Spring Thing: Rough Draft

cover_small“Rough Draft” advertises itself as “a game about writing a story”.

There are two layers of story here: first, there’s the narrator, Denise, an author of children’s fantasy; then there’s Princess Reina, whose adventures Denise is trying to write. The conceit is that, while we are making decisions for Reina, the resulting story follows the train of Denise’s inspiration and imagination. Anyone who’s written any sort of fiction understands how this works.

This is RenPy, and the story is presented as a CYOA with branches into various plotlines. However, it differs from a standard CYOA flowchart in that one is expected to explore non-winning branches in order to obtain objects and information for the winning thread; in this respect, the CYOA format that RenPy is made for is subverted into a more traditional adventure game map. Instead of exploring rooms, we are exploring plot nodes … in a sense, we are exploring time rather than space. I thought it was a very ingenious use of the medium, and an interesting look at the creative process of writing a story.

Of course, there’s the question of how Reina could still have the objects from one branch of the story when we’ve backtracked to an earlier choice to go explore a different branch, but I suppose it’s all part of the conceit that we’re really playing around with Denise’s inspiration here. The items and information that Reina discovers exist as ideas in Denise’s head, not as objects within Reina’s current reality. Presumably, once we’ve reached the desired conclusion, Denise will rewrite the story into a single, coherent plotline, incorporating all these disparate elements.

That said, Reina’s story is a little simplistic. It’s supposed to be for children, of course, and it does come off that way. There’s a part of me that wants to dismiss it as a little juvenile, but that really is the point of the story, after all, so … should I say that it did succeed in what it was trying to do? I don’t know. I suppose I would have preferred a more mature approach to motivation and characterisation, but there’s not a lot of room to delve into that sort of thing within the constraints of the chosen genre. Perhaps the prose could have done with a little bit more character–a little more attitude from Denise within the context of Reina’s story, as opposed to merely in the form of commentary.

I can only imagine how an ancient Meso-American might react to a milk chocolate Hershey’s Kiss. This isn’t great chocolate we’re talking about–it’s pretty run-of-the-mill–but it’s sweet and it goes down easily; and from our Meso-American friend’s point of view, it’s a horrifying subversion of a cocoa bean.

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