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Starship Titanic and the Mac

Douglas Adams is well-known as an enthusiastic evangelist for the Macintosh system. As a company, we've worked closely with Apple and have received substantial help and support from them - Macs played a crucial role in the development of ST, and we use both platforms (although not necessarily with their original OSs) for the jobs that each is best at.

So why no simultaneous release for the Mac version of ST?

We've had a range of e-mails on the subject, ranging from the polite enquiry through to the abusive and illiterate. The arguments behind the way we did things are well summarised by Douglas in his responses to the following two e-mails, the first of which falls toward the unpleasantly abusive end of the spectrum.

>This has to be the biggest PR disaster since the Blue Star Line lost a
>small boat somewere in the Atlantic.
>How can you, an AppleMaster, allow Simon & Schuster to release Starship
>Titanic only for Windows 95?  It's quite simply beyond belief.
>Even if a Mac version is coming later, it's just not acceptable.
>Microsoft's policy on software releases is more Mac-friendly than this.
>To put it bluntly, you'd better have a damn good excuse, Adams, or you
>won't be able to touch your email without getting third degree burns
>(and that's not a threat, merely a prediction).

(authors' names removed at their request)

This is one of the rudest emails I've ever received and I hope it is not typical of the way you evangelise the Mac platform, because that is the way you make enemies rather than win friends. It is one of the reasons why Wintel users think of Mac users as being ranting blinkered zealots rather than normal intelligent people with an extremely good case to present.

The choice for us was very simple and stark. Do the game for PC first or not do it at all. The Digital Village is a new and tiny company spending investors' and partners' money on an extremely high risk venture. Nobody would have put up the money to do a game this complex and ambitious and wantonly ignore 90% of the market. I know because I asked. It wasn't even possible to develop for both platforms simultaneously. I know because that's what for a long time we tried to do. The cost overruns, the time overruns and the mushrooming data budget came very close to killing us, even after we had decided - reluctantly - to postpone the Mac version till we had the resources to do it. If we had Microsoft's money - if we had a millionth part of Microsoft's money - it would have been very easy to hire some more people, buy some more time and do what we liked. As it is, as soon as sales of the game on the PC platform start to bring in some money it will be possible to re-invest in a Mac version. If we had done it the other way round there would be no game and there would be no company and all the dozens of people who have slaved over this game for two years would be out of a job. Not for long, of course - they are a brilliant bunch of people - but all their time, effort and money would have been thrown away.

Of course this is very frustrating for me. If I want to actually play the game I've been working on for the last two years I have to go into somebody else's office and use somebody else's machine. I have a zillion Macs and not a single PC. So no one is looking forward to the Mac version more than me. It pains and frustrates me that Apple's market share is so low that we are forced into this position, but building Apple's market share is Apple's job, not mine. I will express my continuing enthusiasm for Macintosh technology loud and long and do everything I can to get people to share that enthusiasm, but I am not going to sacrifice other people's money, energy and livelihoods to do Apple's job for them. If Apple had been better at doing that job then this problem would not exist. And let me say right away, that while I am a great fan of Apple's technology, I have been very saddened and frustrated by the company itself. If you want to understand exactly what Apple has squandered over the years, how they have almost systematically set about alienating their developers, their distributors and their users through a mixture of arrogance, greed and incompetence, then you could do a lot worse than read Jim Carlton's book, which those people I know who work for Apple (or used to work for Apple - everybody I know bar one has resigned or been fired) say is devastatingly accurate. For those of us who love Apple it is a harrowing read. But if you find someone you care about shooting themselves in the foot the most useful way you can show solidarity with them is to encourage them to stop shooting themselves in the foot, not start shooting yourself in your own foot as well.

So, I understand your anger, but you would do better to direct it at those who have created this impossible position rather than at those who find themselves in it. In fact you would do well to become slightly better informed before you direct your anger at anybody at all. Apple is beginning to grow healthier again, to develop a clearer sense of purpose and determination. If it's going to succeed it needs better advocates than you.

Douglas Adams

>I have visited the web page of Starship Titanic and I have seen the
>packages at my local computer store. I looked for a Mac version but none
>was to be found. I know that you are a Mac user so I was disappointed
>when I read that the Mac version will be available "eventually" once the
>windoze version was out the door.
>I realize the market pressures that influenced your decision. You were
>probably advised by your marketing people to do so. I am not asking you
>to release a Mac version only nor am I asking for the Mac version to be
>released first. What you should have done is to release both versions
>You see, you either believe on the Mac and you support it or you give up
>and sell out. I would prefer no support to token support of the Mac
>platform. I expected more from you. Perhaps I shouldn't have.
>I am still your fan and I will purchase a copy of your game once it is
>released for the Mac.
>Thank you,
>Alessandro Abate
Thanks for your note. I share your disappointment and frustration that we were not able to bring out a Mac version at the same time as the Windows version. I assure you that this was not merely a question of being "advised" by marketting people. It was sheer survival. We started out developing for both platforms. In fact we started out using mTropolis for game authoring, which as you probably know is a Mac product with a runtime version for Windows. Gradually it became clear that mTropolis v1.0 wasn't going to do the job, and though version 2.0 was promised, we couldn't risk it. Thank goodness we didn't. mTropolis 2 was finally delivered just a couple of weeks ago - eighteen months late - along with the announcement that it was to be discontinued. Meanwhile we started to write our own purpose-built authoring system, called Lifeboat, which was originally intended to be cross-platform.

We hit real problems with the development of this game. The scale, complexity and ambition of the project looked like it was going to overwhelm the limited resources of time and budget that we had. As it was we went way over on both. The only way that the game - and the company - could survive, was if we concentrated on delivering the PC version first, getting that to market, and then doing the Mac version. If we had done anything else their would have been no game at all, probably no company, and a huge loss of money. So there was nothing opportunistic or cynical about the decision to get the PC version out first, it was sheer survival. To be honest, I find your judgment that I have 'sold out' to be both ill-informed and offensive, but I'm sure your heart is in the right place. If you feel frustrated, imagine how I feel. I've worked for two years on this game and don't possess a machine that will run it.


Douglas Adams