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Brian Moriarty on Text RPGs and Skotos Tech
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Brian Moriarty on Text RPGs and Skotos Tech


April 9, 2001 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2
 

I notice on Castle Marrach that you have an automatically-updated map. This addresses one of the great weaknesses of text adventures, the need to make a map as you go. Is this going to be a standard feature of all Skotos games?

Probably. But auto-mapping is hardly new. I implemented a fairly sophisticated onscreen map for Infocom's Beyond Zork back in 1987. And not all adventurers find mapmaking arduous - many actually enjoy it a lot, and produce maps considerably more handsome than the ones we use to create the game!

Incidentally, the Skotos system also allows arbitrarily-sized graphics to appear when performing relevant actions, like looking at an important scroll or painting; try examining the portraits in Marrach's art gallery, for example. Some games will use this capability more than others.

According to your website, XML underlies your scripting language, but you're planning to develop a StoryBuilder Toolkit with a GUI which will help designers to build worlds without coding. This sounds like a good thing, given that the definition of one sword in XML is 279 lines of code. What can you tell me about the StoryBuilder Toolkit?

It's an object-oriented development environment that lets you define almost anything in a game by filling in a Web form. Common stuff can indeed be created with absolutely no coding; nevertheless, I've found that it's the uncommon stuff that makes a game interesting. For this, there's a mini-language called BILBO (Built-In Language for Building Objects) that lets you easily produce all kinds of custom effects and behaviors. Hardcore types who aren't afraid of angle brackets can manipulate deeper layers of the system by composing directly in XML.

Do you have to be logged in to use the Toolkit, or can you develop offline?

The ideal environment for development is online, using the StoryBuilder Toolkit directly. This way, you can use the interface that lies on top of the XML code, and just fill in text fields, check off boxes, and choose from menus in order to create objects in your game environment.

But if you want you can instead write the XML code offline, using your favorite text editor. Then, you can just upload it directly to the developer toolkit. If you download a fairly standard template, you can just write in the XML elements almost as easily as you'd enter the information into text fields in the developer interface. We expect XML editors to be released in the next few years which will make all this much easier.

What brought you, personally, to Skotos Tech?

The chance to get paid for building prose games. Never thought I'd see the like again!

Are you working on a game yourself? Can we expect to see the next opus from Professor Moriarty any time soon?

My role at Skotos is supposed to be managerial, but I'll probably have a hand in most of our titles to some extent. And nothing will keep me out of the games as a player, typically in the role of chief pest and mischief-maker.

I've also done quite a bit of experimenting with single-player interactive fiction lately, but nothing I'm inclined to release.

Thanks for your time, Brian.

I'm indebted to Tess Snider, a longtime MUSHer herself, for her generous help in preparing this article.

 


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

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