B.C.’s “mad computer scientists” revolutionizing the video gaming industry

When Conan Reis, founder of SkookumScript, told colleagues in the video gaming industry that he was writing a new programming language, they told him he was nuts. That’s when his title became “Chief Mad Computer Scientist.”

Now, this mad computer scientist is revolutionizing how video games are written, and is set to take the global video game industry by storm. “The industry has never had an off-the-shelf, video game-specific language, meaning engineers have been forced to develop games using general-purpose coding languages like C++,” said Conan. “This means that gaming scripts are inefficient and error-prone, and are usually scrapped and reinvented for each game at considerable time and expense.”

SkookumScript is a game-specific language that even the most inexperienced coder can use. Where a certain action in a game – such as having three robots race each other – might take 70 pages of C++ code to accomplish, SkookumScript can make the same action in six lines of code. Not only can this save the gaming industry money, it will also make games much faster to produce, with fewer backend issues.

“It’s also great news for independent gamers – a growing niche in the market – who don’t always have the expertise, time and resources to compete with the big gaming companies,” Reis added.

A range of services will be available to SkookumScript users, from a free standard suite to paid premium packages. The product also has applications outside of the video gaming sector – any company wanting to design an interactive tool will benefit from this technology. From controlling robots to designing interactive maps, the possibilities are endless.

SkookumScript launched its public beta version in January 2016, and by March 2016 they had users in 46 countries. The SkookumScript Unreal Engine 4 Plugin launched in April 2016, giving them access to a market of three million Unreal developers, and as of Fall 2016, SkookumScript has been used in 91 countries by developers from hundreds of studios. But, they are just getting started. With a modest office of five employees, they are hoping to grow to 40 by next year.

SkookumScript is one of the many companies that have benefited from the programs of the BC Innovation Council (BCIC), a Crown agency of the B.C. government. “Innovation Island and BCIC have provided amazing connections, mentorship and opportunities through the Venture Acceleration Program,” reflects Reis. “Coming from a technical background, the crash courses they provide in entrepreneurship and business have been particularly valuable.”