The Hobbit video game is a text-based computer game released in 1982 and based on the book The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was developed by Beam Software and published by Melbourne. In it, you control Bilbo Baggins on his journey from Bag End to the Lonely Mountain (Erebor), along with his companions, Thorin and Gandalf. The object is to return to Bag End with Thorin and the treasure.
House for most computers available at the time, from the more popular computers such as the ZX Spectrum, and the Commodore 64, through to such esoteric computers as the Dragon 32 and Oric computers. By arrangement with the book publishers, a copy of the book was included with each game sold.
The parser was very advanced for the time and used a subset of English called Inglish. When it was released most adventure games used simple verb-noun parsers (allowing for simple phrases like 'get lamp'), but Inglish allowed you to type advanced sentences such as "ask Gandalf about the curious map then take sword and kill troll with it". The parser was complex and intuitive, introducing pronouns, adverbs ("viciously attack the goblin"), punctuation and prepositions and allowing the player to interact with the game world in ways not previously possible.
The game had an innovative text-based physics system. Objects, including the characters in the game, had a calculated size, weight and solidity. Objects could be placed inside other objects, attached together with rope and damaged or broken. If the main character was sitting in a barrel which was then picked up and thrown through a trapdoor, the player went too. Unusually for a text adventure, the game was also in real time - if you left the keyboard for too long events continued without you.
The game had a cast of NPCs ('non player characters') that were entirely independent of the player and bound to precisely the same game rules. They had loyalties, strengths and personalities that affected their behaviour and could not always be predicted. The character of Gandalf, for example, roamed freely around the game world (some fifty locations), picking up objects, getting into fights and being captured. The volatility of the characters, coupled with the rich physics and impossible to predict fighting system, meant that the game could be played in many different ways. There were numerous possible solutions and with hindsight we might regard the game as one of the first examples of 'emergent gaming'.
To help people a book called "A guide to playing The Hobbit" was also published. Melbourne House would later reuse Inglish in Sherlock.
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- A phrase from the game which has entered popular culture is "Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold."
- A bug in the game allows the player to climb into a chest, close the lid and continue to walk around.
- Entering "DO" into the parser, caused it to generate odd (nonsense) messages.
- Some players enjoyed telling Thorin to climb into the fast black river, at which point the game would respond "The Thorin is dead". Despite this, on completing the game, Thorin would reappear.