back to article Author of '80s classic The Hobbit didn't know game was a hit

Every few days, Veronika Megler gets email from a stranger. Some thank her for teaching them English. Others acknowledge her role as an influence in their decision to pursue a career in computing. Megler was never a teacher, nor a mentor, to those who send the messages. But her correspondents remember her fondly as one of …

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  1. AlexS
    Holmes

    Maybe I missed it

    No mention of Sherlock??

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_(video_game)

    1. Simon_Sharwood_Reg_APAC_Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Maybe I missed it

      Veronika didn't work on Sherlock, but the same game engine was used.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Maybe I missed it

        No shit!

  2. Blitterbug
    Happy

    Ahh, the memories...

    I remember you could ask Gandalf to pick you up, and you would then be carried around the world map! I read how this worked in a mag (Sinclair User?) and nearly fell off my chair when I tried it and it actually worked...

  3. DAN*tastik

    Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

    Hi all,

    this is purely out of curiosity, I couldn't find it anywhere. Wikipedia just mentions what it means, Google knows that what I really want is English so it will only show the results for that, no matter if I use + or "" before / around it, bing allowed me to search for that in the end, but didn't return any links that answered my question...

    From the Wikipedia entry I believe it could other be "Input English" or "Interactive English", but I also have an unmatched talent at generally being wrong at things.

    If nobody has an answer to this, I can cope with it... Cheers!

    1. DAN*tastik
      Headmaster

      Re: Typo in my post - Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

      I believe it could ether be "Input English"

      1. DAN*tastik
        Headmaster

        Re: Typo in my post - Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

        EITHER! EITHER! EITHER! I should still be in bed :)

        1. Khaptain Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Typo in my post - Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

          I presume you also meant "etymology"....

          1. DAN*tastik

            Re: Typo in my post - Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

            I did indeed. Noted :)

            I don't think I saw the ety- prefix many times in my life and I wasn't familiar with the spelling, so I went for the italian one I am familar with. Thanks :)

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Robert Forsyth

      Re: Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

      I think I read, all those years ago, it was like English, but not quite English, hence Inglish.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

      I was about to post sympathising about Google. It's maddening when they 'correct' your speling and absolutely refuse to believe you want to search for what you typed.

      But then I tried it for myself, and got this on the first page of results:

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Inglish

      Hope this helps.

      1. Numpty

        Re: Does anyone know the etimology of the word "Inglish"?

        You can switch on "Verbatim" mode on the results page when that happens, then it'll only search for exactly what you typed...

  4. Enrico Vanni
    Happy

    "Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold."

    That is all.

    1. Jedit
      Mushroom

      "Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold."

      You're a dead man, Vanni. I'm still scarred for life by that, since I discovered that you can put yourself into the chest in Bag End.

      You see, if you climb into the chest then close it, the game very cleverly knows that it will be dark. Unfortunately, it being dark means you cannot see. So, despite being inside an unlocked chest, you can't get out again because you can't see it to open it. I spent far too long trying, and much if it went like this:

      > THORIN, OPEN CHEST

      Thorin ignores you.

      > THORIN, OPEN CHEST

      Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.

      > THORIN, OPEN CHEST

      Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.

      In my next game, I discovered there is a very small chance that KILL THORIN will actually work.

  5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "I had been writing assemblers for years"

    Do you mean "I had been writing /in/ assembler for years" ...?

    1. Steve Todd
      Stop

      Someone has to write the assembler too

      It's a program just like others. These days they tend to be written in languages like C, but it's quote possible that is exactly what she meant.

      1. Terry Cloth
        Facepalm

        Re: Someone has to write the assembler too

        Ah, yes---my first job out of uni I wrote Z-80 assembly, and indeed maintained the assembler.

        My favorite story from that job, though, came from writing FORTRAN on an HP 2100 mini, and maintaining the compiler (proprietary, but we did get the source). About when my program started getting large enough to be useful, the compile started crawling. I noticed the speed went way up when I didn't ask for a variable listing, so I poked around.

        They were using a O(n**2) sort. I.e., it would make one full pass over the symbol table for every symbol it emitted.

        Ah, the early days, when even econ majors wrote code.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Someone has to write the assembler too

          Yes, I've written loads of assemblers myself, it's just odd to see somebody else say the same. ;)

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Someone has to write the assembler too

            I thought it was a perfectly reasonable question, since earlier in the article she mentioned working in assembly, but not writing assemblers. Certainly she could have been writing assemblers - as others pointed out, it wasn't uncommon in days when 8-bit PCs roamed the earth to maintain one's own assembler - but there's no evidence elsewhere in the article that that's what she did. So the line in question could well have been an error.

