Gamescom 2014 proved to be truly spectacular regarding networking with and interviewing indie developers about their current games or games in production. Xsolla managed to get a hold of Out There creator, Michael Peiffert to hold a quick interview about his beautiful game.
Let’s jump straight into the interview Q&A with Michael Peiffert.
Hello it is a pleasure to finally meet you! Could you tell the readers a little about yourself and your studio?
My name is Michael Peiffert. I am the founder and creative director of Mi-Clos Studio. This is a small independent studio, which began work three years ago.
How many people are a part of Mi-Clos Studios?
Actually, I am the only one. I have a partner, Fibre Tigre who writes interactive fiction. We started working together during the production process of Out There.
What were your main sources of inspiration for Out There? Our colleagues said that the game is similar to Isaac Asimov’s overnight cosmic fairy-tale.
Fibre Tigre is a big fan of science fiction and is well versed in this literature. He learned a lot from the books of the 50s, so the comparison with Asimov could not be more true.
I was always interested in space and the sheer beauty of the universe. I can spend hours hanging out in the game called Space Engine, which was created by one Russian developer (Vladimir Romanyuk). This is a huge generator of galaxies, which allows you to glide limitlessly through space to admire the stars and planets. I am intrigued by the aesthetics and sheer beauty of space. For years, I drew an illustration of the metaphysical study of distant galaxies.
During these cosmic art journeys is when the astronaut who now adorns the start-up screen of Out There was conceptualized. This picture became the basis for the next game by Mi-Clos Studios. When I met with Fibre Tigre and learned that he was interested in science fiction, I immediately showed him the portrait and offered him to take the challenge of coming up with something intriguing for the game. A few days later my new friend came back with a finished script and a few ideas on the gameplay. We made a teaser trailer to show the atmosphere of the environment and to highlight the general premise. Gameplay did not yet exist at that time.
To our astonishment, the video was viewed more than 10,000 times in just one week!
What games do you take inspiration from?
We borrowed a lot from Dune, not the book, namely the game for the PC. A compelling storyline, beautiful artwork, and strategic gameplay helped shape our game to what it is. The old French game, Captain Blood, exemplified crazy and strange gameplay which was intriguing. When you meet with the aliens in this project, they communicate incomprehensible words that appear in hieroglyphs. This idea sparked our interest as we have borrowed the concept and implemented them into an alien language in-game.
I also loved The Oregon Trail. This application provides an ideal concept of gameplay for tablets. The game is slow, but every second you have to make major decisions. To master such a project is easy, but the gameplay turns deep and complex. Another source of inspiration for me was Sorcery! for the iOS. Sorcery! is a great example of how the artwork defines the experience with text-based gameplay. When you read through the text, you seem to dissolve into the narrative as you fall deeper and deeper into their storyline. That’s the feeling I wanted to recreate in Out There.
I think now there are problems with AAA games. A title may have beautiful 3D graphics but nothing much else to offer besides that. It’s the same as if a user goes to an amusement park and witnesses beautiful decorations but no rides. A good gaming example of this is Bioshock Infinite. The city looks incredibly spectacular with next-gen aesthetics, but the gameplay boils down to just a run and shoot platform.
How are “Out There” sales on the iOS and Android?
Circulation exceeded 100K copies to keep it short and sweet. For a studio of 2 people, this is a stunning result. Apple helped us and gave us a banner at startup. For a mobile project, this was extremely important. I was surprised that Apple had noticed us as it’s a very niche game. It is not the usual game you see flooding the app store as it is considered to be dark and expensive for the mobile market ($4).
We knew that we could not run a F2P model. To start creating a game, you need hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a crazy market. You need to literally buy users and pay for people to play – it’s complete madness! We have invested in Out There literally everything we own: our health, mind, and money.
How did you budget for this project?
Our budget was extremely tiny. We have not been paid for a year. I occasionally moonlight on the side to earn a living. I have a wife and two children, so without money, it is difficult to survive. We spent about 3,000 Euros which, by today’s standards, is considered to be almost nothing. Most of the money went to traveling and different activities expenses. We are fortunate that Out There was twice invited to the Eurogamer Expo. The booth was provided for free, and we paid only for the hotel and tickets. Gamescom was much more expensive, but at this event we received a special prize.
Tell us about your new game, Out There Omega Edition. Why was it necessary to go on Steam?
From the beginning we wanted to make a game for the PC. Unfortunately, I did not have enough technical skills to implement this plan. I know how to make mobile games, but had many difficulties with MS. For Out There, I used a simple engine called Corona SDK. It is used to easily make simple games for smartphones. Also, this thing is cross-platform as well. Everything you write will run on Android and iOS. Unfortunately, technically this engine is extremely limited, and for the PC it does not fit. After playing a shot, we began sending letters to fans who have requested to issue a draft on the PC. We hired an expert who has helped move Out There onto computers by setting a base on Unity. We don’t know how successful the game will be on the PC but we hope for the best.
Thanks for your time and we wish you success with the release of Out There Omega Edition for PC.
If you enjoyed this interview, please check this one out as well: Gamescom 2014: Croteam on Developing the Talos Principle.