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Story file (latest version)
The most recent version of the game, stored at the author's website.
For all systems. To play, you'll need a Z-Machine Interpreter with Blorb support - visit Brass Lantern for download links.
Story file (comp version)
The original version of the game, as entered into the 2010 IFComp.
For all systems. To play, you'll need a Z-Machine Interpreter with Blorb support - visit Brass Lantern for download links.
Source repository
The game's Inform 7 source and skein files, shared on GitHub.

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The Warbler's Nest

by Jason McIntosh profile


Web Site

(based on 81 ratings)
9 member reviews

About the Story

Surely the reed bank counts as a wild place. While it gives you so much, you've never tended it, not really, not like you do with your garden. It's something like the forest, then, but much safer to search without attracting attention. So here you are.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Current Version: 21
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 7
IFID: 6B9D8019-65AD-4BAE-90E0-D83AB5E3E464
TUID: he5spzmz6vr4dgej


9th Place - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010)

Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Story; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 2010 XYZZY Awards

34th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2011 edition)


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Editorial Reviews

Play This Thing
The gap between you and 'you'
The Warbler's Nest is an interactive fiction about perception: what seems to be going on may or may not be what is actually going on.
See the full review

If you play only one game from this year's comp I would heartily recommend The Warbler's Nest, with some slight reservations. The genre that would describe it the closest would probably be "psychological thriller."

As is the usual case, the game starts with little to no information and gradually tells the player what's going on. The clever part is that at some point your perception of the setting changes to something completely else, and it's not a Shyamalanian "Look! A twist!" but the player comes to the chilling conclusion gradually. The restrained style of writing supports the big picture perfectly.
See the full review


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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 9
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Quiet and contemplative horror, February 19, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Many pieces of interactive fiction have played with a difference in knowledge between the player and the protagonist. Often, the protagonist knows more than the player, since he or she is supposed to be familiar with the fictional worlds; but sometimes, the protagonist is so naive, stupid or self-deluded that the player understands things the protagonist does not. The Warbler's Nest falls into this latter category, although this time the knowledge difference is generated by the protagonist living a long time ago and having beliefs that we know (or at least strongly believe) are false.

In a sense, this is a horror piece, but horror of the most quiet kind. The horrific "revelation" is obvious well in advance, so the interest of the piece has to come from a contemplation of the beliefs, fears and hopes of the protagonist. Jason McIntosh conveys these very clearly, and the fact that they are simultaneously so understandable and so alien, and are combined with the potential for disaster, makes for a stimulating experience.

If one had to complain, one would probably point out that there is not much of a game here, but given the short time it will take you to traverse this piece, this is not a very serious complaint. I would like to see more pieces that are as quiet and contemplative as The Warbler's Nest.

One question that this piece has raised for me: can a story be considered a tragedy if none of the people in the fictional world consider it to be such?

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The age-old conflict between head and heart, May 20, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)
My predominant mood after finishing this game is one of contemplation. I am not getting where the horror or sorrow mentioned by others comes into play. But I found all the possible endings without much trouble, and each of them says something about the player character as a person. I found that the character was both believable and easily identified with. There is a dark side to her that I could appreciate, as well as a dutifulness that I could respect.

The writing is rather spare and minimalist. In fact, there aren't really many places to explore. But IF conventions are honored. You're told what you need to do, and cut scenes give relevant backstory but are vague enough to have the player wondering what's being alluded to. Even now, I'm unsure about a few points. Perhaps reading more about the game will bring some insight.

Really, though, the central point of this game is a moral choice, so emotional impact comes from the various endings.

There are no puzzles in this game. Everything you need to do is simply achieved, so that all focus goes to the story and setting. But setting falls down for me because not everything was implemented. (Spoiler - click to show)The reeds rustle, but you can't hear the river. No ability to touch things, either.

I think there are clear links between the tasks at the beginning of the game and the protagonist's backstory, as well as a juxtaposition, a mirroring, of reality and the character's internal monologue. This creates a pleasing symmetry.

Because of the sparse prose, which doesn't really do it for me aesthetically, I rated this game as average. But it has a good story and doesn't take any significant time. Everyone should play it at least once. Not much commitment and worth it for anyone who cares about the literary side of IF.

Edit: I upped the rating because the impact really hit me hours after finishing the game, when I realized I was still thinking about it. (Spoiler - click to show)The horrifying barbarism probably perpetrated on innocent children and unfortunate mothers.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Short, medieval, edgy psychological thriller, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is a game kind of like the stories Ethan Frome or the Yellow Wallpaper, where you have a kind of growing sick feeling in your gut, not from gore or sex or anything like that, but from a disturbing psychological predicament.

This game is set in medieval times, and deals with faeries and the fey. Or does it? It's hard to tell. You are outside gathering eggshells, and soon you discover what purpose they are for.

This game has stuck with me for a very long time. It creeped me out. I don't want to give away too much, so suffice to say that you can make strong moral choices.

See All 9 Member Reviews

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The following polls include votes for The Warbler's Nest:

Games for iPhone or other mobile devices by DenniaDale
This is simple and I'm sure the list will grow as new games are developed, but what IF games are available for the iPhone, or like devices? I'm aware of one called "Cathy's Book" which looks like a lot of fun, at least for girls, but...

Birds in IF by Wendymoon
What games can you think of with birds in them? What's the bird? Is it important to the game?

Unreliable narrators by verityvirtue
I'm interested in games which hinge on the 'unreliable narrator', from amnesia to a plain distorted worldview. The more this distortion affects the storyline, the better.

See all polls with votes for this game


This is version 11 of this page, edited by Lance Campbell on 17 May 2020 at 8:44pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item