Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Where are they now? - Brian Moriarty

Brian Moriarty. Designer of many Infocom titles and Lucasfilm's "Loom"

For this week's "Where are they now?" we cross over to the designer of one of my favourite Lucasarts adventure games of all time: Loom. I've talked quite a bit about Loom in my review and while fans might baulk at the fact I only gave the game a rating of 7/10, you have to realise that I rate games, even 25 year old games like Loom, as if it were released today. So considering the game's age, that's actually a pretty damn good score. The designer I'm of course talking about is Brian Moriarty who is incidentally also mentioned by a pirate in The Secret of Monkey Island when you ask him about Loom. So how did Moriarty get into the games industry and what is he up to nowadays?

Moriarty was born in 1956 and built his first computer towards the end of primary school. Consequently, he already had a fascination with computers at a young age. However, he wouldn't study anything programming-related at university and in 1978 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English at the South Massachusetts University. Moriarty got a job that same year selling TRS-80 computers at Radio Shack in Worcester, Massachusetts.

At some point, Moriarty spent several years as a Technical Writer for the Bose Corporation but I suppose he got sick of writing manuals and wanted to tap into the creative part of his mind. Consequently he became a Technical Editor for ANALOG Computing magazine in the early 1980s (apparently the first and largest magazine dedicated to the Atari home computer system). His first published games would appear on the magazine and were Adventure in the 5th Dimension (released in 1983) and Crash Dive! (released in 1984). Both games were examples of interactive fiction which is important to note since Moriarty would join arguably the most famous interactive fiction developer in 1984, a little company known as Infocom.

Moriarty developed a further three interactive fiction titles while at Infocom: 1985's Wishbringer, 1986's Trinity, and 1987's Beyond Zork. He also contributed to a comedy interactive fiction game called Bureaucracy which was released in 1987 (which late sci-fi author Douglas Adams wrote).

At some point in the late 1980s, Moriarty joined forces with Lucasfilm games and developed his first graphical adventure game called Loom which was released in 1990. Despite the game's short length and relatively easy puzzles, the game was a huge success. Moriarty mentions that he intentionally made the game easy to complete since he found that during his time at Infocom most gamers never finished their games. Loom was also the first Lucasarts adventure game where you could not die - a philosophy they would adopt for the rest of their adventure games that they developed during the 1990s. Besides Loom, Moriarty also collaborated with Ron Cobb on 1994's Loadstar and worked on an early version of what would become Steven Spielberg's 1995 graphical adventure The Dig.

After Lucasarts, Moriarty worked on several other games and gaming-related software before he returned to Worcester, Massachusetts where he was appointed as Professor of Practice in Game Design in the Interactive Media and Game Development Program at Worcester Polytech. Moriarty continues to teach there to this day but when he's not teaching he's usually giving talks at events like the Game Developers Conference (GDC) or publishing articles in newspapers, like he did with the Guardian in 2013.

It's a bit of a coincidence that I decided to talk about Brian Moriarty this year because it just so happens (as you may have noticed earlier in the post) that 2015 marks the 25th anniversary for the game Loom. Moriarty actually talked about the game only a few days ago during this year's GDC and one of the most exciting bit of news to come from his talk is that he's interested in making sequels. Loom was originally meant to be a trilogy with two more games following the Guild of Blacksmiths (Forge) and the Guild of Shepherds (The Fold) so it's definitely not a new idea - far from it. It's just only now that Moriarty feels passionate enough to suggest the idea - and only now, with the recent revival in adventure games, that he would entrust their development to one of three developers. As he mentioned during the conference:

... there are now three studios whom I would trust with the sequels. Telltale, Double Fine, and Wadjet Eye. Talk to me. I’m on the make.

So if the folks at Telltale, Tim Schafer or Dave Gilbert are reading this, contact Brian Moriarty already! I want to play those sequels! :D

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Brian Moriarty ]
[ Brian Moriarty's Bio at Worcester Polytechnic ]
[ PC Gamer: Loom postmortem... (Mar 7 2015) ]

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