In 1984, Infocom released the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy interactive fiction game. Written by Steve Meretzky of Infocom and the books original writer Douglas Adams, the game was a veritable hit when it came out selling 350,000 copies.
The game is famously “cantankerous,” and a lot of uninitiated users find it hard to make it out of the first room let alone complete the game. (at least the messages for when you perished were entertaining) The 30th anniversary edition, released on the BBC site, keeps the text of the game unchanged, but polishes a few of the interactive edges.
For starters, the game is now in HTML5. Original incarnations had the classic text adventure look with no visual interface. The 20th anniversary edition was a Flash game with a more visual style, with the requisite text-based opponents intact. While it received an uptick in traffic, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “was left to languish on some mothballed pages on a server that was due for demolition to make way for a high speed server array.”
The new version is extremely polished, and able to be played on a standard web browser through the BBC website. There are a few additions to the game, including a Twitter component:
Then things started to get silly. Having covered the basics, we decided to slip in an ‘Any’ key, just because we could. The $, % and ^ symbols were replaced with new ones for the Altarian Dollar, Flanian Pobble Bead and the Triganic Pu, not because they are needed in the game, but just because we felt like it. We then decided that rather than having a simple functionality where the user could tweet, we would allow the game itself to tweet, based on the actions of users in the game.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy interactive fiction game is probably more geared towards fans of the series, with survival based somewhat on an adherence to plot points. The game is exceptionally entertaining, incredibly difficult, and a great deal of fun. Don’t forget to check it out at the BBC website.