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About the StoryA short example game created to accompany the essay "Co-Authorship and Community". It gives the player a kind of freedom that is not seen in any other interactive fiction: the freedom to determine what the state of the world is at the beginning of the game. (Version 2 is a 2010 update.)
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The standard role granted to IF player is to identify with and serve the interests of the protagonist. You might have some influence over what those interests are, but the purpose is much the same.
A different approach, far less-explored, is that of drama manager: the goal there is not to reflect the agency of the protagonist, but to make decisions about the story, some of them extending well beyond the agency of any character. This is territory well-explored in RPGs, where improvisation is much easier; in computer games, the examples I'm aware of are all, like this, very brief.
Figaro presents three choices of three different kinds. One is a flashback choice that has major implications for the protagonist's character, rather like the character-creation choices in certain CRPGs or many ChoiceScript games; such choices often ignore strict agency (such as choosing your gender), and may even imply some changes to the world, but their proper locus is still the character. Another is a traditional agency-of-protagonist choice. And in between there's a choice that bears no relation to protagonist agency at all - which character is your wife carrying on with? Figaro demonstrates, albeit minimally, that all three kinds of choice can co-exist in a narrative game, and that having several kinds of choice can be more interesting than being restricted to one.
Nonetheless, my main reaction to the piece was that there are vast numbers of narrative computer games determined by direct protagonist agency, and a decent number with a strong element of retrospective or character-creation agency; but there just aren't very many dramatic-agency games of any significant size. Within its limited range, Figaro is well-elaborated, allowing for a very broad range of outcomes - but it's far broader than would be practical in a larger work, and doesn't really address the problem of how to design drama-manager choices in a longer piece.
Like many concept games, I came away with a feeling of mild dissatisfaction, because explaining the concept is the easy part. This game is roughly the same thing as a conversation about theory in the pub; it introduces an idea, but doesn't grapple with the (much larger) problems of design and implementation. Which is fine, as far as it goes; but it makes you want a whole lot more.
It's very short, with just a few options. The idea is that each choice changes the nature of the setting, including altering past events.
It's an intriguing idea, but at such a small level it is hard to see what it could turn out like. In many ways, Choicescript games do this (how did you get here? Etc. As part of their world building).
If you enjoyed Figaro...
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This is version 4 of this page, edited by Victor Gijsbers on 28 September 2010 at 12:03pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item