Spring Thing 2016: Rough Draft

By Erica Kleinman (IFDB; Ren’Py)

Spring Thing (or Fall Fooferall) is upon us! This year boasts a dizzying diversity of styles and stories, with some reaching Imaginary Game Jam levels of imagination. You can find all the games here.


In Rough Draft, you’re helping Denise, a writer suffering from writer’s block, decide the course of her story, a fairly generic fantasy-type story. At some points, though, the narrator decides that the story can go no further; you, as invisible editor, can go back and get her to rewrite at a certain decision-making point. It takes the concept of the meta-writing game and really runs with it.

What makes this game unusual is being able to visualise the story structure (below). I liked how information from one rejected branch unlocked decisions in other branches – a reflection, perhaps, of how brainstorming sparks off ideas, even if the original ideas never do make it into the final product.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 11.30.22 PM
Screenshot of node map in Rough Draft

Story branches are quickly pruned off, which means that players must do a bit of lawn-mowering (this is not necessarily meant as a harsh critique, goodness knows I’m guilty of that myself) to find the ‘right’ story branch that allows progress. It would have been great to be able to complete the story using a variety of ways – that, after all, is the power of the imagination.

It’s a pity that the meta-story (the fantasy story the player helps to write) is relatively bland. The fantasy story seems to follow stock tropes and template-like encounters; dialogue sometimes feels stilted. Nonetheless, it is evident that the author has spent much effort on this – the screens which show the story in progress are in reality separate images, as is the story map – and its implementation of this idea, which has so often been talked about, is laudable.

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