviews with indie devs, stay tuned to Into Indie Games