Meet the Team: Casey Muratori
By Anna Rettberg
Casey Muratori
Here’s the deal: we knew we had to put up bio pages for Molly Rocket, but we couldn’t agree on who should go first. I insisted that Anna go first, so I wouldn’t have to, and she insisted that I go first, so she wouldn’t have to.
Anna won.
We replaced the horse’s ass with an owl for compositional purposes.
Since our theme for bio pictures was “classic portraiture”, I was slated to be posed in a powdered wig next to a horse’s ass, like this. It felt like the right thing because I am often an ass, so the juxtaposition was appropriate, and also because I have always been personally fascinated with how historical figures don’t seem to mind people painting them next to giant horse asses.
However, because the layout of my portrait was supposed to match Anna’s, we never managed to get a horse ass in the shot. There just wasn’t room to depict enough of the horse for it to read. It just looked like a big white lump, and we were afraid people would look and say, “Why is Casey posed next to a giant white lump?”
So at the last minute, we replaced it with an owl.
This is actually fine by me because I love owls and hate horses. My favorite kind is the Western Screech Owl. They have a really great one at the Woodland Park Zoo! But if you came to the blog hoping to see me posed next to a giant horse ass, I do apologize for the disappointment.
We tried.
Please select how long you would like my biography to be.
My professional biography can be compressed to a small list without losing much important detail: grew up in rural Massachusetts, interned at Microsoft, met some game programmers, moved to Seattle, ended up at RAD Game Tools working on game technology (first Granny 3D then Bink 2). If you’d prefer the long and drawn out version of that list, in excruciating detail, it was captured live on film (figuratively speaking) during a streaming test for Handmade Hero. You can hit play on this video if you’re in the mood for a very, very long story:
If you elected to go the video route, I do apologize that it doesn’t have the kind of fancy production values that you might see in a classic Scott Baio film. Hopefully you will be able to look past that.
At some point in your life, if you don’t die, you get old.
In late 2012, I started working on The Witness to help out Jonathan Blow’s team since there was a lot of programming to do and not much time before their Summer 2013 release.
Yes, we really did expect to ship the game two years ago.
Suffice to say, it did not ship in Summer 2013. Or Christmas 2013. Or Christmas 2014 for that matter, because, well, there was just a lot of stuff that could be added to the game, and Jon decided to add it. This meant they were no longer facing any tight programming deadlines, and so as I finished up the systems I was working on, I focused on figuring out what project I was going to work on next.
As “luck” would have it, in late 2013 I had some health problems  —  nothing terribly serious but enough to remind me that, realistically, I probably don’t have a lot of years left where I’m going to be programming full-bore. So, I decided I should probably start picking projects based on how much I care if they get finished before I’m dead.
It’s a morbid project planning strategy, I admit, but it turns out to work surprisingly well.
Handmade Hero
The first project on my “before I’m dead” list was to record the process of making a complete game from scratch. For reasons I’ll save for a future post, I called it Handmade Hero, and it’s a game about a limbless kid who receives the gift of a magical hand. I started the project in November of 2014 and it’s been running continuously since then.
It’s been dramatically more successful than I ever would have guessed, and despite having no advertising, marketing, or press, has already grown to the kind of audience I had been hoping for by the end of the series, when there would be a full game running for people to look at. I’m not sure why it’s been so successful, but in the absence of data, I choose to blissfully assign it to the fact that there are still a lot of people who take great satisfaction in programming actual hardware, not wrangling giant piles of janky engines and libraries, and Handmade Hero was just the first thing to come along to say that was OK.
Interactive Fiction
But Handmade Hero only takes about two hours a day of work, so the rest of the time I devote to the second project on my list, which is to create a proper next-generation interactive fiction engine.
Like a lot of people from my generation, the first games I played had no graphics at all  —  they were “text adventure” games, or as they later became known, interactive fiction. Despite the name, the description was always a bit of a misnomer  —  mostly what was interactive in the game was the state of objects in the game world. The fiction, for the most part, was almost completely non-interactive. But in those days, it was easy to assume that this was merely a technological problem, and that as game technology progressed, fiction would actually become, well, interactive.
Sadly, as the years went on, this proved not to be the case. Despite technological advances in nearly every other area, the interactivity level of fiction remains at essentially the same level it was in some of the earliest games that existed.
So my main research and development responsibility at Molly Rocket right now is to fix this. I’d like to do what I can to make up for two lost decades of active research into fiction technology for games. I consider there to be five major unsolved problems that need solving, and I know we can do at least three of them. At least if we don’t run out of funding first :)
The fourth problem I think we can solve, but I’m not making any promises, and the fifth one… well, the fifth one is kind of a bonus problem, and to be honest, I don’t even know for sure if it’s solvable at all. But hey, if we actually made it to the point where we cared about the fifth problem, the engine would be so far beyond what anyone has today, I’d still be ecstatic even if we never made any progress on it at all.
Anna’s portrait is even better than mine.
That’s really all there is to say about me and what I’m working on at Molly Rocket. I don’t want to spoiler anything, but if you thought Anna’s drawing of me in the powdered wig was hilarious, well, let me just tell you that her drawing of her as a classic portrait is even better. We’ll be featuring that drawing here in the next few weeks, along with her bio, and some more information on our interactive fiction research, so please stay tuned! We even have a nifty little mailing list that will mail you new posts so you don’t miss them  —  you can subscribe right down there in the footer!