Madness and the Minotaur: Mapmaking   4 comments

Madness and the Minotaur features a fixed map, and one where specific locations matter and can have special effects, so unlike the pure-random-generation of, say, 6 Keys of Tangrin, getting a thorough map is a first step.

Each map of the four levels is supposedly 8 by 8, but for the first two at least I’ve only seen the top 8 by 5 section.

This is the sort of fill-all-the-empty-space + divide into discrete sections logic I’m used to from RPGs. For example, here’s the third sewer level from The Bard’s Tale:

Notice how the right side of the map starting from column 15 forms its own sort of mini-section. This trick can also be combined with verticality so that a “hidden area” is found by either noting an empty space exists and utilizing some sort of travel-through-walls spell, or entering from above or below. We saw this in adventure game form with Deathmaze 5000 where a small missing chunk in the upper right is a clue it can be entered from the lower level.

I’ve marked the relevant spot in orange.

Going back to the Madness and the Minotaur map, there’s a small missing portion of the upper right which is suspicious for similar reasons (and when I get to discussing level 2, the same portion is missing).

The actual mapping process is slightly odd in that not only are exits from room descriptions randomly generated, they are randomly regenerated each turn. That means if you look at a room, and then look at it again, while the same exits will be there, they will be described in an entirely different way. I learned to start ignoring the exit portion of the text due to this.

Another oddity is that room descriptions are repeated when you go a direction that isn’t possible. This is an extremely rare mechanic that we’ve only seen so far in Haunted House and Escape from Colditz. The former was widespread enough that it could easily be the source of the mechanic in both cases, which is wild given how generally terrible the game was (it was squeezed on two sides of a 4K cassette).

However, room descriptions can’t be entirely ignored, because as I mentioned earlier, specific locations matter. For example, there’s a hint-gazing pool in the upper right corner of the map.

The hint is randomized, the fact there’s a pool you can gaze into is not.

Also, some exits aren’t just found by typing NORTH/SOUTH/EAST/WEST/UP/DOWN but by typing JUMP followed by whatever it is you plan to jump over or through; a pit or a hole or potentially other things.

To get from the “Dark Servant Chamber” to the location to the west you need to JUMP HOLE; to get back you to need JUMP PIT. I missed this entirely on my first passthrough but the manual was nudging at JUMP being important so I started to try it everywhere. The “Maze of Tunnels” incidentally does not go back the other direction if you go north, suggesting it is a classic deranged-direction maze, so I’m saving it for later. It may be there isn’t even a maze in that spot and going south teleports the player to a different floor.

I unfortunately don’t have much more to report. I’ve been keeping occasional track of where items appear and noticed there were some slight patterns — the lamp seems to tend to the northwest of the first level, for instance, and it is necessary to reach the second level. A shield (which is described as “too high to reach”) always seems to also be on the first level. I’ve only found one treasure lying around that is worth anything (there are some “fake treasures” — the way to tell is to take SCORE before and after and see if it goes up when you pick the thing up).

The spellbook mentioned above also tends to the first floor, but I don’t know if it is 100% of the time.

The second floor requires the lamp, and has the same 8 by 5 general layout, although one small “outcrop” you can see on the left side likely has (at the code level) the player get teleported to a new place when they JUMP over a PIT.

The green incidentally indicates an enchantment in the air, which (according to the Dragon manual version of the game) is where you can find spells. Still haven’t managed to pick one up, yet.

“Up” incidentally is all exits on the “northeast” corner and “down” is all exits on the “southwest”. The exits are generally “lined up” so you can lay the two floors on top of each other and tell where an exit goes, although there’s enough fiddly aspects with exits that teleport I can’t swear everything is accurate.

I essentially haven’t solved anything yet. I did run across the Oracle (who is supposed to give hints as to weakness of monsters and the like) but when I try to type ASK ORACLE the Oracle has disappeared by the time I hit enter. I don’t know if I’m just not typing fast enough or if there’s a puzzle I need to solve first?

Oh, and that reminds me: yes, there are real-time elements. If you’re in a fog room you have a fair amount of time to leave before the fog gets you, but don’t linger like I did in my last play report. Sometimes there’s an “earthquake” if you just leave the game running, which I assume moves stuff around but I haven’t worked out the full nature. With enemies in the room, they can start hitting you if you hang around, although so far they’ve been relatively slow to the trigger and I’ve been able to run away — which makes the Oracle’s speed all the more surprising.

Yes, I met the minotaur. Can’t do anything about him yet, though.

I’ve seen a few other curious things but I’ve been hit by such an information firehose from the game I’m not able to contextualize them yet, so I’ll save talking about them in a future post. Suffice it to say this won’t be over quickly.

Here’s one more “locations have special things” spot. Without these elements I might consider the game to be purely strategy-puzzle, where you have to match the right sequence of items to defeat various enemies and make deductions like a game of Clue. This would make it similar to Volcanic Dungeon recently visited at The CRPG Addict. The fact there’s these observational moments of, well, adventuring, are what push Madness and the Minotaur over the genre edge.

Posted July 10, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “Madness and the Minotaur: Mapmaking

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  1. Just another amazing blog post Jason. I had to chuckle thinking about today’s generation and their automaps with the games of today. I don’t think they realized just how significant being able to create a thorough map was for such a long period in adventure and CRPG gaming. The creation of the map itself was the biggest “puzzle” for many of these games. I am currently playing Balrog Sampler and there are many, many rooms in the dungeon. While most of the map is “fixed” there is a randomness to choosing a particular exit at times which makes it a bit infuriating as the game is filled with an extremely high amount of instant death scenarios

  2. I think this is a recurrent question in me, but, I wonder if you are going to play those RPGish hybrids a-la Volcanic Dungeon. I think there are some interesting pieces in this era, like Sorcerer’s Castle (1983, Mikro-Gen).

    Also I wonder where you’ll draw the line, or maybe you will be as inclusive as possible playing all the text CRPGs that are out there.

    Thanks!

    • I am playing some edge cases, but Madness and the Minotaur is definitely still an adventure game, just with gameplay feel more commonly seen in crpgs. There is no character development and combat is puzzle based.

      Any true hybrids I will consider on a case by case basis (I did play Quarterstaff, for instance). I think Volcanic Dungeon counts more as a puzzle game as it which lays out its map entirely and doesn’t have any environmental interaction.

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