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First Draft of the Revolution

by Emily Short profile, Liza Daly profile, and inkle

Episode 3 of Lavori d'Aracne

Web Site

(based on 55 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

It is dangerous to deceive a husband of magic-using rank...

Juliette has been banished for the summer to a village above Grenoble: a few Alpine houses, a deep lake, blue sky, and no society.

Now she writes daily to her husband. She tells how she went for a walk and ended thigh-deep in mud, how the draft comes in around the window, how extravagantly she has spent on new gloves, how she misses Paris.

She plans her letters on ordinary pages, but when they are ready, she copies them on paper whose enchanted double is hundreds of miles off. The words form themselves on the matching sheaf in her husband's study. No time is wasted on couriers.

First Draft of the Revolution is a puzzleless interactive epistolary story, in which the reader interacts by revising the letters exchanged by the characters.

Game Details


Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Use of Innovation - 2012 XYZZY Awards

Editorial Reviews

Write (And Re-Write) Letters Of Intrigue In This Fantastic Free Game
First Draft of the Revolution is a marvel—an exploration of the space between the mind and the page the likes of which I've never experienced. Go play it!
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narF voit le monde dans des lunettes hexagonales
Roman épistolaire interactif: First Draft of the Revolution
Chacun des personnages a une manière différente d'écrire et une manière différente de penser. On s'en rend compte lorsque le jeu nous propose de modifier certains passages ou d'effacer certaines phrases. Par exemple, Juliette commence souvent par écrire un brouillon où elle est fâchée contre son mari, puis le modifie petit à petit pour le rendre plus poli et masquer sa colère.
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Rock Paper Shotgun
Magical epistolary intrigues
First Draft of the Revolution is an entire game based around valuing the reader-player’s aesthetic sensibilities, another triumph of Emily Short’s genius for narrative mechanics.
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PC World
First Draft of the Revolution is an odd game because rather than entering text in this adventure, you’re editing it.
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Rather than control the main character or choose between branches of story, here the reader's agency concerns how the characters choose to express themselves through their writing. The process of revision and the many small and large decisions (about how much detail to include, whether a certain phrasing goes too far or not far enough, what tone a sentence should take, and so on) reveal a deeper layer of the characters than is found purely in the text of the letters themselves. It's a unique mechanic and a refreshing take on interactive text. The production of the app by Liza Daly is also beautiful and well-polished.
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Haruspex Games
Mechanic of the Year
It’s at moments like these that the strength of the mechanic really hits home, both as a way of furthering narrative, and as a way of exploring characters, relationships, and societal pressures in intelligent, affecting ways. I’d love to see Emily Short, or someone else if need be, take this mechanic and run with it, because my god does it have legs as a storytelling form.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Story Nominees (Deirdra Kiai)
There are hints that this family is eventually going to fall from grace, which feels oddly satisfying to me; I’ve always had more sympathy for the underdog team, and I guess that holds even if I haven’t technically been on said team. The fact that we can’t change this outcome feels significant. People in power fall, and new people come to take their place, and so it goes on and on forever. Eventually, we might hope for some sort of equilibrium, but as I’ve said, we’re far from there yet.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Story Nominees (Emma Joyce)
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 awoman 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.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

7 of 7 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.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Blending the personal and the political, June 29, 2013
by EJ

(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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A new way of interacting with fiction: editing, May 11, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)

Very interesting method of showing character development through the way they edit their writing. I was a bit disappointed that your edits don't affect the ending (at least, according to Emily Short's write-up). But now I am questioning if this kind of causality is really necessary to create a meaningful interactive experience.

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First Draft of the Revolution on IFDB

Recommended Lists

First Draft of the Revolution appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Best fantasy games by MathBrush
These are my favorite games that include some sort of magical or fantastical element. Games with mostly horror or sci-fi elements are on other lists, as are surreal games, fairy tale/nursery games, and religious/mythological games. I've...

Society, Socialites and Social Climbing by E.K.
Games where the protagonist has to navigate aspirational society in some way, whether it is an attempt at climbing the social ladder or avoiding those who seek to do so. Status, gossip, backstabbing and money are the orders of the day...

Historical Setting by Teaspoon
Some good games with a historical setting. Will be added to as I go along.


The following polls include votes for First Draft of the Revolution:

Games / stories with an eighteenth-century setting by chux
That is, I'm specifically interested in a European / Western version of the 18th-C.: Age of Enlightenment; Great Awakening / Puritanism; Colonial and Revolutionary USA; Louis XIV to French Revolution; hoop petticoats, justacorps, and...

Hypertext stories that make heavy use of text transformations by Bruno Dias
I'm looking for hypertexts that make heavy use of stretchtext and related effects to tell their story - Links that add, remove, or alter text within a passage. Swan Hill for instance makes heavy use of this, and my own work does too, but...

For Your Consideration: Games from 2012 that should be nominated for the XYZZY Awards by Molly
There were a lot of great games released in the past year, and now that the XYZZYs are coming up, it seems like a very good idea to take a poll of all the games from last year people would like to see nominated. The management has asked...

See all polls with votes for this game

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