Designing mazes

 
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MECHFrost



Joined: 12 Dec 2009
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:52 pm    Post subject: Designing mazes Reply with quote

It can be fun and satisfying to go through mazes. I'm myself an "explorer" type of player and I love to go through devilishly difficult mazes.

For example, a classic challenge is a maze with teleporters, in the dark or with all descriptions identical, and the only way to solve it is to drop items on the floor to identify the rooms and know where you are going. Such maze was created 20 years ago or more and everyone knows how to solve it.

Here are some challenges that I thought would be interesting to add to a MUD, but that I probably won't add to mine.

1) "Dyslexia maze". The maze is affected by a spell of "dyslexia". Players have a chance to think they went one direction when they actually went the other direction. Such chance needs to be low enough so that players don't notice at first what's going on, but high enough so that it actually has an effect. I think a 5% chance would be appropriate. If they try to draw a map, it will seem to mysteriously contain mistakes.

2) "Random teleporters maze". Similar to the first maze, players will have a certain chance to get teleported to another random room of the maze. They will not understand what happened since usually, teleporters are always static, yet here they can get teleported from any room.

3) "Maze of forever". The maze has no exit. The player will only be available if he spends a long time in the maze. Variant: the exit will only be available if he spends enough time in the maze AFTER he has explored all of it. Variant 2: a sign somewhere clearly states that the maze has no exit, but gives some esoteric hints about "time" or that "the player must stay forever in the maze". Variant 3: the time spent in the maze is reset each time the player leaves the maze.

4) "Minotaur maze". Spending too much time in the maze might catch the attention of its unfriendly inhabitant. Once a player has spend too much time in the maze, the game memorises it and unleashes the beast as soon as the player enters the maze. Variant: instead of a beast, its a mechanism which cannot be destroyed and keeps damaging the player. Variant 2: each hour spent in the maze adds another unfriendly follower.

5) "Astral maze". Inspired from an idea I saw on a D&D forum. The maze has no exit. If the players goes to the ethereal/dream plane, the maze will look the same except that there's an exit. From there, he can do something (talk to a creature?) who will open the physical exit.

6) "Real directions". The MUD says "left" and "right" instead of "west" and "east". After a few turns, you have no idea where is the north, as in a real maze, and it makes it much harder to picture a map in your head or have any idea of where you are. The MUD must obviously know from which direction the player came in order to tell what is left and what is right.

7) "Empty maze". The maze is empty and has no exit: it's nothing but a waste of time. Some other hero might have gotten its treasure eons ago. The player might spend years in the maze thinking that there's something.

8.) "Maze of corruption" (humorous): The exit cannot be physically reached. The player must befriend a member of staff to be teleported to the exit. Variant: your staff is not told about it. The treasure in the last room is cursed and the name of anyone who enters the maze is saved along with the time.

I'm also throwing some links:

Maze generation algorithm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maze_generation_algorithm

Maze solving algorithm (to know what NOT to do if a player follows the algorithms): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maze_solving_algorithm


Last edited by MECHFrost on Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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paan



Joined: 20 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ever since the IF days, I'm never one for mazes.
Especially ones that put arbitrary difficulties like suddenly make you turn left instead of right. Or teleports you somewhere randomly.

IMHO, mazes must be first and foremost 'deducible', meaning that the player can within reason deduce how to solve the maze. Things that puts the control out off the players hand, or worse, put it in the RNG's hands is not something I would like.

But I do like the idea of maze 5, provided that the player is given some hints of the astral nature of the maze. Maybe he feels chills down his spine when ever he enters a room that have an NPC in the corresponding room in the astral plan. Or let the player see ghostly shadows of the NPC for a second if his perception stats is good enought etc. Or he receive hints of the maze's nature beforehand. But the point is, when he does find the exit, he should have an 'aha!' moment, instead of a 'wtf!' moment.


My 2 cents, hope it makes sense.
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MECHFrost



Joined: 12 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

paan wrote:
Ever since the IF days, I'm never one for mazes.
Especially ones that put arbitrary difficulties like suddenly make you turn left instead of right. Or teleports you somewhere randomly.

IMHO, mazes must be first and foremost 'deducible', meaning that the player can within reason deduce how to solve the maze. But the point is, when he does find the exit, he should have an 'aha!' moment, instead of a 'wtf!' moment.


