'The Hobbit' was the first adventure to incorporate what could now only loosely be described as artificial intelligence. However, in its day it was a revelation, as was the parser that allowed complex commands to be typed in using the INGLISH command language. It had a vocabulary of 800 words and allowed not only the use of verbs and nouns (e.g TAKE BISCUIT) but it also allowed adverbs (e.g QUICKLY TAKE BISCUIT), prepositions (e.g WITH, UNDER, ON, OFF) and it allowed you to string a number of commands together with the use of "AND". You could also talk to other characters in the game using the SAY TO command and by doing this you could give them commands to perform for you. In fact, on a number of occasions there was no way of solving some of the puzzles unless you asked Thorin and Gandalf to help you out. All these features were naturally a major improvement on other inferior adventures available at the time. Of course the parser still failed to understand plenty of what I typed in, but the delay in responding when it didn't understand was at least a lot shorter than when it did!
'The Hobbit' was also the first text adventure that I had seen that ran in real time. If you sat and typed nothing in for a while the game would WAIT and time would pass in the game world. It was possible for characters to wander off on their own and it was even possible for important key personalities like Gandalf to get killed in a different location whilst you were doing something else. In the event of this happening the only way out was to restart the game, as Gandalf was a rather important character.
'The Hobbit' was extraordinarily successful and looking back it is now obvious that we wouldn't have got half of the adventures that we eventually did on the Spectrum if the Hobbit hadn't been as successful as it was. Popular Computing Weekly started a weekly adventure helpline column (penned by Tony Bridge, who has since become as infamous as Lord Lucan for not being seen for many years!). Countless people would write in asking for help. The most popular problems were "How do I get out of the Goblins Dungeon?", "How do I escape from the pale bulbous eyes?", "How do I get the ring?", and "How do I escape from the Elven King's dungeon?". Some people got stuck in the game at the same point for over a year before they would be rescued. Adventurers today seldom get stuck like that anymore, mainly due to our accumulated experience and the fact that there are more people playing adventures and more adventures to play. The plethora of magazines today give solutions and tips each month covering all of the major adventure releases. Back in the early 80's, we were still an underground community by comparison.
Melbourne House even went as far as publishing an entire book dedicated to playing and solving 'The Hobbit' with maps and various tips and hints. Whilst hintbooks are almost common place today, back in 1983 they were unheard of. ('The Hobbit' was later released in a special disk only version for the Commodore 64 with music and I think it might even have had extra location graphics. A BBC disk version also appeared if I remember correctly). [more] [back]