            The multiple downvotes for the original post are clearly from people who have difficulty with critical thinking.

            Oh, and AC@18:43: You're an ass.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      For a lot of the old computers, a decent assembler was hard to get and we often had to write our own.

      1. William Towle
        Thumb Up

        Assembler

        > For a lot of the old computers, a decent assembler was hard to get and we often had to write our own.

        I remember that sort of thing. I typed in the assembler from INPUT magazine but don't recall ever getting it to work (it could have, in which case I lacked patience with it - and the commercial offerings we also had).

        Ultimately, my machine code ended up finding its way into RAM courtesy of a short routine that read the target address/es and corresponding hex byte sequences from a BASIC program's REM statements ... and being small and simple, it ran from the printer buffer.

      2. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Indeed

        For my final year project, in '87, before I could work on the software, I had to write the assembler. On a VAX.

        1. Furbian
          Thumb Up

          Re: Indeed

          Macro 32 Assembler?

          I can beat that for sad, in the ate 90's there was (is) a company still using a VAX with 700+ live users on it. I had to look at some of that Macro 32 to fix problems in the bespoke language the system was written in..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cute!

      Did you think the CPU just parsed the text of your assembly file? That is just ADORABLE!

      I'm Glad that your attempt at patronising someone about their career has backfired publicly. Perhaps in future you will be less keen to show off how very clever you are!

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  7. mfraz

    The Micro User

    Reminds me of this July 1985 cover of The Micro User.

    1. El Presidente
      Thumb Up

      Re: The Micro User

      Now THAT takes me back ....

      1. IanzThingz
        Thumb Up

        Re: The Micro User

        remember when Bob (i think) took his beeb to be upgraded, I loved those articles, wonder if I still have them.

    2. Bod

      Re: The Micro User

      I recognise that cover. Very sure I had that one.

      Frustration with the BBC version were the bugs. They really did make you attempt to kill thorin.

  8. Efros

    Valhalla

    Only related by the fact it was a ZX Spectrum game also, but there was a feature in the game Valhalla, that if you entered a swear word a dwarf would run on and punch you while the legend 'Mary is not amused' was printed at the bottom of the screen, everyone presumed that it was a reference to Mary Whitehouse.

  9. h4rm0ny

    It's good to have more known female role-models. I know a number of women who are programmers, but although gender is irrelevant, it's still good to have some big names out there to encourage girls at school to consider the career.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. GettinSadda

    Inspired

    I was inspired by this game and a while afterwards decided to write a Lord of the Rings adventure on the commodore PET (because that was what I owned). The game had each character doing its own thing as you played the game and wandering around the map trying to achieve their own goals. I got quite far before running out of memory and realising that my design would never fit in 32K. The autonomous non-player characters also lead to some problems, but could be quite amusing. One of the first attempts at playing it worked well as I was progressing towards Weathertop, but every now and then I would get a description of the location followed by: "Here there is a dead Nazgul" then when I got to Weathertop I was greeted by "Here there is a dead Gandalf".

  11. John G Imrie Silver badge

    wait

    You wait ... time passes.

    1. B33k34

      Re: wait

      Gollum appears

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: wait

        Gollum start asking you riddles

        Heh, this also take me back. Was one of the best (and frustrating) adventure games I've had... :)

        Will introduce my kids to it.

  12. John G Imrie Silver badge

    Getting drunk

    I remember that once you where drunk the parser would put an h after every s in the output making sitting on Gandalf fun to my young and deprived mind.

    1. Isendel Steel
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Getting drunk

      Thanks - I have just had a LOL moment with that - never tried that on my C64 version..

      you owe me a new keyboard....

  13. rurwin
    Pint

    "Give lunch to elrond and say to elrond give lunch to snori and say to snori give lunch to thori and say to thori ... give lunch to thorin and say to thorin give lunch to gandalf and say to gandalf give lunch to me."

    It was a huge amount of typing and you had to be very lucky, but sometimes the lunch went all the way round and got back to you.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Coffee/keyboard

      @rurwin

      You have just caused me to laugh helplessly for about the last five minutes!!

      :-)

  14. DaemonProcess
    Happy

    LOVE!

    Ah, the first adventure game I ever completed. I really loved it. . I also wondered at how they managed to fit it all into the 48k memory. But those were simpler times, when people really could get close to the device and make something useful without spending a grand on a compiler/ide/debugger.

