Adventure 500: Mazes of Cruelty   7 comments

The world had not only failed to learn the right lessons, it seemed to have internalized the wrong ones.

— From “Inside Every Utopia Is a Dystopia” by John Crowley

The quote above, which is about the more serious issue of social design, also captures for me the history of art.

Something fabulous and novel is made, other artists duplicate the ideas, and then there are copies of those copies. Generally, artists aren’t copying everything, just what they think made the original fabulous and novel in the first place. This isn’t necessarily a bad approach to art, but sadly, sometimes it’s the wrong things that get copied.

Do adventure games need a maze? Nearly everyone from the era seemed to think so. They just needed to do them “better” than Crowther and Woods Adventure somehow.

Adventure 500 takes the maze concept and runs it off a cliff. I’ve never quite seen anything like this.

First, the twisty maze of passages, which is the first maze encountered in the game (the other one can’t be reached without an item in this maze):

This certainly doesn’t look too bad, but there are two tricks, one common, one nasty.

The common trick is that when entering the maze from the outside, you start in what I call a “all-or-nothing” structure. All exits are possible, but any exit except for the correct one will lead you to the space marked “start from NE forest entry”. I’ve seen this sort of structure lots of times, presumably because it makes it very hard to just guess your way through the maze and luck into the correct 4-move sequence (WEST, EAST, SOUTH, UP).

The nasty trick occurs in original Adventure (Crowther, even before Woods) in that when outdoors there is a link that will randomly take you to a different forest area than you usually go to. However, the extra area is totally optional and the intent seemed to be to add an aura of mystery.

Adventure 500 puts this same trick in the maze:

Going down in a particular place will *usually* loop you to the same place, except for something like a 20% chance where it takes you to the room with the planks of wood instead. The planks of wood are absolutely necessary for beating the game. I found this by sheer luck (I had already mapped the loop, but went down by accident).

On top of the evil above, there’s this:

You are about to enter an area of Colossal Cavern for which you must carefully prepare. Do not proceed unless you are ready.
> e
You’re in a crazy maze of weird passages.

First I was unsure as to the gimmick; I dropped a bunch of items to start mapping by dropping them in the rooms, as normal. I ran out of items, blundered my way to the exit, and grabbed some more items.

So far, so normal. But then, the new set of items ran out, and there were yet more rooms.

And more rooms.

And more rooms.

This is only part of the map. I started running out of space on the paper and scrawling everywhere. I’m not done — there are more rooms I haven’t mapped. I’m guessing the total is around 35 rooms or so.

Surely the author wouldn’t be so cruel as to pull the same-passage-goes-two-ways trick? Yes, he would. Not only that, it appears the random chance of a particular passage going to an “alternate exit” is rolled upon entering a room, which means saving one’s game and testing out an exit repeatedly will not help.

Posted April 25, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Adventure 500: Mazes of Cruelty

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  1. Wow, that maze looks really insane. I don’t like mazes too much, at least the idea, but I really enjoyed the Zork one and also one of the mazes in Adventure (not the one you called spreadsheed, If I remember correctly, in one of your posts). I understand what you’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post regarding “sometimes it’s the wrong things that get copied”. But to me it would be really interesting to talk with the people that did that and ask them why they did it that way. From our perspective, that was wrong design, but I would love to know their perspective.

    • The funny thing is, I am one of the people that did it this way. (Certainly it was A Thing all the way through the 80s.)

      One of my lost juvenilia works (quite intentionally so, I ditched it to bit oblivion) had something like 4 mazes. I honestly don’t know why!

  2. I must say that having played this recently, going down in the aforementioned maze location takes me to the planks every time. That is at least ten times in a row and from different saved files. Very odd. I did find randomless when moving NE from the trail in the forest however; sometimes the first move NE from here takes me to the maze and sometimes as many as four moves in the same direction are required. This would suggest a >or=1 and <5 probability from the trail of hitting the maze of twisty passages each move NE from the trail. It is a shame there aren't a few more matches in the box as I keep running out. Oh for a decent Ronson.

    • Probably could find out what’s going on from a source code dive, but I wasn’t enamored enough to try. I am fully willing to believe I haven’t quite worked out what’s happening correctly.

      • Yes; there was something about it that irritated me too. I think the endless saving and reloading when I ran out of fuel tired me out eventually. Never mind, you have I think three Phoenix mainframe games to look forward to in the next year. Get your anger management pamphlet in now.

      • Oh boy, Phoenix. Yeah, my list isn’t _exact_ and I know I’m going to toss at least one of my ’79-’81 stragglers in there, but it’s probably going to go for the immediate future:

        Time Zone – random – Lucifer’s Realm – random – Arrow of Death 2 – random – one of the Phoenix games

        so probably April? can’t swear to anything, especially not how long Time Zone will take me to finish. Deadline will fit in somewhere too.

  3. I suggest a large dose of Valium before you encounter the Talisman and the Maize Maze in Hamil. Certainly one of the most infuriating puzzles in the Phoenix canon which is saying something; think Acheton levels of unfairness and cruelty.

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