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Floatpoint

by Emily Short profile

Science Fiction
2006

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(16)
4 star:
(48)
3 star:
(14)
2 star:
(3)
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(2)
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Number of Reviews: 7
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1-7 of 7


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game of negotiation and understanding in a scifi setting, August 6, 2015
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is my favorite Short game. This game is set in the future, when a colony from earth has developed gene-altering technology. The setting is not really important, however. What is important is the negotiation and the recording features.

Negotiation: The main purpose of the game is to work out what will happen between earth and the planet. Your job is to communicate this, but you have to understand the symbolism of the settlers. The bulk of the game is focused on figuring out what to say and how to say it.

Recording: This is actually not even necessary to the completion of the game, so some players have missed it. There are several recordings in the game which can be 'processed' to one of several different modes, such as a cartoon mode, a scientific mode, etc. It was hilariously fun, and unique among games I have played.

One of the great sci-fi games.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Difficult, Brilliant, February 28, 2014
Fair warning, I've tried to use the spoiler tag but I may have inadvertently left something in. You should go play this first before reading a single review anyway!

I enjoyed this immensely. In a lot of ways, this reminded me of an Ursula Le Guin novel (The Left Hand of Darkness in particular), with the focus shifted from gender divisions to -- well, it's complicated, but brilliantly put together. (Spoiler - click to show)The Colonists are asked what price they will pay, in terms of which faction of their people (and thus which facet of their culture) they will sacrifice, for the survival of their entire race. The humans are asked the opposite question; what part of their culture will they pay to save a single suffering segment of their population.

(Spoiler - click to show)Add to this that each race has already faced the choice to destroy one group of their people to save the rest, and made very different decisions that shaped their cultures, and that the historical decision that most people would want to be the correct one was most likely (but may not have been) disastrous, and that everyone involved except the hero is aware of these ramifications, and you have a lot to think about.

We don't get to see much, if any, of the emotions of any of the characters, including the protagonist. (Spoiler - click to show)He isn't a blank slate; he has been personally affected by the Plague, and the choices made that led to it. And his life has been changed, maybe even saved, by choices others have made for him. But, despite glimpses of his history, we are never told overtly how he feels about anything of importance. This is a case where detachment from the main character is an effective technique; the distance allowed me to see the facets of the situation without undue emotional weight.

That is part of what made it so difficult to decide what to do; if the protagonist's sympathies were clear and aligned, we could simply choose to "do what our character would do" and thus feel no responsibility for the choice (as we are urged by the protagonist's superior, who goes so far as to absolve us of any guilt if we do "follow orders"). Instead, we are forced to decide on our own, using the information we've gleaned from our exploration of the world and the NPCs (and the more thorough the exploration, the more meaningful the choice will be, though never clear cut). We can certainly choose to make the decision we think the hero would make, based on what we know of him, but it will not be handed to us.

There's a fine line between "make the best choice you can with the limited information you have" and "eh, it's impossible to say what'll happen, just pick something". I think this came down on the side of the former, but it could easily swing to the other side if you missed important information or didn't explore enough or didn't catch on right away that these NPCs were not going to stand around feeding you information on demand all day.

I'm terrible at timed puzzles and worse at dialogue-based story advancement (I'm the person dialogue menus were invented for). I love that this was accounted for; I still made it to the end by doing logical IF-y things, just with a lot less information than a better player would have had. I could have made a decision blindly at that point, but I decided not to spoil the ending with lack of context. So I restarted with a walkthrough to consult on the trickier bits, mainly a couple of conversations near the beginning before I caught on to the nuances of communication. Hint: (Spoiler - click to show)You often get just one shot at someone; the most productive next step is often clued heavily in their dialogue. Experiment with general responses like "agree" or "disagree".

It took several hours of mulling it over to really grasp the significance of the main story and to appreciate the layers built into it and the frame around it. EVERYONE in this game has an agenda and a past that influences them today, and none of these agendas are petty or foolish, and none are entirely right or entirely wrong -- much like their opinions of each other. (Spoiler - click to show)There are also no absolutes and no guarantees; no ending promises that history will prove this the right choice, a theme mirrored by the human story of the plague. And on this scale, of millions and millions of lives, that ambiguity feels appropriate.

By the end I was greedily lingering over any little thing I could interact with just to learn a tiny bit more, checking just one more time to see if changing any aspect might open up another ending, even reading the Club Floyd Transcript to see what others might have found that I missed. And requiring that my loved ones play too so we can discuss it. Not sure there's higher praise than that.

