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Title: Goblins Publisher: Highlands Computer Services
Type: Game Author:
Hal Antonson
Linda Stix

Year of release:

Platforms: Apple II
Copies sold: A few thousand

The fourth adventure game from Highlands Computer Services, and the only one not written by Butch Greathouse and Garry Rheinhardt. Goblins features black-and-white line graphics with a verb/noun parser. The player's objective: to find treasure hidden through Goblin Country (and guarded by the Goblins!), and bring it back to a safe place.

Hal Antonson explains: "Goblins was started in 1978 using an Apple II (just plain). Linda Stix wrote some of the Integer Basic code. We found that the response time for each command was around 30 seconds. This was speeded up when I reprogrammed the table handling and command analysis in 6502 machine language. Those routines were all sub-second response even with a regular Apple. Integer Basic was always interpreted (slow).

Let me tell you about the good old days of programming. They were just old. The Apple had a 40 character TV screen that was text only, and the TV was usually an old black and white TV in the garage. It needed adjustment. It took a couple of days by the pool to make a manual cross reference listing (concordance). At that time, the program storage was on cassette tape, and that was not very reliable. To keep the speed reasonable, one had to use short meaningless variable names.

We sent the program to Programma International in California for publishing. It was “released” in 1979. This version was strictly text. There were no graphics. I have forgotten how many copies for which we were paid. I think it was 13 or 30! An interesting note. Roberta and Ken Williams had just moved to Coarsegold and had started Sierra Systems. They had a copy from Programma. Ken was the assembler guy and Roberta became the Queen of fantasy games. There are a dozen similarities in their first game, “The Wizard and the Princess,” to Goblins.

At that time, there were dial up 300 baud modems with suction cups. And there were a couple of BBS in the Seattle area. I was interested in how people played these games, so put a modified version online and posted the phone number. The program would answer the phone and allow the caller to play. They could even use a “real” terminal instead of a computer. For a couple of months, people would call and play the game online. At this time, Crowther and Woods' Dungeon was the only similar online game. I thought they did a wonderful job on that. They made the first real dent in corporate productivity! When people would really get stuck, I could type in a command for them. There was always a little pause when that happened!

In 1980, Butch Greathouse, who was Highlands Computer, gave me a call. He had tried Goblins online. He had written several games for the Apple. He asked if we would be interested in adding some graphics, and letting him publish it. He had written several utilities for the Apple, which he gave me. The most useful was a line editor for Applesoft Basic. For the first time, you could really use the Apple. The material utility was a line drawing program that used the paddles to make perspective drawings. It was hard to use, made ugly graphics, but was “graphics.” A lot of message rewriting was necessary because the picture had to be explained instead of scene descriptions given. It increased response time also. Some objects could not be discriminated with graphics. For instance, there was a pin that was treasure and a nail that was a tool. We have to change the nail to a knife. In the production version, there was still one reference to a nail (oversight). At this point, there were 5.25 inch diskette drives. Production meant copying a master to another drive. Making a few hundred copies wore out the master. The cover had to come off the computer to alleviate the heat. We sold a few thousand copies - magazine ads took most of the profit.

There were a couple of interesting things about Goblins. Copy protection was in vogue. This was so protected I could not make a copy of the production version. There were several methods. One was making use of bugs in the command structure of Basic. Another was reading data one track, but the track existed on more than one cylinder. Also, the data was too big for the Apple memory. So I divided it into a root and 4 quadrants. These quadrants were “link edited” by internal line number for the interpreter. Only when you entered another game quadrant was there any disk activity. I think this hokey method was the only time it was ever used."

Two normalized disk images are offered: the first is an unmodified version, while the second fixes a bug which caused the game to crash after picking up the scarab and falling asleep (although no guarantees are offered that this fix didn't create a different problem elsewhere in the game). Thanks to Dan Chisarick for normalizing and unprotecting the game, and for the bug fix.


Apple II

Apple II

Apple II

Apple II


Ziploc bag


goblins.dsk (Apple II)
Goblins - Unprotected original disk with Pronto DOS

goblins_fixed.dsk (Apple II)
Goblins - Unprotected original disk with Pronto DOS and bug fix

Creature Venture
Mummy's Curse
Oldorf's Revenge
The Tarturian

Creature Venture hints
Goblins hints/map
Price list - Dec 1981
Price list - Jun 1981

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