Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Stationfall is an interactive fiction computer game written by Steve Meretzky and released by Infocom in 1987. Like the majority of Infocom's works, it was released simultaneously for several popular computer platforms of the time, such as the Commodore 64, Apple II, and PC. The game is a sequel to Planetfall, one of Infocom's most popular titles.
Following the events on Resida in Planetfall, the player's character received a promotion from lowly Ensign Seventh Class to Lieutenant First Class. The life of an officer in the Stellar Patrol is no better than that of a humble enlistee, however. Five years after the thrills of saving an entire planet from destruction, the character is stuck in a boring desk job that demands piles of tedious paperwork instead of menial cleaning duties.
A typically boring assignment comes in: accompany a spacetruck to a space station and pick up a load of "Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms". To make things even more dull, spacetrucks are fully automated, so it will pilot itself once the proper coordinates are entered.
But the task does authorize the use of a robot assistant, and coincidentally enough, Floyd is one of the choices! What are the odds?
Once the player and Floyd reach the space station, they find it... completely deserted. Well, not completely. There are two living things on board: an ostrich and an Arcturian balloon creature, both apparently in perfect health. And there are plenty of automated devices. But where are all the people? And why do the mechanical hull welders seem intent on inflicting serious harm?
Exploring the deserted complex, there are initially precious few clues. The station's missing commander kept an audio log, but it provides no solid answers. A ship of unfamiliar design is docked, empty except for alien skeletons and a strange pedestal that looks like should hold something but stands empty.
Floyd finds two fellow robots: an intellectual model named Plato and a not-yet-conscious "baby" named Oliver. Plato accompanies Floyd and the player, although his personality slowly changes from mild to sullen to aggressive. As it turns out, every machine still functioning on the space station is hostile towards humans: besides the actively homicidal tendencies of the hull welders, the food dispensers manufacture poisonous food and drinks, and even seemingly harmless devices will explode unless powered down. Before long, Plato attempts to kill the player; Floyd is conflicted between the two friendships but reluctantly destroys the other robot. He moves from sadness over Plato's death to belligerence before disappearing altogether... is he being affected by whatever has happened to the other machines?
A pyramid-shaped artifact is emitting some sort of energy, the player discovers, and this energy causes anything mechanical to rebel against humans. All the people on the space station were killed by the machines. Whatever the pyramid is, the machines are building countless replicas of it that will be sent to "infect" other installations and similarly take them over. Before the player can put a stop to this, however, Floyd reappears, completely under the evil influence of the pyramid. In order to survive, the player has no choice but to kill Floyd (again). This time, however, the damage is too severe and there is no chance for repair for the robot. After the pyramid is defeated, Oliver finally comes to life, and seems almost to be a reincarnation of the once-childlike and playful Floyd.
Infocom was famous for including extra items with each game package. These documents and objects were generally related to the game in some way, and sometimes provided information necessary to complete the game. These objects were called feelies. The feelies in the Stationfall package:
- blueprints for a "Gamma-Delta-Gamma Class deep space station" (detailed maps of the space station in which the game is set)
- three forms: a HB-56-V Class Three Spacecraft Activation form, a JZ-59-G Robot Use Authorization form, and a QX-17-T Assignment Completion form (which also contained "Astrogator navigational data" needed to reach the space station)
- a Stellar Patrol patch for the rank of Lieutenant First Class
Unlike most other Infocom titles, Stationfall did not carry a difficulty level rating on its package. It is generally agreed among fans, however, that its difficulty corresponds to other games marked as "Advanced".
In keeping with the tradition established in Planetfall, Stationfall is brimming with a variety of scientific-sounding pseudo-objects such as "bedistors" and "fromitzes". Only a few of these prove useful, and the rest are red herrings.
A book titled Stationfall was written by Arthur Byron Cover and published in 1989 by Avon Books . The plot of the book almost entirely unrelated to that of the game.
While many fans reportedly wept over Floyd's death in Planetfall, the game ended on a happy note as he was repaired. Many fans felt outright anger over Floyd's irreversible destruction in Stationfall. Meretzky said later that he devised the loveable robot's permanent demise because he didn't want to write another game in the series. This explanation is somewhat questionable, however, given that in his brief appearance at the end of the game, "Oliver" seems to be a near-clone of Floyd as a younger robot.
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