Published on September 10th, 2014 | by Patrick Garde0
Interview with Michael Peiffert, Founder of Mi-Clos Studio
We had a chance to sit down with Michael Peiffert (@Mi_Clos), the founder and creative director of Mi-Clos Studio, an indie game development studio located in France. We became interested to get to know more the developer because of Out There, one of the top Android strategy games. We talked about their history, favorite games, pricing, free-to-play titles, marketing techniques, and upcoming plans of Mi-Clos Studio.
Tell us something about yourself. How did you get into the game development industry?
I’ve been working into web and advertising agencies for more than 10 years as a creative director. I was specialized in user experience and user interface for luxury and automobile industry. Becoming a father for the first time was a turning point in my life. So I decided to leave my crazy life in Paris behind and start a new, quieter one in Lyon which is the French capital of video games. From there, I simply started learning programming while working on my first game (Space Disorder). A kid’s dream, really.
Mi-Clos Studio is an indie game development studio based in France. How did you arrive with Mi-Clos as the name? Could you tell us how you started the company?
Mi-Clos is french for ‘half-closed’ in english. The video game industry is a very risky one and you never know when you’ll have to shut down your studio. Also, I was barely sleeping while discovering the joy of programming. That’s why the half-closed eye as the logo.
Where do you get gameplay ideas from? Do you have any favorite games that served as an inspiration?
When I was designing rich interfaces for websites, I was always starting with this simple question: ‘What the experience would be like for the user?’. For Out There we used the same process, starting from this concept: ‘What being a stranded astronaut would be like?’. Then, we built the gameplay around this idea. We’ve got inspiration from games like ‘Dune’, ‘Captain Blood’, ‘Oregon Trail’ but also from 30’s – 50’s sci-fi literature and vintage pulp comics books.
Did you expect Out There to receive a warm reception to critics and gamers? We even named it as one of the best Android strategy games in our previous top 10 list.
During the first public showing of the game (a very rough alpha build), I was afraid that people would reject a space game without combat. I was the first one surprised by the positive reception it got. But we were surely not expecting such a broad success. This is what is both exciting and frightening in the games industry: you can never predict what will be a success or a failure.
Out There is priced at $3.99. How did you come up with the price?
It felt right.
What do you think of freemium games?
What’s funny with F2P, it’s that you always end up spending 10 times the price of a real, meaningful premium game – and with a bad taste in your mouth.
How do you promote your games? Do you use any marketing techniques?
I’ve produced a teaser just before we started development to test the waters (http://youtu.be/HZwftR8cl3k). The video got thousands views worldwide the first week and we instantly knew we had to make a game out of it. Articles were starting to appear on niche indie games websites. From there, I’ve been contacting the press as a background task. It was time consuming but one thing leading to another; we ended up on major outlets like The Verge, The New Yorker and Forbes!
We also attended a few shows (Eurogamer Expo, Gamescom…). It costs a lot but it shows to the press and distribution platforms that you believe in your project. When you submit your title to Apple or Google for a feature, it sure makes a difference if they can track your marketing efforts.
Finally, we sent Android builds to YouTubers a few months before release. Thanks to Bluestacks, there was hundreds of ‘Let’s Play’ on YouTube at launch, which increased awareness.
You have developed with iOS and Android platforms. Which one is your favorite?
iOS and Android are a unique platform to me. I love developing mobile games. That’s it.
What advice could you give on newcomers who want to get into the game development industry?
If you are ready to put your guts on the table, then yeah, go ahead!
What is the hardest problem you have faced as an indie game developer?
It was money, really. As my first game was financially a failure, I was basically broke during the whole development process. I was very lucky to have a supportive wife and loving kids who kept me on tracks.
It was a lot a pressure as I couldn’t survive a second failure.
What is the most satisfying part about developing games?
Having people playing passionately your game during shows.
What are your future plans?
We are currently working on Out There: Omega Edition that will make his way to PC (and will be free update for the mobile version). There will be new spaceships, aliens, text adventures and a fourth ending!
We take this opportunity to update the graphics and add new tracks from Siddhartha Barnhoorn. Pre-production for our next game has also started and we are quite excited to start!
Lastly, any final words to our readers?
Those of you who loved Out There, expect to be amazed by our next title. Thanks.