back to article Seminal adventure game The Hobbit finally ported to the Dragon 64

1982-vintage adventure game The Hobbit has been ported to the Dragon 64, 34 years after the program's release. The back story: in 1982, The Hobbit was the hottest ticket in gaming, thanks to its addition of big bold graphics and a syntax that did away with adventure games' annoying habit of allowing only a limited set of verbs …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This:

    "The back story: in 1982, The Hobbit was the hottest ticket in gaming, thanks to its addition of big bold graphics and a syntax that did away with adventure games' annoying habit of allowing only a limited set of verbs to be applied to in-game objects."

    And on the 48k spectrum, you'd wait 15 minutes for it to load, and then, at 14:59 be greeted by "R: Tape loading Error".

    ARRGGHH...Pass me the azimuth adjusting screwdriver....

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: This:

      Maybe I had a better tape recorder. By 15:00 I'd be stuck in the dungeon for the 15th time.

  2. FuzzyWuzzys
    Pint

    Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

    I was 7 at the time and I remember coming in from school, my Dad happily plonking away on typewriter thingy which turned out to be a Dragon 32, he then fired up a prog that made those vile "knitting pattern" graphic display demos and that was that I was hooked, now coming up to just over 30 years working in IT!

    My Dad said at the time, "We're not wasting time with that cheap Sinclair rubbish we have something with a proper keyboard on which you can learn to type properly!". I got to be mates with kid at school who's Mum was a local Dragon kit reseller and I got loads of games and gadgets for free and on loan.

    1. wolfetone

      Re: Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

      "...he then fired up a prog that made those vile "knitting pattern" graphic display demos and that was that I was hooked, now coming up to just over 30 years working in IT!"

      What we want to know now though is did it get you in to knitting?

    2. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

      I learned to type on the Speccy. I maintain it taught me a style that requires fewer fingers and I rattle along at a comfortable 60 WPM touch typing. Wthi no tyops whatosever.

      1. Oh Matron!

        Re: Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

        But Daly Thomson's Decathlon was a damn sight easier on a speccy keyboard. I still have the calluses!

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

          Not to mention Hypersports, with which I think I killed at least two keyboards and more than a few joysticks over the years.

          At least until I learned the Kinder Egg trick...

          1. Chard
            Pirate

            Re: Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

            After ruining one speccy keyboard playing Daley Thompson's I learned to cheat: had an interface board (forget the name now) that could map the joystick to keyboard keys. Map the auto-fire to one, and away you go.

            I had more fun with the arcade 'Track & Field': I used a battery-operated toothbrush on one of the buttons. Back then it was an up-and-down emulation of a regular toothbrush head, not the rotary type we see these days.

            I can't claim credit for the idea; I saw a programme about a kid in the US who used two, ummm, vibrating devices. The toothbrush was the best I had access to.

            The Kinder Egg boys weren't ever getting my initials off the top three.

        2. El_Fev

          Re: Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

          Man the amount of Joysticks I broke playing that game :)

      2. John 104

        Re: Ah, Wales' answer to the 8 bit market

        It was a KAYPRO for me. On a good day I can hit 90 wpm with a decent keyboard. 70 most others. :)

  3. stu 4

    pfft!

    "The Dragon was a well-regarded micro"

    not at my school - you were pitied just as much as the poor sod who's parents got them a VIC20.

    BBC micro for the posh kids (though they wished they'd have got a speccy or C64)

    C64 for the gamers

    speccy for the games and the coders/hackers

    Anything else - and u were laughed out the playground.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pfft!

      In our school C64s were for the chavs and the BBC for those who had parents who knew what they were doing.

      Speccies were for people who dreamed of being chavs.

      It's been a long time since I was involved in a playground argument so I hope I've struck the right note with my reply :-)

      I forgot to mention: Anyone remember Twin Kingdom Valley? I seem to remember playing D&D on Commodore Pets and then most of our group going straight to Twin Kingdom.... it was some time ago though.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: pfft!

        Hmm, TKV - now that takes me back.

        Remember I had it on my specie and my mate had it on the BBC Micro. Many an evening and weekend spent getting through and finally beating it. Still remember the look on my parents face when they saw me doing the maze bit in the dark (at one point you had to fill the lamp up with water rather than oil, so couldn't use it to light the way) as they were surprised I could do it all from memory (although it was only about 15-20 steps or so).

