The Hobbit is a tough nut to crack. Despite what's been written about it, I don't believe it is especially complex or sophisticated internally. I haven't seen it do anything that couldn't have been done in an Infocom game of the era. In fact, I believe Zork's object-oriented design would have been perfect for what The Hobbit was trying to achieve, if only the Z-Machine ran on the poor old 48KB Speccy with no disk drive. Everything that you can interact with is represented as a data record, and "actors" such as the warg and wood elf have tables of performable actions, and a script of sorts to help them select one.
Reading the data records is easy, thanks to Wilderland. Each object has a name, a starting location, a number of copies (for instance, Bilbo's round green door has two copies, one in the tunnel-like hall and one on the lonelands, and manipulating one also manipulates the other), a volume, mass, and strength, a few additional variables that nobody has yet been able to decipher, and eight boolean properties such as emitting light, being opened, being locked, and being alive. Understanding the full extent of what all of these properties do, on the other hand, is very difficult. Amazingly, someone managed create a detailed analysis of the code. It's mostly in Spanish, which I can understand more or less, but I still couldn't glean nearly as much about this game as I had hoped to. For instance, one can clearly see where the routine for combat resolution starts and ends, but I have no idea what's going on during this routine, and gained little appreciation for how combat works here.
Here's a list of immobile objects found in The Hobbit:
|Heavy rock door||Trolls path, trolls cave||Infinite||Infinite||0||Locked|
|Small curious key||Goblins cache||0||0||0|
|Large key||Hideous troll||1||1||0|
|Round green door||Tunnel-like hall, lonelands||Infinite||Infinite||0|
|Small insignificant crack||Large dry cave, dark stuffy passage||Infinite||Infinite||Infinite|
|Spider web||Spider threads place, smothering forest,
levelled elvish clearing, deep bog,
|Red door||Dark dungeon, elvenkings great halls,
|Fast black river||West bank, east bank,
bewitched gloomy place
|Goblins back door||Inside goblins gate, outside goblins gate||64||Infinite||80|
|Mountains side door||Side door, smooth straight passage||Infinite||Infinite||0||Locked, invisible,
turns visible by waiting at side door
|Large trap door||Elvenkings cellar, forest-river (2)||Infinite||Infinite||0|
|Magic door||Elvenkings great halls,
levelled elvish clearing
|Short strong sword||Trolls cave||3||4||64||Emits light, full|
|Valuable golden ring||Dark stuffy passage||0||0||Infinite||Wearing turns you and it invisible|
|Goblins door||Goblins dungeon, big goblins cavern||Infinite||Infinite||Infinite|
|Barrel||Elvenkings cellar||32||3||32||Full, respawns|
|Water||Running river, 7 other locations||0||5||0||Fluid|
|Black water||Bewitched gloomy place,
2 other locations
|Window||Goblins dungeon, dark winding passage||96||Infinite||112|
|Torch||Big goblins cavern, inside goblins gate||5||5||128||Emits light, full|
|Goblins cache||Trap door||Infinite||Infinite||0||Open|
|Heavy curtain||Beorn's house||Infinite||Infinite||0|
|Valuable treasure||Lower halls||32||32||5|
|Wooden chest||Tunnel-like hall||64||Infinite||0|
|Lunch||5||5||1||Spawned by Elrond|
|Strong portcullis||Forest-river (2) and long lake||144||Infinite||0|
|Wooden boat||East bank||64||Infinite||0|
|Fast river||Forest-river (1)||Infinite||Infinite||0||Full, fluid|
|Golden key||Deep misty valley||0||0||0|
And a list of characters:
|Red golden dragon||Lower halls||192||96||192|
|Nasty goblin||Dark stuffy passage beneath large dry cave||64||48||72|
|Wood elf||Levelled elvish clearing||112||Infinite||64|
|Vicious warg||Treeless opening||48||48||55|
|Gollum||Deep dark lake||5||5||32|
|Hideous goblin||Dark stuffy passage||64||48||72|
|Hideous troll||Trolls clearing||144||144||160|
|Vicious troll||Trolls clearing||144||144||160|
|Horrible goblin||Dark winding passage||64||48||72|
|Mean goblin||Dark stuffy passage||64||48||72|
|Vicious goblin||Dark stuffy passage||64||48||72|
|Disgusting goblin||Dark stuffy passage||64||48||72|
One of Wilderland's tools is a game script window showing you all ingame events, including ones that occur outside Bilbo's observation. We can see, for instance, the Warg wander around for several turns, unsuccessfully following people, until it eventually gets captured by the wood elf and can't leave the dungeon. I have noticed that there tend to be some problem areas where characters often get stuck, moving back and forth between two or three rooms indefinitely, and yet not necessarily forever. Very rarely they break this cycle and go somewhere else. I don't know if this is by design, or due to a quirk in the random number generator, or if passages are weighted, or if there's some other reason entirely.
Between these tools, the game map, and the list of objects and properties, I have compiled some observations on the characters after several playthroughs.
