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floatpoint.jpgJohnBFloatpoint is a science fiction-themed text adventure game by Emily Short. It was entered in the recent 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition and walked away with the first prize. The game features classic text adventure puzzles with a superb story that slowly uncovers new and exciting mysteries about the game's world.

Text adventure games started in the mid-70s with Will Crowther's game Colossal Cave Adventure. They grew in popularity for nearly a decade before graphical games began to steal the spotlight. Although no longer a mainstream phenomenon, countless writers and programmers enjoy working in the medium thanks to its emphasis on storytelling, adventuring, and puzzle solving.

In Floatpoint you play the role of a newly appointed ambassador traveling to a planet colonized by humans from Earth. The cold, icy world of Alehart is home to millions of people, but as you keep reminding yourself, you're not here to sightsee. A massive glacier threatens to overtake the planet's chief settlement and your job is to negotiate a deal with the colonists to bring them back to Earth. But as you quickly find out, there's a lot more going on here than a little bit of ice...

To play Floatpoint, you'll need to download an interpreter, a small program that allows you to run text-based games. A common multipurpose interpreter for Windows is Gargoyle, while the MacOS counterpart is Spatterlight. Both the interpreter and the game are small, free files. Playing games is as simple as opening the interpreter and finding the file on your computer, then you're ready to explore.

Analysis: 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. I particularly enjoyed the memory flashes that filled in the backstory. The main character also keeps a running to-do list that periodically pops up to keep you on task. A great inclusion that's perfectly integrated into the plot and really helps out when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Floatpoint does a fantastic job of creating a full and complete world inside your head and the game kept me begging for more. An excellent work of interactive fiction by Emily Short, and congratulations on her well-deserved prize!

Download Floatpoint (mirror) Get an interpreter to play the game: Gargoyle (Windows), Spatterlight (Mac OS X), Zoom (Unix)

Note: If you have trouble running Floatpoint with the above listed programs, try downloading a Glulx-specific interpreter for your system.


jay_rocks_ma_socks November 27, 2006 9:29 PM

Jay the colossal cave adventure link does not work for me!


I am SO GLAD you guys are featuring interactive fiction. It's one of my favorite game genres in the world, and Floatpoint is a fantastic example of its awesomeness.


I downloaded and installed Gargoyle, but can't run it for some reason.

Vincent Povirk November 28, 2006 12:54 AM

meh@wicket:~/localfiles/floatpoint$ ~/local/zoom/bin/zoom ~/localfiles/floatpoint/Floatpoint.zblorb ~/localstate/floatpoint/save

INTERPRETER PANIC - This blorb file does not contain an executable Z-Code section (PC = #0)

I think Zoom may be the wrong thing for this..

Vincent Povirk November 28, 2006 1:29 AM

Apparently Floatpoint is a Glulx program, not Z-Code. So Zoom won't work. Glulxe, however, will. Unfortunately Glulxe was extremely difficult to build (maybe I should've just used prebuild binaries). Nonetheless it works now.

To make Xglk (dependency of glulxe) build, I had to add the following to glk.h:

struct timezone {
int tz_minuteswest;
int tz_dsttime;

To make glulxe build, I had to comment out the unicharstr stuff in glkop.c.


I found that downloading from this mirror link was very much faster: http://ifarchive.heanet.ie/if-archive/games/competition2006/glulx/floatpoint/Floatpoint.zblorb - John


I have tried to play the game using gargoyle, but the game keeps dumping out. I have tried redownloading the floatpoint file from John's alternate address, yet still get error messages:

"*** fatal error: exec: bad opcode***"

What am I doing wrong? (Windows XP, using gargoyle and downloaded floatpoint, nothing fancy). Little disappointing because the three or four instructions I could give before dump out showed an interesting world I'd like to explore.

Thanks for any thoughts.


If you're having trouble with Floatpoint.zblorb, try renaming it to Floatpoint.gblorb instead. I believe the file may have been inadvertantly misnamed when it was being packaged up for release.


Thanks for the link to the mirror site, John. I've been a fan of Emily Short's games for years now, and it's always exciting to see a new one.


Zoom will run zblorb, but you need 1.0.5-alpha or newer, at least according to http://eliterature.org/2006/03/a-new-interactive-fiction-trio-in-inform-7/


Help i have installed gargoyle, but floatpoint keeps crashing - most often at the point where i am in the 'ruined vineyard', right at the beginning. I tried to take the pamphlet and got the following error:

***fatal error: local variable wasn't 4 bytes wide***

And then the program closes - any ideas anyone??


I've found that Gargoyle keeps crashing on me. If anyone else is having a similar problem, you might want to try using one of the Glulx interpreters found here:


Floatpoint runs well for me under WinGlulxe, although the interface is certainly less attractive than Gargoyle's.


