Titanic Honor and Glory

I’ve been into the Titanic since I wrote a book report about it in fourth grade. During my research, I came across Titanic: An Illustrated History, a huge, detailed book; one of the most comprehensive on the ship. It’s full of beautiful paintings by Ken Marschall that bring the ship to life so well that James Cameron recreated many of them for the 1997 movie. Since my first encounter I’ve wanted to experience the ship and explore it.

There hasn’t been much in the way of interactive Titanic media in the past. The most famous is a 1996 game called Titanic: Adventure out of Time. Through Myst-like 2.5D pre-rendered graphics you complete a spy mission that prevents World War I and II. The fidelity accomplished with 256 color images was impressive at the time, but the environment was rather constrained and didn’t provide much opportunity for exploration. James Cameron released a CD-ROM set called Titanic Explorer in 1998 to go with the movie. It contained historical images, deck plans, interviews, and scenes from the movie, but it was more like an interactive book than an explorable experience.

Today’s cruise ships are a far cry from the ships of the steam era, but there are still a few representations that can be visited. In 2016 I made my first visit to the Queen Mary, a 1936 Cunard ship permanently moored in Long Beach California as a hotel and museum. While it isn’t the Titanic, it was close enough in design to feel like I was walking the decks and the halls of my favorite ship. I visited twice, did all the tours, and spent hours endlessly exploring the open areas and enjoying myself.

The Promise of Honor and Glory

In 2017 I stumbled onto a kickstarter for a new game about Titanic. It had an odd title – Honor and Glory – and an ambitious promise. The team was going to build a complete virtual model of the Titanic – every room and area explorable – with unprecedented historical accuracy and visual quality. Within that model they would build an engaging narrative with historical figures and adventures that would take the player across the ship from its embarkation through its sinking.

It sounded like a 3D version of Adventure out of Time, but far expanded. The images on the campaign were beautiful, and the prospect of being able to go through the entire ship was incredible. I wanted to see all of the things you see in pictures of course, the Grand Staircase, first class areas, and such, but I was very interested in the areas you didn’t usually see – the crew areas, the kitchens, storage. The goals were ambitious, and while I didn’t believe the narrative would ever be completed, I hoped the ship would be so that I could explore it.

Soon after I pledged the $50 that would get me a copy of the final game, I realized that the team had already released a demo that I could download for free. I was floored. There in front of me was the Titanic in all her glory, moored in Southampton. I could see the profile, the smoke stacks, her great masts, all the rigging, and the decks. A short walk took me to the stairs leading right into the first class entrance on D Deck.

The demo was amazing. It showcased some of Titanic’s most famous spaces with incredible detail – the Forward and Aft Grand Staircases, the First Class Dining Hall, the Parisian Café, the First Class Restaurant, the Turkish Baths. It included the first class cabins that Francis Brown and Thomas Andrews stayed in. It had part of Scotland Road, the Third Class Dining Saloon, and one of the boiler rooms! It was rendered in beautiful detail with moody mid-day lighting, and ran well on my dual GeForce 970 setup.

Suddenly all of the images I had seen in books were alive in an explorable 3D space. I spent hours and hours going back and forth over every detail, taking screenshots to use for desktop backgrounds. They were so detailed they looked almost real!

There were limitations, of course, it was just a demo. There were no characters, just you and an empty ship to wander. Many areas were off limits as well –  the top of the Forward Grand Staircase and the pool (just a peek through a half-open door). There were no fancy First Class suites, no access to the Boat Deck or promenades, and no Second Class spaces. I didn’t care though. I was so excited for this game to be finished, even if I didn’t know if would ever happen.

A Dry Spell

The years went by and the team quickly missed its deadlines. The money they raised went towards buying game assets while they shopped around for an investor to help them deliver the rest of the game. They continued to build new areas including the pool, Second and Third Class spaces, the engine room, the bridge, and some of the famous First Class suites. I hoped these would be released in another demo for the Kickstarter group, but they were only intended to whet the appetites of investors.

