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Beyond the Lone Islands

Monday, 16 March 2009

Multiple Choice (Mysteries of Udolpho III)

Emily - the heroine of The Mysteries of Udolpho – is at present enjoying a little repose from the terrors at Udolpho; which she really deserves, since she has been through a lot lately. I take the opportunity to breathe a little, too, and recapitulate. Cruel though it may seem, I'm hoping Emily will be going back to the castle soon, because there seems to be a lot left to be sorted out at that place, and we still have 250 pages to go...

If the idea has not already been used, Udolpho would make a great scene for an Interactive Fiction (IF) computer game, the "old fashioned" kind with just text and no pictures. I haven't played a lot of them but a few. In some of them, you get multiple choices; in others, you have to come up with suggestions yourself (like: Go north, or Feed dog, or Hit dwarf with axe.) Some are just boring, but the good ones really create pictures in your head although you haven't actually been shown any. Ann Radcliffe's novel leaves the same kind of impression – the plot sort of keeps going round in circles, but you have to give her credit for her ability to paint pictures with words, whether the subject is a tranquil valley landscape or a gloomy castle up in the mountains.

Anyway, here is a Multiple Choice scene for an imaginary Udolpho IF game:

You are all alone in your gloomy bedroom at the Castle of Udolpho. It is midnight, the fire has gone out and you have no way to light your candle. You are a long way from the servants quarters of the castle. The other rooms in your corridor are empty, or at least you would prefer to think so, because the alternative is even more unpleasant to consider. You are sitting by the window, gazing medatively out over the ramparts. The moon shines over a wild mountain landscape of pine forests and deep ravines. Suddenly, you see a dark figure moving in the shadows on the rampart below. There really should not be anybody there at this hour. What do you do?

a/ You recall the stories you have heard about the castle being haunted, and faint.

b/ You tell yourself it must be one of the guards, but wonder what he is doing there.

c/ You think it is your beloved fiancé, whom you reluctantly left behind in France.

d/ You decide to keep watch the next night too, and see if the figure returns.

e/ You decide to wait for the maid, and ask her what she thinks. (You already know that she will think it was a ghost, and then you can play the rational one and convince her that there are no ghosts, and that there must be a natural explanation.)

f/ You decide not to wait for the maid but to go and find her, even though you have no light.

h/ You open the window and call out: "Who are you and what are you doing here?"

In the game of Udolpho, you should not expect just one of these answers to be the right one. They will all lead you on in different directions; but in the next chapter you will again find yourself right back in your room by the window, at midnight…

Read more about Interactive Fiction (Wikipedia)

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