The Hobbit

Game Meta:
Other Names:
The Hobbit Software Adventure
Release Year:
Creator:
Philip Mitchell (Design, Programming), Veronika Megler (Design, Programming), Stuart Richie (Unknown), Alfred Milgrom (Design, Producer)
Company:
Beam Software (Developer), Melbourne House (Publisher)

“The Hobbit” was one of the first major games produced in Australia, and is considered a classic text adventure. In 1985, it was voted number 1 in Sinclair User’s ‘Top 50 Spectrum Software Classics’.

To create the game Beam’s director Alfred Milgrom advertised on the bulletin board at Melbourne University hiring students Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchell. Originally tasked with making the “best adventure game ever’.  Milgrom secured a licence to use J.R.R Tolkien’s popular book the “The Hobbit” by using Melbourne House’s book publishing relationships, and promising that a copy of the book was to be included with the game. The inclusion of the book with the game was also valuable to the player, as knowledge of the story was needed to solve the challenges that  Megler had designed.

“The Hobbit” was remarkable for both its sophisticated parser and creation of a world that appeared open – were time passed, objects had physics and characters autonomy.

The games interface, Philip Mitchell’s parser Inglish allowed for full sentences with adjectives, where previously most adventure games only allowed for simpler verb-noun combinations. The program was complex enough to intuitively understand pronouns, adverbs, punctuation and prepositions. This allowed players to interact with the games in a way never before possible. Commands could be strung together not just to control the actions of the player character but with the inclusion of “SAY” directive could be issued to non player characters .

In designing the game world Megler wanted to create a place that felt more alive. Objects in the game are given a size and weight ratio which affects your ability to interact with them. You could place one object inside or on top of another. If your character was sitting on an object and that object was thrown, then your character would go with it. Another point of difference with this game and any previous text-based adventure game was that events happened in real time. If you walked away from the computer things would happen with out you. As you played each non-player character and monster had a turn when you did,  meaning that many unforeseen events could occur, Elrond might kill the Warg making your journey less  troublesome. Gandalf might get himself killed making that game more challenging. The set of characters actions were  in part randomised but also affected by the actions of the player so attacking them was not a good idea. As was learnt by many players who  became impatient with Thorin and his constant singing. At this time the expression “Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.” entered the popular culture of gamers.

Players found “The Hobbit” constantly appealing because non-player characters existed independently. They were able to roam freely through the game-world and would not necessarily do the same thing twice. This and the games text driven physics enabled the game to be repeated and played in different ways. Due to the openness of its world, “The Hobbit” was an early game to support ‘emergent gameplay’.

“The Hobbit” was a challenging game to play requiring trail and error  to progress and solve puzzles. Letters requesting assistance were sent to popular magazines who devoted columns to advising players. One player David Elkan wrote an entire guide to playing the game which he sent to Melbourne House who published it as book ” A guide to playing The Hobbit” (1984).

References: ACMI Alfred Milgrom interview, 28 April 2006: Interview text provided by Alfred Milgrom 1st March 2013. , Maher, J, “The Hobbit”, The Digital Antiquarianhttp://www.filfre.net/2012/11/the-hobbit/; Newman J, Simons, I (2007) 100 Videogames, BFI Screen Guides, BFI Publishing, London

 

Version information:

“The Hobbit” was designed by Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchell on Dick Smith System 80s that Beam had beefed up with extra memory. The finished game of “The Hobbit” just fitted into the ZX Spectrum’s 48K of memory. On graduating from university Veronika Megler left Beam just before “The Hobbit” was completed to look for a ‘real job’ leaving Mitchell the task of fitting all their code plus the graphics that Milgrom wanted into the Spectrums 48K. It just fit!

To assist with the design of the parser Milgrom hired Stuart Ritchie a Melbourne University student studying both linguistics and computer science. Meglar recalls that Ritchie input in the end was not really significant as Mitchell had a very clear ideas on the design of the parser. Kent Rees produced the drawings that were coded into the original Spectrum game, Mitchell working in assembly language achieving a reasonably fast line draw and fill.

“The Hobbit” won the Computer and Video Game UK Magazine’s 1983 Golden Joystick Awards – Best Strategy Game. and received second place in its Game of Year Award.

