Unfortunately I was one of the lucky people who owns a Mac, and tried numerous times to download Frotz and make Planetfall work that way, but it failed. So, I found it online and began playing, with zero ability to save. Needless to say, I immediately got on Google and found a couple walkthroughs to help me, because I had no idea where to begin. It was pretty entertaining at first, I even talked back to Blather once, who automatically gave me 50 demerits. I thought that was one of the best parts of the game actually, because of all the times the game says “I don’t know the word…(insert any common word here)”, I was excited it actually recognized my not-so-nice diss.
After awhile, and many deaths later, I met Floyd. I was a little surprised when he popped up out of nowhere, except that a walkthrough already gave away that after activating him, he wouldn’t come to me until a little later. After hearing in class that people got really annoyed with him, I felt predisposed to dislike him, but I actually didn’t mind him. Granted, I did tend to ignore him a lot; I was on a mission to get farther in the game, and he wasn’t much help at the time so I just kinda let him follow me. However, after not being able to save my game, and restarting multiple times, by the time I got back to Floyd I decided to pay attention to him for once. I was stuck, unable to get into the upper elevator, even though I had the access card, it just wouldn’t accept any of my phrases, and I was getting pretty irritated. Good ol’ Floyd was just hanging out behind me, asking to play hide-and-seek or something, and I thought to myself, “meh, why not see what he can do.” It was then that I realized he brings a good dimension to the game, because it was kind of lonely when the only task was to run around taking and dropping things, eating, and even sleeping (?!) all alone. It seems completely ridiculous, but I actually did get kinda scared sneaking through the dorms and kitchen, I kept thinking something would pop out and kill me. Floyd is there for that company, as well as comic relief at times (he didn’t even get too angry when I kicked him), and he tried to be loving which I found pretty cute. I can see how if your main objective is to just get through the game, and to the end, you may get annoyed with someone like Floyd; it just depends on the player’s objective, I think. But every good adventure story seems to have the main character and their loyal sidekick: Batman and Robin, Shrek and the donkey (I liked previous posts’ acknowledgement to this duo, it seems very fitting), Dr. Who and his many female partners, etc.
I’ll admit I was a bit surprised to find myself enjoying the style of the game, when I honestly thought I would hate it. Granted, after dying many times without being able to save, it got a bit less enjoyable, but overall I did like visualizing the rooms and routes in my head. The best part was trying out new phrases and seeing how the game responded. I think any interactive fiction game in this medium should have a good number of characters to interact with, and many possible phrases. Luckily, with the new technology it is possible to do this.
Helping the player figure out what tasks to take on is also important. If I hadn’t had the walkthroughs, I guarantee I would’ve given up after a while. Without some guidance, the player has to explore, but if there are too many options, it would take quite a while. I think if more characters were introduced to provide these kinds of tips (nothing too easy, yes, a challenge is still good), it may alleviate frustration.
As far as NPCs go, I think the way Floyd is in Planetfall is one of the best ways of making him memorable. People were able to get attached to his presence, as noted in Meretzky’s article, but there are always going to be some people who find an NPC annoying or pointless. Just one, as opposed to many, allows the player to form more of a bond, if that’s what you’re trying to acheive. As for the prose, information should be as brief as possible when given. Even though I understand that with no visuals some description is necessary, but I also found myself zoning out when I saw a long paragraph. Maybe it’s just my inability to think creatively right now, but this medium is pretty limited; however, I do think it’s great for focusing on the story, and engages the player.