Developer Interview: Mi Clos & Sigma Theory

By Michael Coffer 28 Sep 2017 0

Mi Clos is another studio we have a lot of time for. The great Owen Faraday himself gave their debut title Out There a glowing review. One of the their upcoming projects that we’re keeping an eye on is Sigma Theory, which is meant to offer a new spin on the Spy genre. The game was playable at Gamescom, but since we weren’t there we sent intrepid Pocket Tactics writer Michael Coffer to try and find out more…

Pocket Tactics: For those of us who haven't had a chance to demo the game SigmaTheory at Gamescom, what's the quick summary of who we are and what we're doing in this game?

Michael Peiffert: In this game, you are at the head of an intelligence agency of your country, and they have created this division because of a disruptive discovery in science. All the major powers want to race towards these new technological horizons. It's like a global futuristic Cold War and you aim to spy on the other countries and steal their secrets. You have four special agents that you recruit and send all over the world, assigning them secret missions. They locate important scientists on these missions and try to convince them by seduction, persuasion or force to come work for you. There are very few of these significant scientists, about twenty.

Pocket Tactics: Is victory determined by the first to get a certain number of scientists? Or are there a finite number of turns, with the most at the conclusion winning?

Michael Peiffert: It shouldn't be viewed as a simple winner-take-all strategy game. Many of the odds and mechanics which determine outcomes are not obvious to the player, just as in our other game Out There, so the game is also about developing relationships with the other organizations. How you proceed, who becomes your allies or enemies, the choices selected on missions combine to make an emergent narrative which will lead to different endings or different losing conditions.

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Pocket Tactics: So it's like Out There in that there's a branching story and you're moving through that story, and you arrive at different points depending on the choices you make?

Michael Peiffert: Yeah and the narrative is tied to which technology you pick from the tech tree.

Pocket Tactics: Oh so there's a tech tree? I must have missed that in my research...

Michael Peiffert: There's a tech tree with five branches, covering stuff like robotics and neuroscience to finance. Each branch has five items to discover, and each of those represents a major discovery in the field. For example, you can discover immortality and then decide to keep it for your country exclusively, or sell it to a private lobbyist, or open source the protocol. Each would have different outcomes, sometimes vastly different. If you decide to sell it to a third party, maybe they will keep it for the elites. Actually, the tech tree is like the branching story of the game. When you have discovered enough breakthroughs, you can unlock the Sigma Theory. The 'S' in Sigma stands for singularity. Depending on which tech you uncover and what you do with it, the ending of the game will change.

Pocket Tactics: That's a very ambitious way to attempt a branching storyline. These other nations, how does the competition work?

Michael Peirffert: It's a single-player game. We've developed different AI for the other countries. There are 10 in the game, with different behaviours and personalities. Some will be aggressive, some will try to find allies. Everyone is fighting over the scientists. Along the way, nations might drop out of the game by losing all their agents or failing to secure any scientists. Some technology unlocks can harm specific countries. Countries can fall to coups d’état or in war waged against each other.

Pocket Tactics: Lots of ways to drop out of the race, then. Would you say that this is a cyberpunk game in some way, and if so, how?

Michael Peiffert: Not really. Actually, we wanted to put the player in a position of power and accountability and see how they handle things. Also, push the direction of the decision making. For example, you might be approached by a lobbyist who offers a bonus if you do what they want. The goal of this is to make a game where ultimately so that there are no absolutely good or bad decisions from a gameplay standpoint.

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Pocket Tactics: It sounds more like futurism than cyberpunk, or even ‘near-futurism’. What inspirations have influenced your tech tree?

Michael Peiffert: For the technologies, we've taken inspiration from what exists and tried to project that into how it might evolve in the future. Artificial intelligence, military technology, all sorts of crazy stuff which might appear in the next ten years. SpaceX preparing to go to Mars, wealthy moguls funding longevity research...

Pocket Tactics: This game seems like it has a strong narrative focus but you're also making tactical calls with each mission. How is all that supposed to play out?

Michael Peiffert: When you assign an agent to a country, there are several ways to proceed. First the agent has to spot the scientist and then profile the scientist's traits and preferences. After learning this, you can select the best agent and one of several ways to recruit them. You can seduce him, convert him ideologically, attempt bribery or most dangerously attempt to take them by force. If you convince the scientist, the mission ends either with successfully exfiltrating with them in tow, or instead staying put and acting on your behalf as a double agent. Or if you bribed him, you need to send money occasionally, or spend quality time if you seduced the scientist. It is more like action but is also a bit like interactive fiction. Everything boils down to choices and consequences.

When you recruit the agents, it is from a pool of fifty. They have different backgrounds and characteristics; some might refuse to kill on command. It's a very diverse cast and each will have unique behaviors that will spice up the decisions.

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Pocket Tactics: What does the rest of the development roadmap look like?

Michael Peiffert: We have implemented almost all of the main features. Currently we are working on the AI and polishing the narrative elements. We plan to have it available to the public early next year. Maybe with a beta or Early Access, we'll see. We really want to do something like Early Access because there are a lot of reactions to the gameplay or narrative and we want to see those. We're doing our best to make it available in this form.

Many thanks to Michael Peiffert of Mi Clos Studio for speaking to us at great length about their game. Sigma Theory is coming to iOS, Android and PC sometime in 2018.

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