If you're having trouble with Gargoyle and Floatpoint, try going under the Gargoyle folder and running glulxe.exe, then finding the game. That should clear things up.

And if you're still having trouble with it, try downloading a different interpreter. :-)

monkey_moo November 28, 2006 9:02 AM

thanks for the Glux tip - it seems to be working perfectly now! Great game...


This brings back so much memory... like my Commadore Vic20's Adventureland game. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

OBTW, thanks for the post!!!



i've never played that kind of game, but heard a lot about it. It sound realy cool, but i'm terrible with computer(and i also speak french) so if someone could tell me what to do with the files i am downloading cause it doesn't make sense to me.

thanks for your patience


Kristofski November 28, 2006 5:05 PM

It's not fair, Gargoyle is laid out really pretty with nice fonts and stuff and makes it nice to read, but it keeps crashing. And the Glulxe Interpretor is really ugly. Damn you computers! grr.


i'm not that bad afterall...it looks fun

but maybe some hint about the way to play it well would be usefull, is there some kind of instruction on that kind of game i can find over the internet? or maybe those games are all too different to explain only one



Zarf's works are a good place to start.
Go to: http://www.eblong.com/zarf/if.html
and try Dreamhold first. It is set up
as a kind of tutorial.

Good luck!


i have never been "into" text adventure games, but it really felt like interactive fiction and actually seems to have some replay value. i've had two different conclusions both times i've played so far, both were thought-provoking and neither were necessarily failures or successes.

great recommendation, thank you!


Tygr_tygr and Jen:

I had exactly the same problems with the most recent version of Gargoyle. Then I downloaded the version dated 2006-04-28 (for windows) and there's been zero problems since. I believe this version can be found on the gargoyle site, and if not, most certainly it is on IF archives.

Great game. Not a big fan of interactive fic games, but this one is making me get to work late.


I enjoyed it, the writing was really good, the creation of the world was very deep. and I was often suprised by some of the commands that actually worked. It seemed to flow very naturally and there were very few head-scratching moments where I was trying to figure out how to get the parser to understand what I wanted it to do (which, IMO, is the worst part of text based games).

My only critique is that it's a bit, um, 'uninvolving' for lack of a better word. The problem with an open ended game like this (there are, I believe 9 endings? at least) is that it's not very satisfying. The structure is, in fact, the opposite of how a story should flow--- a story should start with what seems like infinite series of possibilities and slowly trap you until there is only one possible satisfying ending that wraps everything up.

With this, all the options are vastly different, and there's no REASON for choosing one or the other. The backstory is interesting and all, but it doesn't involve you. It's almost a lady and the tiger situation, where you actually find out what happens when you choose one or the other. It all comes down to whether your the type of person that looks good endings or bad endings, and has nothing to do with the character's inner life at all.

If I were doing a re-write of this, I would find a way to give more motivation to the character -- a love story, some kind of danger to himself personally, etc. All of the interesting stuff in this story happens to other characters, the main character is more or less a passive observer. The decisions one makes under pressure are the ones that reveal character. There's no pressure on the main character, every choice leads to an equally (un)satisfying ending. Make the character's choices count.


Try this, it seems to work at least for me:
Download Floatpoint and Gargoyle as described.
Install Gargoyle (this is simple and has no complications).
Create a new folder C:\Program Files\Floatpoint and copy Floatpoint.zblorb into it.
Manually create a new shortcut as follows:
Target: "C:\Program Files\Gargoyle\glulxe.exe" "C:\Program Files\Floatpoint\Floatpoint.zblorb"
Start in: "C:\Program Files\Gargoyle"
Other settings: leave as defaults.
Make sure that you get all the double-quotes and spaces exactly as above (it will be easiest to CTRL/C and CTRL/V to copy and paste).
Make sure that you run Floatpoint under glulxe.exe, not gargolye.exe, otherwise the game starts but then shortly crashes with an illegal command error.

HTH, John


For those having trouble with the download: I found that the main link led to a broken file, while the mirror link worked fine (in spatterlight, at least.) Might be worth trying that before you delve into a maze of twisty command line options, all alike.


This game feels pretty short...it just sort of...ended. Did I do something wrong? I found two endings...but both ended in about the same amount of time. I wonder if there is more I can do?

Kate Blanquette November 29, 2006 8:18 PM

Isn't Emily Short the creator of Galatea, another superb text-adventure?
Sure, I could google for it, and get the answer, but why not let other game-afficionados go after it and try it out...



Kate: You're absolutely right! Emily has a bit of a name in the IF community. :-)


Zoom isn't the right interpreter to play this game, Glulx is. However, Glulx is just a mess to compile and get running for Ubuntu. I can't manage to do it yet.

I've been an IF fan for a long time. I'm disappointed at missing out on this game!


