Titanic: Adventure Out of Time
|Titanic: Adventure Out of Time|
|Release||November 20, 1996|
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time is a point-and-click adventure game developed by CyberFlix and published in the United States and United Kingdom by GTE Entertainment and Europress respectively, for Microsoft Windows and Macintosh, in 1996. It takes place in a virtual representation of the RMS Titanic. The player assumes the role of a former British spy who, during the London Blitz, is sent back in time to the Titanic and must complete a previously failed mission to prevent World War I, the Russian Revolution, and World War II. The gameplay involves exploring the ship and solving puzzles. There are multiple outcomes and endings to the game depending on the player's interaction with characters and use of items.
The game was created with CyberFlix's proprietary engine DreamFactory, which was also used to create Dust: A Tale of the Wired West. Extensive research was done by the development team to ensure historical accuracy and to precisely recreate the ship's interior and exterior 3D environments. As with Dust, Titanic's character animation was done by overlaying multiple still photos of actors to create mouth and facial movements. With sales above 1.5 million units, Titanic was a commercial success. It received generally positive reviews from gaming critics, who praised the game's story, atmosphere and recreation of the ship, but criticized the character animation and some of the puzzles.
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time is an adventure game played from a first-person perspective with a point-and-click interface in which players roam a fully rendered model of the RMS Titanic. The game's control scheme is composed of a keyboard, whose arrow keys control the player's movements, and a mouse, with which the player can interact with objects, characters, select dialogue and options from the HUD interface; these are a lifesaver (which brings the player to the options menu), an inventory bag and a pocket watch that indicates the game's progression.
The puzzles in Titanic rely on collecting and using certain items to advance the story. Dialogue is also a significant aspect of the game. Characters are programmed to remember the player's actions and react accordingly, and thus the choice of dialogue options deeply influences the story's outcome as to what items the player can acquire or the tasks she or he is able to complete. As a result, the game can have a total of eight distinct endings, only one of which presents success in the mission. 
Time is another important aspect of the game. The story does not occur in real time, with time progressing only if certain tasks and puzzles are completed, as indicated by the aforementioned pocket watch; however, as soon as the player reaches the point in which the Titanic starts sinking, the game progresses in real time, and the player is thus given a time limit to complete the game. As mentioned above, there are multiple endings for the game's completion, some of which result in death.
In addition to the main story, the game also includes a "ship's tour" game mode which features characters in the game narrating certain aspects of the ship, its crew and passengers, and the sinking. These characters can be found in different locations in the ship. Three of the character narrations were already included with the game, while others could be downloaded from CyberFlix's official website.
Players assume the role of Frank Carlson, a former British secret agent who failed a mission aboard the RMS Titanic; he now lives in an apartment. On 14 April 1942, Carlson is caught in an air raid during the London Blitz and his apartment is bombed. Carlson blacks out, before awakening in a ship quarters, as his younger self. He is informed that he is aboard the RMS Titanic; Carlson discovers that he has somehow been transported back in time to the ship on the night it sank. His memory from the original timeline intact, Carlson uses his advanced knowledge of the future to have a second chance to complete his mission.
Carlson's first mission is to locate and retrieve a stolen copy of Omar Khayyam's Rubáiyát, suspected of being in the possession of German Colonel Zeitel, who is traveling to New York to inspect embassies in the United States and Central America, alongside his young protegé Willi Von Haderlitz. It is revealed that the Colonel has made a deal with art dealer Sasha Barbicon to exchange the Rubáiyát for a painting in which there are hidden war plans stolen from the British government. They both act through a go-between, the Serbian stowaway Vlad Demonic. In addition to the Rubáiyát and the painting, the player discovers that Willi is a spy for the Russians and has a notebook with names of top Bolshevik leaders. The notebook must be handed over to the Ochrana so that Communist rebels will be executed, preventing a threat to the Czar. Barbicon is also in possession of a stolen diamond necklace intended to finance the Black Hand, a Serbian military group. Assisting the player is fellow agent Penny Pringle.
The player can also become involved in optional subplots that do not pertain to the central mission or the winning conditions of the game. One subplot involves retrieving a business document stolen by steel magnate Andrew Conkling's maid Shailagh Hacker. Other plots involve helping passengers such as the Lambeths, a wealthy couple whose marriage has deteriorated; Leyland Trask, a psychic from Boston; Reverend Edgar Troutt, a Protestant preacher from New Hampshire who is returning from a mission in Nyasaland; and Max Seidelmann, a businessman from Philadelphia.