I agree with your last line, the player should have an "aha!" moment instead of a "wtf!" moment. But sometimes there's a logical solution that you don't see. For example, I don't see maze 1) as non-deducible but rather as a puzzle. You must figure out that something is wrong with your map which is caused by the game and not human error, and then you must find a way to solve the maze, e.g. going back to your steps and re-entering the room to see if it's still the same.
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paan



Joined: 20 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MECHFrost wrote:

I agree with your last line, the player should have an "aha!" moment instead of a "wtf!" moment. But sometimes there's a logical solution that you don't see. For example, I don't see maze 1) as non-deducible but rather as a puzzle. You must figure out that something is wrong with your map which is caused by the game and not human error, and then you must find a way to solve the maze, e.g. going back to your steps and re-entering the room to see if it's still the same.


I agree to a certain extend. What I think is important is that there is enough mechanism in game to solve it and doesnt require the player to play the meta game to solve. Lets take maze 1) again and look at it. It you just randomly change the player's direction randomly. There's no way that the player will know to backpeddle to see if its still the same room. Unless of course he ask a fellow player about it. Or go to the forums etc. And these are part of the meta game that is not the game itself. If instead there are in game hints of this things happening, an observant player could solve it by paying attention to his surrondings. For example if whenever the direction switch happens, the game would say: 'The room shimmers and you feel a change in the air as you leave the room'. The not so observant player may think that is just flavour text, but a better player could build on that and finally figure out that the direction change. All this can be achive in game. You could also tie the text to the player's perception/wisdom score. Someone that have a high score would have something like 'Your stop and reallize that you actually went north instead of west', while a player with less score in that would only see the first message. And maybe a player with poor score just get ' You shrug off a tingling feeling as you leave the room'

Another thing that could happen with randomly changing the exit direction is that statisticly it is possible that the user got switch around many times in a row. This would make the 'going back to check the last room' tactics moot since the going back could also lead to the exit being switched. You could make some tweak to the way you decide when to change the exit but if you have some in game que for the change then this would not be a problem.
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MECHFrost



Joined: 12 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

paan wrote:
There's no way that the player will know to backpeddle to see if its still the same room. Unless of course he ask a fellow player about it. Or go to the forums etc. And these are part of the meta game that is not the game itself.


I see a contradiction here: if there's no way that the player solves the maze, then who is he going to ask the solution to, if it's impossible to solve it for them too? If there's meta gaming, it means that someone solved the maze, and if there's none, it's either too difficult or so easy that no one ever needs help with it... It just depends what level of difficulty you want for the maze/puzzle.

paan wrote:
Someone that have a high score would have something like 'Your stop and reallize that you actually went north instead of west'


I think there's no more challenge if the MUD tells some player what's exactly happening, especially if it even straight out says what direction they went. Although I like the idea of giving them a "hint" that something is happening, as long as the hint is not too obvious.

paan wrote:
Another thing that could happen with randomly changing the exit direction is that statisticly it is possible that the user got switch around many times in a row. This would make the 'going back to check the last room' tactics moot since the going back could also lead to the exit being switched.


There would be a 5% * 5% = 0.25% chance that it happens. I didn't pretend that I can solve the maze though, it was just one solution, but it seems satisfying and easy.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember once creating a maze where each room had only one correct exit, and all the others led back to an earlier part of the maze. Really frustrating if you didn't know the route!

Like paan, I prefer mazes that can be solved through deduction. I wouldn't like the Dyslexia maze or random teleporter maze, because they're too luck-oriented for my tastes. Likewise the Maze of forever relies on time, and (unless you know how long you need to wait) requires you to keep going back over every inch of the maze.

The Astral maze rather reminds me of the video game "Soul Reaver", where you frequently had to shift between the material and spectral planes in order to progress through different areas.

Mazes are a type of puzzle, so how about extending them with additional puzzles? Traps that can be disarmed (via an appropriate minigame), locks that can be picked (by aligning the tumblers), magical portals that can only be opened by solving a riddle, and so on. Maybe the entire maze is a jigsaw puzzle that's gradually revealed as you explore it, and the exit will only appear when you've explored enough to guess the picture.
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