Adventure (350 points): On the worst maze ever   13 comments

I thrashed around in that maze awhile longer. Finally, Alsing said, “Look carefully at the messages on the screen.”
“They’re all the same.”
“No, They’re not.”
Each chamber of this maze within the big labyrinth had a slightly different and unique address, formed by a particular arrangement of the words twisty, little, passages, and maze.
“And what do you do when you get lost?” asked Alsing.
“You make maps, of course.”

— Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine

Click image for a larger PDF map.

So I wanted the full original Adventure experience, and that included mapping this monstrosity. Despite the clever trick which could be designated the first wordplay puzzle in IF, I hold it is the worst maze ever made. To wit:

a.) It requires, if solved as designed, keeping one’s eyes from blurring the distinction between “twisty” and “twisting”; it is still possible to drop objects around as is more typical, and I would have done so had I not been more than halfway through the above map before the insight struck.

b.) It has no purposes other than dispensing an item which extends lamp life, the usage of which reduces one’s score so there’s really no reason for going into the maze at all.

c.) Even realizing (b.), given Adventure is a treasure hunt and there is the slight possibility of a secret dead end, it’s pretty much necessary to map the whole thing anyway just to be sure.

d.) This is, following a comment in this thread, a spreadsheet rather than a maze. I made a failed attempt at a coherent map before starting on my one-way diagram:

Compare with the entirely reasonable maze found in Crowther’s original:

e.) The dwarves or pirate dropping by could lend some excitement, but they don’t visit. Can’t blame them, really.

f.) The trick shows the way for future “tricks” and caused an endless stream of mazes in games to come, whereas if there was just the twisty maze of passages all alike that might not have happened. (Hyperbolic stretch, sorry.)

I tried to get into the exercise as a zen sort of experience, I really did, but even given the shock of the new Adventure had back in the 1970s (as seen in the Tracy Kidder quote) I have trouble imagining why anyone would want to duplicate this with other mazes back in the day. (There’s the maze of passages “all alike”, of course, but I’m guessing it isn’t that much better.)

The one saving grace is that both the vending machine and exit are naturally findable about 15% of the way in the mapping process. It is possible someone treated the rest of the maze as an “acceptable unknown” and only kept track of the valid routes in and out. Does anyone remember doing this back in the day? I recall being completist about maps even then because I had played too many other games with hard-to-find side passages, but it’s possible with Adventure being the only example at the time people weren’t so scared to leave things untouched. Even given that token of forgiveness there’s no reason NE, NW, SE, and SW should have been allowed as directions other than sheer sadism.

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Posted March 19, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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13 responses to “Adventure (350 points): On the worst maze ever

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  1. Pingback: Adventure (350 points): On the best maze ever « Renga in Blue

  2. Pingback: Acheton: Mazes (and mazes and mazes) « Renga in Blue

  3. The battery Maze, it turns out, can be coherently mapped. It’s a complete K11 graph — essentially a polygonal shape with ten sides and eleven vertices, each vertex connected to every other vertex by a straight line. I’ve got a complete map at http://advent.jenandcal.familyds.org/Maps/BatteryMazeMap.pdf based on Graham Nelson’s port of Woods’ version to Inform.

    Note that, due to the design of the maze, once you’ve dropped into it by going S from the West End of the Long Hall, the vending machine is exactly three moves away in any direction (except D). Ditto on return. Move N from the vending machine and from there the Long Hall is exactly three moves away, again in any direction.

    • This is great!

    • While you are at it, could you work out if the Treasure Hunt map has something coherent going on?

      • I’ll take a look, but I don’t claim any particular topological genius.

        Back in high school I used to fool around with complete graphs and as a D&D DM I found myself intrigued with the idea of implementing a dungeon based on one. But as a D&D dungeon, the experiment was naturally a spectacular failure, for many of the same reasons the battery maze is so reviled.

        However, when I later discovered Adventure (which certainly has roots in D&D) and began mapping the battery maze, it was deja vu all over again. Realizing the maze consisted in eleven locations with ten exits each, I grabbed a pencil and paper, sketched a K11, and within a couple of hours had the first version of the map I linked to above.

        I actually find it very surprising that, to my knowledge, no one else in the history of Adventure seems to have figured this out.

    • A further consequence of the maze’s construction is this:

      If you’re lost in the maze, there are two strategies:

      STRATEGY 1) Drop an object then go DOWN repeatedly. Within three moves you will either exit the maze or return to your starting point. If the latter, pick up your object, move once in any direction EXCEPT down, then repeat. Eventually, you’ll get out.

      STRATEGY 2) If you’ve forgotten that DOWN is the way to go, then just choose any direction and move in that direction repeatedly. Within a maximum of eleven moves you will either find the batteries, escape the maze, or find you’ve gone in a circle. If the last is your fate, pick a different direction and repeat.

  4. This is most definitely not the worst maze ever — the forest in Don Woods’ 430 point version from 1978 (and ported and bug-fixed thru to 1995 but with no new content added so it should count as 1978) is (I hope) the worst ever. He expanded the forest to 20 locations that you can’t map reasonably even with Trizbort, and there’s only two locations that seem to be of any worth. I found both of those in 5 minutes of stumbling around, so there was no real reward for the few hours I spent mapping it afterwards. It looks drawable at first but really is a nightmare. I think the rest of the content he added may be interesting but the forest is just a nightmare — Trizbort map available upon request, as nobody else should have to map that beast.

    • I forgot something else. The battery maze has another purpose / reason to visit in the 430 version, too. Part of why you disliked it was because it was not necessary to go there to win with the full score. In 430 it is necessary. I really don’t count that as a spoiler, you still have to figure out what to do.

  5. And for the ultimate in trivia, there are twelve possible permutations of room descriptions. Only one of them is unused. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to discover which one.

    Maze of twisty little passages
    Maze of little twisty passages
    Maze of twisting little passages
    Maze of little twisting passages
    Twisty maze of little passages
    Twisty little maze of passages
    Twisting maze of little passages
    Twisting little maze of passages
    Little maze of twisty passages
    Littly twisty maze of passages
    Little maze of twisting passages
    Little twisting maze of passages

  6. Pingback: Adventure 500: Finished! | Renga in Blue

  7. Pingback: Adventure (430 points) by Don Woods (1978) | Renga in Blue

  8. The one that says “Littly”. That must be the unused permutation.

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