Following its release on the ZX Spectrum, “The Hobbit” was ported to a number of other microcomputers supporting cassette games.

In 1985 with the advent of disk drives and Beam’s expansion to include artist and composers on staff, Beam revisited the game and created a version with more images and sound for the Commodore 64. This version was then ported to a number of microcomputers supporting disk drives.

Due to licencing the game was published as “The Hobbit Software Adeventure” in America by Addison Wesley. In 1985 they produced  lush packaged versions for the Commodore 64, Apple 2 and IBM DOS

The success of “The Hobbit” led to the publications of a number of spoof text adventures including CRL’s “The Bobbit” (1986) and “Bored of the Ring” (1985)

References: World of Spectrum http://www.worldofspectrum.org ; Maher, J, “The Hobbit”, The Digital Antiquarianhttp://www.filfre.net/2012/11/the-hobbit/

Screenshots:


Loading Screen,Tape, ZX Spectrum


Screenshot, Tape, ZX Spectrum


Screenshot, Tape, ZX Spectrum


Screenshot, Tape, ZX Spectrum


Screenshot, Tape, ZX Spectrum


Screenshot, Tape ZX Spectrum


Screenshot, Disk Version, C64


Title Page, Disk Version, C64


Wilderlands Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderlands Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64




Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Wilderland Places, Disk, C64


Rivendell, Disk, C64


River by Mountain, Disk, C64


Sea, Disk Version, C64


Secret back-door to Smaugs, C64


Secret Valley, Disk, C64


Spiders, Disk Version, C64


Stream in Forest, Disk, C64


The End, Disk, C64


Thick Forest, Disk, C64


Top of the Mountains, C64


Treasure, Disk Version, C64


Trolls Cave, Disk, C64


Trolls Clearing, Disk, C64


Very Narrow Path, C64


Water, Disk Version, C64


Waterfall, Disk Version, C64

Box Art:


The Hobbit Spectrum 48k Tape and Manual


The Hobbit Spectrum 48k Tape


Tolkien Trilogy box front cover (C64)


Tolkien Trilogy box back cover (C64)


Original Packaging, Front, ZX Spectrum


Original Packaging, Back, ZX Spectrum


Cassette Inlay, ZX Spectrum


Box Art, Front, Tape, Amstrad


Box Art, Back, Tape, Amstrad


Box Art, Front, Tape, BBC Micro


Box Art, Back, Tape, BBC Micro


Box Art, Front, Tape, C64


Box Art, Back, Tape, C64


Box Art, Front, Disc, Apple II


Box Art, Back, Disc, Apple II


Box Art, Front, MSX,


Box Art, Back, MSX


Box Art, Front, Oric


Box Art, Back, Oric


Box Art, Front, PC


Box Art, Back, PC

Media Coverage:

Crash Magazine, May 1984, p.56

Review, Sinclair User, March 1983

Sinclair User, August 1983

Your Computer, January 1983, p.50

Your Computer, January 1983, p.51

Your Computer, January 1983, p.52

Ad, Your Computer, Oct. 1983

ZX Computing, April/May 1983 p.76

ZX Computing, April/May 1983 p.77

ZX Computing, April/May 1983 p.78

Gameplay videos:






Additional Game Releases

The Hobbit

Following its release on the ZX Spectrum, "The Hobbit" was ported to a number of other microcomputers supporting cassette games, including Amstrad CPC, 1983.
Platform/s: Amstrad CPC
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming

The Hobbit

Following its release on the ZX Spectrum, "The Hobbit" was ported to a number of other microcomputers supporting cassette games. The 1983 port to the BBC Micro had no graphics, as these could not be accommodated by the BBC Micro.
Platform/s: BBC Micro
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming

The Hobbit

Following its release on the ZX Spectrum, "The Hobbit" was ported to a number of other microcomputers supporting cassette games, including the Commodore 64, in 1983.

