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Interactive Storytelling

Seeing the Light

DDJ: When did you decide that this was your path?

CC: Around 1992 I decided nobody else is going to do it, I've got to. I was naive; I thought it would happen soon. I got lucky, I got funding to make it possible for anyone to build interactive storytelling...a huge task. [But] I set out to build it. Unfortunately, we couldn't generate much interest. The general attitude was summed up by one guy who said, "Chris, I hope you get funding. This sounds really neat and I'd like to play it. But I can't justify the expense to my superiors. It's just too risky." So that fell apart. I went into a sort of hibernation. I continued to work on the technology, improving it. But I spent time working with NASA on research. I flew some airborne missions. I wrote some books. I taught some courses. And then about two years ago, pieces started coming together. Technical pieces. The last big break was when I saw a business model that would work.

DDJ: You had an epiphany?

CC: I saw the way. For the past year I've been assembling those pieces, building the technology. And we're going to make it happen.

DDJ: Who's "we"?

CC: Two years ago it was just me. My friend Dave Walker, [who] helped me learn Java, slowly got sucked in. We have five principals. We incorporated on January first of this year. Tier one are the principals, the second tier are volunteers; we share some secrets with them and they get first crack at everything. The third tier are the people who populate the [online forum].

DDJ: And the technology is all written in Java, which you only learned recently?

CC: And I had to learn XML and later we moved to Eclipse, which is a wonderful development environment, but I had to learn that. A lot of getting up to speed on technologies. Some of the core stuff was trivial. The core technology is the storytelling engine and I just took my C++ code and quick-translated it into Java. There was maybe a month's work revising it for the completely different data structures.

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