Wow. I'm glad I checked the page out today. I always like to check out the top honors on the annual IF awards (and the XYZZYs too) and I'd never heard of gargoyle before. I always used to use separate programs for all the different kinds of IF out there. I like this gargoyle thing.

Someone should do reviews of some of the other great IF games. I know zarf's fantastic games have been covered, but what about other award winners like Slouching Toward Bedlam, Anchorhead, and last years XYZZY winner Vespers? And someone just mentioned Galatea, but Emily Short has some other great ones too, like Metamorphosis and Savoir Faire.


Great idea, fnord3125! Perhaps you might be willing to come forward with a review to contribute? =)

Sharing your passion for a game (or games) with the whole world is a tremendously uplifting experience. Try it, you just might be exceptionally good at it!


Hmm, well, once my finals are over, and I'm done writting everything I need to do for my continued educational career, I might be interested in doing just that.

I was about to ask what the process is for submitting a review, but I belive I figured that out on my own. :)

Is it acceptable to combine a few IF games into one review?


Great! Fun! Well written! Love it! :-D

Posting a comment mainly to confirm that you CAN get this running with Gargoyle's lovely interface, but you need to use the glulxe.exe that comes packaged with it.

The easiest way I found to do this was to:

(1) Install Gargoyle

(2) Copy floatpoint.zblorb to the install directory (in my case, C:\Program Files\Gargoyle)

(3) Just drag and drob floatpoint.zblorb onto glulxe.exe

That's it! Plays like a dream.


having finally completed Floatpoint for myself, i feel the need to comment again, primarily in response to some of the things other people have said about it.

i think one thing that must be remembered when one plays this game is that it was is an IF-comp entry. That means it's required to be fairly short (i think IF-comp games must be able to be finished within 2 hours at most). given this contraint, i think it contains a fantastic amount of detail and story.

another thing to remember is that, like most IF, the details about the protagonist are, intentionally, fairly vague. the idea behind this is so that you can attempt to place yourself in his position and consider what you would do if it were real, rather than trying to consider what you think HE would do. For the time YOU are meant to be him, after all.

the game is primarily about exploration, i think. there is a lot of backstory and details which you never need to discover in order to finish the game. the multiple endings fit with this. there are no "turning points" as one can prepare for any of the endings right up to the point at which you initiate them. therefore it is perfectly possible to view every ending. there is no real need to "choose" one.

anyway, all in all i thought this was an excellent game, and it has made me want to start learning to write IF using Inform 7 once again. it may not go up there with my favorite pieces of IF of all time, but it was definitely as engaging and interesting as last years winner, Vespers.

mama bujbuj December 3, 2006 8:38 PM

Hi Jay,
looooove your site. I've become completely addicted to games -- quite dangerous! Thanks for all the good work.
Is there a way to save and resume an interactive text game -- namely, Floatpoint? I'm using Spatterlight on a Mac.
Cheers, MB.


saving in IF games is pretty standard no matter what interpreter you're using or even what system the author used to write the game.

to say you just type (in the game)
this will generally make a window pop up asking you where you want to save it.

to load a game you type
again, normally this will cause a window to pop up and ask you to pick the save file to load


to reiterate what a few people said above, the file's extension is incorrect: it should be .gblorb, not .zblorb (it's a glulx game, not a z-code/inform one). This is probably one of the main problems when running it with Gargoyle. Also, for Linux systems, I recommend IFP, available in the interpreters-multi section of the ifarchive (http://mirror.ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archiveXinterpreters-multiXifp.html)


Just to say: What a lovely lovely game.
Emily Short weaves an amazing story.


Really? Nine different endings? As far as I could tell there's only three. Anyway, I love Emily's Galatea and this game. I'm sure she's made some other stuff...I disagree about "open ended" games but since it seems like there's only three endings anyway it didn't really feel all the open ended to me. I think the character had enough background/backstory provided to make him an interesting character. Even though there's no "real" sense of urgency or conflict it's still a very enjoyable game.

muppetoid June 28, 2008 11:51 AM

I feel quite opposite from the earlier poster (john) who criticized the structure of the 'story.' I have not actually started floatpoint yet, so this comment is about IF in general. I am often frustrated by IF that is too heavy-handed. I don't like to be steered or feel forced along one inevitable path. Yes, it is a story, but if I JUST wanted a story, I could read a book. In my opinion, what makes the really good IF stand out from the rest is this: do I get to sit at the wheel and steer, or do I just get behind and push until I get to the end?

For this, I think an IF needs to branch out from the story 'structure' that john eludes to.

Of course, I used to go through "choose your own adventure" books using Post-It's along the way like recursive breadcrumbs so that I could follow all the different paths in one sitting.
Did anyone else do that... or is it just me?



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