Gregg Barnett recounts the tale of compiling "The Hobbit" on the night of the 1983 America's Cup Yacht Race:

"I remember because I was going to work in the office, and I did work in the office all night that night... I started the compile before they started the yacht race and it was still going when Australia II had won the yacht race. The one compile… You couldn't afford too many bugs in those days because you’d do a five hour compile ...and yeah, ... you’d have to start again. But I do remember that, because the final compile of the tape version took longer than it took the America’s Cup yacht race. And then you had Bob Hawke in the morning saying, you know, “Anybody …sacks somebody for not going to work is a bum,” or whatever, and I'd been working all night…" Gregg Barnett Interview, 27 December, 2012.

Platform/s: Commodore 64
Developer: Gregg Barnett - Port
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming

The Hobbit

Following its release on the ZX Spectrum, "The Hobbit" was ported to a number of other microcomputers supporting cassette games.
Platform/s: Oric
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming

The Hobbit

Following its release on the ZX Spectrum, "The Hobbit" was ported to a number of other microcomputers supporting cassette games, including Dragon 32.
Beam's Dragon game ports were done by Dieter (?)
Platform/s: Dragon 32
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming

The Hobbit

In 1985, Beam's Commodore expert, Gregg Barnett, oversaw the production of a new version of "The Hobbit", which took advantage of the memory provided by using a disk drive. By 1985, Beam Software employed an artist and an in-house composer. Artist Russel Comte and Greg Holland created new graphics for the game, taking advantage of the Commodore 64 graphic capacity, and adding many more places. Beams' sound designer, Nigel Brennan, contributed music to the game, making it overall a much richer experience. Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchells' game engine remained unchanged.


Platform/s: Commodore 64
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Programming
Developer: Russel Comte - Graphics
Developer: Greg Holland - Graphics
Developer: Neil Brennan - Music

The Hobbit

The 1985 disk version of "The Hobbit", for the Apple II, featured additional graphics by Russel Comte and Greg Holland, and music created by Beam's sound designer, Nigel Brennan, making it an overall richer experience. Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchells' game engine remained unchanged.

Platform/s: Apple II
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming
Developer: Russel Comte - Graphics
Developer: Greg Holland - Graphics
Developer: Neil Brennan - Music

The Hobbit

The 1985 disk version of "The Hobbit", for the MSX, featured additional graphics by Russel Comte and Greg Holland, and music created by Beam's sound designer, Nigel Brennan, making it an overall richer experience. Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchells' game engine remained unchanged.

Platform/s: MSX
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming
Developer: Russel Comte - Graphics
Developer: Greg Holland - Graphics
Developer: Neil Brennan - Music

The Hobbit

The 1987 disk version of "The Hobbit", for the Macintosh, featured additional graphics by Russel Comte and Greg Holland, and music created by Beam's sound designer, Nigel Brennan, making it an overall richer experience. Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchells' game engine remained unchanged.

Platform/s: Macintosh
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming
Developer: Russel Comte - Graphics
Developer: Greg Holland - Graphics
Developer: Neil Brennan - Music

The Hobbit

The 1985 disk version of "The Hobbit", for the BBC Micro, featured additional graphics by Russel Comte and Greg Holland, and music created by Beam's sound designer, Nigel Brennan, making it an overall richer experience. Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchells' game engine remained unchanged.

Platform/s: BBC Micro
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming
Developer: Russel Comte - Graphics
Developer: Greg Holland - Graphics
Developer: Neil Brennan - Music

The Hobbit

The disk version of "The Hobbit" featured additional graphics by Russel Comte and Greg Holland, and music created by Beam's sound designer, Nigel Brennan, making it an overall richer experience. Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchells' game engine remained unchanged.

Platform/s: DOS
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Russel Comte - Graphics
Developer: Greg Holland - Graphics
Developer: Neil Brennan - Music

The Hobbit

The 1985 disk version of "The Hobbit", for the PC Booter, featured additional graphics by Russel Comte and Greg Holland, and music created by Beam's sound designer, Nigel Brennan, making it an overall richer experience. Veronika Megler and Philip Mitchells' game engine remained unchanged.

Platform/s: PC
Developer: Philip Mitchell - Design, Port, Programming
Developer: Veronika Megler - Design, Programming
Developer: Russel Comte - Graphics
Developer: Greg Holland - Graphics
Developer: Neil Brennan - Music

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