        Don't recall anyone having a Dragon though, was all Beeb's, Speccie's and C64's. At least until the Amiga and the ST came along anyway. Those were the days :)

        1. stucs201

          Re: pfft!

          I think things probably varied a lot by school. Overall numbers of computers in that era were low enough that the relatively small sample within a school wasn't certain to follow the national trend.

          Ours was mostly Speccys, with the Dragon comming in second place (but at least there were enough of us to be able to "own" more games than we'd bought). I only remember one BBC (yes it belonged to the swottiest kid in the school) and one C64 (some of the Speccy owners were fond of calling it a "Commode").

          1. Little Mouse

            Re: pfft!

            Things varied by school, but also by time.

            The release of so many different machines was staggered over a three to four year period, and, much like trainers, what was hot six months ago could soon fall out of favour.

            Happy days though. ZX81 and proud of it.

            1. Chika

              Re: pfft!

              Wasn't keen on the ZX81. I sold mine after about six months to partly fund my BBC Micro purchase.

              Mind you, most of the problem was that damn wobbly RAM pack. Lost many a type-in because of that!

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: pfft!

      The school my dad taught at had BBC Micros, but obviously they didn't want to leave them in the classroom over the holidays, so dad would bring a Micro home for us to play with.

      Thirty something years later, I'm still tapping away on a keyboard...

    3. Michael Strorm

      Advanced processor, dated and mediocre graphics

      I wasn't really aware of the Dragons at the time they were around (found out about them a few years later from my Dad's old computer mags).

      From what I've read, their Motorola 6809 CPU was considered far more advanced than the 6502s and Z80s found in most other 8-bit machines, but they were let down by a graphics chip that was primitive and already somewhat dated compared to its rivals'. (The Motorola 6847- also used in the Acorn Atom- the BBC Micro's predecessor- and in the TRS-80 CoCo (to which the Dragon was extremely similar)). It couldn't support proper lower-case characters, apparently, which even the ZX Spectrum could do.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time passes.....

    Thought it was an apt title...

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Time passes.....

      As long as it's read by pale bulbous eyes (not a problem for some of the readership here I would say).

    2. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      Re: Time passes.....

      Gold, gold, gold, gold...

      1. Michael Hoffmann
        Meh

        Re: Time passes.....

        "Gold, gold, gold, gold..."

        Oh, is that the one they used for the game? Thought back then they would stuck to more of the old classics like

        "Gold, gold, gold, gold..." and it's bawdier "Gold, gold, gold, gold..."

        Great, now you made me think of Pterry leaving us too soon and I'm heading to work depressed. :(

  5. 45RPM

    I had a TI99/4A and, for all its much vaunted 16bits, what I really wanted was a Spectrum. When I grumbled too much, I was given an Electron - which didn't really improve matters. And when I asked for computer games I was told to write them myself. Which is how I ended up where I am today. Thanks Dad!

    I still have the TI, and a library of games for it. Its version of Moon Patrol is definitive, outside the arcade at least. But I don't play with it because I can play the actual definitive arcade version using MAME.

    All of which is something of a sidetrack from The Hobbit, which is a great game (I played it on my first Mac), but which hasn't yet been ported to the TI.

    1. AIBailey Silver badge

      I also was "fortunate" to have the little 16-bit TI99/4A. Apart from a chess game on cartridge, the only software I had for it was stuff that I had to type in myself. Once while visiting a flea market I found a computer stall where the only TI related thing the guy had was a book of programs you could enter.

      My first real computer (as in usable, with plenty of ready-made software) was an 8-bit Atari. Whilst I was able to wander around at school with the moral superiority of knowing that I had the most powerful 8-bit option at the time, and could sneer at the crappy graphics and sound that the speccy users had to suffer, I was equally jealous of their much faster loading times.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        TI99/4A

        This was an interesting machine, although it never received sufficient market penetration in Europe to give it critical mass for games writers (many of whom were based in the UK) to port to.

        It was quite popular in the US, despite it's high price, but the differences between the US and UK specs (mainly the different screen size) meant that the US games were not able to be used. The dollar-to-pound exchange rate used for US computers sold in the UK at the time made it unaffordable in the UK.

        The other problem was that although it's processor was 16 bit, the machine was terribly slow, but that could have been the TI-Basic implementation (although I seem to remember reading about the memory implementation being a major factor in the slowness). This made it one of the slowest ever machines in the Personal Computer World Basic benchmark (which was dominated by the excellent Basic implementation of the BEEB for several years).

