DescriptionMadMaze first hit the Prodigy online service in 1989 with its NAPLPS graphics illustrating a plethora of palette-shifted first-person corridor junctions. But the artwork, logic puzzles and story conveyed at the maze "goals", called Places of Power, proved sufficiently compelling for well over a million players to divert their paid connection time into wandering its labyrinthine corridors. It went down along with the rest of Prodigy Classic in 1999, but thanks to this exceedingly faithful web re-implementation (only for Internet Explorer), it remained inaccessible for only two years!
The player controls a young denizen of Weith Village, sent by Wellan, the Village Elder, to become a Runner. This means entering the maze outside the village in hopes to overcome the sinister plots of The Mad One (aka He Whose Name Is Not Spoken). Across a series of mazes the player encounters logic puzzles -- sometimes solvable through trial and error or blind guessing, othertimes facilitated through hints and wisdom imparted by other maze denizens. The first maze sees the Runner complying with the wishes of both the Sage Tsoreen and Crone Matilda in her chicken-legged hut to remove an onerous troll from a nearby magical well. Subsequent maze levels see the player advancing toward the Maze Purpore containing the Castle Perilous -- formerly the seat of power of the legendary King Carlon, who now slumbers beneath, guarded by the giant scorpion Ogrok while The Mad One's lieutenant Timozel lords above. Eventually the player overcomes even these obstacles and proceeds through further, stranger mazes journeying on an increasingly epic scale, wielding Carlon's sword Valterre and astride Veillantif the fairy horse. All the advancement is indicated solely through the story and puzzles shared at the Places of Power -- true to its title, gameplay largely remains a matter of navigating mazes head-on.
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Author's accountOriginal game scripter Greg Costikyan gave his own success story a scathing indictment in his essay "Why Online Games Suck (And How To Design Ones That Don't)":
MadMaze sucks. MadMaze sucks because it's a solo graphic adventure. You wander through mazes, every once in a while encountering a "Place of Power" where you must solve a logic puzzle. To win, you have to get through all the Places of Power and mazes.
Okay so far. But here's the thing; even when it was designed (1989), it sucked, because you can deliver far better graphics and a far better interface in a computer game distributed on disk. So as a graphic adventure, it is inferior to other stuff out there.
And it's solitaire! The whole point of having a network is that it allows multiple players. In MadMaze, everyone's in his own little world, nobody can talk to anybody else, nobody can help or hinder the others.
Indicentally [sic - though it is indecent, ed.], more than a million people have played it.