The number of objects the player obtains before escaping the ship affects the ending and how history plays out. If the player manages to successfully obtain all four objects, history is altered with World War I, the Russian Revolution, and World War II never occurring.
- Without Vlad providing the necklace or the Rubáiyát, the Black Hand is not financed and their plan to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria backfires, preventing World War I.
- If the painting is obtained, it becomes a popular piece because of it surviving the sinking. The painting is revealed to be Adolf Hitler's "The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich", which causes him to become a famous artist after the painting is retrieved, preventing him from joining the National Socialists in Germany, averting the rise of the Nazis and World War II.
- If Willie's notebook survives, it's delivered to the Czar, the Bolshevik leaders (Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky) are executed, and the Russian Revolution never occurs.
Afterwards, the character retires after a successful career to a world of peace. Depending on which items the player fails to collect, history will change, but certain wars or revolutions will still occur.
The concept for the game was created by writer and producer Andrew Nelson, who spent ten months working on the game's script, changing the plot and characters in accordance to the needs and demands of the project. He was inspired by a comment his wife Debi Lambert made about video games requiring too much time investment, leading him to pursue a race-against-the-clock game mechanic. Originally the subtitle was "A Race Against Time" to reflect this. Nelson pitched the idea to CyberFlix as a "Steam Punk star ship suspended in a vast void", to an enthused audience, and returned with a completed script after writing it over the summer in a New York City loft in Soho.
CyberFlix's team spent two years researching to ensure the game would be authentic and historically accurate. Apollo 13 screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. served as a historical and photo researcher for the game, collaborating with CyberFlix in finding resources to faithfully re-create the ship and the period the game is set on. Broyles made an extensive use of the Internet and the Library of Congress's online photo department to find historical photos.
Todd Appleton served as lead programmer. The game was developed using CyberFlix's proprietary game engine and software DreamFactory, which was also used by the company to develop Dust: A Tale of the Wired West. The engine allowed the developers to create 3D environments and script the characters so that they retain memory of the player's actions and react differently each time they encounter the player. Wire-frame models of the Titanic, created by the Zygote Media Group in Utah, were textured and polished by graphical artists Michael Kennedy, Alex Tschetter and Paul Haskins. Bob Clouse and Billy Davenport were responsible for the 2D and interface design.
To create Titanic's character animation and movements, the developers cyberscaned multiple still photos of actors and overlaid them on the character's faces to create accurate facial and mouth movements. CyberFlix used the proprietary software HeadShop to combine photography and animation, as opposed to video, for the characters; according to Nelson, the team was not able to use QuickTime for the characters "as video takes up more disk space" and only a few characters could be created. The game's development took nineteen months, with CyberFlix finishing the game in November 1996. GTE Entertainment picked the game for release after Viacom turned it down; it was released on November 20.
The soundtrack was composed by Erik Holt, with Scott Scheinbaum serving as musical director. Holt cited as inspirations Igor Stravinsky and Joe Satriani, and also studied composers that were popular in 1912, the game's time period, such as Chopin, Verdi, Rossini, and Mahler, to better evoke both the splendorous and melancholic atmosphere surrounding the Titanic's disaster.
Holt worked for three months on the game's core themes, mixing classical and early 20th-century music with elements of cinematic score. Aside from its original music, the game also features Chopin's Prelude Op. 28 No. 7, which plays on the radio in the opening scene.
Sales and distribution
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time sold 43,000 copies in its debut month, and surpassed 100,000 sales by its second, a figure that CyberFlix's Andrew Nelson said made the team "very happy indeed." In January 1997, Variety reported that the game and GTE Entertainment's Timelapse were both "selling well". However, on the 7th of that month, GTE announced its plan to shutter the majority of GTE Entertainment by March, with a final closure set for June. CyberFlix's Erik Quist and Bill Appleton visited GTE Entertainment and pressured the management into signing over the rights to Titanic, as well as providing monetary reimbursement. According to Jack Neely of Metro Pulse, Rand Cabus said that the company "was the only GTE client to get money back from the sinking distributor." Titanic remained on store shelves intermittently; no new copies were printed, and "many locations remained devoid of stock" after selling out, reported GameSpot's Helen Lee. In May, CUC Software signed a deal with CyberFlix to become the new publisher of Titanic, and to print and distribute a second run of the game. By that time, its sales were "approximately" 100,000 copies, Lee noted.