        1. Andrew Moore

          Re: TI99/4A

          Another TI99/4a user here. I always heard the reason why it was slow explained as "it's like a city with 16 lanes of traffic but with no place to park". But Parsec, Burgertime and Moon Patrol were excellent games and many an hour was wasted playing Tunnels of Doom.

        2. Steve Todd

          Re: TI99/4A

          The 99/4A was intentionally hamstrung by TI marketing. They didn't want it to compete with their lucrative mini market, so they gave the CPU (which had a fair bit of grunt for the day) a tiny amount of fast RAM and made if request the rest from the video chip. The result was like slow motion.

  6. Terry Barnes

    Platform War

    Wow, a game that was available on my home computer (Oric-1) but not on one of the competing ones*. There's a turn up.

    *Ignoring obviously the software houses that were focused on the Oric - Tansoft, IJK software, Loriciels, No Mans Land and so on. Companies like Ocean and PSS and Software Projects would usually only have one or two conversions available.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Platform War

      The problem with the Oric was that the graphics format of the display (in-scan, or horizontal, line colour attributes, IIRC) was almost as eccentric as the Spectrum's per-character cell colour attributes.

      This made it difficult to port games to the Oric, as you had to completely re-write the way that the graphics were coded.

      You really needed a fully bit-mapped multiple bits-per-pixel for a full display, and that took memory, as BBC micro owners had to contend with. BEEBs should have been shipped with 6502 second processors. That made them really fun to use (64K of memory plus full graphics and even faster than a normal BBC). But they decided to go with the shadow memory of the B+ and B+128 instead.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Platform War

        "The problem with the Oric was that the graphics format of the display (in-scan, or horizontal, line colour attributes, IIRC) was almost as eccentric as the Spectrum's per-character cell colour attributes."

        Attribute Clash! It would have made a great name for a game.

        1. AceRimmer1980
          Thumb Up

          Re: Attribute Clash

          There exists a retro band called 'Attribute Clash and the Rubber Keys' :-)

          1. Michael Strorm

            Re: Attribute Clash

            "There exists a retro band called 'Attribute Clash and the Rubber Keys' :-)"

            Funny, I was actually going to say that "Attribute Clash" sounded like a tribute band for The Clash. With single-channel beepers.

            Not that I'm saying this would be a good idea. :-O

      2. AceRimmer1980
        Pint

        Re: Platform War

        Memotech MTX512 ftw ;-)

        Got its name from how much memory it *could* have, i.e. optional 512K 'silicon disk' expansion. If you won the pools. Also, twin 5 1/4 floppies for running CP/M, if you sold a few organs.

        Hardware very similar to MSX machines, but disappointingly few game conversions. Highlight was probably a Manic Miner clone, starring..Miner Dick..

        And I also had a Speccy and C64. At one point 2 C64's, with self-written networking system for development. I still have my printer port -> user port cable, which could squirt 64k over in under 10 seconds.

        My soldering scars are starting to itch, I think I'll get an Arduino.

        1. drtune

          Re: Platform War

          hah "Miner Dick" ... I wrote that :-)

          1. AceRimmer1980
            Pint

            Re: Platform War

            Ey oop, good to know you're still around, Gremmers :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Platform War

      ahhhh the Oric. I remember it well, they were the ones you made sure you got to O Level computer studies class first so didn't have to use an Oric but instead a BBC B. We had maybe 8 Orics, a couple of BBC B's and a couple of A's

  7. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    The Hobbit on the BEEB...

    ...was a bit of a joke. It did not have the graphics, and ran in Mode 7 (Teletext mode).

    Mind you, I accept that this would have been difficult, given that even if you had used mode 6, which used 10K of the 32K available on a BBC model B, there would have been insufficient memory to store the game data in memory.

    I has a moan to WH Smiths where I bought my original cassette copy (I don't think it was sold on disk at the time), and they pointed out the small note inside the sealed box that said something like "Because of the memory limitations of the BBC micro, some features of the game are not available". Yeah, right. All of the pictures!

    They would not get away with that in this day and age, but apparently it was acceptable then.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Unhappy

      Re: The Hobbit on the BEEB...

      > some features of the game are not available

      [...]

      > They would not get away with that in this day and age

      ORLY?! "Screenshots from a version you don't have..." (or words to that effect)

    2. RavingDaveD

      Re: The Hobbit on the BEEB...

