Califer Games | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Califer Games

Peter Anderson & Curtis Mirci on their RPG March to the Moon

Posted By on November 25, 2014, 10:00 AM

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As we discussed last month, the most recent conventions have put local indie gaming companies on the map, giving small developers a brand new audience with whom they can present original ideas and exciting challenges to, without a backlogged history of expectations and demands. One of the companies is Califer Games, the minds behind the game March to the Moon, an RPG with shooter elements where killing rats in a cellar turns into a space adventure. Today we chat with the duo behind the company, Curtis Mirci and Peter Anderson, about creating their own games and where they hope to take their studio. (All pictures courtesy of Califer Games.)

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Gavin: Hey guys! First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Curtis: I’m a programmer by trade. I mainly work with C# and PHP nowadays. I’m married, and we have two cute little girls. Aside from my day job and Califer Games, I also tutor Japanese and run a dental website.

Peter: I grew up making games, stories, animations and art all the time. Very devoted to my wife and two boys. I work at WildWorks, formerly known as Smartbomb Interactive, in downtown Salt Lake City. I’m primarily a Flash Artist/Animator, but I am also involved in game design and Flash Actionscript coding for many tasks.

Gavin: What got each of you interested in gaming and what were your favorites to play growing up?

Curtis: I’ve enjoyed playing games since we got an Atari 2600 so long ago. Growing up I loved playing RPGs, especially Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. Recently I find they take up more time than I have so it takes me forever to finish RPGs now!

Peter: My brother got the Coleco Vision and I took it over. Then my siblings pooled money for an NES. Which I took over. They all gave up and I just bought all the consoles myself after that. By bought I mean Santa brought them. My favorite game changes with time, but I’ve gone from being a Mario/Link fan to JRPGs, and MMOs.

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Gavin: What sparked your interest in the programming and writing side of things?

Curtis: I originally wanted to be a designer, they guy that thinks up ideas and makes stories and plans the whole thing out. When it was time to go to college my dad asked what degree I wanted to get. I told him I wanted an English degree so I could handle all the writing I would be doing. He reminded me that he was helping to pay for it so I needed to choose something else. I decided that a programming degree would help me understand what we could make better, so I went with that. Once I started to understand programming and was able to make things work myself I fell in love with it.

Peter: I’m an artist, but I learned to script things up too, so I’ll pitch in. My gaming interest came early — even in first and second grade I was drawing video games on paper, and using my finger to pretend they were really playable. So when I figured out how to script in multimedia software in fifth grade, I didn’t have to pretend with my finger anymore — it was magic.

Gavin: Education wise, did either of you seek out any college or were you mainly self-taught?

Curtis: I graduated from the University of Utah with a BS in Computer Science and a BA in Japanese.

Peter: I could answer by citing my BYU Animation degree, but I think college only honed my skills to make them useful as a career. All the passion and direction I have taken before college and since has come from my inner obsession to create games that I like.

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Gavin: How did each if you break into the industry and start your careers?

Curtis: After graduating I got hired at Sensory Sweep where I got my start in games. They were very interested in my dual-major since they had plans to make a Japanese language learning game. After showing that I had made a text game and that I did know how to program I got in fairly easily.

Peter: I too got hired at Sensory Sweep right out of school. That company died out pretty soon after, but I was able to prove myself there by being proactive and pursuing game design — not just animation as I’d been hired for. This led to connections that landed me where I am now.

Gavin: When did the two of you first meet and become friends?

Curtis: While we were working at Sensory Sweep we met each other and I showed Peter a text game that I made in college. He said he liked it and wanted to do some art for it. The code for the game was a mess since I made it while I didn’t know what I was doing so we decided to make its sequel just for the fun of it.

Peter: He also tried to teach me Japanese. I, uh, didn’t do my homework.

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Gavin: How did the idea come about to start your own gaming company, and where did the name come from?

Curtis: Once Sensory Sweep went belly up we decided to get more serious and dropped the game we were making just for fun and go for something that people would like more. If we were going to sell something it only made sense to make a business to do all the accounting with. Califer is an internet alias that I’ve been using for some time, and we were stuck on a name for the company. I suggested Califer Games as a joke, but Peter said he was okay with that so we took it.

Peter: Every game needs a company logo on it somewhere.

Gavin: What was the process like in getting everything you needed together and creating a way for both of you to work on games together beyond a traditional office?

Curtis: We don’t live nearby each other and we both have our day jobs, so the internet has been a very useful tool in communicating. It helps us get our changes to each other and talk about what we need to do. But since we both have day jobs and families we don’t get a ton of time to work on stuff. Fortunately, we both take Trax to get to our day jobs and we use the time there to get our work done. We’ve joked about renaming ourselves to Public Transit Games, but it’s not worth the paperwork to change it.

