I’m thinking of finishing the version of Siboot that I was creating with Chris Crawford’s Storytron technology back in 2009-2010. Part of me thinks it’s a crazy idea and part of me thinks it’s a totally cool thing to do.
I’ve always been interested in Crawford’s work and his iconoclastic approach to game design and development. I’ve owned and played all of his Mac games and read all of his books. The verb-centric, process-intensive, parser-based approach to interactive storytelling that he’s championed has always appealed to me and seemed like a viable approach that no one else was considering. I admired his bravery and willingness to tilt at windmills.
After Crawford abandoned Storytron in 2011 I wanted to keep working on my storyworld but without a server to handle the backend dramatic calculations it was not possible to continue. I mothballed my development efforts and, though disappointed, kept an eye on Crawford’s website to see where he would go next. I figured that I wouldn’t be able to continue pursuing my interest in this approach to interactive storytelling until Crawford released a set of tools that he deemed acceptable. The only alternatives were to write my own code from scratch or repurpose a tool like Inform to the task, something I briefly considered.
In 2013 I ported some Java code Crawford wrote to iOS and released it as Teen Talk, a simple experiment in high school gossip. In 2014 I joined the Siboot 2.0 team to help out in any way I could even though there weren’t any programming or storyworld design tasks to do. I did write the first draft of the Encounter Creation Guide with Chris Conley but eventually I decided to leave the team because I came to the conclusion that even though I wanted to work with Crawford’s ideas, I really didn’t want to work with him directly.
Perhaps my frustration at watching Crawford flounder around over the next two years to try and deliver his updated version of Siboot put the idea in my head to complete my 2010 storyworld.
If I do try and finish my version of Siboot there’s no guarantee that I’ll succeed. I’ll be using six year old software that’s buggy and has no support. Even if I could decipher the source code to fix bugs, none of the versions I’ve got will load or run my 2010 storyworld. It’s been years since I wrapped my head around Storytronics and I’ve got several other side projects that I need to complete before I could focus on my Siboot 100%.
It’s not all doom and gloom, there is an upside. I have a verb web that I think is every bit as good as the one Crawford’s come up with. I’m not conflicted with this having to be my magnum opus, I just want to learn what I can and apply it to future efforts. I think I’m one of two people aside from Crawford who dug deep enough into the technology to not only realize how complicated it is but also managed to figure out how to get things done. There’s excellent documentation available on the Storytron wiki (which I wrote). And I know back in 2011 I would have been able to deliver something if Crawford hadn’t thrown in the towel.