Don’t Panic.

I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Well, to be more precise I love Douglas Adams. I love that the inspiration for Hitchhiker came to him while drunk in a field in Austria and despite this, his writing is witty and smart and accessible. So I was beyond thrilled that playing the text adventure version of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy counted as blogging for this class. Somewhere in the back of my brain I remembered that such a thing existed, because in the introduction to a book version that contains all five installments in the Hitchhiker series, Adams talks about the fact that so many different manifestations of Hitchhiker exists that they contradict each other. Yet somehow this only adds to the charm of the series.

The intro to the game says,”It therefore stands to reason that any game which combined a really good programmer with a really good writer was likely to do well. So when Steve Meretzky of Infocom got together with Douglas Adams to create a game based around the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the result was never going to be less than interesting and more than likely insane. So it proved – the Hitchhiker’s Guide adventure game was one of the best-selling games of its era, selling some 350,000 copies. In 1984.” It is fantastic that literature and computer programming can come together in such a seamless way and the result was very satisfying.

Being familiar with the book and the movie definitely gave clues to navigating through the game, but the game play had some distinct differences and was definitely limited by the commands allowed. To be fair though, command limitations are a frustration that I have had with all text adventures that we have explored so far. Having control over something so familiar was absolutely thrilling. Those of you familiar with the books will be pleased to know that entering “don’t panic” returns the message “Very clever. It looks like there’s a lot you should be panicking about.”

There were all sorts of other Douglas Adam-y type features to the game such as being scolded for having poor sentence structure in a command and losing 30 points each time you drink the “Advanced Tea Substitute.” Another cool feature was that the character changed a few times in the story line from Arthur to Ford to Trillian and back again. This allows the player to interact with their future or past selves, this is helpful when sharing objects between multiple characters, but does cause a lot of confusion. My only criticism was that I couldn’t scroll up on the text box, like I was able to in Colossal Cave Adventure, so I often found myself stuck or forgetting what I was going to do next.

From what I have found about the game online, this is an incredibly complex and tedious game but to me playing it was a bit like suddenly finding a treasure map left to you by a beloved uncle.

An uncle you leaves you wonderful tidbits like this:

Hitchhiker Text Adventure Game

  1 comment for “Don’t Panic.

  1. February 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I love these books but I’ve never spent much time playing the game. Clearly, I should do something about that.

    By the way, you link to the douglasadams.com page for playing this, which works by using a Java-based z-machine emulator. That accounts for some of the window-based frustration you’re experiencing. As it turns out, that Java emulator takes the path to the story file as a parameter, which looking at the page’s source code reveals to be ‘hhgg.z3’.

    That “z3” means it’s a story file format that you can download and play in Gargoyle (direct download link) but since it’s a story file hosted on the web, that means we can pass it’s URI to the much friendlier JavaScript z-machine emulator hosted at iplayif.com.

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