Ghost In The Shelley: Elegy For A Dead World

The Kickstarter page for Dejobaan’s Elegy For a Dead World gets straight to the point – “A game about writing fiction”, reads the subtitle – and the pitch video is short and sweet. It’s also captivating, bringing to my tired mind a vision of a single player take on Jason Rohrer’s Sleep is Death. The worlds of Elegy are pre-constructed and even the names of the worlds – Shelley, Keats and Byron – might well suggest themes and feelings. Your input will be to decide how every theme, sight and sound translates into worlds, as you construct a fictional history of each place based on your discoveries. The video explains all of this rather well.

I’m intrigued by the idea of the textual input being explicitly taken as future output – that is to say, your words won’t change the game but the process of reading them might change another player’s view of the game. You’re writing onto the game rather than interacting with moving parts of a machine, although that’s not to say there won’t be challenges.

“Each world offers multiple sets of prompts, each intended to inspire you to write a different story about it. Elegy might ask you to write a short story about an individual’s final days, a song about resignation, or a poem about war. In the more advanced levels, you’ll sometimes get new information halfway through your story which casts a new light on things and forces you to take your story in a different direction. We like to think of those as puzzles — writing yourself out of a corner, so to speak.”

Once you’ve interpreted the worlds, you can have your efforts reproduced as a physical art book using external services. Or you can see what other people have created.

You can read other players’ works, browsing through the most-recent, the best-loved, and recently-trending stories. In our gameplay tests so far, players have expressed a variety of thoughts about what happened in each world — the silhouette of what looks like a telescope to one player looks like a rocket ship to another, and a planet-destroying weapon to yet another.

The target is $48,000, with $10,000 raised in the first 24 hours. The Kickstarter is only running for 20 days but I’m hoping for a Coleridge World stretch goal. I’m excited about this but I’ll stop writing now. Watch that video again. With an acceptance of the irony of it all, I’ll admit that in this instance the video above is worth a thousand of my words.

15 Comments

  1. kwyjibo says:

    It’d be more exciting if it allowed artists to create their own worlds, and then to see how others interpreted it through their writing.

    • spindaden says:

      Yeah a “level editor” or similar that allowed you to create worlds and share them could be a good stretch goal.

      This got me thinking how cool it would be if you could do the same thing with procedural generation – if you could somehow procedurally spawn cool scenes, or related scenes, then ask people to interpret them like this.

  2. Dorga says:

    Why isn’t this already completely funded!?!!

    • dejobaan says:

      I love to hear that. Thank you. :) We’re just one day in (it launched yesterday), but fingers crossed.

  3. Ross Angus says:

    Stuff you type into a text parser can be very funny. I played Façade years ago three times, without “winning” once. Eventually persuaded a more empathic friend to play, and her chat was hysterical. She still got ejected from the dinner party, though.

  4. draglikepull says:

    Holy crow, this sounds amazing. Half-way through the pitch video I was totally sold.

    • dejobaan says:

      That makes me happy to hear; thank you. Doubly so, since I think my first draft of the pitch video was really bad, and dragged on for ages. :)

  5. cpt_freakout says:

    Didn’t RPS cover something like this a long while ago? Or was it this game… anyhow, I’m off to back this!

    • Oozo says:

      You are right, they wrote about it almost a year ago:
      link to rockpapershotgun.com

      It’s even mentioned on their Kickstarter page! They write that initially, it was supposed to be a small, experimental project, but it grew bigger than expected. Seems like they are just looking for a way to finish the game. It’s the FTL route, if you will. (Actually, the Beta will start in October already.)

  6. JiminyJickers says:

    I’m not sure I understand what the game is about. It seems just like it gives you prompts and you finish the sentence. It seems to me that the same thing can be accomplished by having a a picture book with some blank spaces to fill in.

    I guess it is all about reading what other people wrote. I wish them luck and will check it out once released, to see if there is more to it than I think.

  7. Hanban says:

    This must get funded. Ever since the first RPS post I’ve been keeping an eye out for it and of all the kickstarters I’ve backed this is the one I root the most for. Being a teacher, getting unmotivated students to start writing can be a challenge and the more tools in the toolbelt the better. I would just love to give it a try with some kids and see how it works out.

    I’ll be gutted if it doesn’t get funded :(

    • dejobaan says:

      Thanks, Hanban. :) I’d like to hear your experiences as an educator. Encouraging creative writings in students is one of our goals.

  8. Bassem says:

    I always told myself I wouldn’t back anything on KS, even projects I was very enthusiastic about, but now I’ve just backed this project without a second thought.

    I’ll always support Dejobaan because of their consistently interesting and fun games, and Ichiro Lambe specifically because he left such a positive impression on me.

    And unrelated to all of that, this game concept sounds very appealing and judging from the KS progress so far, I have high hopes it’ll make it!