      Yeah, I remember that. Decided to get the Hobbit for my BBC B after playing on a friends Spectrum. Bought from shop, Got home, loaded the tape (without reading the note) and then remember the dawning realisation of the complete lack of graphics followed by the feeling of being ripped off! Having previously and constantly taken the p*** out of various Spectrum friends, I kept well Schtum after this.

    3. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: The Hobbit on the BEEB...

      On the other hand the Beeb did have such classic adventure games as Snowball and Philosopher's Quest (I recall using the Think command to get out of a state of not existing on that one).

  8. Aggrajag

    I never got past the "A pair of bulbous eyes stare at you" - I must have died there a hundred times over a two week period before I quit in anger.

    1. Jedit
      Headmaster

      "I never got past the "A pair of bulbous eyes stare at you""

      If the bulbous eyes stare at you, go back west. When you head east again they'll be gone.

      The most fun I ever had in The Hobbit was when I climbed into the chest in Bag End and closed the lid. You can't open the lid again because it's dark and you can't see the chest. Thorin is usually there, but he never does anything you ask.

      Incidentally, it was possible to kill Thorin - just very, very unlikely.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: "I never got past the "A pair of bulbous eyes stare at you""

        And if you did it right you could actually complete the game in about 7 or 8 moves, if I remember correctly after all these (many) years...

  9. Come to the Dark Side
    Holmes

    Posh Gits

    I learned to type playing Keys of the Wizard on our Tandy TRS-80 Radioshack back when I were a sprog...

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Posh Gits

      If you thought that only poor people bought Trash-80s, you obviously did not look at the prices. In the UK The TRS-80 model 1 was seriously expensive (in the UK, it even needed it's own special monitor), though it was a quite well engineered machine.

      But it fell into the Commodore Pet and Apple ][ generation, and should have been replaced, or at least price reduced when the likes of the VIC-20, Commodore 64 and Spectrum came along. Instead, Tandy RadioShack introduced the TRS-80 Color (sic) Computer was produced, again expensive but also incompatible with the Model 1 and III.

      Interestingly, the Dragon32 was moderately compatible with the TRS-80 Color (sic) Computer, but I doubt that this Dragon64 port of the Hobbit would run on a TRS-80 CoCo (too little memory).

      1. Chika

        Re: Posh Gits

        Agreed. I was looking for my very first computer and the only thing I was aware of at the time, since Tandy had a shop in Collier Row, was the TRS.

        Then they told me how much it cost.

        Seemed to me that anything brought in from Merka was overpriced in those days.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Posh Gits

          It was eyewateringly expensive. But as I worked for Tandy, I got to play on them! I was hooked the first time I heard it speak. Yes! It was a game involving robots in the genre of the Alien game (evade the enemy in a maze), and it used the cassette output to generate the sound, but it was a miracle to me.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Posh Gits

      At school, the compukit UK101 was somewhat accessible. With some extra software you could use the arrow keys to move the other cursor and copy one letter at a time from a different part of the screen! There were rumours of an ITT2020 hidden in a locked room.

      If the Trash 80 was too pricey, you could have got the Chinese copy called a Video Genie (mine had both shift keys!)

  10. Chika
    Happy

    Gold

    Gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold gold....

    OK, I'm not Thorin, but I know the words!

  11. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    We may not have had the Hobbit, but we had the Ring of Darkness.

    The jester says, "I have the key."

  12. GrizzlyCoder

    Home 'putering

    My upgrade path was ZX81 -> Dragon 32 (the BEST version of Donkey Kong around) -> Amstrad CPC464 -> IBM PC clone. As I was a TV/VCR/audio engineer at the time, I built the ZX81 from a kit and fell at the final hurdle when I couldn't get the thin plastic ribbon to slot into the on-board socket and had to pony-up the extra tenner for them to do it. Annoyingly all the rest of the stuff was bang-on and it worked perfectly.

    Along the way I got a listing printed in "Amstrad Action" and a 2-page article printed about fixing cassette problems in "AMTIX!". I just got sick of reading the crap that other people used to say in the letters columns about dealing with cassette issues so decided to offer my professional (at the time) advice. Then I had to pester the life out of the editor to get paid for it (a princely sum of £30 a page).

