Reports : : Malinche Entertainment Interview
Posted By: Targhan. on 2003/3/16 19:46:30
MorphZone is proud to present an interview with Howard Sherman, the President and Chief Operating Officer of Excaliber Internet and Telecommunications carrier, and... Game Designer/Publisher?!!?

The Interview

Howard Sherman shares with us his thoughts on Interactive-Fiction, MorphOS, and "Pentari: First Light." Howard is the lead everything for Malinche Entertainment, and is leading the charge for the return of the text-adventure.

Meet Malinche Entertainment, a relatively new company in publishing, but an old hand in text-adventures. In a time of over-the-top graphics, Malinche is bringing back the artistry known as the Text Adventure. With more than 600 downloads a day from www.downloads.com, people seems to agree; the text-adventure is back.

A native of Brooklyn, Howard Sherman has been involved in the computer industry since it's original siege of the home market. Entering the computer world, Howard's first computer experience came in the form of the TRS-80 Model III, more commonly known as the "Trash-80." Around this time, Howard met a friend that would resurface later, the text adventure (Zork). Currently, Howard has several degrees and certifications, and is President and COO of an ISP based from NJ, USA.


MZ: Thanks Howard (HS) for granting us this opportunity to learn more about Malinche Entertainment, and the return of the text adventure. Is there anything you would like to open with?


HS: I'd like start with my gratitude in being able to do this interview with you. I get the impression that the MorphOS community consist mainly of "veterans" of the computer revolution much like myself. I think there's a greater appreciation of my work since most MorphOS users remember the old-time text adventure classics.


MZ: Before digging deep into the inner workings of your initial release, Pentari: First Light, could you tell us what made you decide to support a new grass-roots Operating System, MorphOS?

HS: I must confess total ignorance of MorphOS Until Ruediger Hanke (I hope I spelled that right) dropped me an email (as well as a pre-order for PFL) informing me of the Frotz interpreter for MorphOS. Before his email I was totally clueless about MorphOS. Since one of my business strategies is to write on my platform in order to reach as many people as possible, including MorphOS in my product offerings was the only right decision to make. When Ruediger brought MorphOS to my attention it, quite naturally, had to be included in my support. The Frotz interpreter for MorphOS is available on Malinche.Net's free download section and is also burned on every CD ship along with other intepreters for other platforms.


MZ: With the success of your online business, which began in 1995, how do you forsee the future of a new OS, moreover an entire new platform in this cut-throat industry?



HS: The platform is going to become increasingly important as more and more "newbies" jump on the home computer bandwagon and Operating Systems such as MorphOS need to reflect that, in my opinion. It's a shame the Amiga never got back on track. I remember hearing about the resurrection of the Amiga some one or two years ago. I was sorry to hear the re-ignition of the Amiga never took off. The Amiga was ahead of its time when it was released and MorphOS breathes new life into the Amiga keeping it strong. I think if the Amiga did re-enter the market and MorphOS got enough exposure, some incredible things may have happened. That aside, the OS of any machine is going to be the deciding factor on consumer's minds when they go out to purchase their first computer. Mac OS X is quite compelling although WIndows XP, now a mature and mostly stable platform, has a big draw if only by virtue of its name.

MZ: The game industry has changed much in the last five years, let alone the last twenty, so the key for publishers and developers has been portability between systems. Very few games, even in the
console market, are specific to a single system, or platform, anymore. Many people will look at Pentari: First Light, and they will see a "Frotz" engine. Could you explain how Pentari differs from "just another Frotz?"


HS: PFL is the largest commercial text adventure game to go on sale in many years, if ever. I'm holding myself back from saying that it IS the largest text adventure game ever sold because I can't substantially prove that. I suspect that's the case but I'd rather err on the side of caution. In either case, PFL is a GIGANTIC game with tons of things to keep the player busy which sets it apart from the herd. There nearly 300 rooms to explore, 20 treasures to gather, many puzzles to complete, mysteries to solve and so much more. There's a spell-casting system, magical items and some of the richest prose written since the days of Infocom.

For the hardcore computing fans; Zork 1, Zork 2 and Zork 3 were approximately 90K in code each. PFL is nearly 350K. I mean no disrespect towards Infocom at all; the Zorks are over twenty years old and the size of those games reflect the technical limitations of the time. With those limits removed, I drove ahead and kept on pushing the technology to its limits. The game is so large and complex, in fact, that PalmOS PDAs required a special "PFL Lite" version because the main game slowed the Palm down to the point where PFL couldn't be realistically played. You could say I went on a coding/programming rampage! :-)


MZ: According to Malinche's website, www.malinche.net, a huge amount of research went into the development of this interactive story. How many months were spent in research alone?

HS: I don't know if I could quantify the time spent in research but I can certainly talk about what research was conducted. I travelled to England and explored a man-made network of tunnels 22 miles in length, walked the halls of Castle Windsor and completely scoured the Tower of London to re-create a lot of the environment the player will experience in the game. Not stopping there, I shot over to France and explored the Palace of Versailles and then headed back to the states to go caving in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. Everything I felt and experienced is delivered in the game. As far as I know, no game has been more extensively research than PFL. People who purchase the game are really going to appreciate the power of the game's moments; times to laugh, to get angry and other times where they really burn inside to finish the game and set everything straight.


