[MUD-Dev] Re: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! -- By Ernest Adams

T. Alexander Popiel popiel at beldin.snugharbor.com
Mon May 18 17:46:56 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

In message:  <199805182342.QAA08300 at under.engr.sgi.com>
             J C Lawrence <claw at under.engr.sgi.com> writes:
>"Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!"
>By Ernest Adams

While I agree with nearly everything Ernest says, I'd like to
take exception to one of his examples:

>Boring and Stupid Mazes
>The original text adventure, Colossal Cave, had two mazes. One was a
>series of rooms each of which was described thus: "You're in a maze of
>twisty little passages, all alike."  The other was a series of rooms
>described as, "You're in a twisting little maze of passages, all
>different" (or "You're in a little twisty maze of passages, all
>different," or "You're in a maze of little twisting passages, all
>different," etc.). These were the prototypical boring and stupid

I believe that both of these mazes were incredibly well done (in
sharp contrast to the hundreds of boring and stupid mazes that
have followed).  The maze all alike is (if I recall correctly)
a perfectly planar graph, even with orientation preserved; at most
there were three edge crossings, and I think I put those in simply
to make it fit better on the page.  The maze all different is a
12-room maze between start and goal, with edges from any room to
every other room, with the sole exception being that there was no
edge from the start room to the goal room; also, the edges were
laid out so that no two edges leading in direction X from differing
rooms would lead to the same room (so if going north took you from
twisty little maze to little twisty maze, no other north move from
anywhere would take you to little twisty maze).

Yes, appreciating these properties of the mazes requires fully
exploring them, and then abstracting your perception of the mazes.
A helping of graph theory adds spice to them.  I don't see this
as a failing.

The countless boring and stupid mazes that I've seen seem to be
made by people who are trying to mimic the style of these two
classic mazes, without noticing the higher level of abstractions
available.  (Either that, or they just took a standard drawn maze,
dropped it onto a sheet of dual-lined paper, and made each little
square a room.  Yawn.)

>Mazes don't have to be boring and stupid. It's possible to design
>entertaining mazes by ordering the rooms according to a pattern that
>the player can figure out. A maze should be attractive, clever, and
>above all, fun to solve. If a maze isn't interesting or a pleasure to
>be in, then it's a bad feature.

I agree.  Perhaps my threshold for finding patterns is higher than
most people's.

- Alex

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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