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Figaro

by Victor Gijsbers profile

2007

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Number of Reviews: 2
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
[one of]Kiss[or]Kill[or]Pie[at random], June 27, 2013
by Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle)
Figaro is a very small example game, introducing a single point of theory and not really aspiring to any larger artistic goal. It lightly depicts an imagined scene from The Marriage of Figaro, taking an approach very similar to the examples of the built-in I7 manual.

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.

Comments on this review

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Sobol, November 12, 2014 - Reply
I wasn't dissatisfied at all. It's a good bit of silly fun. And I consider "The countess steps out of the wardrobe" the winning ending :)

It would be interesting to play a version of this game with a soundtrack made from excerpts of Mozart's music - not necessarily from Le nozze di Figaro only. Perhaps, say, a different short excerpt would play after a different ending.
Victor Gijsbers, June 27, 2013 - Reply
Very fair, Sam, though I hope your mild dissatisfaction was coupled with some enjoyment. :-) Also, what was I thinking when I chose the font colour for that cover image?
Sam Kabo Ashwell, June 27, 2013 - Reply
Oh, I was entertained. Particularly since I had to reference the plot of The Marriage of Figaro to write this, and dear lord is that thing over-the-top ridiculous.
Victor Gijsbers, June 28, 2013 - Reply
It is everything an opera plot should be. ;)
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