Monday, 6 July 2015

My Maze Addiction

When at work, and it's quiet, I find myself with a pen and a paper, doodling.
Not just any doodles though. Mazes.
It started out just looking for something to fill the quiet times when there were no customers. When the home improvement store first opened, there were many of these. Firstly, I would bring in a maze to do. Then a harder maze. Then an impossible maze. After I grew bored with that, I started drawing them. They started out rather poorly, but as I kept on drawing and googling techniques, they became more and more intricate.

Something that I am slowly mastering is the art of drawing a maze without pencil marks - pen only. No second chance. No 'undo' button. You may be thinking that I'm doing this as some sort of challenge - to force my brain to think in different ways, to be resourceful, to think before I draw, to map out and plan in my head before I act.

Mostly it's because I use what I have available to me.

It's always a bonus knowing that I might have been an architect in Maze Runner, or, if given the challenge in Inception, I would totally be able to draw a maze in under ten minutes, (not that I've completely seen either of these movies.)

When I started, it was rather difficult for me. Firstly I started just drawing lines with openings, much like the girl in Inception started, but it became hard to keep up with which path lead were. Then, I began to draw the dead-ends first, then the path would be created around them. After I read this article here, I began to use the bottleneck technique, along-side the dead-ends-first technique, which so far have made me my most difficult mazes.

The one on the bottom right was one of my earlier ones - though the tree one is far more simple, the square one required the least lateral thinking. Also, I used pencil before using pen, which caused my free-hand lines to appear much more parallel.

The curvy, non-angular, all-over-the-shop maze wasn't my first attempt at this maze. Actually, these ones are the most difficult, as it's easy to lose yourself in the squiggles, even for the person drawing it.

These ones are earlier still. The one on the bottom left was an attempt to make a more artistic, pattern-y maze.


Generally, when I test a maze, I test it thoroughly. (Mostly it's because the entire purpose of doing this is to kill time) How I do this is very simple - photocopy the maze onto another sheet of paper and highlight all the dead ends.

This one that I highlighted in green* highlighter shows me that to the left, there are more than one ways of getting to the exit. The path to the right is a loop - that is something I would fill in later.

This is one from work on scrap paper. As you can see, I have notes down the side of the paper, and down the bottom shows the piece of paper was originally used for something else (one of those, "they printed out an extra bit of paper just with the website on it" situations)

Basically, what I'm doing as described above is isolating the dead ends. I start out with the obvious dead ends - ones were  there's a hallway that leads to no-where. Now, what we define as a dead-end is an area with only one entrance no matter how many loops it may have.

Block dead-ends can be easily detected and highlighted all at once.

(This is so professional, you can even see my drink bottle at the top there...)

The whole section above is one giant loop - it loops itself around and comes out again. Remember, our definition of a dead-end isn't somewhere where you hit a brick wall, but an area with only one entrance.

Once you get to this stage, you can really see where the dead-ends are, and you vaguely know where you're going.

Tada! When you've highlighted all the possible dead-ends, and you only have one path, you know you've made a proper maze.

Happy mazing!

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