Alabaster

A fractured fairy tale by John Cater, Rob Dubbin, Eric Eve, Elizabeth Heller, Jayzee,
Kazuki Mishima, Sarah Morayati, Mark Musante, Emily Short, Adam Thornton, & Ziv Wities
Illustrated by Daniel Allington-Krzysztofiak

Release 1

The Queen has told you to return with her heart in a box. Snow White has made you promise to make other arrangements. Now that you're alone in the forest, it's hard to know which of the two women to trust. The Queen is certainly a witch — but her stepdaughter may be something even more horrible...

There are some eighteen possible endings to this fairy tale.

Some of them are even almost happy.

On the Writing

Alabaster is the result of an experiment in open authorship.

Emily Short wrote and released the introduction to the story; John Cater, Rob Dubbin, Eric Eve, Elizabeth Heller, Jayzee, Kazuki Mishima, Sarah Morayati, Mark Musante, Adam Thornton, and Ziv Wities then contributed conversation text. Every day or two, the game was recompiled and rereleased with waves of new material, allowing contributors to draw on one another's inventions. This period of writing took place around Halloween 2008.

Afterward, the game received further editing to improve continuity and conversation flow, and assorted testing and improvements to the environment. The plot that resulted is thus no single person's invention. (Those interested in the development process will find the whole thing charted in blog entries, back to the initial request for participants.)

Alabaster incorporates some 415 quips (snippets of conversation), many of which have further alternate versions depending on just when the player encounters them. The "conversation diagram" document at the right displays the layout of these quips at a stage near the end of first-draft development (but before beta-testing, so it differs in some respects from the final output of the game).

As of this writing, the conversation system used in Alabaster is being tested in preparation for a general release for users of Inform 7. The concepts underlying the system are discussed in Emily Short's article Conversation Design in Games.

On the Illustration

The graphics are likewise an experiment, this time in procedural illustration.

Instead of a status bar at the top of the window (in the manner of traditional interactive fiction) or a large illustration literally representing the current scene, Alabaster uses abstract sketches to indicate the current state of play, and sometimes to hint at future possibilities.

Daniel Allington-Krzysztofiak provided the original idea, the drawing elements, design input, and critique. Emily Short supplied code to place these elements in a collage representing diverse aspects of the game state. While some juxtapositions were precisely engineered, others are the result of the particular route the player has taken through the game, and are likely to be unique. Considered singly, the resulting images might be considered found art — or perhaps the work of the game itself.

On the Technology

Alabaster is an interpreted game, which means that it can run on several operating systems using an interpreter. The downloads for Windows and Mac above provide both the game file and the interpreter in a single installation. Once you have the interpreter, you can also use it to play other interactive fiction, of which you'll find many examples at the Interactive Fiction Database.

If you are a veteran IF player, you may already have a Glulx interpreter, but we strongly recommend that you make sure you're running the fastest, most recent one available on your system (Git 1.2.4 for Windows, Zoom 1.1.4 for Mac). Alabaster is considerably more processing-intensive than the average interactive fiction.

License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.