Maze Puzzle

Arcade Games & Cooking.

Moderators: Ice Cream Jonsey, AArdvark

User avatar
AArdvark
Posts: 8300
Joined: Tue May 14, 2002 6:12 pm
Location: Rochester, NY

Maze Puzzle

Post by AArdvark » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:00 am


User avatar
Tdarcos
Posts: 5717
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 9:25 am
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Contact:

Re: Maze Puzzle

Post by Tdarcos » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:59 am

It was an excellent article, but I felt the title was misleading. "The mysterious origins of an uncrackable video game." I thought it was going to tell how they had developed a program that could not be pirated. "Indecipherable" or "enigmatic" might have been a better term for a piece of code whose function can't be discovered.

in the story, the video game Entombed for the Atari 2600, the player is in a maze, but there isn't enough memory to store the maze, so it generates a new maze for the game programmatically, without ever generating one that is insoluble, it always has a valid path to an exit. How does it do it? Aye, that's the rub: they don't know and can't figure out how. Oh, there are clues and strokes of brilliance, but how he did it remains, as Winston Churchill said, "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. "

My guess is the software archaeologists looking at this game never really worked in an actual programming job, either as an internal programmer for a shop that did something else but developed programs to support its business, or for an actual software company for delivery to customers; If they had, they'd have seen everything:
* programmers who range from dull to brilliant;
* managers who range from clueless to fantastic;
* customers who don't know what they want;
* customers who ask to have a feature removed then discover it's needed after all and you have to put it back in;
* the (sometimes) written and (usually) unwritten rules on how things are done at this shop;
* strange applications nobody understands and the person(s) who wrote them are no longer with the company;
* applications so fragile, brittle, and dangerous to do maintenance on them you feel like you either need to wear a hazmat suit or the program should be declared unsafe for workers by OSHA;
* business critical "bet the company" applications where they - or predecessor companies if this company has been through one (or more) merger(s) - have been using them for so long some of the code comments indicate changes when you were in grammar school, or, before you were born. If it's old enough, some the code might have been written before your parents were born;
* code developed in-house where it has to continue to be used because it's business critical but can't be maintained because the source was lost and so they use preprocessors and post-processors to massage, reformat or reprocess the data to add features they can't put in the original program;
* code you find in a program you have to maintain and you see it's the worst stinking pile of crap you've ever seen, and you wonder what brain-dead moron wrote this shit, only to discover from the comments that it's what you did, six months ago.

I know exactly what they are dealing with. I have a piece of code to do linked-list insertions in order to maintain a list (which could conceivably contain thousands or tens of thousands of items) in alphabetical order, and also keep the references of usage (which could be hundreds or thousands of times) of each item. It came to me in a flash of brilliance, it works perfectly, I wrote it from scratch, and I have absolutely no idea how it works!
"With great power, comes great… electricity bill."

User avatar
AArdvark
Posts: 8300
Joined: Tue May 14, 2002 6:12 pm
Location: Rochester, NY

Re: Maze Puzzle

Post by AArdvark » Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:50 pm

It reminds me of a line of dialog from Space Cowboys, where the young space astronaut programmer guy is complaining to Clint Eastwood, the old school, close-to-the-metal space astronaut programmer guy, that he can't figure how the code works. It's a throw away line but it applies here. I enjoy the part where they assume the programmer must have been drunk when he wrote it.

THE
VINO BINARY
AARDVARK

Post Reply