MZ: Thats a serious commitment, but how did you justify the risk?


HS: What's the risk of NOT doing it? Thousands of people across the globe have been making a lot of noise in requesting new text adventure games. Fan sites for Zork, Infocom, and text adventure games abound. Nobody was filling the void. I saw it as a great opportunity to fill that niche as well as have a lot of fun.

MZ: I see. I can't help but to ask, how have the sales been so far?


HS: Brisk! I haven't hit my daily sales targets yet but the activity of the six days PFL has been on sale is very gratifying. My sales forecasts are so far proving accurate. Over time, though, is when the story will be told.


MZ: Could you share with us some of the story we would expect to find from "Pentari: First Light"?


HS: Pentari is a small-but-growing nation of five large cities with several country-like districts inbetween. Delphin, one of the cities, has been overrun by a gang of renegade wizards who have been plotting against the kingdom for twenty or more years. Through trickery, they convinced the wizard's guilds to collaborate on producing ultra-powerful magical artifacts called Orbs. There are three in the game which yield the bearer immense power. Your mission is to foil the wizards, deny them access to wealth which could help them fund their efforts, recover the orbs, rescue the King of the kingdom as well as the Duke of Delphin and much more. As with life itself, unforeseen things stumble across your path requiring your attention. I can't give away any more but let's say that the endgame is quite unexpected and challenging but, if played thoroughly from start to finish, will be very satisfying for the player.



MZ: Interactive Fiction is a very unique genre, and multiple endings is the norm for such games. How many "successful" endings are in "First Light"?


HS: There's just one ending, as I mentioned, but several different ways to get there. many puzzles and problems have more than one solution and there's lots and lots of extra activities that can be done in several different ways or not at all if you don't discover them. PFL is VERY non-linear.


MZ: Obviously, "Pentari: First Light" is a fantasy setting, but what other plot elements are used as driving forces for the story? Saving the kingdom, the world, family, treason, romance, or vengeance?


HS: ALL OF THE ABOVE! Seriously! Except, perhaps, for the family element. I think even that's present in some degree. Sorry, but I can't say more. I don't want to spoil it for anyone.


MZ: I am a parent, and can't help but to wonder about the state of the video game industry today. Does Malinche Entertainment have any plans for entry-level interactive fiction? Something to encourage our children to read?


HS: Not at this juncture, I'm afraid. Malinche's first objective is to re-penetrate the market and win back all those lost fans of Interactive Fiction. Once that's been accomplished I definitely intend to branch out to many other avenues including IF directed at students and young people in general. Zork and Infocom's other titles really had a positive effect on me as a teenager and I certainly want to continue that tradition as well.


MZ: What is the immediate future of Malinche Entertainment? How many other games are in the works?


HS: Greystone is in development now and it's going to be an AMAZING game. Scary, mysterious and macabre. Chilling at times, too. The player will be totally immersed as an undercover detective in a mental health facility in New Jersey by the name of Greystone. You, as the detective, must get to the bottom of a strong of unsolved murders at the facility. Nobody can know your true identity because everybody in Greystone is a suspect. We're going way beyond a "whodunnit" mystery here. Before the Pentagon, Greystone was the largest single structure in the United States. There are areas of it both abandoned and active. Lots to explore, lots of people to talk to (and trick) and not a whole lot of time to solve the case.



MZ: Speculation time, what do you envision as long term goals of Malinche Entertainment?


HS: Re-capture the sleeping text adventure game market by rallying all those fans of the games
back to a company that is catering to them. Malinche is that company. When that Herculean
task is completed, we intend to expand the channels of IF and really shoot for brand awareness
on a mass-market that is by-and-large unaware of the existence of Interactive Fiction.



MZ: Back to MorphOS, do you expect to continue to support MorphOS in the future?


HS: Absolutely. My support for MorphOS is not going away.



MZ: Any closing comments for the MorphZone readers?

HS: Only that I salute them for sticking to the Amiga and realizing what an incredible machine it remains to this day. I'm very impressed that the MorphOS community wasn't swept away by the Wintel world.

MZ: Again, we at MorphZone are appreciative of the time you've taken away from your busy schedule to answer our questions. We wish you the best of luck to you and Malinche Entertainment.

HS: It's been a pleasure, Dave. I look forward to seeing a lot of MorphOS users paying us a visit at http://www.malinche.net

This interview has been brought to you by MorphZone, the MorphOS Community-Portal. 2003 MorphZone. Reproduction prohibited without prior written consent from MorphZone.

MorphZone: targhan@morphzone.org

Malinche Entertainment: howard@malinche.net
 
  • Moderator
    hooligan
    Joined: 2003/2/23
    Posts: 1936
    From: Lahti, Finland
    I used to play graphical text adventures and text adventures on Spectrum. Surprisingly good games.. and a few weeks ago I found Valhalla at TEZXAS .. excellent game :-)
    www.mikseri.net/hooligan <- Free music
  • »2003/3/17 9:22
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  • Targhan
    Joined: 2003/2/8
    Posts: 2833
    From: USA
    I remember playing "Silicon Dreams," a graphical text adventure from what seems like an eon ago. Many good memories with that game! I suppose the fact that it came with a novella to set the mood didn't hurt.
    :idea:Targhan

    MorphOS portal? www.MorphZone.org
  • »2003/3/17 12:52
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