I will start off by admitting that I am not a gamer in the least. If I absolutely HAVE to play a game…it better look like a movie and not be difficult. If not, it better be “Mario Party 2” or “MarioKart” for Nintendo 64, otherwise…you’ve lost me.
Needless to say, “Planetfall” was quite the struggle for me. Not only did I not want to play it to start off with, but I have the least clever gamer mind ever…so I was extremely frustrated throughout my time playing “Planetfall”. I found myself just giving up because I couldn’t think of the correct commands–I was always at a dead end.
Of course, I didn’t quite make it to meeting dear Floyd. However, upon reading about him, I know exactly who he reminds me of. Floyd reminds me of a combination between Wall-E from Pixar’s Wall-E, and Donkey in Dream Works’ Shrek series. He has that persistent yet loyal quality (which is
why he is just like Donkey), and he also has the cute little robot friend quality (which is why he is like Wall-E). I found, in both movies, that I ended up having an emotional attachment to both characters, despite the fact that I was slightly irritated by them at the beginning of both films when they were introduced. Based on both readings on Floyd, he has the same characteristics. Players hate him at first, thinking that he is the most annoying robot ever. Soon, however, they begin to become emotionally attached to him, and also get used to him always being around (both persistent, and loyal).
If I were a game designer trying to improve interactive fiction through the medium of gaming, I would definitely change several things based on my “Planetfall” experience. First–I would include some epic audio. Without any visuals, audio is very important.
I would also include some sort of an omniscient narrative voice–one that leads players through the obstacles and gives them hints and clues (such as the written hints in the Dr. Who game, but only audible).
In addition to this contributing (speaking) narrator, I would add several speaking (interactive) NPC’s. These interactive NPC’s could function to move the game along much faster than it does now. Also, they would all have very different voices and different characteristics that would help the player decipher between them (since there are no graphics or visual details allowed in interactive fiction games). These extra NPC’s also would serve to foster emotional connections between the game and the individual playing the game. I felt so separated from my “Planetfall” playing experience because it felt like taking a test to me–I had no characters pulling me in to get me emotionally attached and intellectually interested in moving forward in the game.
Lastly, I would invent a new technology to make the interactive fiction experience infinitely more interactive (that would most likely substitute for not being able to have graphics): something that ejects odors from a computer straight to the player. For example, in the beginning of the game when the player is on the ship: the alien lands and the commands distinctively report the horrible smell of the goo that the alien left behind. When the command mentions this, some special odor shooter can eject a gross alien goo smell straight at the player, causing them to understand the importance of cleaning the goo so that the ship captain doesn’t find it.
In conclusion, new inventions to make interactive fiction games much more fun (and way cooler), would be awesome. I might consider playing if I know that my other 4 senses could possibly be engaged throughout the game, compensating for not being able to see where I’m moving. I both like and dislike the simplicity of Floyd as a character in “Planetfall”. I think that NPC’s have potential to be far more thought-out; and as a game designer, I could use McCloud’s tips (Making Comics: 2006) for character development to create their backgrounds/personalities, contributing to the enhancement of emotional attachment from players and overall increase in game engagement.