The Hobbit, ZX Spectrum

Written by Philip Mitchell and Veronika Megler, The Hobbit is a legendary text adventure, with graphics, that was published by Melbourne House in 1982.

What makes The Hobbit so special is that it introduced the idea of real-time ’emergent’ gameplay (complex situations emerging from simple game mechanics) into the text adventure format. It had a rudimentary weight/physics system for item encumbrance. All the creatures and characters in the game acted independently and could move around as they pleased. If you left the game alone, time would pass with a “wait” command. The game could be paused by typing “pause” at any time though.

The Hobbit also had a revolutionary text parser, for typing and accepting input commands, called “Inglish”. With Inglish you could type complex commands; use abbreviations; pronouns, adverbs, punctuation and prepositions, allowing the player to interact with the game world in ways not previously possible in text adventures.

The end result of this clever programming was a game that was way ahead of its time; much more complex than it looked; and one that could be played and completed a number of different ways. To an extent

The original 48K version of the game is still pretty simple – in terms of actual content – and the graphics (that fill in slowly as the screen draws), are sparse and somewhat primitive.

That said: The Hobbit was still a remarkable achievement back in 1982 and it created a flood of imitators in the ‘real-time’ adventure game genre – some of which were arguably better (Kentilla springs to mind). It also made the phrase “Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold” a popular cultural meme.

An excellent 128K enhanced version of The Hobbit was developed and released by worldofspectrum.org in 2015. It features new graphics and more locations, but stays relatively true to the original. If you have fond memories of the original Hobbit it is definitely worth a look.

The screenshots here show both the original and the enhanced version.

More: The Hobbit on Wikipedia

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