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The Adventures of Philip Mitchell.

A personal view by Richard Hewison

A number of people might be thinking "Who is Philip Mitchell?". Well, the truthful answer is - I don't really know! My research failed to uncover any information regarding the man himself. However, what I do know is that he was (and probably still is somewhere) a programmer who, back in the early 1980's, headed a team of fellow programmers to create a couple of classic adventure games on the early 8 bit machines like the 48k ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64 and the BBC Micro Model B.

Philip worked for Beam Software (Australian in origin I think) and if you still need a clue then his first game on the Spectrum caused quite a stir for being probably one of the first ever text adventures to be accompanied by graphics. It was of course that classic of early adventures - The Hobbit, based on J.R.R Tolkien's famous novel.

Melbourne House published 'The Hobbit' in 1983 initially on the 48k Spectrum and later on the Commodore 64, 48k Oric 1 and a text only version on the Acorn BBC Micro. (Graphics were omitted on the latter due to the memory limitations of only having 32k to play with!). The recommended retail price was a then very steep 14.95 (compared to the average Spectrum game cost of between 5.95 and 7.95). The game itself came adorned with a painting of Smaug the Dragon on the cover. Inside the black box was a small booklet and the cassette, nestled snugly into a flimsy plastic holder.

My first look at 'The Hobbit' came on a friends expanded 16k Spectrum, as I didn't have one of the rubber keyed wonders at the time. The loading screen was a fair rendition of the box artwork and after about five or six minutes the game had loaded. For a second the screen turned white and then the first location graphic was drawn onto the screen. Up until then I'd never seen graphics in an adventure (having only played text adventures on the BBC) and I was very impressed!

As any 'Hobbit' player will know, the first location was the "...comfortable tunnel like hall...". The picture showed a roundish green door at the end of a hall with a chest sitting in the middle of a cyan (purple) floor. Each line was drawn on screen as I watched, then the floor was filled with cyan ink. I was a little disappointed to see the picture scroll up the screen to make way for the remainder of the location text but by that time I was already hooked, especially when Gandalf proceeded to give me a map. He then opened the round green door and walked out on me! Thorin just kept telling me to "Hurry up"! (It was only later that he started sitting down and "...singing about gold"). [more]

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