Retailers were still carrying Titanic when James Cameron's film Titanic debuted in December 1997. While the two products were unrelated, the film's success heavily increased sales of Adventure Out of Time, which became a major commercial hit. Over 200,000 new units of the game were printed and shipped to stores in January and February 1998, and CyberFlix provided $5 rebates in exchange for stubs of Titanic film tickets. It entered PC Data's weekly top 10 for computer game sales during the first half of February; Erica Smith of CNET Gamecenter reported in March, "Local computer software stores say they can't keep enough copies in stock." Stores noted a "diverse" audience for the game, and David Haynes of CyberFlix explained that it drew a high percentage of female players. At the time, Jason Ocampo of Computer Games Strategy Plus remarked that Adventure Out of Time "didn’t make that much of a splash the first time out[... but] has managed to hitch a ride on the so-far unsinkable movie."
In the United States, Titanic secured seventh place on PC Data's monthly computer game sales chart for February 1998. It rose to #2 the following month, with an average retail price of $24. The game stayed in PC Data's monthly top 10 from April through July, and returned to #8 in September following a drop to #11 in August. After falling to 20th place in October, it exited the monthly top 20. During the first six months of 1998, Titanic was the United States' fourth-best-selling computer game. It maintained this position in the country's January–November rankings. Finishing 1998 as the United States' sixth-highest computer game seller, again at an average price of $24, it ultimately sold 436,174 copies and earned $10.2 million in revenues in the region for the year. Neely later wrote that Titanic also "broke into the international market, selling well in Britain; the CyberFlix product was eventually translated into seven other languages, including Japanese." By November 1998, Titanic had spent 20 consecutive weeks in the top 10 of Chart-Track's computer game sales rankings for the United Kingdom. It claimed position 8 for the month of December.
Titanic continued to sell during 1999, and placed 17th for the year overall in the United States, with sales of 269,834 units. Chart-Track ranked the game ninth for January 1999; it was absent from February's chart. By June 1999, Titanic had achieved global sales close to 1 million units. That month, CyberFlix sold the rights to Titanic to the marketing company Barracuda, following Bill Appleton's decision to close the developer. Barracuda continued to support the game, which retained all of its pre-existing publishing and distribution deals under the new arrangement. The game's worldwide sales ultimately surpassed 1.5 million copies by October 2000.
In a review for Just Adventure, Michal Necasek rated Titanic B+ and praised the game's story and its nonlinearity, as well as the accurate reconstruction of the Titanic, saying that it "greatly adds to the atmosphere of [the game]". He also commended the music and voice acting, but criticized the action sequences. Tony Seideman of Computer Shopper overall praised the game but criticized some of the game's fictional elements and the lacking historical background provided by the Tour guide mode. GameSpot's Tim McDonald rated the game 6.6 /10, praising its re-creation of the ship and the story, but criticizing the long dialogue sequences and the lack of puzzles. The reviewer for Next Generation praised it as "easily one of the best adventure titles of the year".
The editors of MacHome Journal named Titanic the best overall game of the year, and noted its "luscious graphics, great interactivity and repeatable gameplay". It was also declared 1996's best adventure game by Inside Mac Games, whose editors wrote that it "bucked the trend[s] and did something truly unusual." Titanic was nominated by the Computer Game Developers Conference for the "Best Prerendered Art" and "Best Adventure Game/RPG" Spotlight Awards, although these went respectively to Zork Nemesis and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall.
In 2002, Adventure Gamers' Heidi Fournier rated the game a 3.5/5 and gave high praise to the exploration of the ship and the storyline, calling the subplots "engrossing", but offered minor criticism regarding some of the puzzles, calling them easy, and the characters' movements.
Discussing Titanic in 1998, Dan Bennett of PC Gamer US called it "an average adventure at best." However, in a 2014 retrospective review of the game, PC Gamer's Richard Cobbett praised the game, stating that it is an inspired take on the Titanic story that treats it respectfully "while still spinning off into cool new directions." He compared it to The Last Express, finding similarities between plot elements, gameplay and calling it its "spiritual cousin". In 2017, the magazine's Samuel Horti echoed this praise, calling Titanic "an excellent adventure game".
Adventure Gamers included the game in its list of the Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games, in the 100th position, praising the setting and the timed element as highlights.
A full conversion of the game on Java was made available online by Daniel Hobi, and can be played on web browsers. Television documentaries on the Titanic and channels such as Discovery have used scenes from the game because of its faithful recreation of the ship.
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