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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.

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