While I have a small amount of experience with text-based and other adventure games, I always lamented the fact that you could interact so much with the imaginative environment, however many of the non player characters (NPCs) where quite bland and dull. Planetfall definitely changed my perspective on that by introducing me to the lovable Floyd. It’s easy to see why so many people did not care for the over the top friendly robot. He continually follows you around, and bothers you with his obnoxious lines, however what do you expect from a robot that is essentially alone on a planet until you show up.
I feel like I maintained quite a lovable and fun relationship with Floyd as I made my way
through the world of Planetfall. I regularly attempted to talk to him, even though this usually ended with him simply saying hi to me. He usually had more interesting lines when I wasn’t asking him to speak. Another interesting feature that the designers included was the ability to play with Floyd. I decided on a whim to attempt this command, and thought it was great how you could interact with the NPC on such a personal level. While I’m not quite sure what games a robot and human could play together, it was enjoyable none the less.
After reading through several blog postings, I have seen that many people have been frustrated by this game. Text based games are not the most approachable video games, especially with the graphics capabilities of today making them somewhat obsolete, however, these games can create worlds that no other game can get close to. If given enough time, a developer could create an entire universe in a text based game, with brilliant descriptions, and characters. The best part of that, it is each and every players’ universe. Each player who picks up that game will have a different experience based on how they interpret the text and how they view the images in their head.
While attending GDC Online recently I heard a speaker, Kevin Brooks, talk about how when someone tells a story each listener sees different images in their heads. He explained how that is the purpose of stories, how stories are not supposed to be the story teller’s, but rather the listener’s story. Text adventure games embody this statement, allowing for a single game to create so many different experiences for different players, and truly making the game the player’s game rather than the developer’s.
To fix the frustrations, I would first off recommend a NPC in the likeness of Navi from The
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Navi, while annoying with her persistent “Hey! Listen!”, played an important role in aiding the player when they were stuck. If the player spent to long without advancing the story Navi would suggest an action to perform or a place to travel. This would make text based adventure games a lot more approachable for those who are not as adept with puzzles.
Another useful addition to text based adventures would be a learning curve at the beginning of the game. Rather than plunging the user right into the middle of the story and forcing them to figure out exactly what to do, and how to do it the game should create a few easier areas for players to get acquainted with the game style and puzzle types. This training area per say could include helpful signs the user could read describing certain aspects of the game, or simple puzzles that are later presented in the game as a more complex version.
While people tend to prefer visually appealing games over text based adventures, there are so many wonderful aspects from the text based games. These games allow the user to feel personally involved with the game, and present vivid, beautiful worlds unique to each user. Even with the minor frustrations, these games are a powerful medium and should be treated as a true art form.