First Draft of the Revolution Released

First Draft of the Revolution is now out, available to read through the browser or as an epub. (This is the project trailed here and here.)

First Draft is an interactive epistolary story I built with Liza Daly, with subsequent design work by inkle. Set in the universe of the Lavori d’Aracne, it tells a story from the beginnings of that universe’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.

24 thoughts on “First Draft of the Revolution Released”

  1. And this is when one repents of buying a kindle? I mean, is it possible to convert that epub book to mobi, having full functionality? Apart of that, congrats a lot.

      1. Oh yeah, I didn’t know that epub3 allows flash or html5 inside. Madness!

        Yeah, I will enjoy it on browser, calibre, and try it in a modest Android. I’m curious on what you guys manage to achieve. Regards.

  2. On Safari 6 I just get a blank grey page. Does one need a special plug-in? Javascript enabled; just say no to Java and Flash.

    The downloadable version does not play nicely with BookReader 4 on Mac (first time I’ve encountered an ePub that BookReader doesn’t like).

  3. I played through twice (in Firefox) and I really enjoyed it. You gave the game a really good feel and the plot was very interesting. On my first playthrough, I played with the goal of reconciling everybody: having the wife be prudent with what she says to her husband, having the husband be as kind to the wife as the game let me, etc. I arrived at what I felt was a happy ending — though I would have liked to see what happened next!

    Then I played through again. I reset the game with the button at the top, and this time I tried to generate a bad outcome. I had the wife not hold her tongue about her feelings for the friar and I had the husband be curt and dismissive. But each time, the next chapter was the same as it had been the time before and there were no changes that I could see. The ending didn’t change, the middle didn’t change, it was all the same, no matter how different I tried to make the letters. It made me wonder if my answers from the previous game were cached and were affecting my current game. I’d be interested in exploring alternate endings or alternate plots to this story.

  4. Yeah, are there variables tied to the kind of letter you write that affect subsequent letters or is each letter the same and the pleasure lies mainly in the satisfaction of my editing?

    In any case, this is such a good idea and so well done. I love your innovations.

  5. The original plan for the story was indeed to offer alternate outcomes, and I had values attached to various choices in each letter that would create a sort of score (“this letter was 5 points romantic, 3 points cagey!” or whatever) that would then affect what was displayed in future letters.

    As I worked on it, though, I backed off of that, essentially because I didn’t think most of the alternate outcomes I could come up with were actually good endings for the story. You can imagine forward past the ending to suppose that the relationship between the protagonists is a bit different depending on what they’ve written during the body of the story; but some of the more extreme outcomes, like the heroine getting trapped and killed, or running away with the friar, or going back to the convent, or — on the more “romantic” side — ending up in a completely happy marriage all seemed to require bending the characters past the parameters I’d envisioned for them.

    I decided I’d rather put the focus on a different aspect of interactivity: the way that the choices offered are themselves part of the narrative, exposing personalities; the way that the process of choosing can give a different texture to the reading.

    1. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for explaining your thought process behind creating it. I really enjoyed playing it, and I did like the letter writing as means for telling a story. I guess I went in expecting a “choose your own adventure” kind of thing, but I liked what I found instead just as well. It was a pleasurable experience.

  6. Revolution looks wonderful. Just one question. Why wasn’t the yellow defect in the middle of the page background image removed? Rented books and mangas often have such marks because, er, people pick their nose and it was kind a disturbing to see it on every page.

    1. 1) ew; 2) I hadn’t noticed any such thing and indeed am still not quite sure what you are referring to; and 3) I didn’t do the graphical design. But if I had, I wouldn’t have changed it because (2).

      I think I am going to persist in the happy belief that no mucus was used in the making of this work, and that the background texture is just horribly misunderstood.

  7. At first, I was a little confused with just how the interactivity worked- I’m still not quite clear on the distinction between words that are dark and those that are dark and also kind of fuzzy, though I didn’t devote much attention to deciphering it as I was enthralled in the story.

    Using the various rephrasing options (and the character’s justifications for them) is an awesome, clever conceit. I felt like giggling and clapping my hands when it revealed itself. When the first husband’s letter is started as a numbered list of tasks to accomplish in the letter, I thought it was a wonderful juxtaposition of his style versus that of his wife. His later frustrated false starts, rather than calculated tasks, came as a heartwarming indication of his feelings. I guess I was jumping the gun on that, though, since others start letters in the same numbered way later.

  8. The reading experience on an iPad (3, iOS 6) is terrible. I really can’t recommend this form to anyone. I read through again in a web browser and greatly enjoyed it. (It’s also made me hyper-aware of my revision process even as I write this comment.)

    There’s too many gestures (scroll left/right to turn page, scroll up/down to move text, tap to bring up revision but also tap to dismiss revision but also tap to bring up the iBooks UI) which causes input delay, and they interfere with each other too easily. I was constantly trying to read a letter but revising it instead, or trying to revise but turning a page. Tapping to dismiss a revision option often brought up the iBooks chrome, and caused random revisable passages to flash. You can turn pages before finishing and sending the letters, so until I tried it in a web browser I didn’t understand the point of the “Send this letter” button. It shows two pages at once (even in portrait mode) which ruins the pacing. If you go back to a previous page, your revisions are discarded and you see the starting template again.

  9. It’s great that you’ve released the first draft of the revolution, but when is the finished version coming out?

    (How many times have you heard that joke so far?)

  10. Ok, because everyone involved in this is listening, let me give tech feedback.

    1) The game is sloooooow, quite slow. I wonder if you could precache all graphics. To make the jqwery effects more fluid could help, just, highlight effects and fadein fade out are too slow, that add to the delay in loading all assets, makes a slowy experience.

    Ummmmmm, I think it works better in Firefox than Chrome. Firefox seems to give me a better experience. So forget that thing about being sloooooooooooow, maybe it is just a little slow, however I think my advice could help.

    2) I think the graphical design could benefit of a widescreen desktop background. The game stop to being beauty when it is surrounded by that sad grey. The ipad version looks more beauty with the two pages shown. That could not be done on browser?

    And now the roses: the game feels powerful. It is a powerful experience to click for the first time and change what saying in the letter. It is like the first time you wear the enviromental suit on Half Life, or the first time you rewind time on Braid, or the first time you swing the Wiimote to hit the tennis ball. You guys have manage to bring us a powerfull experience.

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