    I liked the fact that with "Inglish" the user could add to the atmosphere by adding in your own adverbs and adjectives, which would be repeated back: "You violently attack the vicious warg with the sword." I don't think it made any difference to the outcomes, but we could pretend.

    This game stood up against many others created for 8 bit computers and still did up to 5 years later.

    Such a wave of nostalgia you created with that article. Many thanks.

    1. Eddie Edwards
      Unhappy

      Re: LOVE!

      "without spending a grand on a compiler/ide/debugger"

      Hum, back then I had to spend £30 on an editor/assembler/debugger, and £25 for a BASIC compiler that worked so badly it could be adequately described as a complete waste of £25. (I was 14. £25 was a LOT of money.)

      Nowadays I can download all these things for nothing, from multiple sources, often including source code (although, in the case of gcc, you're better off not seeing that - c.f. laws and sausages).

      Are you thinking of Visual Studio? That has a ticket price in the region of a grand, IIRC, although there are countless ways to get it cheaper (it comes free with an X360 dev system, for instance). And even without those, you've still got the magnificently crippled Visual Studio Express if you just want compiler/IDE/debugger.

      Mind you, I'd gladly pay a grand for an XCode which was as good as Visual Studio.

  15. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Bugs...

    I vaguely remember several, one involving making a tower with several characters carrying each other and the one at the bottom being killed meaning nobody else could get 'out' into the room and one involving barrels being thrown through a trapdoor.

    I might re-enable Java and play it online, if I ever got time to waste...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bugs...

      My favourite bug was the response to entering "ex do" at the start:

      THE WATER EVAPORATES.

      THE BLACK WATER EVAPORATES

      THE FAST RIVER EVAPORATES.

      THE CRACK IS DEAD.

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Bugs...

      I got stuck in the barrel room ;You got imprisoned in there, and to escape you had to get into a barrel and then dump it though the trap door into the river- do it without and you would drown. i threw the barrel out first one time, and could not proceed, so quit and reloaded from tape. This time when I was thrown into the room, there was no barrel, and it was never there ever after - this was without doing a game save- I have no idea what happened...

  16. Alex Galbraith
    Thumb Up

    If you want to play it again...

    http://www.twinbee.org/hob/play.php?snap=hobbit

    :)

    1. Kebabbert

      Play online:

      Or you could try here:

      http://www.c64s.com/game/418/hobbit,_the/

      Does anyone know how to solve the game? Any walk throughs available?

  17. bitmap animal
    Happy

    Slight pedant mode

    The founder of Melbourne house was Alfred Milgrom not Alfred Migrom - note the L. I also don't remember him ever being called Alfred, it was always Fred.

    Oh those were happy days :-))

  18. Jim 59

    Great wake up messages we have known

    You are in a comfortable tunnel like hall

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    1. Def Silver badge
      WTF?

      I'm not sure whether to be impressed, or to call the nurse.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Def Silver badge
              Stop

              I think I speak for everyone here when I say: Please stop.

              1. Def Silver badge
                FAIL

                heh, four thumbs up for my first post, and then four thumbs down for my second.

                I guess the smiley face is still necessary for some people to understand what is and what is not humour.

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. laird cummings
      Coffee/keyboard

      Sick Genius

      HFG, that's utterly brilliant. And seriously twisted, too.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Ah! Memories!

    When I bought my copy for the Oric, you got a free copy of The Hobbit book, along with the tape.

    I never actually finished the game. I got the ring, killed the dragon and got all the way home only to have [I presume] a bug cause whatever text was on screen as I traipsed my weary way home to suddenly have appended to it "... suddenly a poisonous spider drops from a tree and kills you. You are dead!" ...or words to that effect —it's been a while! Happened every bleedin' time. Most frustrating for a spotty young jackanapes.

    Thanks to Dan 55 and Alex Galbraith for pre-empting my question about whether or not it was still available anywhere. Pity it requires Java though. T'would have been a fun thing to twiddle with on my iPhone.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Ah! Memories! (of waiting for the drawings to finish...)

      I had a copy on my Oric I at one time (pirated, sorry), but playing it was frustrating because drawing of the images was horribly slow (like a minute for some of them). So I got too frustrated to get further than the Elf kings cave. The Spectrum version I saw at a friends was much faster, I wonder why.

      But it is amazing that a game of such complexity could be crammed into 48K (and no disk accesses to help! Everything was loaded from the tape at the start).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah! Memories!

