Acheton: Mazes (and mazes and mazes)   7 comments

The first maze you're likely to encounter. Click to enlarge.

The first maze you’re likely to encounter. Click to enlarge.

When the player is tempted to write a Java program to discover a Hamiltonian path through a maze, the maze is perhaps a bit too difficult.
Matthew T. Russotto

There’s a lot of mazes. Acheton might hold the world record.

I’m going to spoil them thoroughly below.

I haven’t hit all of them in my current playthrough, but from memory there’s:

a.) The lodestone maze depicted in the map above. The “unique” trick here is the treasures are randomly arranged at the start of a game so a walkthrough needs to give a route that passes through every room (hence Matthew’s desire for a Hamiltonian path).

b.) An ice maze consisting only of two exit choices (SE and SW) but lots of deadly thin ice. The trick here is to take a (magical) item that will point in the correct direction to get to the single hidden treasure.

c.) A wizard’s maze with a start that involves going in circles trying every exit out of a room and returning to the start. After trying every door, the player enters the maze. The maze is generated at the moment it is entered. The way to get out is to use the same order of the exits tried before entering. It’s quite possible to get all the way through the maze without realizing this until the end. This marks (excluding the “room reassignment” used in Mystery Mansion as a memory cheat) the first adventure game with dynamic room generation.

d.) A maze with deadly snakes which I can only describe as a turn-based version of Pac-Man (although before Pac-Man was invented). Very tricky timing is involved.

e.) A fairly mundane hedge maze that you can burn down if you like. You might get tired of mazes and want to go ahead and destroy one.

f.) A section in the desert that might marginally be termed a “maze”. It’s based on a transport-based-on-limited-resource puzzles, rather like this one from Martin Gardner:

A group of airplanes is based on a small island. The tank of each plane holds just enough fuel to take it halfway around the world. Any desired amount of fuel can be transferred from the tank of one plane to the tank of another while the planes are in flight. The only source of fuel is on the island, and for the purposes of the problem it is assumed that there is no time lost in refueling either in the air or on the ground.

What is the smallest number of planes that will ensure the flight of one plane around the world in a great circle, assuming that the planes have the same constant ground speed and rate of fuel consumption and that all planes return safely to their island base?

(The Martin Gardner puzzle is incidentally top-flight and I’d recommend everyone giving it a go.)

In any case, the interactive fiction version requires wrangling water in the desert in appropriate places to avoid death.

g.) Was there another one? I don’t remember. I suppose I’ll find out.

In any case, the only maze I’d call “straight” would be the lodestone maze. It honestly isn’t that traumatic to map compared with that evil one from Adventure and the only reason I see the Hamiltonian path being necessary is that in order to optimize the number of turns (given the low life on the lamp compared with how many steps are needed) there is a good chance a game restart is needed somewhere. Still, once someone gets to the “cave” portion of the game they can just save, wander through using the map noting where all the treasures are, then restore and go only for the important rooms.

Posted January 30, 2013 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Acheton: Mazes (and mazes and mazes)

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  1. The way I map mazes, and for some reason I thought this was usual, is to write a table with compass directions across the top and the rooms down the side (named after the objects I drop them in if that’s how I’m doing it) so e.g.
    1 bottle 2 3 4 5 2 …
    2 chair 6 1 …
    and so on

    of course in cases like the black hole maze in Murdac I still use numbers for rooms but working out which room you’re in is nastier.

    • My method is better if the parts eventually form a sensible whole (like the all alike maze in Adventure) because it is easier to see how the pieces fit together. Your method is likely better for more random mazes (like the all different maze in Adventure).

  2. Oh if the map makes any kind of sense your method is ideal, yes.

  3. Heh. Yes, it has a lot of mazes. Mind you, it might have most absolutely, but then the game itself is massive. If you go by percentage of rooms, of the Phoenix games, Acheton is somewhere in the middle.
    Avon has most, but it uses many normal rooms two or three times, and the mazes only once, so I’m not sure that’s fair. Hamil is next – and it really _does_ have a Hamiltonian maze! Crobe has two large mazes, too, one of which is IMO very unfair, and the other one of the best and most elegant I’ve ever come across.
    Murdac and Parc have a lower maze/room ratio than Acheton. So does Hezarin, but it cheats by having a lot – a _lot_ – of needless non-maze rooms.

    As for Acheton’s lodestone maze, that becomes easier – not easy, mind, but quite a bit easier – to find a Hamiltonian path for once you have the whole maze drawn in one connected diagram. At least, that’s what I found.
    The snake maze is nice. I don’t know if you know this, but it is different in the Phoenix/ZCode version and the Topologika version. The latter is smaller, but more elegant. (It’s best solved using Adam’s technique, with an additional column for “colour” – and that’s all I’m saying!)
    There’s also a small, conventional maze inside the Colossal Cave pillar; this one’s without tricks. You might also count the left-hand part of the wizard’s garden as a maze, but I don’t think it is one, properly speaking.

    • I forgot the pillar maze (I had the feeling I was forgetting something but had no notion what I was forgetting, hence category g.)

      The Phoenix games I’ve finished are Acheton, Fyleet, Brand X, and Hezarin. Hezarin felt larger to me than Acheton (it certainly took longer to beat) so I’m not sure if raw room quantity is always the best way to judge “largest”.

      Should I use the Topologika version instead of the Z-Code? It isn’t too late in to switch (I’m still planning my optimizing route at this point).

      • The pillar maze is easily the most “simple” in the game – that’s probably why you forgot it.

        And yes, Hezarin may be larger than Acheton on pure room count. It’s hard to tell. Both games have several “similar room” areas (the sea in Acheton, e.g., and the desert at the beginning of Hezarin) which distort the count. Both are massive, in any case. Hezarin, to me, felt like it had a lot more wastage in it, both in terms of rooms and of walking back and forth. Acheton is more neatly designed.

        As for which version, well, take your pick. They are mostly identical, but not quite. I don’t think either is really superior to the other.

      • I’ll stick with what I’m using then.

        I would certainly say Acheton is the better game, although the empty room thing doesn’t bother me so much. I’ll try better to quantify that whenever I get to Hezarin.

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