You are zipping through the cosmos in the Syzygy, a hyper-advanced starship boasting an array of weapons, all manned by seasoned specialists. You jet past asteroids and stardust with relative ease, engaging in friendly banter with your crew, until suddenly you’re ambushed by a fleet of enemy fighters. What was once an empty starscape is suddenly filled with cascading laser beams of every color of the rainbow. Only your commanding expertise and lightning-fast reflexes can save you from a gruesome death in the vast vacuum that surrounds you.
Thus begins “Syz E.G.,” the first installment in a series of space shooters produced by Team Krinoid, an independent game development studio founded by three UC Santa Cruz alumni. In addition to a fully voiced cast of characters and an invariably slick soundtrack, “Syz E.G.” boasts a number of other distinctions that set it apart from your typical iPad game, like an innovative multi-touch targeting system and a compelling story.
“Most iPad games are ‘sit here’ or ‘touch that,’” said John Peters, CEO of Team Krinoid. “But I feel that the platform has much more potential than that.”
Work on “Syz E.G.” began in the summer of 2010. It was then that Peters moved in with fellow students (and avid gamers) Peter Hunter and Max Weinberg. The trio soon discovered they shared an interest in gaming, and between them they had the skills necessary to begin developing a game of their own. By the time the school year started, the team already had a solid foundation upon which to build. In the interest of time management, Peters made the game his senior project, allowing the team to recruit seven other programming students and expedite the process.
“A team of that size helped balance things,” Hunter said. “We had one team member working on Lynn’s shields for three months.”
By the end of the school year, the group had produced a polished, innovative and wildly entertaining mobile game, one that ultimately won them the grand prize at the UCSC 2011 Sammy Awards, a prize awarded for the best games created by students in the program. Since graduating, Peters, Hunter and Weinberg have spent their time establishing Team Krinoid as a legitimate game development studio, allowing them to market the game and pay their fellow programmers royalties. After jumping through all the legal hoops necessary to form a company, “Syz E.G.” was released on the iTunes app store at the end of September, and has since yielded a steady stream of sales.
Team Krinoid has already begun work on their next venture, a side-scrolling platformer called “Bunny Run,” which they plan to release on every mobile gaming device they can. They are simultaneously working to make “Syz E.G.” compatible with Blackberry’s Playbook.
“Mobile gaming is becoming a much more influential part of the gaming industry,” Weinberg said. “We want to make the games that we want to play. If there’s a game we want to play that doesn’t exist yet, we’ll make it.”