      Strewth, I hope that was an Atmos you had. Couldn't imagine anything more frustrating than a text adventure on the dodgy chicklet keyboard of the Oric 1. Having said that I did write a disassembler and got a fair way through a basic compiler on an Oric 1 before upgrading to a beeb.

  21. The Infamous Grouse
    Mushroom

    Penetrator

    I wasn't much for The Hobbit back in my Spectrum days. I didn't really get into adventures until the later part of the 80s. Rigel's Revenge was probably my favourite, as I preferred SF to fantasy.

    But Penetrator was the dog's danglers, especially considering how early in the Spectrum's life it was written. I must have wasted weeks with the level editor, trying to create insanely narrow vertical canyons that were still navigable or seeing how many rockets I could get to launch at once into a confined space. The game was credited solely to Philip Mitchell on the loading screen, so knowledge of Veronika's contribution is new to me.

    Still, The Hobbit. Imagine writing one of the most iconic games ever (one that probably helped launch a thousand careers in game design) and not knowing about its popularity until years later. Absolutely inconceivable now.

    (Nuke for the final screen of Penetrator, which was bloody difficult even without ham-fisted level editing).

    1. Mint Sauce
      Happy

      Re: Penetrator

      Penetrator was awesome and I wasted many hours on that as a spotty yoof. Now I'm happily watching a youtube vid and remembering all the sound effects and startup music :-)

    2. Bassey

      Re: Penetrator

      I'm with you on Penetrator. I remember my parents playing The Hobbit but it really didn't do anything for me. For it's time, Penetrator felt fast and furious and being able to design your own levels felt revolutionary. I was just getting into programming through the school computer club and code listings in magazines. But the graphics on games you wrote yourself were always crappy (even for a 8 bit home computers) so being able to design levels with the engine used in Penetrator felt amazing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Alien

        Re: Penetrator

        Halcyon days! It was an awesome scramble clone.

        The level editor was amazing, although we usually ended up flattening everything and then propping a coffee mug on the fire button to rack up a huge score - cos that's how we rolled as kids! :D

    3. NogginTheNog
      Go

      Re: Penetrator

      Ah Penetrator! When I bought my speccy (ok, when MY DAD bought my speccy) it was the only game I liked the look of in the shop, and I spent many many hours playing it to death before I got more. And loved the level editor too...

      1. /dev/null
        Thumb Up

        Re: Penetrator

        One of the first games I played on my Speccy. Did anybody else keep trying to get through the narrow gap at the end of the last level to see what came next? :-)

  22. SeanEllis
    Thumb Up

    An inspiration

    Seeing the graphics on The Hobbit was the inspiration for adding graphics to my own first commercial program, The Graphic Adventure Creator, and also a reminder of the pain of writing in hand-assembled assembler. Kudos to Veronika, and so nice to see her finally recognise the recognition she deserves.

    1. Eddie Edwards
      Happy

      Re: An inspiration

      You wrote the GAC? Respect :) Spent many months playing with that on my friend's Beeb. Although, being around 16 at the time, we wrote an adventure game about getting laid that's so embarrassing in retrospect I can't believe I just mentioned it. (It didn't have graphics, don't worry.)

    2. Irongut

      Re: An inspiration

      GAC!!!! Wow that takes me back. I always wanted to write a game like the Hobbit and worked on one using GAC. Unfortunately I can't remember the plot any more or if I ever finished it.

    3. Anon the mouse
      Thumb Up

      Re: An inspiration

      GAC, I spent hours, weeks and months playing with that making various elaborate quests.

      With frequent confusing of E and W on my part leading to added complexity and accidental dead-ends.

      I would kill for a PC version.

    4. Smallbrainfield
      Thumb Up

      Re: An inspiration

      Wow, I loved the GAC. Most of the games I wrote for my mates were excessively puerile and or scatalogical mickey takes of other adventure games, e.g. Lords of Midshite.

      Thank-you for hours of sniggering and trying to draw boobs with the image editor.

    5. Bod

      Re: An inspiration

      Wow. Used to mess about with GAC loads on the BBC. Wrote some truly rubbish games and even thought at 14 my game may have been cool enough for Level 9 so sent it to them. They did reply but just said thanks for the effort but they couldn't load the thing. Probably a good thing!

      Did write a game with it for a school project though. No one actually played it but got top marks for the effort.

    6. Matthew Smith
      Thumb Up

      Re: An inspiration

      I spent many happy hours on GAC after buying it for £24 (Five weeks paper delivery money!) My best effort, suitable for the mid-late eighties, was a Red Dwarf adventure. With lots of gradual paint-in images like The Hobbit.

