Mr. Thomas Biskup, founder of Quinscape and outstanding developer from the middle ages of roguelike development (the nineties), the creator of ADoM and the dreamer behind JADE, is a tough one to catch… Santiago Zapata, for Temple of The Roguelike.
Santiago Zapata: Good Day Mr. Biskup, and thank you for accepting this interview for Temple of The Roguelike!
Thomas Biskup: Thanks for the interview. Actually I have to thank you for your persistence – it seems that we started planning the interview years ago and I never got quite around to do anything for it.
SZ: How goes your PhD? when will we be able to claim you back into the roguelike world? 🙂
TB: I finished my Ph.D. thesis last thursday. It’s now in the hands of the committee and my mentors and at the start of September I should receive an initial feedback. If all goes well I should be able to defend my thesis at the end of September of in October and shortly afterwards hopefully will be able to claim the title and finish that arduous quest. So in summary: Things seem to be going well 🙂
SZ: And Quinscape?
TB: We are doing well. So far the financial crisis luckily had no effects and we keep growing. Currently we have about 50 employees and are embarking on some exciting new ventures. Our long-running focus on the Java Spring framework is an important part in those endeavours and I’m heavily involved as conference speaker, among other things, for those topics. In the meantime I also co-authored two German books about the Spring framework BTW.
SZ: You have been lurking on the scene for a time now… what are your thoughts currently about Adom and JADE? Is there a future for them?
TB: I would say: Yes! Definitely! I’m itching to pick up JADE (I’m getting married, but I will restart in September on JADE) and Jochen and I are toying around with iADOM for the iPhone. There has been some external interest in business perspectives related to iADOM and we will have to see what all this will bring. Stay tuned!
SZ: How do you remember the first days of ADoM development, and how have things changed?
TB: Things were innocent and experimental. I was learning C at that time, the Internet barely existed, Usenet was the communication channel of the day and I never dreamed of all the things that would happen since then.
Nowadays everything is happening at a much faster pace and on a more global level and computer RPGs really have picked off with MMORPGs.
SZ: How would you describe Ancardia, and what were the sources of inspiration for it?
TB: Tough question. Ancardia is an ancient world that has seen many ages and suffered through a number of critical points in history. It’s a very magica world, ancient yet still vibrant with many powerful factions vying for power and control behind the scenes. It’s a complex world of many layers where legends are reality. There is no particular source of inspiration – Ancardia is an amalgam of many books I have read, fantasy worlds I have designed for PnP RPGs and many many ideas collected from communication with many loyal ADOM fans who were a major factor in making Ancardia something very special.
SZ: Tell us more about JADE, what would you say its key features are?
TB: Flexibility and randomness. JADE is a lot more random in its setup – the whole world is randomly generated so that each and every adventure should be a completely new experience. And there is a lot more flexibility. And the code base is much cleaner 😉
SZ: Have you won ADOM (lawfully?)?
TB: No, never. I never had the time for that 😉 Basically I rise pretty easily to levels 15-18 and then I need to concentrate. Usually I die because I’m an impatient player 😉
SZ: What inspired you into making JADE?
TB: ADOM 🙂
SZ: Do you still get postcards for Adom? Can we have an approximate count?
TB: Yes. I still receive between 1 and 6 postcards per month. This might not seem much but considering that I received many hundreds so far and people after more than 10 years of almost silence still seem to love the game it warms my heart. And it’s very interesting to see what parts of the world are reached by ADOM at what point in time. Right now there seems to be quite a bit of activity all over Asia.
SZ: The source code of Adom is considered by some as the forbidden holy grail of roguelike development, what tools do you use to keep it safe? Aren’t you afraid of losing it or knowing not where is the latest version?
TB: Jochen has an SVN repository and I have backups of the old RCS sources. Right now we are experimenting with getting the RCS sources converted to SVN. And yes, I’m a little afraid but since we keep distributed backups chances of a loss are extremely slim.
SZ: About source code, your opinion has switched many times between releasing it on 1.0 / not releasing it ever (We all know about the evangelists saying you HAD to release the source code, thus making you change your mind). Are you still planning to release the source code? There are some busy-with-life developers (http://slashie.net, for example) thinking on turning their projects open source, and hoping for a better future for them.
TB: No, I’m still not sure. For now I want to see how iADOM works out. This is a very exciting new perspective. Then we’ll have to see again 😉
SZ: Are you aware of the modern roguelike scene? have you played any of the newly developed roguelikes recently?
TB: No. I didn’t play other games much in the ancient past and today I have even less time for that. So I currently don’t know anything about the current roguelike scene. But I’ll try to catch up. Can you recommend any interesting blogs?
SZ: Do you think roguelike games have a future, both as a niche and mainstream phenomena? What would you say must be the features of a modern roguelike?
TB: Yes, I believe they always will have a niche future because their random simplicity IMHO still is unreached in other games. And there are enough players out there (luckily) who seem to resist the urge of MMORPG clan and tribe compulsions (like e.g. me). So roguelike games IMHO will keep an interested clientele. As for features – I currently feel unable to comment on that. I always believed that a compelling story and background (simple yet fascinating) is one of the most importanf features.
SZ: Regarding platforms and languages, you switched from C to Java when you starting developing JADE, how different has development being and what tools would you recommend.
TB: Development is much easier. IMHO you just need a good IDE and nice libraries. Java has both, C/Emacs were okay, but Eclipse/Java nowadays is at least 10 times as productive as C was in the heyday ADOM days.
SZ: What is your opinion about MMORPGs and Persistant Browser Based Games?
TB: Great if you want to be part of a club. Otherwise… oh well. Not my preferred passtime because I find the overall structure of most games much too boring. But the social aspect definitely is very intriguing.
SZ: Did you play Fallout’s latest version? how would you compare it with the first one (Wasteland)?
TB: I’ve never played Fallout (any version) so I can’t comment.
SZ: What about PnP RPGs? Did you continue working on Adom the RPG? How will further developments on it affect the development of your roguelike projects?
TB: Yes, I work on ADOM RPG. Some months ago I posted some page dummies and that is a very fascinating piece of work I wll continue. Norelease dates yet but it will be published with Lulu.
SZ: Is this yours? http://www.managementrulez.com/theworld/index.php
TB: Yes 🙂 It fascinated me for a couple of weeks but then Real Life intruded.
Links of Interest