Secret history of Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic game

In a Metafilter discussion of Starship Titanic, a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy spin-off game, Yoz Grahame, who was Douglas Adam's sysadmin and technology dogsbody, pops up with some of the incredible, hilarious backstory behind the venture.
When we created the initial fake-brochure site, we thought it'd be a fantastic laugh if the fictional shipbuilders had their own intranet. If you filled in the form on the brochure site (specifying your name, email address and favourite species of frog) we followed the occasional mail about the game. Then, one day, folks got a mail from the intranet admin, "Chris Stevedave", giving folks the link to the intranet and the current password, which was hurriedly followed by a second mail apologising for the accidental mail leakage and urging customers not to click the link, then a third email noting that Chris Stevedave had been demoted to Bilge Emptier Third-Class. It worked fantastically (so fantastically that some people really did send the emails back, reassuring us that they hadn't looked at the site) everyone poured into the Starlight Lines intranet.

Have a wander around the intranet. Look at the wireframes, enjoy the status reports and play with the currency calculator.

Then go look in the forum.

The idea was to present a read-only Senior Management forum in which you'd see some of the key backstory characters getting on each others' nerves. But we figured there should probably be a writeable forum for the lower-level employees, so I spent half a day hacking up a stupidly basic forum system and forgot all about it.

Six months after the site launch, I happened to peek at the employee forum and there were ten thousand posts in there.

The Post That Cannot Possibly Go Wrong


  1. Don’t miss the money quote:

    “It’s somewhat like ignoring the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a year, then opening it to find a bunch of very grateful sentient tomatoes busily working on their third opera.”

  2. I remember getting those emails! Don’t know if I posted in the forums though. Loved Starship Titanic and still have a copy in the box, alas it is the PC version and my system now is a Mac.

  3. This game almost literally changed my life as a kid, I absolutely loved it, kept the game in its case until just a few years ago when the I found the CDs too degraded to play again. I wonder if I could find a good working copy, and I hope it runs in Wine…

  4. to the anonymous posting at number 3: start at the top of the metafilter post in question. there are *quite* detailed instructions…

  5. I wish there was more of a market for porting old CD-ROM games (and other ‘adventure’ games like the ones from Sierra or LucasArts) to current systems, I never picked up this game at the time but I’d like to try it out now…

  6. I used to work with Yoz until a couple of months ago. He’s one of the most awesome people I’ve ever known– a never-ending fount of fun and usefulness. He’s like a technology concierge: anything you can imagine, he either knows how to do it, or personally knows someone else who does. Even though I worked with him every day for years, I had no idea that he was involved with Douglas Adams until I read this. And now his delightful other-worldliness makes more sense.

  7. Anon (#8), what you said. I have the honor of knowing Yoz for many years now, and he has always been the one I ask when I need to know what is the current state of art in technology, and what music I might should give a listen to. He is simply fab.

  8. I’ve been trying explain the weirdness of the SLL Employee Forum to other people for YEARS. I was part of it way back when it was first put up, and it was my first experience with the internet.

    The most amazing part of it all is mentioned in Yoz’s post: the entire roleplaying story in the forum was completely spontaneous and self-generated, even self moderated. If anyone posted something outside the usually unspoken rules, it would either be quickly ignored or brushed off. Everyone threw in their ideas on where the plot was going, and other people either rolled with it or didn’t. The twisted and bizarre plots were an emergent property of the limited interaction of the posters.

    A good summary on the history of the Forum’s plots and characters is the entry in h2g2:

    ~(was once Phindex)

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