    7. Tegne
      Gimp

      Re: An inspiration

      Fantastic memories! I started with The Quill, Moved onto PAWS and then GAC (bows down). A few months ago I found my old Cassettes and rigged up some cables and managed to load a couple of the adventure games I wrote into a Speccy emulator... yep, they still loaded after a bit of tweaking.

  23. b166er

    Time passes - Thorin cleaves your head with an axe.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dragonworld anyone ?

    I played something called 'Dragonworld' in what I remember as 1984, but IIRC it was on the Commodore 64. It had quite decent 320 graphics - on colour! - and I seem to remember the parser was quite good, although this might just be a fond memory now surrounded by the mists of time.

    I think I'll start looking around for some emulators and dig up all those old classics.

    Did you know the original Hawaii 5-0 and Mannix shows are now available on DVD ? I was amazed to discover they were actually in colour too !

    1. Eddie Edwards
      Happy

      Re: Dragonworld anyone ?

      Ah, simpler times indeed! Dragon World was also the official magazine of the Dragon 32 computer, published by Dragon Data Ltd. for a massive 3 issues. If that kind of namespace clash happened these days there'd be some kind of lawsuit.

  25. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Hobbit remake for PC

    Hi All

    http://monalisa.web44.net/

    You can get the PC remake for The Hobbit at the above link.

    Enjoy! :)

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Hobbit remake for PC

      But does it have all the bugs?

  26. James Gosling
    Thumb Up

    Oh I remember....

    Great game. One thing I always remember was the chest in the Hobbit hole. You could open the lid to the chest, climb in, close the lid, but thereafter all you could see was darkness.... you couldn't get out! LOL

  27. Irongut

    One of the best games I ever played. I was a big Tolkien fan at the time and asked for this game along with my Spectrum for Christmas 1983. I eventually completed it a few times but I had to draw a map of the goblin caves because it was so easy to get lost.

    BTW the pic on the first page of the article says "The splash screen for The Hobbit, circa 1992", you're ten years too late there unless that's when you actually took the pic!

  28. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Lots of comments,

    THE ROOM IS TOO FULL TO ENTER.

    I think I never completed The Hobbit. I suspect I never paid for it, maybe, someone at school had a tape-copying stereo. But I think I got a copy later.

    1. Bod

      Re: Lots of comments,

      C60 tapes were brilliant ;)

  29. Alex Walsh

    Didn't realise she did Penetrator, I used to LOVE that game :D

  30. Andrew Halliwell

    One bug no-one's mentioned yet was...

    At the black river it was possible to kill gandalf by getting him to drink from the stream.

    If you then you continue on and complete the adventure, after putting the treasure into the chest at bag end, you get the following...

    "A cheering crowd of dwarves, hobbits and elves appears. Led by dead Gandalf, they carry you off into the sunset proclaiming you hero of heroes and master adventurer."

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kill door

    Do

    Do

    Do

    Ah, memories

  32. Peter Galbavy
    Happy

    somewhere in the loft ...

    is a copy of the boxed game for the Spectrum. A very nice package for those day AFAICR.

  33. Super Fast Jellyfish
    Thumb Up

    Android emulator

    There's also a Beebdroid version:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.littlefluffytoys.beebdroid

    1. AlexS
      Thumb Down

      Re: Android emulator

      It's a bit bollox - no graphics.

  34. Andrew Garrard

    Ope do

    Ah, that takes me back. Not that I ever completed it as a kid. I really must go back to it. I still tend to think "ope do" when opening doors, which is a bit worrying now I come to think about it.

    After this, the Lord of the Rings game was a big disappointment, mostly because it barely worked (maybe I had an iffy tape). Although that's how I got my copy of Fellowship of the Ring, so it turned out all right in the end.

  35. Steve Taylor 3
    Thumb Up

    Old Timer

    That's bizarre - I used to work at Beam/Melbourne House (amongst other things I worked on the ill fated buggy and badly reviewed sequel - The Lord of the Rings) not too long after The Hobbit came out, and I never realised The Hobbit wasn't written entirely by Phil. Not doubting - just surprised at my own ignorance.

    The Hobbit: once I was working back late at night - 2 or 3 in the morning I guess - and the phone rang. I picked it up and a kid with an English accent said (with no introduction or preamble of any sort) "I'm stuck in the cellar and I can't work out how to stand on the barrel." or something similarly adventure-gameish. I presume he had obtained his parents permission before making an expensive international phone call.

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