Thomas Biskup: Finally time to catch up… ;)
Santiago Zapata: This is a bit off topic, but can you tell us what kind of projects is Quinscape currently dedicated to?
Thomas Biskup: Yes, now is the right point :-) QuinScape itself is involved mostly in building web based applications and portals for business applications (transaction portals, CRM solutions, etc.). We also have a very neat product on the market which basically revolutionizes the way catalogs are build… by completely automating the process. If you want to design a catalog for e.g. automotive parts or some kind of store you can describe the CI rules to our system and it then covers the layout part – and it’s better than a human if the design rules are well formulated.
Our software even won a design price for a catalog in a design competition. More about that here
Personally I lead the Enterprise Solutions business unit of QuinScape which basically means: We build complex Java enterprise applications. The past 2.5 years I spent a lot of time with our OpenSAGA project which just went public (http://www.opensaga.de, no english pages yet but they will follow in a couple of weeks) which is going to be an open source project covering some very important German standards for e-government applications.
Basically it’s a semantically high-level model-driven and generative platform for creating complex Java web applications very efficiently. I’m the project lead and the design philosophy behind the platform is very different compared to anything I have seen so far – and it has some major compelling advantages to it. As well as some peculiar points people usually do not like because we are very pragmatic… e.g. all models are specified in XML, we require precide modeling and we use a kind of intentional programming approach. Very different but as far as I am concerned the true next step in application development… at least philosophy-wise even if you might disagree with the specific implementation.
SZ: What are your thoughts on the commercial video game industry? where is it heading to?
TB: Online gaming seems to be getting stronger and stronger. I never caught up with the trend and find the thought of spending hours and days and weeks with games like WoW… frightening. I never would want to waste my time like that. But I’m probably old fashioned because I definitely would love to waste my life playing face to face roleplaying games for hours and days and weeks ;-) Whatever suits you best ;-)
I guess online gaming will become stronger and stronger. And probably also a lot more interesting for folks like me when technology gets more and more immersive.
Personally I’m quite fascinated by gaming via mobile devices like the iPhone although I envision quite different kinds of games: a mixture between online gaming and solo playing. Jochen and I have some very interesting ideas for an iPhone SF game lying around but I’d be surprised if we get around to tackle that any time soon ;-) Even though I believe it would revolutionize gaming and maybe even create a new genre. Oh well…
Additionally I believe that we will a trend back towards smaller and simpler games you can play for a couple of minutes on your mobile device. Also not surprising I guess but a good trend as far as I am concerned as smaller games usually require more compelling design ideas to remain captivating for more than one or two games.
SZ: What advantages and disadvantages do you see on developing for the iPhone platform? What will happen when iPhones are out of fashion?
TB: First of all: Despite wanting to love it I currently despise Objective C on the iPhone. It’s so strangely antiquated in some ways and feels so much like a step back from modern programming compared to Java even though it has some need features that I fail to enjoy it. That’s one problem I have with the iPhone. I love the device itself and no longer would want to live without my iPhone.
As for developing… for the kind of games I usually love (ADOM) it’s very hard to do something good with it. The input barrier is pretty high, the screen too small and I yet have to find a good solution for saving the game state when your program gets interrupted in a complex operation (e.g. while waiting for input in the depths of a PC-monster-interaction). These things currently prevent us from continuing effectively with iADOM. But we are working on that ;-)
SZ: What about other mobile platforms, have you seen DWELLER?
TB: No, never heard about it. As far as I am concerned Google/Android and Apple/iPhone will divide the market with MS being a distant third in a couple of years.
I’d like to use this platform for a prediction: I hereby predict that Google will be giving away free mobile devices including free phone contracts in at most three years (probably using VOIP or something like that). Thus they will do away with traditional mobile companies in one decisive swoop and grow even more by gaining a dominating market share in the mobile sector.
Google is the one company I can see to rule the market. They have all the important content, they have a decent platform with Android and they have a lot of experience earning money with add-on marketing and nothing else. My bet is on Google for the general market and on Apple for the lifestyle market.
Three years at most… remember that ;-) Right now they are just testing the waters.
SZ: Have you thought on developing or assisting the creation a MMORPG based on Adom, or eventually inducing web interactivity on JADE?
TB: Yes and no. Once I was asked to participate in the development of a MMORP based on Gary Gygax’s Legendary Adventures. Sadly it never worked out. My current time limits preclude me from partaking in such ventures without being paid pretty well for it. So there is no big chance for it.
And what do you mean by web interactivity in JADE? I have plans for an online store and some kind of centralized hall of fame, etc. But for now I would be happy to release some kind of technology study. That would make me sufficiently happy ;-)
SZ: Have you thought on may be allowing other developer to use JADE as an engine for their new games?
TB: No. I believe in highly specialized DSLs and JADE is specialized on doing JADE. I don’t want to think about it being able to do more. But the JADE engine tries to provide a lot of extension points (e.g. pretty simple means to add in new items, monsters, etc.) because I believe there might be some value in that.
SZ: Will Adom eventually be ported out to Java? is this impossible?
TB: I believe it’s impossible. So it won’t happen.
SZ: Do you know about the 7DRL Challenge? Have you thought on participating?
TB: I have heard about it. But I wouldn’t want to spend 5 days of my annual holiday on that. Just to hard with too little to gain.
IMHO you can’t create a worthwhile roguelike in such a short amount of time, so why participate at all :-) ? I applaud everyone who participates and there surely are great results but I can’t think of a roguelike I would want to play if it has received less than a couple of 1000 hours of work ;-) DND clones are a different story though.
Did I ever mentioned JDND – the prequel to ADOM – I have lying around on my hard disk since 2004? I should release that at some point but as usual about 10% are still missing to complete the game.
SZ: Do you think it is important to introduce real role playing elements (as in Adom the RPG) into videogames (including roguelikes), as opposed to rollplaying? how do you think this could be done?
TB: I find this very hard because real roleplaying IMHO requires the power of your imagination and the ability to express yourself with almost complete creative freedom – something I can hardly imagine in videogames unless we invent something like the Star Trek holodeck.
For me roguelikes are as close as you can get because they force you to rely on your imagination to a large extent (e.g. due to lack of graphics). Fable was a decent attempt I liked but I yet have to see Fable II.
SZ: I recommend to check Legerdemain, a nice Java roguelike/IF hybrid
TB: Looks very interesting. Thanks for the recommendation – I will have a look.
SZ: The IRDC 2009 (Internation Roguelike Development Conference) is coming up next november 6 at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland) would you eventually attend?
TB: Sadly 2009 has passed… but yes, I might consider to visit such a conference. Sounds like a lot of fun :-)
When is the next one? So far I couldn’t find anything.
SZ: Thank you for the interview, Mr. Biskup!
— Santiago Zapata, 15/01/2010