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A short, atmospheric SF piece, September 20, 2010
by Janos Honkonen (Helsinki, Finland)
Related reviews: story based, setting based
The strongest parts of Floatpoint are the story and the setting, which owe far more to scifi short stories in the style of Ursula Le Guin than videogame scripts. The puzzles are nicely integrated to the story, which culminates in a decision that supposedly affects the whole game world.

Apart from one very irritating bug this was an enjoyable experience for friends of non-actiony scifi.

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
You take up the seed by the least drippy part., November 30, 2008
Floatpoint is an excellently written scifi story played to a point where an important decision must be made; then you make it. More specifically, you play an ambassador from Earth sent to an imperiled planet of genetically divergent humans. Your job is to learn enough about the people here and at home to set the terms of a possible relocation of these now-aliens to Earth.

The game text is well written indeed. This is classic science fiction filled with clever little elements I really appreciated--such as a borrowing of or convergence on Jack Vance's "comporture." Exposition at length is mercifully avoided in favor of brief, imagination triggering descriptions. The issue the game presents you is almost certainly connected to any of a dozen cultural battles you are already familiar with, so it should have something to offer everyone. If, however, you don't appreciate the tale she's spinning (or you find it too contrived), then you won't find much else to keep your interest. In other words, this game is absolutely not about puzzles (there are none).

There is some clever coding here too: a PDA-like interface to the game that obviates the need for player generated notes, and in game email. But there is also a glaring bug that interferes with an important thread of the game. [N.B.: get off you hover unit and the bug goes away (I think).]

In the end, however, I found that the length and fullness of the story came up short (so to speak) so that the whole thing felt a bit like an examination question or simple thought exercise. A bit more development of the characters, a few more juicy details, and this might have been avoided. The game is still very worthwhile for the excellent writing alone.

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Well written, if buggy., December 13, 2007
by James Hall (UK)
Judged purely on the merits of the story, Floatpoint is a fairly impressive and well written piece of work, which is why I've given it a higher score than I did during the IF comp. However, in terms of an interactive fiction game, I found that the implementation left a lot to be desired, as I ran into several game-killing bugs in my attempt to complete it.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent short SF story., November 7, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Emily Short, *****
I approached Floatpoint as a story, rather than a puzzle or a game, and it met all my expectations and more. I'm fairly sure that even if I'd been reading it as a linear, fixed narrative, I'd still have enjoyed it; but the fact that I could influence the ending (towards what I felt was the right thing to do) gave it an extra dimension.

For context, I'm a great fan of short stories, and of the kind of science fiction that focuses on how the snazzy futuristic situations affect the people who find themselves in them. Floatpoint hit all my buttons. I just wish my memory was less vivid, so I could play it again sooner and try for a different goal!

(I should also note that in contrast to Valzi's review as of 27 October 2007, I didn't encounter any bugs.)

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
An Engaging Couple of Hours, October 26, 2007
by Michael R. Bacon (New Mexico)
"Good" is not high praise. It is praise though, and I praise Floatpoint with disappointment.

Puzzles are of little importance or challenge in this mildly short work, which is a matter of little consequence, because the focus is on story, artful prose, and player choice rather than on player ability. The final "puzzle" is really a decision reflective of a particular player's reaction to the primary situation portrayed in the story. This sandbox-esque element of the game is rewarding by way of its delicate responses to each choice.

Emily Short's prose is good, and her morally-interested science fiction world is exceptionally well-developed, mostly by way of careful descriptions, for so short a story. Most prominently, several of the endings and player-character flashbacks made me want to think more highly of the work than when analyzing it as a whole. It impressed some emotions and concerns upon me, as intended.

The overall design of Floatpoint is elegant, as one would always expect of Short, but the actual implementation is oddly impaired by several odd bugs which do not prevent the completion of the game. One of them, however, starkly emphasizes the necessity of disbelief in the fiction before the reader/player which had been so well built up by descriptive writing. Now, nearly a year later (in the midst of IF Comp 2007), these problems have still not been addressed, which confuses me further since it is the fiction of such a productive and usually, I felt, meticulous designer.

Floatpoint is not in the same category as the strongest of Emily Short's interactive fiction, but its worth is very much equal to the time one puts into it. I recommend it to the many who seem to have only completed one or two of her pieces, but not as highly as some of her other works such a person might have missed.


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