First Draft of the Revolution

First Draft of the Revolution is an interactive epistolary story I built with Liza Daly, with subsequent design work by inkle (Jon Ingold and Joseph Humfrey). Set in the same universe as my previous works Savoir-Faire and Damnatio Memoriae, it tells a story from the beginnings of that world’s French Revolution, when certain anti-aristocratic forces are finally discovering how to break the magical power that has kept the nobility in power for so long.

For those interested in the concept of interactive epistolary story, there’s a fairly long author’s note on the website. This bit may suggest how First Draft compares with choice-based narrative:

[I]nteractively revising text involves multiple simultaneous choices which influence one another. Instead of asking the reader “then what did the character do?” or “what happened next?”—as choose your own adventure stories do—First Draft of the Revolution asks the reader to consider a number of simultaneous decisions, try them out, take some of them back, and finally settle on an acceptable version before moving on.

inkle’s blog also contains some discussion on the technical implementation.

[rant]Though I probably already know the answer to this question, and everyone already knows I’m going to ask it, and probably think it’s a silly question and the last thing to be thinking about and apparently there’s zero demand for this in this day and age… I’m still going to ask it.[/rant]

I don’t suppose there’s any way of downloading it and playing it offline?

You sure can! But you’ll need an epub reader in order to do so.

Hope this helps.

It sure does! That’s really wonderful, would this be extended to other inkle games, like Frankenstein?

To clarify, First Draft of the Revolution was built on a code base developed by Liza Daly; it’s not at all the same system as inklewriter or Frankenstein, though inkle did a lot of great work making it look attractive and adapting it for different platforms.

Right. Thanks a bunch. :slight_smile:

Looking forward to playing this: my initial playthrough will be my first draft of the final draft of First Draft of the Revolution.

Joey, you’re daft.

I second draft that! :laughing:

Is anyone else not able to proceed past the first letter? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to see a send letter button or trigger something that shows it. This is on Chrome 22.0.1229.79 m.

edit: don’t know if this is relevant:

Error in event handler for 'undefined': Unexpected token < SyntaxError: Unexpected token < at Object.parse (native) at runEverything (chrome-extension://kecaejkkcpijbbnnmnkpcpgiifdplcia/content.js:22:17) at chrome-extension://kecaejkkcpijbbnnmnkpcpgiifdplcia/content.js:19:3 at miscellaneous_bindings:286:9 at chrome.Event.dispatchToListener (event_bindings:379:21) at chrome.Event.dispatch_ (event_bindings:365:27) at chrome.Event.dispatch (event_bindings:385:17) at Object.chromeHidden.Port.dispatchOnMessage (miscellaneous_bindings:253:22) event_bindings:369 chrome.Event.dispatch_

You might try disabling the HyperTranslate extension, for example by opening the game in an Incognito window, to see if that helps.

Good suggestion, I didn’t realize I could google for the extension string. I think the problem was me not triggering the right text though; after I clicked on the correct sentence I got the send letter dialog.

That said, what do people think about not being able to send the letter straight away? It feels constraining to me somehow. For example, if a player wants to play through without rewriting for the extra content, is there a good design reason not to let them do that?

I don’t know whether you will consider this reason good or not, but two of my design principles for interactive storytelling are:

  1. make the vital parts of the narrative impossible for the player to miss, because the player should feel free to choose any narrative path that’s open to him without fear of getting a defective story out of it.

  2. don’t give the player a more-fun and a less-fun way to experience the story, because he’ll find the less fun way and then blame you for making a bad experience.

Principle 1 comes in because I try to highlight vital narrative points with required, non-optional interaction. In classic old-school IF, that might mean centering puzzles around the critically important plot points. In First Draft, it means focusing the player’s attention on either facts that must be conveyed or aspects of characterization that you need to know in order to proceed; and characters’ unwillingness to say certain things to one another is essential information.

2 also comes into it because I think reading the story the way you describe would be dull. Forcing the reader to interact to some minimal degree means that he will definitely have had at least some of the experience I’m trying to provide.

In any case, this is a work about exploring characters, rather than creating or defining them from scratch. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but did affect how the design developed.

I played this a while back and really enjoyed it. One question though:
One thing about the UI design that I thought could have been a lot clearer was… well, you know how if a portion of the letter needs to be rewritten to be sent it shows up as dark black text, while sections that could be rewritten but don’t have to be show up as a sort of dark grey? It actually took me a while to figure that out, and I was wondering if there was a simple, unobtrusive way you could make the dichotomy there clearer. It’s not massively important, but I do think it would be helpful to new players.

I played Emily Short’s experiment on inkle called HOLOGRAPHY and this seems like a good extension of that. The bulk of the “action” as it were is rewriting the letters, but I thought the ones from the husband which started as a numbered outline of what to get across made the most sense.

I would have liked if this had been applied to all of the writing protagonists - if the letters wouldn’t have been so thoroughly written at first. If each had started with choices which you could choose to mention or erase completely. I know her goal was to get the entire story across, but it would have been interesting to have more control over the content of the letters. I played twice and “won” both times, (not sure if you can fail the situation or if that’s even an option) and it seemed mostly a choice of “how tactful shall this person be?” The writing was beautiful though, and I would love to see a longer game where you could actually affect the situation and outcome by what is communicated.