Open Sorcery by Abigail Corfman is a science fiction interactive fiction game made with Twine and was published on May 5, 2016. The game follows the development of an “Elemental Firewall” (a creature described as being made of magic and C++ code), created by the characters Decker and Janet, as it protects a variety of people and places from harmful spirits. The player guides the Elemental Firewall, making decisions and allowing her to grow through developing relationships and gaining intelligence. Or the player can choose to burn everything with fire. It’s an option that Corfman leaves up to the player.
During game play the player scans different locations and people to assess whether a spirit is present, if there isn’t the location is now “protected” but if there is the player must figure out the “matter” and “motive” of the spirit. Clues are left in the text for the player to discern matter and motive from, when they have a guess they can pick from six different options for each category.
If they player guesses the matter and motive correctly the scan the Elemental Firewall conducts will come back with “THREAT DETECTED”. It is at this point that the player’s choice will affect the Elemental Firewall. The player can choose from three different options:
- Cleanse it with fire
- Speak to it
- Alert Decker and Janet
If the player chooses to cleanse the spirit with fire the Elemental Firewall sets a “trap”. A group of three overlapping, red boxes will appear, intrigued the spirit will enter the boxes, the player can then click “crush” until the boxes shrink and vanish completely or click “stop” and get sent back to the options list. If the spirit is dealt with by fire then the Elemental Firewall with notice an increase in her power.
Option 2, “Speak to it”, is a more lengthy option than the first and third. The player can choose to be polite to the spirit or a bit more aggressive, but it won’t talk to you if you make it too angry. If spoken to correctly the Elemental Firewall can get the spirit to agree to a game of riddles, if the she answers three riddles correctly the spirit will leave of its own accord. If the player answers a riddle incorrectly they’re sent back to the options list, but they can try to answer three more riddles. By answering all three riddles correctly the Elemental Firewall’s system will update with new information that it has learned based off the spirits matter and motive.
The last option is for the Elemental Firewall to alert its creators, Decker and Janet, to the presence and location of a spirit so that they can take care of it. This option increases the relationships she has with the creators.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of options and the level of control that the player has in Open Sorcery. The development of the Elemental Firewall is up to the player, you can make it about increasing intelligence, developing relationships, or just burning everything with fire because you can. The game approaches the topic of AI from the unique perspective of the AI discovering its sense of self and purpose. While it does feature the played out idea that AIs will become sentient and destroy everything we care about, it also shows that things don’t have to turn out that way. It proves that there isn’t one path for AIs, there are, in fact, many different possible endings. With 55,000 words of text, five animated sequences, and over ten different endings, Open Sorcery has a lot to offer. Since I played the online demo I didn’t get to see any animated sequences, but what I did play seriously has me considering buying the game so I can play the rest of it.