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Tapestry by Daniel Ravipinto [Comp96]

IFDB page: Tapestry
Final placement: 2nd place (of 26) in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition

I thought this was really an impressive piece of work. Yes, it was a bit heavy-handed at times, and probably a little too derivative of Neil Gaiman’s visions of Fate and Evil in his Sandman cycle. But nonetheless, I found the situations compelling, the dilemmas convincing, and if a work is going to be derivative of someone, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Gaiman. I sometimes resented having my emotions so blatantly manipulated (somewhat akin to my feelings in a few Spielberg films) by the Dickensian drama of the mother and wife with wasting illnesses, the struggling family business on the edge of ruin, and the innocent “victims of inexorable fate” in the form of an onrushing car. Still, the fact is that the work succeeded in pushing my emotional buttons, and I was moved by the story. Tapestry is an ambitious piece, and both its successes and its failures are due to its exploration of the possibilities of interactive fiction. For example, the feeling of not being able to control the car despite what you order the character to do is an extremely chilling one, and it is an effect that would not pack the same potency were it attempted in static fiction. By the same token, though, exchanges with the wraith seemed a bit forced due to the limits of the medium — often complex points were reduced to the level of trying different versions of “tell wraith about x”. I have to admit, even though I’m educated enough to recognize “Morningstar” as Lucifer (the author even whispered in my ear to tell me so), I still chose his path my first try through the game. At the endgame, I was forced to think about my choices, and to recognize that I had been (and therefore could be) manipulated into making a choice that was wrong for the character, even if it wasn’t morally wrong, even if it is the choice I myself would have made under the circumstances. It wasn’t a nice feeling.

Prose: The prose tended toward the histrionic at times, and unfortunately this actually occasionally diluted the emotional impact of the situations. However, my experience of those moments was that they stuck out from the general trend of the writing, which was quite craftily done, and in fact sported some moments of real intensity and poignancy despite the occasional cliché.

Difficulty: I didn’t find the game too difficult to get through, but then again it wasn’t particularly puzzle-oriented. In fact, the path of Morningstar required a great deal more puzzle-solving than the path of Clotho (which is the other one I tried). Is there a message here?

Technical (coding): On the whole the coding was quite proficient. I was a little unhappy with what I perceived as some shortcuts (for example, a medicine bottle not implemented as a container), and the author’s realistic setting caused a few problems with Inform‘s standard responses. (Examples: entering “DIAL 911” and being told “You don’t know that phone number.”, and being told that I really should clean the soot that’s collected on my carpet, yet “CLEAN SOOT” receives a reply of “You achieve nothing by this.”) Apart from these details, the coding was accomplished quite handily.

Technical (writing): Grammatical and/or spelling problems and typos were not entirely absent, (I remember noticing an “a” used in place of an “at” or some such) but they were very few and far between.

Plot: I found the plot quite compelling. The prologue worked quite well for me, (though I did appreciate the “begin” command after my first time through) and the mutually exclusive endings were well planned. Ultimately, the game’s plot boils down to the idea that moral dilemmas can be extremely powerful in the medium of interactive fiction. I think this is a very, very good idea indeed.

Puzzles: As mentioned above, this work wasn’t really very puzzle-oriented. The puzzles that were included were integrated well with the game — no gratuitous grafted-on “crossword” elements — and this was both a strength and a weakness. The strength: nothing interrupted the suspension of disbelief created by the game’s dramatic scenarios. The weakness: character-driven puzzles (which most of these were) all too often boiled down to how to fill in the blanks on “tell ____ about ____.”


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