MMO Fallout Talks: Storybricks Interview

Looking at my calendar, there are approximately 17 days to go until the Storybricks Kickstarter runs out of time. As of today, 347 backers have contributed $21,522 to the fund, which means there is a long way to go before the $250,000 goal can be reached. Here at MMO Fallout, we are supporters of the indie-MMO development scene, so when the opportunity arose to interview the team behind Storybricks, I jumped at it.

First, a little about Storybricks itself. Storybricks is a toolset where players are able to create their own worlds, populating them with NPCs that are programmed to react not just to the player, but to each other. The alpha build, which is still available here, is a small yet very impressive proof of concept. I recommend you check it out if you have an hour or so.

So how did Storybricks come to light? As is the case with many off-the-beaten-path titles, Storybricks has its origins in a group of MMO and MUD players with a dream of one day creating their own world, dissatisfied with the products being offered by other developers. So a team of eight full-time and three part-time developers began work on Storybricks around a year ago, culminating in the recently released alpha-module with the full release next year.

The initial pitch for Storybricks, before most of the team even joined, was to put advanced AI into our own MMO to create more believable NPCs. We kept a lot of that concept but we focused on the Storbricks tool to let people tell their stories within an MMO we develop instead of just having designers make more advanced NPCs.

While the current alpha build only showcases a fantasy theme, the toolset is flexible enough that Storybricks will be able to encompass many more settings. Without going too specific, the themes of dystopian science fiction and Three Musketeers were mentioned briefly.

In the long term, Storybricks is all about customization, allowing people to create their own worlds and characters to match the stories they wish to tell.

For NPCs, we would like a creation system like the character creation system found in many RPGs. We’d like people to be able to customize the characters to a high degree to match the story they want to tell. We have also designed a system for letting people edit a location. Instead of a set location, people can edit the tiles of a location to swap in and out features. Our goal is to allow a lot of customization without making players feel they have to do busywork like placing individual trees.

So Storybricks is on Kickstarter for a very real reason: Funding. So I had to ask, why are investors so hesitant to fund the title?

Considering women in Shakespeare plays were played by men, this is stunningly accurate.

I think the big hesitation from investors and from the audience has been trying to figure out exactly what Storybricks is. People who have played a lot of tabletop RPGs or who have played MMOs for a long time “get” Storybricks more than others do. It’s so different that when people try to compare it to existing games, the comparisons don’t quite work. It’s not a toolset like Neverwinter Nights, it’s not a traditional MMO like World of Warcraft, it’s not a construction setting like Second Life. So we’ve had a hard time coming up with a good way to describe it to people to let them know why Storybricks is so awesome and why we feel it’s the future of MMOs.

Expect more on Storybricks as it develops. I want to thank Brian Green and Kelly Heckman for taking the time to answer my questions.

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