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Lost in Cyberspace

All Things Titanic
1997 by H.B. Koplowitz
At least James Cameron's movie "Titanic" hasn't spawned an avalanche of merchandising -- no McDonald's boats that sink in your bathtub. But it has revived an interest in all things Titanic, and there are plenty of Titanic-related resources on computer.

Websites about the movie abound, as do sites about the ship and its passengers and crew. There's also a year-old CD-ROM game, CyberFlix's "Titanic: Adventure Out of Time," which is every bit as entertaining as the movie.

The official "Titanic" movie website <www.titanicmovie.com> lets you take a virtual tour of the ship, download a Titanic screen saver, and view movie stills, trailers and clips.

Stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have sites dedicated to them, and at the Amazing James Cameron Page/Fan Club, you can read the script to "Titanic" and many of Cameron's other movies.

RMS Titanic, Inc., the company that conducted an underwater salvage operation on the Titanic in 1996, has a website <www.titanic-online.com> where you can buy a lump of coal recovered from the sunken ship, and get information about Titanic exhibits around the country.

The Discovery Channel's website has Titanic history and pictures of the salvage expedition, along with books and videos for sale. To prepare for the 1996 Titanic expedition, scientists studied 3D computer images from a CD-ROM game being developed by CyberFlix, a Knoxville, Tenn., company. (The Discovery Channel also uses many CyberFlix images and videos at its website.)

While it is unfair to compare an image of the Titanic on a 40-foot movie screen with that on a 12-inch computer screen, they are strikingly similar. Both James Cameron, the director of "Titanic," and Andrew Nelson, the creator of the CD-ROM game, "Titanic: Adventure Out of Time," made every effort to ensure their re-creations were as historically accurate as possible.

True, the movie cost $200 million while the game only cost $1 million to produce. And for the movie they constructed a model 90 percent the size of the original ship, while the game just used computer animations. But CyberFlix publicist David Haynes noted that the game's Titanic models were created on Silicon Graphics workstations, the same computers that created the dinosaurs for "Jurassic Park."

And as much as the movie makes you feel like you are on the Titanic, you are still a passive observer, watching actors on a screen. In the game, you play the role of a British secret agent aboard the doomed luxury liner. During the first half, you explore the Titanic at your leisure, from boiler room to grand ballroom, meeting and interacting with more than 25 characters on the ship. Your contact, Miss Pringle, gives you guidance, while your nemesis, a German spy named Colonel Zeitel, tries to shoot you.

You also encounter Zeitel's henchman, a stowaway named Vlad Demonic, and Sasha Barbicon, an eccentric art collector/smuggler. There's also a double agent, Von Haderlitz, Leyland Trask, a seer, and the droll Smethells, your helpful steward, along with many other memorable characters. None of the characters were really on the Titanic, but real passengers are alluded to, and the characters are what Haynes called "authentically drawn."

Miss Pringle sets you on the first leg of your mission, which is to retrieve a rare book. Soon you are on the trail of a stolen painting, a notebook, jewelry, and other objects. You also use a decoder, defuse a bomb, fix a boiler, play Blackjack with a card shark named Buick Riviera, and investigate a murder in the Turkish Bath.

At a pivotal moment, when Zeitel has you in his gun sights, the Titanic hits the iceberg, and the pace of the game quickens. You are asked to change discs, and suddenly have just two hours and 40 minutes to complete your mission -- the same amount of time it took the Titanic to sink.

The Titanic groans ominously as you rush about the ship, and periodically you see images of the boat flooding, reminding you that time is running out. You can either go down with the Titanic or finagle your way onto a life raft. Either way, you are treated to a re-creation of the sinking of the ship that may not be as spectacular as the movie, but is dramatic all the same.

The movie has but one ending, while there are at least seven possible endings to the game. If you get stuck, you can go online and visit CyberFlix's Users Forum <www.cyberflix.com>, where players trade tips and strategies. You can also download tour guides who will take you on a virtual tour of the boat.

Then again, as Smethells tells you at the start of the game, "I'm most certain you will find the Internet the latest in modern technology -- just like the Titanic."
 

1997 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.


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