Over time the project became even more ambitious, adding more historical characters, pop up history information, historically-accurate voice acting, and a detailed recreation of the Southampton docks. The team talked about meeting with investors almost monthly, but nothing came to pass. They continued to release videos about the ship and started drifting into the history of other ships. The story repeated over and over with no real progress. By that time I had resigned to the idea that I’d never get a full game, my $50 was gone, and I should enjoy the demo that came out in 2016.

So I did. A few times a year I’d crack open the demo and spend 30 minutes walking through the ship. On occasion I’d find a little feature I hadn’t seen before. Sometimes I’d load an Unreal Engine hacker so that I could break the camera and fly to unfinished areas of the ship, including the promenades. Even though I had been through it at least 100 times I often came away a bit breathless from my small journey on the famous ship.

A Game is Released!

In the summer of 2020, after another quiet period, the team suddenly announced they were releasing a game! Not Honor and Glory, though, a game about the Titanic’s ill-fated sister, the Britannic. Patroness of the Mediterranean was released on Steam and included the Britannic in both its hospital ship configuration and its never-sailed passenger configuration. As the real ships were 95% the same, I hoped Patroness included everything in Demo 3 and more so that I could get my Titanic fix. Not quite.

It was certainly more complete than Honor and Glory in some places. It had a Forward Grand Staircase that could be explored all the way to the boat deck, including the Britannic-only children’s room. It offered access to the pool, the Regal Suite, and the Georgian Suite, each modified over the Titanic’s versions based on the White Star Line plans. It included access to a new Third Class space in the form of covered third class promenade area.

There were also two parts of the game that were a huge upgrade over Honor and Glory. The first was the inclusion of the entire boat deck through the bridge and full A deck promenade. I could finally walk the entirety of the ship from bow to stern, from “King of the World” through “Poor little rich girl.” I could enter the bridge for the first time, survey the bow, and stand on the compass platform. Walking the decks reminded me of my time on Queen Mary and felt as close to the real thing as I had ever been.

The second upgrade was night mode. The team relit the boat deck level for night with beautiful light and reflections. The light transitioned from day to sunset to night over a few minutes and it was absolutely beautiful! I spent more time walking around the decks in night mode than I did during the day. There were Northern Lights in the sky and calming music that made it a relaxing place to be.

To round it out, there was also a sinking mode, a version modeled on the Britannic’s service as a Hospital ship, and a fly around mode.

These were nice additions over Honor and Glory, but there was a lot missing as well, mostly the interiors. There were no Turkish Baths, no First Class or Third Class Dining areas, no other cabins, no hallways, and no Aft Grand Staircase. Where Honor and Glory had a reasonably-sized fully-connected interior to explore, Patroness had few disjointed spaces that had to be loaded individually from a menu. It was so close to being more than Demo 3, but it fell short.

After release, the future of the game was unclear. The team indicated that they might continue adding new features, and I got my hopes up. Maybe they’d add the same spaces from Demo 3 so I’d have a more complete experience. Maybe they’d update Demo 3 to the same engine as Patroness and add in the Boat Deck and Promenade.

They didn’t. Outside of a few bug fixes and adjustments to menus, there have been no updates. I continued to explore both Demo 3 and Patroness, alternating between the two to create a cohesive version of the ship in my mind. I explored Demo 3 for the interiors, which still looked great even after a few years. I explored Patroness for exteriors, especially at night. I rarely visited the interiors, the Hospital version, or the sinking. I’d walk through the two games and pretend they were one.

Mega Demo

Things quieted down again after Patroness, and I felt like I didn’t hear much for another year. Then things exploded in late 2021. The team had an internal shakeup: they decided they were not focused and were too ambitious, they apologized to the community for all the missed dates, and promised to do better. They released one of their early flooding demos of the grand staircase and promised to release all of the individual demos they had made for investors plus the content from Demo 3 in what they called Megademo.

