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The Hobbit / The Hobbit Software Adventure

Produced by: Beam Software
Distributor: Melbourne House, Tansoft (The Hobbit) and Addison-Wesley (The Hobbit Software Adventure)
Author: Philip Mitchell, Veronika Megler, et al.
Year: 1982
System: TRS-80 (never released), ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Oric-1, MSX, BBC B, Dragon, MVS (unofficial, never released) (The Hobbit) and Amiga (never released), Apple II, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Macintosh (The Hobbit Software Adventure)
Type: Illustrated text adventure (one BBC version does not have illustrations)
Covers: The Hobbit
Distribution: Commercial, Beam Software now allows its distribution as freeware, although permission would techincally be needed from The Tolkien Estate as well
Availability: Out of print, some versions downloadable (see below)
Licensed: By the Tolkien estate

This is one of the most classic text adventures of all time; at least in Europe. The original game had a large vocabulary and very good character interaction for its time. It was probably the first time ever that such traits had been paired with graphics in any text adventure. In 1985 it was selected #1 in the magazine Sinclair User's Top 50 Spectrum Software Classics (but it only made 42 in a later Top 100 List in Your Sinclair). Today it is back on top at the site The ZX Spectrum Golden Years, where it has been voted the best adventure game.

The game was also released as part of a collection, The Tolkien Trilogy, together with two of its sequels.

The game was first developed for the TRS-80, but when the ZX Spectrum was released, it was decided to continue development on that system, because of the Spectrum's superior graphics and other capabilities. The first Spectrum version was called 1.1 to make it look more finished. A version 1.2 was later released with several bugs fixed.

A rumour that Tansoft created the Oric-1 versions is not true. Tansoft only distributed that version.

In the United States, it was published a few years after its original appearance as The Hobbit Software Adventure, a much extended and improved version. This version is the first part of The Tolkien Software Adventure Series. In Europe, this version was only distributed for the C64 and still under the title The Hobbit.

Across all platforms, the game sold in excess of one million copies.

The popularity of the game has inspired many parodies of it. So far, I know about The Boggit, An Everyday Tale of a Seeker of Gold, The Tebbit and Hobbit - The True Story. In addition, there is a German simplified BASIC version of the game called Der kleine Hobbit.

There are also references to The Hobbit in many other games. The Tunnel Like Hall picture is reproduced in Bored of the Rings, Gandalf and Bilbo appear in Werners Quest, there is a grave-stone with the text "R.I.P. The Hobbit" in the Commodore 64 version of The Quest for the Holy Grail and Quest for the Golden etc... has so many references that it is almost a complete parody of the game in itself.

The game was rewritten in PL/I for an MVS mainframe by an employee at IBM.

Personal evaluation: Today it feels slightly aged, and there are also quite many bugs (especially in The Hobbit), but if you consider its age, it is a remarkable piece of software and very entertaining, too.

Please contact me if you know who wrote the MVS version or if you know about any references to The Hobbit in games not listed above.

Alternative cover

The top image is from the C64 cassette version of The Hobbit. The ones above are from the C64 disk version of The Hobbit, from the original release of The Hobbit Software Adventure and from the second release of that game. There may have been yet other covers. Please contact me if you have one and the ability to scan it for me.

Screen shots

These picutres show what the C64, Oric-1, Apple II, Amstrad CPC, MS-DOS and ZX Spectrum versions (in that order) look like. Compare the Amstrad CPC and MS-DOS screen-shots to get a feel of the differences between the graphics of The Hobbit and The Hobbit Software Adventure.

Net resources

See also