Planetfall as an interactive fiction is quite remarkable. I enjoyed the ability, like audio dramas, to sit in silence (or to my favorite track) and let my mind become engulfed by the game’s story. Of course, as Costikyan has suggested, games as stories and stories as games present challenges and can arguably be referred to as “opposites” of each other. Sure, Costikyan acknowledges that some games can employ stories making the game successful and entertaining, but in the case of Planetfall, I totally understand his argument and would argue that in the case of Floyd, story and game do in fact come together.
I died every five minutes.
No wait, I died every two seconds — or so it seemed. Yes, this element of the story is at times very aggravating. Enter the room filled with mutants and die in the process. Why do these fools attack me? Why must I die in this situation? In the beginning of the IF, the escape pod fills with water and one must escape before drowning. In these circumstances the story dictates the events. The story places restraints on the game, sometimes detracting from the overall gaming experience.
So why is story even necessary in a game? I die because I didn’t hold onto the safety webbing. Safety webbing? What the hell. The story restricts our gameplay and forces us to grab onto the safety webbing, try not to, over and over and over again, dead yet?
While these circumstances promoted, in me, a staunch sense of rage and hatred towards the game, I can overlook them [the inconvenient aspects of the story] because of Floyd, the NPC. Floyd is important to the game. He, as the sidekick, helps the hero, he helps us. Without Floyd, we would not be able to complete the game. The game, in this sense, relies on the story of Floyd. He is a necessary evil, one that is extremely annoying yet resilient and determined to help us. As I grew fonder of his presence, he would vanish only to come back a few minutes later. “He’s gone,” I thought to myself and thankfully so. But when I finally understood Floyd’s utility to the game, he became a role-model and a hero in hisown right. I did not cry like Chuck Wendig suggested some did, but I completely felt sorrow for his deadly plight, even if it was essential to advancing the game.
So Floyd, to me, was a perfect addition to the story that detracted from the gaming experience only to eventually advance it. Through Floyd, story and game come together in a sense of harmony.
Did I enjoy the game? No, not really. I kept getting lost more than anything else and I sometimes saved the game in inconvenient spots that were inefficiently reached, resulting in my Ensign being too hungry for too long and unbeknown to me during several saves, I was only a few moves away from starving. While I can appreciate Planetfall as an IF that requires imagination and patience, I must contend that this is not a fun medium to play regularly. Without visual clues, I was constantly lost and seemingly always racing against the clock before I would starve or go to sleepy-time. Even with the walkthrough and Planetfall map, I could not wrap my head around it enough to fully illustrate the world in my mind. If I were to continually explore the world, however, I am sure that with familiarity would come more enjoyment. I do wish on second thought that Planetfall included a client-based program that ran like Aardwolf, which would include a map, console, and other vital information. This would, in my case, have made the game more fun and understandable.
Though until then, I’ll simply remember Floyd for all his tricks and games, idiocy and heroism. The story became more vibrant, dynamic, and playful with Floyd while the game relied heavily on his act of selflessness.