Monday, April 18, 2011

… Oops! Bumped a Wumpus!

In a previous post, I discussed the classic computer game Hunt the Wumpus, provided links where one could download versions of the original game for Linux and Windows and pointed out what I felt were problems in its gameplay. To summarize, these were:

  1. The map was the same each game. Given that I derived much of my enjoyment from Hunt the Wumpus from mapping, this was a problem.
  2. It was possible to start the game in a situation where you could die without having received enough clues to make an informed decision to avoid this fate.
  3. The Wumpus just sat there and waited for you to shoot it. I believe this is a legacy from Wumpus's origins as an “answer” to the plethora of grid-based “hide-and-seek” games that were all the rage at the time of its inception.
Well, dear reader, I've addressed these problems and I proudly present to you “Wumpus Plus”. So far, only the Linux version is available but a Windows version is forthcoming. In “Wumpus Plus”, the map is randomly generated at the start of each game; the map obeys the same “rules” as the map in the original game, i.e. each room has three exits. Initial game configurations which result in the player starting one room away from pits and bats and two rooms away from the Wumpus (more on this later) are thrown out. So no more starting the game next to two pits and bemoaning the fact that 2 out of 3 moves will result in you plummeting to your death.

The biggest change I've made in the game is the fact that the Wumpus is no longer asleep. Unless you startle it by running into the room it's currently occupying or shooting an arrow (and missing), there is a 25% chance that the Wumpus will move into an adjacent room (when the Wumpus is startled, the chance of the Wumpus moving increases to 75%, as in the original game). The active nature of the Wumpus necessitated a major change in the game; the Wumpus can now be detected up to TWO rooms away from the player. I had wanted to keep the game as faithful as possible to the original Gregory Yob program but if the Wumpus could only be detected one room away from the player, there was a small but finite chance (1 out of 36) that the player could move and end up in the same room as the Wumpus (and lose the game) if the Wumpus was two rooms away. At first, I tried to tell myself that this was acceptable given the small probability of this happening but the one time it did happen during playtesting, I knew this wasn't the case; I felt cheated when I got eaten by the Wumpus in this fashion and I knew others would as well.

I was initially concerned that being able to detect the Wumpus from two rooms away would make the game too easy but it added a bit of ambiguity regarding its location and solved a problem which had crept up during playtesting; with the Wumpus detectable from only one room away, it was possible to enter a room, be warned of the Wumpus's proximity but be unsure of which room it was in and then back away from the Wumpus and have it follow you, thus removing any doubt as to its whereabouts and pretty much sealing its fate. The two room Wumpus detection distance and the ambiguity it lent to the Wumpus's location also made the ability to shoot arrows up to five rooms away (which wasn't very useful in the original game) an indispensable Wumpus-killing tool. There is also the very real possibility that you may actually miss when shooting at the Wumpus, something which rarely happened, as far as I could surmise, in the original game.

So make those arrows count.

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