Brian Moriarty, professor of practice in the Interactive Media and Game Development Program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and the author of influential Infocom games like Trinity and Beyond Zork, will deliver a Classic Game Postmortem on his 1990 graphic adventure game Loom at the 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC), which is being held March 2-6 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Released through Lucasfilm Games (later LucasArts), the acclaimed Loom was a graphical adventure game that sold more than 500,000 copies and won numerous honors, including the MacWorld Game Hall of Fame Award in 1991.
Loom’s story takes place in the Age of the Great Guilds, where blacksmiths, shepherds, and clerics are each dedicated to the control of secret knowledge. Another guild—the weavers—finds itself in crisis, with only one weaver boy to reveal the source of the power that has swept the other weavers into oblivion. The player must help the boy, Bobbin, rescue his guild and save the universe from catastrophe.
In his talk on Friday, March 6, at 10 a.m., Moriarty will speak at length about the development of the game, which was recognized as a remarkably mature fantasy with an innovative musical interface and a flexible, beginner-friendly design. Loom was the first game to embody what would become the LucasArts philosophy: that players should never have to deal with dead ends, accidental deaths, or forced restarts.
His lecture will survey the entire history of the project, from conception to shipping, together with amusing production anecdotes, little-known facts, and rare artifacts from his personal collection of Lucasfilm memorabilia.
According to Moriarty, Loom was a forerunner to a popular class of current games. "Loom was rather controversial when it was released, as it was designed for beginners rather than hardcore adventure players. But as the market has expanded into the mainstream, the need for such designs has become apparent. Loom is now recognized as a precursor to what are now called casual games," he explained.
Starting as an informal gathering of about 25 developers in the living room of a notable game designer 27 years ago, the GDC has grown into a week-long conference for more than 23,000 industry insiders. It is the primary forum where programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision makers and others involved in the development of interactive games gather to exchange ideas, and shape the future of the industry.
"It's always a challenge to speak at GDC," Moriarty said, adding, "My peers are in the audience, and the presentation standards are unusually high. Still, there's no better place to meet people, see the latest trends, and take the pulse of the industry."
Moriarty has worked in game development and multimedia for more than 30 years, most recently as creative director at Foundation 9/ImaginEngine in Framingham, Mass., the largest independent game developer in North America. At ImaginEngine, he produced and/or designed several children's software titles, including three Parents' Choice award winners. Earlier, he co-founded and served as creative director at Mpath/HearMe, the Internet's first voice chat community, which had more than 10 million users at its peak.
Previously, he was senior game designer at Infocom in Cambridge, Mass., an early pioneer in interactive fiction games. He wrote three of Infocom's original prose games: Beyond Zork, Wishbringer (which received a Critics' Choice Award from Family Computing), and Trinity (voted the Best Adventure/Fantasy of 1986 by Computer Entertainer).
He has given lectures on the design and philosophy of computer games around the world. He is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and the International Game Developers Association.
He made the transition from the game industry to academia after conducting a master class for WPI's Interactive Media and Gaming Development program in 2008. In 2009, he joined the WPI faculty full time.
"I was excited for the opportunity to share my practical experience with students. Since then, I have developed multiple new courses about game design and one about the history of entertainment technology," Moriarty said.
About Interactive Media & Game Development at WPI
WPI inaugurated its IMGD major (imgd.wpi.edu) in 2005. The four-year undergraduate program blends the artistic and technical aspects of game creation. Administered by WPI’s Computer Science and Humanities and Arts departments, the program provides students a base education in the artistic (art, music, and story), and technical (programming) aspects of interactive media, and then requires that they select an artistic or technical concentration as the focus for the remainder of their program. There is particular emphasis on programmers and artists working closely together, providing invaluable experience for their post-graduate years. Students are also required to study social and philosophical issues associated with games and related media.