Peter: We also get together on a Saturday every couple months and kick each other around. The Utah Indie Game Group has regular meetings so we see each other there, too.

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Gavin: What was the process like in creating new games, and how did you decide to work on March To The Moon?

Curtis: Whenever I start up a new game I try to plot it all out. What is going to happen? How is it going to play? After figuring that all out I make a chart of the different screens that the game will need and the objects it will need. March to the Moon was actually a solo project. We’ve been working on Siphon Spirit for some time and I was just waiting on art. Rather than do nothing, I decided to work on a solo game while I waited. I ended up doing all the art, music, and sound effects on top of my usual job of programming. Obviously, these weren’t as good as if I’d have a professional do those parts, but it was fun making it anyways.

Peter: Peter: He’s usually waiting on me, I am kind of a perfectionist. So he did that whole thing by himself.

Gavin: For those unfamiliar with the game, what is the story and gameplay about?

Curtis: March to the Moon is a shooting game with RPG elements. Rather than being a spaceship or plane shooting other machines, you play as an adventurer who can learn different skill sets. The fun part is being able to mix and match those skill sets to find hundreds of different ways to play. The story is that an alien race is trying to take over the earth and have created machines that make many of the enemies you fight.

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Gavin: What was it like developing the game, and what issues did you deal with along the way?

Curtis: I had a lot of fun making it. Most of the times when I stopped working to test something, I would usually keep playing for a while before catching myself and getting back to work! I think the biggest issue I ran into was the engine that I was using. It took me a while to learn how it worked, and sometimes it would have an error and there was nothing I could do until I got to the internet to get it fixed.

Gavin: What was it like releasing it to the public, and what did you think of the response you received?

Curtis: It was quite a rush! I didn’t get nearly as many sales as I had hoped for, but it at least covered costs. The interesting thing was the reviews that I received. All of them were very favorable and I got listed in the rankings for some of the reviewers favorite games. I’ve also had a few players email me and tell it was their favorite game on Xbox LIVE Indie Games. I’ve been half-tempted to remake it in Unity so I can put it on more platforms.

Peter: Those emails were me Curtis, I didn’t want you to feel bad.Just kidding, ha! Ow, no biting, it was a joke!

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Gavin: You currently have a demo up for Siphon Spirit. What made you go for an action game this time around?

Peter: I am leading up design on Siphon Spirit — I thought the action fit well with the story I had in mind, and the type of magic system I’d dreamed up for it. It’s fun, so I go with it.

Curtis: I’d just like to add that the demo is a year old and we’re working hard on getting an updated version out.

Gavin: What do you have left to do with the game and when can we expect to see it released?

Curtis: Our main issue right now is that we don’t have anyone to do the audio. We’re hoping to do some crowd funding after we get the new demo out so that we can afford to pay for it. Aside from that, we mainly need to finish the cutscenes and touch up the levels. Of course, there is still a good chunk of polishing that needs to happen as well.

Peter: I had written the story a certain way, and ultimately decided to rewrite it, so even though it’s a five-year project already, there is a lot of that that I’ve trashed. The new approach will take less time, but a lot is having to be re-done. Scheduling this project is very difficult, since we both work full time, but I am currently aiming for the middle of next year.

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Gavin: Without giving too much away, what other projects are you currently working on?

Peter: I took a little time out of Siphon Spirit last year to design a browser game called Spirits of Elduurn which is on Kongregate now. I tied the story into Siphon Spirit’s story and we’re using this as a tool to raise awareness of ourselves and of Siphon Spirit, in preparation for a Kickstarter. I really like the Elduurn world I’ve created so I am also making a co-op PvE physical card game based in the same universe.

Curtis: I’m working on porting Spirits of Elduurn to other platforms aside from the browser. We’re hoping to get it on android platforms as well as have downloadable versions for PC and Linux. I also have a game for learning Japanese that is currently back-burnered.

Gavin: Where do you hope to take the company over the next few years, and what kind of impact are you hoping to have on the Utah development community?

Peter: My goal has always been to build a name for ourselves and eventually make this our full-time job. That could mean we’re hiring employees a few years down the road. There are a good number of studios here, but it’s also common to see them shut down from time to time. More successful ones need to rise to provide more local game dev jobs.

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Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and Califer Games headed into next year?

Curtis: Our main focus is to get Siphon Spirit released, but we will most likely also be getting Spirits of Elduurn released on more devices.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Curtis: I’d like to plug the Utah Games Guild blog. It’s a concentrated source of indie game developers located in Utah.

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