Adventure (350 points): On the best maze ever   2 comments

The twisty maze of passages, all alike:

So, so much better. (See previous installment: Worst Maze Ever.) It was clear early on there was some sensible geography going on with bottlenecks and specific sections. Being forced to drop items like a breadcrumb trail is much more interesting than squinting at the difference between “twisting” and “twisty”.

But also, perhaps more importantly: both dwarves and the pirate are active. The dwarves will pop up at randomly and throw knives at you; you need to throw an axe at them to kill them (it may or may not hit on the first try). Their knives also have a random chance of connecting and killing you back.

THERE IS A THREATENING LITTLE DWARF IN THE ROOM WITH YOU!

ONE SHARP NASTY KNIFE IS THROWN AT YOU!

IT MISSES!

YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL ALIKE.

throw axe

YOU KILLED A LITTLE DWARF. THE BODY VANISHES IN A CLOUD OF GREASY
BLACK SMOKE.

The pirate will steal any treasure you might be holding and store it “deep in the maze” as he says.

OUT FROM THE SHADOWS BEHIND YOU POUNCES A BEARDED PIRATE! “HAR, HAR,”
HE CHORTLES. “I’LL JUST TAKE ALL THIS BOOTY AND HIDE IT AWAY WITH ME
CHEST DEEP IN THE MAZE!” HE SNATCHES YOUR TREASURE AND VANISHES INTO
THE GLOOM.

This led (for my game) to some fascinating tactical and story implications. My first time in the maze I entered by dropping from the stalactite (meaning I couldn’t get back or find an exit easily) but I also left behind the axe so I could have more room for items to drop to help make a map. This was a mistake: dwarves started popping up and chasing me around the maze. It turns out you can duck into a dead end and they won’t follow, but will still be waiting for you outside. So a story came out where I was playing a game of cat-and-mouse, ended ignominiously by running out a dead end and getting skewered by a pair of dwarves waiting for me.

My second attempt came from the West End Hall (where it was easy to go back) but things were still interesting because there aren’t enough “normal” items to drop in every room for mapping so I had to resort to treasures. Of course the pirate can at any time snatch those treasures. While collecting treasures for the maze I had to balance out the reward from having more items to use vs. the risk of wasting more time vs. the fact they might be snatched while in the maze anyway. Eventually I realized the geography was sensible and started moving items that were already present rather than bringing in new ones (perhaps the only good effect of the twisty maze of passages all different is that I came in paranoid the geography would be bizarre and didn’t realize this would work straightaway).

Having an actual goal (the pirate’s lair) helped both with motivation and with story. As I kept getting treasures snatched and battling my way through dwarves I felt a tangible sense of getting closer and closer to the source.

The (general) elimination of NE / NW / SE / SW led to a much faster traversal even with the extra story involved. The map above took about an hour to make rather than three hours. Also interesting is that the pirate’s lair requires a northwest exit, so is somewhat “hidden in plain sight” — by that point players may have stopped even trying those directions. However it is still fair because the pirate does explicitly state he’s hiding his treasure deep in the maze, so it makes a puzzle of sorts based on one compass direction.

Everything put together for the most satisfying maze experience I ever recall having in interactive fiction. I can understand a little more why authors at the time wanted to copy it, but most that followed didn’t have the interesting considerations mentioned above.

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Posted March 25, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “Adventure (350 points): On the best maze ever

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  1. Pingback: Adventure (350 points): Puzzles and concluding remarks « Renga in Blue

  2. Pingback: Zork: Plot and story « Renga in Blue

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