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Hitchhiker's Guide Author Hops a New Ship
By Todd Moe
May 4, 1998
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The best-selling author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has returned to the computer games industry with Starship Titanic, a new graphic adventure game. Douglas Adams has written several text computer games in the last decade, but Starship Titanic uses the latest interactive multi-media technology. Adams hopes it will launch a renaissance for computer adventure games.

Starship Titanic begins with a collosal luxury passenger starship accidentally crashing into your living room. A gangway appears, and you're met by the first of many traumatized robotic crewmembers.

Doorbot: ...cannot possibly, eh, go wrong.
But something HAS gone seriously wrong with the starship. It has zoomed back into hyperspace and the player's challenge - dysfunctional robotic crew aside - is how to restore the ship's main computer and return to Earth.

The centerpiece of the game is the ship itself, which has nothing to do with James Cameron's movie Titanic. The Starship Titanic comes from Douglas Adams' third Hitchhiker book: an advanced alien race builds the greatest intergalactic luxury liner ever, only to see it vanish on its maiden voyage. Adams says he didn't allow game designers to skimp on the ship's interior.

Adams says he was looking for something to do other than writing books, which is why he was one of the founders of Digital Village, the company that created Starship: Titanic. He enjoyed playing games like Myst, but felt there was something missing. He and a team of 36 designers, writers, and artists came up with an outline for the game and decided to go one step further by adding interactive speech, using Spookytalk, a system they designed themselves. More than 12 hours of dialogue were recorded into a databank of speech modules. Adams says the result is players using the keyboard to converse with the characters, in this case a crew of robots.

A lot of computer games involve slashing and killing. But Adams says Starship Titanic requires players to be intelligent and to think laterally. And it's hilarious at times. One of the most memorable characters is the ship's parrot, voiced by Monty Python veteran Terry Jones, who also wrote a novelization of the game.

Terry Jones (voicing the parrot): Bwack! Call this a bleedin' maiden voyage?!? More like a bleedin' disaster if you ask me! What have we hit now!?!
Douglas Adams says the Starship: Titanic CD-rom game could be the basis for a whole range of treatments, including a movie or television series. And Adams hasn't given up his career as a novelist. Later this year he begins work on a new book, titled The Chaos Engineer.
Doorbot: I hope you understood most of that for all our sakes. Good luck now, good luck!