Blog 4. Floyd, Planetfall and interactive fiction

 

Floyd the Robot

 

During the past week, you should have spent a few hours working through puzzles in the game Planetfall. An early example of the genre known as “interactive fiction,” this title helped pave the way for visually-based puzzle adventure games such as Star Wars Legos and Uncharted Fortune.

In your next blog posting, due no later than 11:59 pm on Tuesday (10/12), please dissect your experience with Planetfall and address the following issues:

Part I. Floyd the Robot and memorable characters

After the first act of the game, you will have encountered Floyd the robot. In the first paragraph of your posting, analyze the relationship that you formed with this character. Would you describe him as “likeable?” Why or why not? How would you describe your relationship with Floyd at the point when you stopped playing the game?

Note: If you didn’t get this far in the game, you should instead read the two Floyd articles linked on TLEARN (see 1 and 2) and then discuss similar characters from other stories that you have enjoyed.

Part II. How can we make interactive fiction even better?

Compared to contemporary games, certain aspects of Planetfall are somewhat frustrating. For example, one of the most common critiques of old interactive fiction games is the tendency to place players in predicaments that can only be solved by guessing the correct noun or verb. This was partly caused by limited storage space on old computers. There just wasn’t enough room to include all linguistic possibilities in the game. These days, it would be possible to include a much larger vocabulary.

Imagine that you are a game designer who wants to tell an effective story through the medium of interactive fiction. While staying within the basic limitations of the genre (e.g. a single-player adventure game with prose descriptions and no graphics), what steps might you take to make the story more compelling? What steps could might take to make the game-play more entertaining? Can you think of ways of making the computer-controlled “non-player characters” (NPCs) a more memorable part of the game?

In contemplating these design questions, feel free to imagine all sorts of new technologies and capabilities. The only constraint is that the game must still be an example of non-visual interaction fiction with prose descriptions and verbal inputs.

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About Aaron Delwiche

This blog is intended to support the activities of students enrolled in Transmedia Storytelling and Games for the Web at Trinity University.
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