The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (video game)

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cover art
Developer(s) Infocom[1]
Publisher(s) Infocom
Designer(s) Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky
Engine ZIL
Platform(s) Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Apple II, Apricot PC, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64/128, Commodore Plus/4, CP/M, DOS, Epson QX-10, Kaypro II, Macintosh, Osborne 1, TI-99/4A, TRS-80,[2] Flash[3]
Release date(s) Release 47: 14 September 1984
Release 56: 21 December 1984
Release 58: 2 October 1985
Release 59: 8 November 1985
Solid Gold: 19 November 1987
Genre(s) Interactive fiction
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution 3½" or 5¼" disk

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an interactive fiction video game based on the comedic science fiction series of the same name. It was designed by series creator Douglas Adams and Infocom's Steve Meretzky, and was first released in 1984 for the Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, CP/M, DOS, Amiga, Atari 8-bit and Atari ST. It is Infocom's fourteenth game.

Gameplay[edit]

The Hitchhiker's Guide is a text adventure game, where the player, in the role of Arthur Dent, solves a number of puzzles to complete various objectives to win the game. This includes collecting and using a number of items within their inventory. The player has a limited variety of commands that they can enter to observe, move about, and interact with the game's world, such as "look", "inventory", "north" (to move north) "take screwdriver", or "put robe on hook". Most commands will advance the game's turn counter, and some puzzles require the player to complete the puzzle within a fixed number of turns or else may end the game and require the player to restart at the beginning or a saved state; passive commands like "look" and "inventory", and mistyped or non-comprehended commands do not count as turns. Once the player can acquire it, the player can use the eponymous Hitchhike's Guide to the Galaxy (the Guide) to ask about a wide variety of topics, some which may be helpful in solving the game's puzzles.

In both the game's 20th and 30th anniversary editions, the game's interface has been augmented with graphics that help map out the locations and other features, though still require the player to type in all commands via the interface.[4]

Plot[edit]

The game loosely mirrors a portion of the series' plot, representing most of the events in the first book. Arthur Dent wakes up one day to find his house about to be destroyed by a construction crew to make way for a new bypass. Ford Prefect, his friend and unknown to Arthur an extraterrestrial, helps to calm Arthur down and hitches them a ride on one of the ships in the approaching Vogon deconstructor fleet, moments before the fleet destroys the Earth to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

Aboard the ship, Arthur learns that Ford is a journalist for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and has been on Earth researching the planet for the Guide. The two are discovered by Vogons, and subjected to a reading of their poetry. The two manage to survive this, and the Vogons instead throw them into the airlock and shoot them out into space. By a huge improbability, they are picked up in the last moments before they die of asphyxiation by the spacecraft, the Heart of Gold while it is traveling on Infinite Improbability Drive. After getting safely aboard the ship, Arthur and Ford meet Ford's friend Zaphod Beeblebrox, who had stolen the Heart of Gold as his first act of office as the Galactic President, and Arthur's friend Trillian, who Zaphod had picked up from a party on Earth. Zaphod wants to travel to the legendary planet of Magrathea, believing it holds a great secret.

At this point, Zaphod leaves the task of getting to Magrathea to the ship's computer Eddie, and he, Ford, and Trillian depart to the ship's sauna. Arthur finds Eddie incapable of getting to Magrathea without help. Arthur initially tries to help by supplying the Infinite Improbability Drive with a tea substitute from the ship's Nutrimatic device to serve as a source of Brownian motion, but this only causes Arthur to temporarily take on the consciousness of Ford, Zaphod, and Trillain in their respective pasts, and must manipulate events such that items in these past periods are brought aboard the Heart of Gold in the present. Through this, Arthur gains enough parts as to replace the circuit board in the Nutrimatic so that it can produce real tea. This tea is powerful enough to power the Drive to get them to Magrathea, but in orbit, the ship is attacked by two missiles from the surface. Arthur employs the Drive again that changes the missiles into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias, rendering the threat useless.

The ship prepares to land, but the computer will not let them do so. Again, the other three head off to the sauna, leaving Arthur to figure out how to fix this. This requires Arthur to reach Marvin the Paranoid Android's closet on the ship as to get the final tools needed to fix the computer and get it to land. The game ends as the Arthur and the others are about to set foot on Magrathea.

Feelies[edit]

Most Infocom games contained "feelies", bonus novelty items included to enhance the immersiveness of the game. The feelies provided with this game included:

  • A pin-on button with "Don't Panic!" printed in large, friendly letters
  • A small plastic packet containing "pocket fluff" (a cottonball)
  • Order for destruction of Arthur Dent's house
  • Order for destruction of Earth written in "Vogon" (actually an English cryptogram written in a thinly-disguised Cyrillic alphabet. The text was nearly identical to that of the English Order for Destruction)
  • Official Microscopic Space Fleet (an empty plastic bag)
  • "Peril Sensitive Sunglasses" (a pair of opaque black cardboard "sunglasses")
  • How Many Times Has This Happened to You?, an advertising brochure for the fictional guidebook/encyclopedia The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • No tea

Notes[edit]

HHGTTG gained a reputation for deviousness. Computer Gaming World reported on rumors that "several important people within the [computer game] industry cannot (snicker, snicker!!!) even get out of [the] first room!"[5] Perhaps the most notorious instance involved getting a Babel Fish out of a dispenser in the hold of the Vogon ship. This extremely tricky puzzle appeared very early in the game, required the player to use a variety of obscure items in a very specific fashion, and had to be "solved" within a limited number of turns. Failure to "solve" the Babel Fish puzzle did not kill the player, but rendered the remainder of the game unwinnable. That particular puzzle became so notorious for its difficulty that Infocom wound up selling T-shirts bearing the legend, "I got the Babel Fish!"[6] Adams stated that the puzzle's difficulty, and the notable game play change that it begins, was intentional; "Just as the player gets comfortable in the narrow neck, the bottom drops out!"[5]

