Words, Characters, and Machines

Honestly speaking, I think Floyd is an interesting fellow. Far from being the character that should be despised, it is just a simply programmed robot that follows you around. Sure, he doesn’t do anything for you but get in the way of things a little, but he does kind of color up the abysmally empty world of the all-text and blue screen interface. On a second thought, I’m not sure if I would say the same thing for a point-and-click type of game. In any event, I liked Floyd because of his eccentricity and humorous lameness that subtly works its way in to the gaming experience. Whenever I was frustrated with the inconvenience of typing 3rd grade commands that aren’t understood by my character’s ensign seventh class knowledge, Floyd would always be there to distract me out of the game’s impossibility. In effect, he (or it) is the player’s respite or encouragement from the constant guesses and more guesses we have to make throughout the game. Floyd is neither a protagonist nor a sidekick but part of a group called NPCs that does not usually receive credit for providing character dynamics to the game. Nevertheless, it still manages to somehow pull it off for this one. A reason for this may be that his speech and mannerisms are so much different from the rest of the game itself. Without him, Planetfall would have been a pretty depressing game. When I finally decided to give up and part with Floyd, I was still stuck in “Complex One”. This was where I needed to pour liquids into a machine but was unable to move past a few rooms without dying from starvation. At this point, my relationship with Floyd can be considered to be a like-dislike sort of thing where I start taking for granted the companionship he offers me whenever I enter a new room or enter some command. Since I was also “stuck” in that area and trying similar commands, Floyd makes me read messages he’s said several times already. So it gets a bit repetitive. But perhaps if I had a turkey sandwich and held onto robot faith to continue further, he might become more than just a simple robot later down the road.

In creating a similar genre of a game that is more compelling, I believe that the script needs to be heavily revised or rewritten. Rather than treating players like a child with simple languages. I would prefer more regular descriptions that actually make players imagine the world they are interacting with. Secondly, I would also want to change the way the program organizes and delivers the textual story as it gets laid out. This would allow players a better means of accessing the data to make more convenient decisions, which in turn empowers the players and the game becomes more fun rather than the puzzling language format experienced in Planetfall. Perhaps even having a diary log that keeps a memory of what you have recently done and/or taken notes of a particular area would be beneficial as well. With a diary log, the player would always be able to go back and trace the story that has transcended. Lastly, there also needs to be more variety of NPCs to interact with so that players can easily involve themselves with the richness of major plots and subplots that come with them.

In terms of making the game more entertaining, there needs to be a change with the basics of the game. By this, I’m referring to the language comprehension of the game. An expansion of the game vocabulary would make commands easier to implement and thus more entertaining and easier to play. Secondly, I would also add more enemies (rather than just fixed obstacles) that have to be overcome or avoided. For example, the game would be more compelling if a player had to be more cautious of the room because a roaming monster could be in that room and can kill the character in a few hits. Third, I feel that genre games like Planetfall also need to grant the characters a wider array of powers to change the world around them. For instance, the main characters you are controlling can have a firebolt spell that can be casted to burn a bookcase of books. Finally, the text-based game also should implement real-time, where at certain points of the game, timing can become a factor to a certain situation, where the player must complete a certain task within limited time frame to have a desired effect. Hence, it would count the number of times a player has entered a command and the amount of time the player took to enter that command. This thus creates a need to do something in the game and fosters a more involving overall game play.

To make the NPCs a more memorable part of the game is to allow for an increase in interactions and exchanges of the NPCs themselves. In this, it is to create stronger connections between the NPC and the player. One of the ways which we can do this is by making the NPCs more useful and involving than just a walking ornament that exists because its programmer told it so. For example, the NPC can offer suggestions or clues to advance in the game when the player is stuck on a certain level. Moreover, the NPCs should also include a higher utility value by being able to do certain actions or provide options that are beneficial to the player. A good example of this can be seen in World of Warcraft and the way NPCs are an integral part of helping you complete a certain task for a quest or acquiring advancements. Another way to make an NPC a more engaging entity is to actually allow the player to “role-play” as the NPC itself. This can be possible at certain parts of the game, where you are required to play as the NPC because the main character is sedated, locked up, or taking a brief vacation. In turn, these are all options game programmers can use that are capable of reducing the distance between the NPC and the players, which make the NPCs more enjoyable, easier to relate, and memorable.


About jonycfu

Hello! My name is Jon and I am currently a to-be Web Development Immersive student at General Assembly Hong Kong! I graduated with a double major in Business Marketing and Communications. In my spare time, I enjoy building computers, cooking, golfing, reading, and watching TV shows (e.g. Fringe, Breaking Bad, GoT, Sherlock, Parks and Rec, The Office, South Park, Futurama).
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