Megademo was later renamed to Demo 401, and finally started to deliver on what the team promised in its Kickstarter so many years before. There were a few releases of Demo 401, each delivering more and more spaces to explore. The first release came right before Christmas 2021 and was essentially Demo 3 with restrictions removed. You could finally go into the pool instead of looking at it. You could go up to the boat deck of the Forward Grand Staircase and visit the Gymnasium. You could even step out onto a small portion of the promenade. You could visit the Regal Suite and walk through the entire First Class dining room.

Subsequent updates added more areas of the deck (though not the full Promenade or Boat Deck); Second Class spaces like the Smoking Room, Dining Room, both staircases, and the Library; and Third Class spaces including the Smoking Room, Lounge, the covered promenade, and even some cabins! It included crew spaces like the mail room, the cargo hold, the Bridge, the wireless room, elevator machinery, and the Maids and Valets saloon.

The textures and lighting had been improved over Demo 3 and a night mode had been added that made the interiors look beautiful. The team made it clear that this was still a demo and there were still quirks. I found the daylight mode lighting to be too bright and washed out on my system, there were occasional texture issues, and there were loading hiccups here and there. But it was still impressive and felt like I was finally getting what I had hoped for.

Megademo was supposed to be it. Once delivered, the team would shift focus back to Honor and Glory, which they were rebuilding from the ground up, almost rivet-by-rivet. It’s intended to be a museum, without a storyline and a bunch of historical characters, but still seems to be overly ambitious. I’m sure I’ll still pay for it if they ever finish it.

By that point I was pretty happy with what the team had done. The demos were all free, so I never technically got my $50, but I was fine with how it all played out. I spent a lot of time in Megademo, but still played Patroness on occasion when I wanted to walk the entirety of the decks from end to end.

Version 2.0

Throughout 2022, the team posted progress on their new go-forward game, but also dropped tidbits about an upcoming update to Demo 401. It started out as one or two extra spaces, then it turned into more. Suddenly they were rewriting Megademo on Unreal Engine 5, completely redoing the lighting, and adding lots of new spaces. Ultimately, the plan was to bring coverage up to about 50% of the ship, including crew and engine areas that had never been seen before.

The update came out last month, and it’s just magnificent. The textures look better than ever, the day lighting looks beautiful and is no longer too bright on my system, performance is improved, and the new spaces are amazing. There are now seven different first class cabin designs covering all of the unique styles that the ship offered. All are decked in varying amounts of different woods, textiles, and furnishings. Several are adjoining and allow you to walk through the different styles side-by-side. Both of the private promenades are available with one of the attached suites, and standard First Class staterooms are littered about the halls.

New crew areas are available including the Firemen’s quarters in the bow, and the bar and kitchen shared between the First Class Smoking room and Verandah & Palm Court. The Firemen’s quarters are particularly impressive, including a few sleeping areas, a kitchen and eating area, the forecastle hatch down to an explorable storage area, and the spiral staircases that go all the way down to the boiler room. Speaking of the boiler room, it’s much expanded with multiple boilers, additional scaffolding, and coal bunkers you can walk in. You can also go into the Crow’s Nest and look over the bow, enter the Turbine room, and even see part of the engine room complete with working pistons!

Project 401

This is supposed to be the last free version of Megademo, but the team has even more in store for a bit of a fee. They plan to make some additional changes and release the game on Steam as Project 401, to generate a bit of revenue I assume. Project 401 will add night mode back in, a sunset mode, a few new spaces, an immersive sound track, VR support, and historical information to make walkthroughs more interesting. You bet I’ll be paying whatever they ask for.

Titanic Honor and Glory has been a journey, but I’m really impressed with how far it has come. It’s built by passionate people in their spare time and what they’ve been able to do is simply amazing. I love that I can go into the less photographed and completely unseen Second Class, Third Class, and crew areas. There is so much attention to detail packed in that I continue to find notice beautiful things every time I go exploring. This game is truly An Illustrated History come to life. An absolutely amazing experience!

Additional Images

There are so many cool spaces in Demo 401 2.0 that I couldn’t fit them all in. Here are the rest!

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