    My biggest regret was missing out on the Pi-Man adventure game challenge (on the CPC464) where you had to meet up with them at a place that was clued in the game to win something in the order of 10K, a huge amount at the time. Having mapped the rooms and seen that it was vaguely horse-shaped it did occur to me that the place might be the big white horse at Uffington but as I had a young family and lived in the NW at the time I couldn't justify the expense of trying to get there on an offchance. No prizes for guessing where the meet-up place was (and no bugger turned up so it would have all been mine!!).

    Similar to everyone else, I've now been key-bashing for a living for some 32 years or so, so I guess it served a purpose in the end.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Home 'putering

      So you missed out on a meeting with Mel Croucher, Christian Penfold and maybe the Pi Man and Lady Claire Sinclive herself (but hopefully not Sweatybits)? I bet they had a good night at the pub as a result of the no-shows.

      And I'm now wondering how the hell I can remember all this after 30 years or so. The back cover of Popular Computing Weekly has a lot to answer for (as has PiMania and Deus Ex Machina et al).

  13. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    Excellent

    Another reason to reboot my Dragon.

  14. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    I had an Aquarius...

    And there was nothing for it. Nothing. Not even a plug in tumbleweed. It was rubbish.

    Thankfully my father quickly realised it was rubbish and got us a Spectrum and then an Atari 800XL.

    I loved the Atari. Absolutely loved it.

    1. AIBailey Silver badge

      Re: I had an Aquarius...

      The Atari 8-bit range was fantastic. I've still got my 810 floppy drive and a pile of disks. Unfortunately I haven''t got a clue where the actual computer went.

    2. Michael Strorm

      Re: I had an Aquarius...

      I had an Atari 800XL in the late 80s. You're right- it *was* a great computer, especially considering what me and my Dad paid for it (#), but the software support was frustratingly second-rate and patchy compared to its better-known rivals (##) and too much of the software around that time didn't really do it justice.

      Still, great machine.

      (#) Dixons were selling them circa 1985-86 for something like £80 quid for the computer and tape deck or £120 for the computer *and* disk drive. The Spectrum 128 (which the Atari was generally more advanced than, and which I'd wanted at one point) was selling for something like £150 for a cassette-deck based kit!

      (##) Software support being why the Spectrum remained so popular long after it had been technologically superseded and why it beat off countless otherwise similar- and often cheaper- rivals in the early days. It was the first to offer colour, high-res graphics and "sound" (cough) at a price affordable for most people in the UK and thus benefitted from the "network effect" that worked against its rivals which came later.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, yes...

    But when will they port Crysis?

    1. stucs201

      Re: Yes, yes...

      You'll just have to make do with Phantom Slayer if you want a first person shooter.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kudos

    The Reg has the best Dragon 32/64 coverage of any general IT title. And do I detect a disproportionate number of former Dragon users among the readers?

    I got my D32 Christmas 1982, upgraded it to 64k (at a cost of £100), added disk drives, hard drive, OS9, and in 1992 ditched it for a 386 pc clone. I wish I hadn't.

  17. retrowiki

    NEW BETA RELEASE 16v7 The Hobbit Dragon 64 by pser1.

    NEW BETA RELEASE 16v7 The Hobbit Dragon 64 by pser1.

    Please Update downloading links.

    VDK version Beta 16v7: http://retrowiki.es/rw30/download/file.php?id=839

    HFE version Beta 16v7: http://retrowiki.es/rw30/download/file.php?id=841

    Novedades / News :

    Los cambios realizados básicamente afectan al comportamiento de las unidades de disco cuando no tienen ningún floppy insertado.

    The changes essentially affect the behavior of the drives when they have no floppy inserted.

    Testado / tested on: (DDOS4.1) (DDOS11C, DDOS13A, DDOS4.1 y DOSPlus5.0)

  18. retrowiki

    New Beta Release for Dragon and NOW The Hobbit running in Tandy CoCo

    BETA RELEASE 16c7 The Hobbit Dragon 64 by pser1.

    http://retrowiki.es/rw30/download/file.php?id=863

    ALFA RELEASE 16c7 The Hobbit TRS-80 Color Computer Coco2 & Coco3 by pser1.

    http://retrowiki.es/rw30/download/file.php?id=862

    Main thread for Tandy CoCo release.

    http://retrowiki.es/rw30/viewtopic.php?f=84&t=357

    Video running in CoCo: https://youtu.be/lyyRXabaUXk

    Have FUN !

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