Another fiendish puzzle involved the ten tools scattered throughout the game's locations. One of the final puzzles involved Marvin asking for a particular tool to use in unjamming the ship's hatch. If the player had failed to collect ten, Marvin would invariably ask for one that was missing. Likewise, while the opening section of the game closely resembles the opening scenes of the original radio play and book, there are several actions not in the radio play or book that the player must perform to make the game winnable. Other puzzles are based so closely on the book or radio play as to be solvable only by those who are intimately familiar with Adams' work. In spite of all of this, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was rated as "Standard" difficulty by Infocom's rating system, though it was advertised to be at expert difficulty.

Curiously, the player is seldom given an actual purpose, apart from the implicit goal stated by the inventory item of "no tea". Much of the game is spent reacting to situations, such as the impending deaths variously threatened by bulldozers, matter-transference hangovers, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, or nuclear missiles.

Like many Infocom games, an InvisiClues booklet was available for this game, as a separate product.

The Infocom version of Hitchhiker's Guide quickly became a fan classic; it was one of five top-selling Infocom games to be produced in Solid Gold versions, with a built-in hint system not included in the originals. The game was re-released by Activision in several collection packages before rights reverted to Adams, enabling The Digital Village to re-release it as a web-based Java applet. Originally published as a fund-raising tool on the 1997 Comic Relief website, it took up permanent residence on Adams' own website the following year.

On 21 September 2004 the BBC launched the 20th Anniversary Edition to coincide with the initial radio broadcast of the Tertiary Phase. Sporting a Flash user interface, and illustrated by Rod Lord (who also produced the guide animations for the Hitchhiker's TV series), it won the Interactive BAFTA Award for Best Online Entertainment.[7]

Once BAFTA judging had completed, the BBC re-launched the game in two distinct versions to showcase new artwork for scenes and objects deliberately omitted from the first release. While both editions retain Rod Lord's illustrations, all placeholder graphics were replaced by artwork designed and sent in by contest participants. One edition includes the artwork of overall winner Nolan Worthington, the other features the work of runners-up.

The original text-only version appeared in the Game On video games exhibition, which has toured museums worldwide since 2002, representing the text-based genre of video games.

The game has 35 locations (or "rooms"). By some accounting, it only has 31 rooms, but 35 also counts the rooms that the player has to visit in the maze.

Reception[edit]

Compute! listed the game in May 1988 as one of "Our Favorite Games", stating that its humor distinguished Hitchhiker from other adventure games; "[Adams'] keen and literate wit make this game a joy".[8] The magazine gave it the 1989 Compute! Choice Award for Role Playing/Adventure Game.[9] According to the BBC, the game sold about 350,000 copies at the time of its release, making it one of the best selling titles at that time.[10][11]

Sequel[edit]

A proposed sequel, Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which was to continue from the ending of the original, had problems from the start in 1985, until it was cancelled in 1989. This was due primarily down to the facts that there was "no solid game design, nobody to program it, and the backdrop of Infocom's larger economic problems".[12] The beginning stages of the game were leaked in April 2008, however the majority of it had yet to be written by the time it was cancelled.[13]

The original source files in Z-code can also be downloaded, although an interpreter that supports Z-Machine version 4 and version 6-story files is required.[14][15]

Remakes[edit]

For the 20th anniversary, the text-based game with some graphics appeared on the BBC. This was later expanded with further graphics created by fans after a short contest. DN Games released another version of the game on 25 May 2010 using AGS (Adventure Game Studio), having remade the original Infocom game to a point-and-click adventure game.[16]

A 30th Anniversary of the game was released on the BBC's website in March 2014. The game includes an improved graphical interface via HTML, though still requires players to type in commands, and will send out tweets based on the player's actions.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Murphy, Jamie (May 13, 2013). "Stepping into the Story: Players participate in 'interactive fiction'". Reported by Cristina Garcia. Time 125 (19): 64. "Infocom, the Cambridge-based software company that pioneered interactive fiction, has released an electronic version of Douglas Adams' popular novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ($39.95), which last week jumped to No. 1 on Billboard's list of top computer software." 
  2. ^ Adventureland by Hans Persson and Stefan Meier
  3. ^ BBC RADIO 4, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, text adventure game, freely available in Flash
  4. ^ Webster, Andrew (2014-03-04). "The Classics: 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' text adventure". The Verge. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  5. ^ a b Adams, Roe (January 1985). "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Leads an Invasion of the Pros". Computer Gaming World. p. 17. 
  6. ^ Interview with Steve Meretzky, co-author of the Game from BBC – Radio 4
  7. ^ "BBC leads interactive Bafta wins" from BBC News on 2 March 2005
  8. ^ "Our Favorite Games". Compute!. May 1988. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "The 189 Compute! Choice Awards". Compute!. January 1989. p. 24. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "About the game". BBC. March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Correira, Alexa Ray (10 March 2014). "BBC launches update of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure". Polygon. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  12. ^ Waxy.org blog about the cancelled game by Andy Baio
  13. ^ Milliways, Hitchhiker sequel, Java applet from waxy.org
  14. ^ Release 15 of Milliways, Hitchhiker sequel from Waxy.org (Z-code)
  15. ^ Release 184 of Milliways, Hitchhiker sequel from Waxy.org (Z-code)
  16. ^ Point-and-click version of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy from DN Games

External links[edit]