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Interview with Brian Moriarty

Innovation, design and screenplay of an adventure game: Brian Moriarty's views on these topics and some more, in a masterclass worth reading.

# By Paco García |

Interview with Brian Moriarty

Instead of trying to explain what happened, let me tell you a true story: Soon after Steven Spielberg announced his desire to make an adventure game with Lucasfilm, the manager of the games division, Steve Arnold, called a meeting to discuss the proposal. The very first The Dig meeting was scheduled for 5 pm on Tuesday, October 17, 1989 in the executive board room at Skywalker Ranch. The entire Lucasfilm Games creative team was there, including Ron Gilbert, Noah Falstein, David Fox, Doug Crockford and myself.

A few moments after the meeting began, the room began to tremble, and then to shake violently. Steve Arnold raced out of the building; the rest of us ducked under the conference table as a $30,000 Tiffany lamp swayed over our heads. George Lucas's secretary could be heard screaming upstairs. We had just experienced the San Francisco Earthquake of 1989.

Alas! If only we had heeded the warning of the gods!

AyC: Fantasy in mythology, fantasy in Space, atomic fantasy. Is there a place in Brian Moriarty's mind for a realistic store? Like, for example, an adventure game based on a true story. Would it be difficult for you, now that you've proved yourself so long in fantasy?

BM:Well, that Young Indiana Jones adventure I mentioned earlier was entirely based on historical fact (aside from the character of Indy, of course). Andalthough Trinity is a fantasy, the background details are completely authentic. I do enjoy mixing fantasy and reality, but I wouldn't rule out a realistic adventure altogether someday, if the opportunity presented itself.

AyC: After leaving LucasArts, you worked at Rocket Science, founded your own communication company, and got back in the game world with Skotos, a company devoted to making text-based online games. Episode-based adventure games have acquired quite popularity among some companies who think they've found a good market opportunity in this distribution method. Do you think that the Internet is the future of the adventure game genre?

BM:The episode-based games like Bone are an intriguing experiment. A lot of us designers are watching Telltale Games and similar ventures with their fingers crossed, hoping they can make a viable business out of it.

If nothing else, the Internet should make the marketing of adventure games a lot cheaper than it used to be. Fans of the genre can find out about new games far more quickly and efficiently. And the evolution of inexpensive and fairly powerful development platforms like Flash may help more designers break into the field. I'm hoping to see a major revival of adventure games soon. It's in the air, somehow.

AyC:You left Skotos quite a while ago now. What are your next projects?

BM: I've done some freelance design work in the past year or two, although most of my attention has been on education. But who knows? Maybe I'll attempt another adventure game someday, if my five-year-old son will stop enticing me to play with him.

AyC:. And finally, our classical question to all the 'celebrities' we interview: what would you say to all those fans who wish to become a Brian Moriarty in the future?

BM:Believe it or not, most of humanity's greatest ideas and stories are NOT available on DVD. It is very, very important that you turn off the game console and TV set every now and then and READ SOME BOOKS. Start with the great Homeric epics, learn about Beowulf and Gilgamesh, and study at least the greatest of Shakespeare's plays. Don't rely on Star Wars or The Matrix for your cultural education -- go to the original sources on which they're based.

Learn about subjects other than programming, such as science, mathematics, linguistics and history. Explore many kinds of music, dance, theater and other fine arts.

Find out why the Beatles are the greatest band ever. Don't waste too much time blogging, messaging or playing MMORPGs. Every hour you spend on your cultural education will pay real dividends when it comes time to create new stories and games.

Another important piece of advice: Design documents are your friends. You should not hire a single artist or musician, or invest ONE DIME on production until you have a written specification for your game that is so utterly comprehensive, so thoroughly detailed, the game could be successfully completed by total strangers if you dropped dead tomorrow.

Some designers are afraid that they will "lose control" somehow by committing themselves too much in advance. Nothing could be further from the truth. A complete design document is liberating! It is a contract between you, your production team and the money people, stating the MINIMUM amount of work it will take to make a fun, shippable product. It gives your investors confidence that you know what you're doing, and provides producers with the information they need to make schedules and allocate resources wisely. This leaves you the latitude YOU need to notice new opportunities, refine your ideas and IMPROVISE during development. Improvisation and experimentation are the really fun parts of making art. But you can't improvise freely if you're fixing basic design problems and deciding major story issues in the middle of production!

Always, always do the heavy lifting up front. I learned this the hard way.

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