Network: The Starship Titanic? Its only mission is to make you think

Too many of today's computer games involve extreme violence or mindless fun. Now Douglas Adams has done the unthinkable - created a game that actually requires players to engage their brains as well as their joysticks. Tim Green talks to the author of `The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' about his latest project.

There are some writers who take pride in their technophobia, who pen their manuscripts in longhand and send them by post to their publisher. Douglas Adams is the opposite. The author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cannot resist technology. Surrounds himself with the stuff. Why? Partly because he is in thrall to the magic of gadgetry and partly because when technology does not work it gives him great material for his work.

Which brings us to Starship Titanic, the project Adams is finishing at present. As befits the technology-obsessed author, this is not a book but a peculiarly literate computer game. And at its heart is a glittering piece of machinery which, well, does not work.

The Starship Titanic itself is touted as the most advanced cosmic craft ever built, not just technologically miraculous but luxurious beyond passengers' wildest dreams. Predictably, the Titanic crashes on its maiden voyage - right into the player's sitting-room. And that is where the game-play begins. The task is to get aboard, move up the passenger hierarchy from third class to first and unravel the conspiracy behind the disaster.

Player motivation is provided by "one of the most powerful forces known to man" - the desire for a free upgrade. Adams found inspiration for this key element of the game when he was asked to fly to Australia for a promotional event and agreed, provided he could go first class (not as avaricious as it sounds - Adams is 6ft 4ins tall and so does not exactly fit into an economy-class seat). He was sent standard tickets but was told an upgrade had been arranged. On arrival at the airport he found it had not. The attendant's response to his pleas was a withering "Oh yeah, and whose budget will that come out of?"

The Starship Titanic is filled with appalling characters like that. All except one (a parrot, in fact) are robots who display that familiar Adamsian mixture of bureaucratic incompetence and British rudeness. There is the dreaded liftbot who drones on about the war, the Maitre D bot who is charm itself until contradicted, and even a talking bomb who becomes furious when he loses count. Of course, the comedy invested in these characters only comes to light when the player interacts with them. And that is where the game comes into its own.

Starship Titanic dares to revive a text tradition which reigned before 3D graphics transformed the adventure genre in the Nineties. Adams is convinced nothing can beat text for real immersion in the action.

"There's a sense that, because of graphics, games have retreated into point-and-click and a sense of engagement has been lost. I wanted to rescue that through character. So we invented a language engine through which the bots can communicate with the player and each other."

Of course, Starship Titanic is still a great looking game. And besides the comedy there is a huge number of puzzles. Among the more novel is a music room in which various loops play backwards, in the wrong key or other confusion and have to be rearranged to form a coherent, harmonised tune.

The soundtrack for the game was provided by Wix, a musician friend Adams knew from school and lost touch with until he saw him playing in the band at a Paul McCartney concert. Other "name" collaborators in Starship Titanic are Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, and Philip Pope, an actor and musician who wrote the theme music for Have I Got News For You.

Despite his skill as a writer - and his contacts - Adams is ultimately responsible for all aspects of Starship Titanic. That is because the visual concept and the actual programming were done by his own new media company, The Digital Village, which employs 25 designers, technicians and writers.

Digital Village is close to Adams's heart. He has been an energetic flag- waver for "new media" since 1985, when he collaborated on Infocom's computer game version of Hitchhiker's Guide. The fact that it sold 350,000 copies must have made Adams grip the flag even more enthusiastically. But the idea of exploring new forms of communication is more compelling to the writer than the cash.

So it follows that Adams has little time for the doom-mongers who condemn new media for heralding the decline of the printed page. "Those who bemoan the death of print culture are the 20th century equivalents of those who feared its arrival all those centuries ago. Then, they believed the coming of print heralded the end of story-telling. Now, they think it's going to do the same thing."

Adams's belief is that the interaction involved in new media is returning people to ancient forms of entertainment. He suggests that before print all story- telling - on stage or round the camp fire - was interactive in the sense the audience shouted questions and suggestions to the story- teller.

"The only reason we need to call new media interactive at all is to differentiate it from print, which isn't!"

To add to the entertainment stew, Adams believes we are on the verge of a "post post-literate" era anyway - thanks to the Internet. "Just when people were beginning to accept that graphics and video could replace text along came the Web and e-mail and suddenly we're all typing again."

Starship Titanic, pounds 49.99, is available on PC CD-Rom from Zablac.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game