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About the Story
It is night on this side of the planet. Settled areas are lit: a jagged crescent in the tropics, lining the inland sea. The bright splatter along the top of the curve is Tanhua, as bright from space as New York. The north continent is darker, sprinkled finely with small lights, where the failing climate makes it hard to survive a winter. And the northernmost point, almost lost on the slope of Mt. Cordia, is the original Aleheart Colony, where the first settlers from Earth landed. It is your destination as well.
1st Place overall; 3rd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 12th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2006)
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Winner, Best Setting; Winner, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 2006 XYZZY Awards
Jay Is Games
The heart of an interactive fiction game is the narrative, and Emily Short weaves a surprisingly detailed world in Floatpoint with exquisite storytelling. The colony on Alehart immediately springs to life and the characters feel full and complete. And as for the game itself, it is well-paced and never feels stale.
-- John Bardinelli
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The author never made me feel like the things I was doing or the situation itself really mattered. This seems strange, because the whole point of the game is to figure out what's going on and decide what to do about it. But while I was certainly interested in the game as a puzzle, I ended up not caring about it as a story. [...]
Although I didn't like the game all that much, there was one aspect I really did like. Floatpoint used two devices to help communicate the story, and both of them worked well for me. They were a message system used to communicate with some distant NPCs, and a computer database containing information from your predecessor.
-- DJ Hastings
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Number of Reviews: 8
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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.
"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.
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.)
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