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First Draft of the Revolution

by Emily Short profile, Liza Daly profile, and inkle

Episode 3 of Lavori d'Aracne

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Number of Reviews: 4
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1-4 of 4

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Visually beautiful and mobile-friendly game with enchanted letters, February 3, 2016
This game is written in a custom platform that is visually beautiful and allows for text to be adapted on the fly by clicking on links.

This game centers around a mystical version of France where the nobility have access to magic. This magic system is developed further in the earlier games Savoir Faire and Damnatio Memoriae.

In this games, you write rough drafts of letters, clicking on parts of the texts to rewrite, erase, or expand on your meaning. Different choices presumably lead to different endings. I found the game to be slow to be slow at first and more exciting later.

This games takes about twenty to sixty minutes to play.

Fantastic Story!, December 30, 2014
by Chai Hai (Kansas City KS)
I really loved this, the mechanics were great, I really liked how you used something as simple as writing a letter to a loved one.

I loved the subtlety of why this phrase needed to be rewritten and choosing was fulfilling. You really got into the minds of the characters and their motives.

I couldn't wait to write each new letter and find out what happens next. You made it thrilling even though all we did was revise.

I would love to see more stories in this form! Bravo!

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Enchanting. Compelling. Ingenious. Groundbreaking, October 20, 2013
by Anthony Hope (England)
I'd played a few games by Emily Short before, but none that were set in the Lavori universe of First Draft. I now know that this was terribly remiss of me.

First Draft is beautifully presented and boasts an intuitive user-interface that effortlessly draws you into a story of power, intrigue, assignations, politics, religion and magic. I was reminded of the film Dangerous Liaisons, and particularly of the character of the Marquise, when I read about (or wrote?!) the letter in which Alise reappraises her sister-in-law, towards the end of the game. Wicked!

This is interactive fiction at its most literal and yet its most brilliant. You literally touch and manipulate the text as it's being written by the characters in the story. You're looking over their shoulders — or perhaps inside their heads — as they draft and redraft letters to each other. Is there a better way to reveal someone's quirks, foibles, hopes and anxieties than to let you dig into their very thought-process as they write? I'm gonna say no, there isn't.

This game — or interactive text, or thaumaturgico-digital wonder — is a demonstration of the power and the complexity of writing. It reminds us that writing allows us both to reveal and to conceal ourselves, and if there's any magic left in the world at all, then it's in writing that we'll find it.

I'm gushing, I know, but I can't help myself because First Draft is a delight. I have only one complaint. Somehow a mysterious, Lavoriesque connection seems to have been made between author and text: First Draft of the Revolution is far too short.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Blending the personal and the political, June 29, 2013
(This review was originally posted as part of the 2012 Semi-Official Xyzzy Reviews series, and focuses on the game's nomination in the Best Story category.)

It’s not all that common to see alternate-universe or secondary-world fantasy stories that deal primarily with small-scale personal dramas. Plots centered around a woman dealing with a troubled marriage and learning to stand up for herself are not very often found in worlds that also have tensions between magic-using aristocrats and generally non-magical commoners about to erupt into revolution. First Draft, however, combines these elements very deftly. The family drama is interwoven with the larger political goings-on of the setting in a way that feels believable. Rather than trying to tell a sweeping story about the whole of society, it focuses on one incident in a way that hints at the underlying broader issues: the protagonist, Juliette, is the low-born, non-magical wife of a magic-using nobleman, and one of her husband’s youthful by-blows has just turned up in the company of a charismatic friar with heretical ideas about the magic-using class’s supposed God-given right to dominate everyone else. Juliette is drawn to the friar, but he, it transpires, has ulterior motives for getting close to her. In recounting Juliette’s interactions with the friar and the boy, the game never goes into any depth about what kind of movement or organization the friar might be involved with, why exactly they might want to assassinate Juliette’s husband, and what their larger plans are, but it’s clear that the friar is not some lone maniac; there’s some unrest here that goes far beyond that.

Juliette’s story has a climax and a resolution: she decides of her own accord to get her husband’s illegitimate child away from the radical friar by forging a letter the boy from her husband, and then writes her husband to tell him what she’s done, and what she expects him to do now, in terms that brook no argument. It’s satisfying to see a character who at the beginning seemed to feel powerless to do anything about her own situation find the courage to take that kind of risk to protect her family, standing up to her somewhat domineering husband in the process. It adds a positive note to the ending, which is otherwise rather ominous (for Juliette and her family, at any rate): the boy seems to still have radical sympathies, and the friar has gotten away to continue fomenting revolution elsewhere.

The political situation, on the other hand, never really comes to a head, but having it loom threateningly in the background works well, and was probably the best decision for a story of this length. The story builds a convincing sense of inevitability, so that even though the setting is fictional, it has the feel of one of those stories set on the eve of a world-changing historical event, like World War I or, well, the actual French Revolution. One gets the impression that the revolution will happen sooner or later; it’s just a question of when.

The story’s epistolary format works well for it, and its handling of the climax. These can be tricky to do in epistolary works, since the constraints of the form usually demand that any big decisive action must take place “offscreen” and be reported after the fact in a way that can feel anticlimactic. First Draft neatly sidesteps this by having Juliette’s decisive action be the actual act of letter-writing. The game’s “editing” mechanic, which gives the impression of the player peering over her shoulder as she writes, adds to the effectiveness as well.

It’s a short and linear game, but in twenty-odd short pages it accomplishes a lot, and the gameplay mechanic and epistolary format both serve the story–the unique format never feels like a gimmick. It’s a well-crafted thing, and my only real complaint is that there isn’t more of it.

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