Monday, 13 April 2020

RetroChallenge April 2020: Why Mazies & Crazies Went Missing

Mazies-- Now with added Pit!
Allen Huffman wrote on facebook about Mazies & Crazies:
"I am really growing fond of these BASIC games you are doing. It was a really exciting time."
I replied:
"Exciting but a little tedious at times. I'm still editing this one and just found a few more typos. I can understand why the program went missing-- No one wanted to type in 90 sixty character strings (of numbers)!"
1000 R$(1)="000602540855070301062900902714-401011125401111180418"...

I noticed something strange in the code. There was a routine for a "Pit" you could fall into, but I hadn't noticed any pits yet in my playthroughs. In looking at the code I could seed that the Pit routine was triggered when you enter Room 92. This sent me to look closely at the room data to see if a Room 92 was ever listed among the exits for any of the rooms. In the course of checking, I noticed some more typos. Mostly 8s that were interpreted by the OCR of the scan as 3s. But I couldn't find any 92s.

Then I recalled being a little baffled by the ability to leave through the top door of Room One and being taken to Room 90, which is the highest number in the dungeon.  It would seem to make more sense that part of the adventure is to work your way through the dungeon to higher and higher room numbers, with 90 being the ultimate objective. Indeed the room numbers seemed to be listed in an ever increasing crescendo, with the rooms in the high 80s finally leading to Room 90.

So it seemed weird that Room One should simply let you get to Room 90 through its top door (see line 1000 above and the screen shot above). So I changed it to 92:

1000 R$(1)="000602540855070301062900922714-401011125401111180418"

Now in Room One, if you try to leave through the top door, which the two walls in the room seem almost to point you towards, down in a pit you go!  I added a little falling sound for the MC-10 version. For the TRS-80 senior version I had to fix the pause from a "I=1 TO 20" to "I=1 TO 2000," since otherwise you couldn't even see the "You've fallen in a pit" message." Now, you must struggle to get to Room 90. When you finally get there and through the final door, your are taken back to the beginning (Room One). But don't try to backtrack and return to Room 90. If you do, down in the pit you go! This is a more fitting and somewhat ironic ending for an "epic" foray into a "mysterious dungeon."

I wonder if DaCosta had left this change in to allow allow himself the ability to get quickly to the higher levels for debugging purposes, and never changed it back before sending his book to the printer.  

I also noticed that when you eat the "magic fruit" you get some random amount of healthup to several 1000s. Since the fruit returns to the rooms in which its appears whenever you leave and return, you could just pop into and out of a room many times to bump your score way above the normal 10,000 (or the 9999 in the MC-10 version since I only have 4 characters to play with on the right side for messages, instead of 8). There were no checks to prevent you from going above "full strength," which seems weird and counter to the goal of making the game a challenge.

These bugs, along with the one I found in the Score routine (discussed in my last post), and the slowness of the TRS-80 version probably annoyed anyone who actually typed in the game and left bad taste in their mouths. So when it came to people having enough affection for the game to prompt them to make sure it was preserved somewhere on the Net there was simply too little good will out there.

By replacing INKEY$ with continuous key polling PEEK(2)ANDPEEK(17023) of the MC-10 and adding some other speedups, I think the MC-10 version is really much more playable. The smaller screen size also makes moving around much less tedious. The added sounds and the color don't hurt either. With these improvements, it really is more fun.

DaCosta put a lot of thought into its construction. Without its bugs and typos, a little more speed and an instruction screen, I think it would have been fun game to play back in the day. I could see my friends and I competing for high score, which would truly represent your ability to penetrate to the higher numbered rooms, find the highest numbered treasures and defeat the largest number of the strongest monsters. If all of this could be achieved only by carefully marshalling your strength, instead of artificially pumping it up though the magic fruit bug, a high score would be truly meaningful.

But the absence of these features probably left people cold after having engaged in the monumental task of typing in and checking 90 lines of room data. Their disappointment might have prompted some to seek (literally and figuratively) to erase the game from their memory.


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