The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Hunt The Wumpus (BASIC computer game, genesis of Wumpus, history)

graphic of page

Another new game from Creative Computing…


The Genesis of Wumpus

Two years ago I happened by People's  Computer Company (PCC) and saw some of
their computer games  such as Hurkle, Snark, and Mugwump. My reaction was:
"EECH!!" Each of these games was based on a 10 x 10 grid in Cartesian
co-ordinates and three of them was too much for me. I started to think along the
lines of: "There has to be a hide and seek computer  game without that (exp.
deleted) grid!!"  In fact, why not a topological computer game - Imagine a set
of points connected in some way and the player moves about the set via the

That afternoon in meditation the  phrase "Hunt the Wumpus" arrived, and Wumpus
was born. He's still a bit vague in physical detail as most dedicated Wumpus
hunters know, but appearances are part of the game. (If you like, send me a
picture of your version of a Wumpus. Perhaps friendly Dave,  our editor,  will
publish the best one in Creative Computing.)  The grid I chose was the vertices
of a dodecahedron - simply because it's my favorite Platonic solid and once, 
ages ago, I made a kite shaped like one. The edges became the connecting tunnels
between the caves which were the set of points for the game.

My basic idea at this time was for the player to approach the Wumpus, back off,
and come up to him by going around the dodecahedron. To my knowledge, this has
never happened... most players adopt other strategies rather than this
cold-blooded approach.

Anyway... how to get the Wumpus! How about an arrow which could turn corners as
it goes from room to room. Let the hunter tell the arrow where to go and let it
fly. The shortest round trip without reversals is 5 caves and thus the Crooked

Hmmm… How does one sense the Wumpus? It's dark in yonder cave, and light would
wake him up. If one got one cave away, the Wumpus's distinct smell would serve
as a warning. So far, so good…  but Wumpus is still too easy, so let's  find
some appropriate hazards for the caves.

Bottomless pits were easy. Any imaginary cave would have a few of those around
the place. Superbats were harder to come by. It took me a day or two to get that
idea. The Superbats are a sort of rapid transit system gone a little batty
(sorry about that one). They take you a random distance to a random cave and
leave you there. If that's a pit or a Wumpus, well, you are in Fate's hands.

Around this time, I saw that Map-making would be a regular activity of
Wumpus-hunters. I numbered the caves and made the scheme fixed in the hopes a
practised player might notice this and make himself a permanent map of the
caverns. (Another unrealised hope - as an exercise, make yourself such a map on
a Squashed Dodecahedron).

[image] A Squashed Dodecahedron

To start the game fairly, Wumpus, Hazards, and Hunter are located on different
points at the start of the game. Each game starts with random choices of
location, but the hunter may restart with the same set-up if he chooses. This
allows re-plays if the hunter, say, fell into a pit on the first move.

Wumpus was nearly done in my mind... ( hint to a games-writer: Have a clear
notion of your game before you

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