YouEating food increases your strength, initially 64 points, by 10. Wearing the ring quarters it, rounded down. When the effect wears off, it quadruples, though may not be quite what it was before if it had rounded down when using it. Try eating food while invisible for a 40 point increase! Just don't overdo it - you die of gluttony if your strength goes past 255.
Contrary to what the manual states, fighting does not decrease your strength.
I don't know what strength does exactly, but I'm sure it has some bearing on the odds of successfully killing enemies / breaking objects. The round green door, with 0 strength, is broken immediately on the first try. On the other hand, the heavy rock door with the same stats is never broken, so again, I'm not sure how anything works.
Red Golden DragonIn v1.0 of The Hobbit, Smaug doesn't perform any actions until you reach the elvenking's cellar. Once you do, he starts wandering around his territory. His wandering seems to be random, but I have never seen him go past the dragons desolation room, or north from the side door.
GoblinsThe nasty goblin, hideous goblin, and vicious goblin have rigid three-room patrol patrol patterns that I've never seen them break. The rest of them just seem to move randomly, though the mean goblin does appear to have a disinclination to wander far from his starting dark stuffy passage. The nasty goblin is special, as he's the only one who ever leaves the dungeon, and is able to to this because he can open and close the crack beneath the large dry cave. I have never seen a goblin leave through the back door, even if you open it yourself.
From what I can tell, the three goblins on predefined routes will capture any non-goblin that they see, while the others will fight. The nasty goblin may capture the warg if it enters the large dry cave.
If you walk into a room where a capturing goblin is, it will capture you immediately. But if a goblin walks into a room where you are, you can deal with it by fighting, leaving, or wearing the ring.
Killing goblins causes them to respawn.
Here's a map of the dungeon (not all passages are present), marked with the goblins' patrol routes and their starting locations, plus Gollum:
GandalfOh, Gandalf. Truly the most inexplicable character here. He mostly wanders around. Wilderland's event window shows that he talks to himself a lot, whether Bilbo can hear him or not, and his dialogue consists of "hello," "hurry up," and "you are doing a great job." He'll pick up items that he himself dropped and muse "what's this?" He occasionally tries to drop items he doesn't have. Sometimes he attempts impossible actions like taking doors and lifting rivers. Sometimes he tries things so ridiculous that even the engine doesn't know what he was trying to do, only that it can't be done.
During one playthrough that I recorded, he started off by giving me a map. Then he opened my door and walked east to the lonelands. He tried taking the door, could not, and went north to the trolls clearing. Then there were various "Gandalf is not carrying it" warnings, and he went southeast to Rivendell. Then he got lost in the misty mountains for a long time, going mad as he muttered to himself every 3-4 steps he took. Eventually he found his way out and reached Beorn's house, where he tried to do something impossible, couldn't, and instead just opened the curtains and left for the great river. From there, he went to the mountains, to the forest-river, and the engine spat out "I cannot do that" several times. Then he tried to lift the river, and to drop another item that he didn't have. He then walked back and forth between the mountains and forest-river for awhile. Toward the end of the game, he backtracked and entered the forest path, where he and Bilbo briefly saw each other as they passed each other. Gandalf then spent the rest of the game wandering around the three rooms in the waterfall area.
ThorinIf Thorin isn't given any orders, he will follow you whenever possible. If he's already with you, he may wait, may say "hurry up," and may just sit down and sing about gold. He will take the small curious key from the goblin's cache if he can see it. If he can't see you, then he may just wander around.
Wood elfThe wood elf does nothing until you enter the lonelands, and then he starts wandering. He seems to get stuck in patrols easily, but again, I'm not sure what determines this. During one game, he spent the entire time walking back and forth between the bewitched gloomy place and the west bank, though this may have been because of disabled passages - see Elrond's section for more on that. During another, he got stuck in the waterfall-forest-running river area. I can't tell what his boundaries are, but the odds of running into him are pretty good, which means you can skip the spider's thread maze entirely.
ElrondElrond has the power to change the world geography! At the start of the game, one of these passages is randomly disabled:
- Long lake to Lake town
- Forest gate to Bewitched gloomy place
- Beorn's house to Great river
- Misty mountain to Narrow place
- Treeless opening to Outside goblins gate
Asking him to read your map will enable the chosen passage. I am fairly certain that the closed passage is also closed to wandering characters, and don't know for sure if having Elrond read the map opens it to them as well.
ButlerThe butler does nothing until you enter Beorn's house. Curiously, he's also invisible until this time. When you enter Beorn's house, he turns visible and says "thank you." Then he follows a rigid routine:
- Unlock the red door
- Open the red door
- Close the red door
- Lock the red door
- Open a barrel
- Drink wine
- Close the barrel
- Open the trapdoor
- Get the barrel
- Throw the barrel through the trapdoor
- Close the trapdoor
The butler gains one point of strength every time he drinks wine.
If there's anyone in the cellar when he acts, he will capture them and put them in the dungeon on the other side of the red door that he keeps locking and unlocking.