Mazes in general (and hence algorithms to create Mazes) can be organized
along seven different classifications. These are: Dimension, Hyperdimension,
Topology, Tessellation, Routing, Texture, and Focus. A Maze can take one item
from each of the classes in any combination.
Dimension: The dimension class is basically how many dimensions in
space the Maze covers. Types are:
- 2D: Most Mazes, either on
paper or life size, are this dimension, where it's always possible to display
the plan on the sheet of paper and navigate it without overlapping any other
passages in the Maze.
- 3D: A three dimensional Maze is one
with multiple levels, where (in the orthogonal case at least) passages may go up
and down in addition to the four compass directions. A 3D Maze is often
displayed as an array of 2D levels, with "up" and "down"
- Higher dimensions: It's possible to
have 4D and higher dimension Mazes. These are often rendered as 3D Mazes, with
special "portals" to travel through the 4th dimension, e.g.
"past" and "future" portals.
- Weave: A weave Maze is basically
a 2D (or more accurately a 2.5D) Maze, but where passages can overlap each
other. In display it's generally obvious what's a dead end and what's a passage
that goes under another. Life size Mazes that have bridges connecting one
portion of the Maze to another are partially Weave.
Hyperdimension: The hyperdimension class refers to the dimension of
the object you move through the Maze, as opposed to the dimension of the Maze
environment itself. Types are:
- Non-hypermaze: Virtually all
Mazes, even those in higher dimensions or with special rules, are normal non-hypermazes.
In them you work with a point or small object, such as a marble or yourself,
which you move from point to point, where the path behind you forms a line.
There's an easily countable number of choices at each point.
- Hypermaze: A hypermaze is where the
solving object is more than just a point. A standard hypermaze (or a hypermaze
of the 1st order) consists of a line where as you bend and move it the path
behind it forms a surface. A hypermaze can only exist in a 3D or higher
dimension environment, where the entrance to a hypermaze is also a line instead
of a point. A hypermaze is fundamentally different since you need to be aware of
and work with multiple parts along the line at the same time, where there's
nearly an infinite number of states and things you can do with the line at any
time. The solving line is infinite, or the endpoints are fixed outside the
hypermaze, to prevent one from crumpling the line into a point, which could then
be treated as a non-hypermaze.
- Hyperhypermaze: Hypermazes can be of arbitrarily high dimension. A
hyperhypermaze (or a hypermaze of the 2nd order) increases the dimension of the
solving object again. Here the solving object is a plane, where as you move it
the path behind you forms a solid. A hyperhypermaze can only exist in a 4D or
higher dimension environment.
Topology: The topology class describes the geometry of the space the
Maze exists in. Types are:
- Normal: This is a standard
Maze in Euclidean space.
- Planair: The term "planair"
refers to any Maze with an abnormal topology. This usually means connecting the
edges of the Maze in interesting fashions. Examples are Mazes on the surface of
a cube, Mazes on the surface of a Moebius strip, and Mazes that are equivalent
to being on a torus with the left and right sides wrapping and the top and
Tessellation: The tessellation class is the geometry of the individual
cells that compose the Maze. Types are:
- Orthogonal: This is a standard
rectangular grid where cells have passages intersecting at right angles.
- Delta: A Delta Maze is one
composed of interlocking triangles, where each cell may have up to three
passages connected to it.
- Sigma: A Sigma Maze is one
composed of interlocking hexagons, where each cell may have up to six passages
connected to it.
- Theta: Theta Mazes are composed
of concentric circles of passages, where the start or finish is in the center,
and the other on the outer edge. Cells usually have four possible passage
connections, but may have more due to the greater number of cells in outer
- Upsilon: Upsilon Mazes are
composed of interlocking octagons and squares, where each cell may have up to
eight or four possible passages connected to it.
- Zeta: A Zeta Maze is on a
rectangular grid, except 45 degree angle diagonal passages between cells are
allowed in addition to horizontal and vertical ones.
- Omega: The term "omega"
refers to most any Maze with a consistent non-orthogonal tessellation. Delta,
Sigma, and Theta Mazes are all of this type, as are many other arrangements one
can think up, e.g. a Maze composed of pairs of right triangles.
- Crack: A crack Maze is an
amorphous Maze without any consistent tessellation, but rather has walls or
passages at random angles.
- Fractal: A fractal Maze is a
Maze composed of smaller Mazes. A nested cell fractal Maze is a Maze with other
Mazes tessellated within each cell, where the process may be repeated multiple
times. An infinite recursive fractal Maze is a true fractal, where the Maze
contains copies of itself, and is in effect an infinitely large Maze.
Routing: The routing class is probably the most interesting with
respect to Maze generation itself. It refers to the types of passages within
whatever geometry defined in the categories above.
- Perfect: A "perfect"
Maze means one without any loops or closed circuits, and without any
inaccessible areas. Also called a simply-connected Maze. From each point, there
is exactly one path to any other point. The Maze has exactly one solution. In
Computer Science terms, such a Maze can be described as a spanning tree over the
set of cells.
- Braid: A "braid" Maze
means one without any dead ends. Also called a purely multiply connected Maze.
Such a Maze uses passages that coil around and run back into each other (hence
the term "braid") and cause you to spend time going in circles instead
of bumping into dead ends. A well-designed braid Maze can be much harder than a
perfect Maze of the same size.
- Unicursal: A unicursal Maze
means one without any junctions. Sometimes the term Labyrinth is used to refer
to constructs of this type, where "Maze" means a puzzle where choices
are involved. A unicursal Maze has just one long snake-like passage that coils
throughout the extent of the Maze. It's not really difficult unless you
accidentally get turned around half way through and make your way back to the
- Sparseness: A sparse Maze is one
that doesn't carve passage through every cell, where some are left uncreated.
This amounts to having inaccessible locations, making this somewhat the reverse
of a braid Maze. A similar concept can be applied when adding walls, resulting
in an irregular Maze with wide passages and rooms.
- Partial braid: A partial braid Maze is just a mixed Maze with both
loops and dead ends in it. The word "braid" can be used
quantitatively, where a "heavily braid Maze" means one with many loops
or detached walls, and a "slightly braid Maze" means one with just a
Texture: The texture class is subtle, and describes the style of the
passages in whatever routing in whatever geometry. They're not really on/off
flags as much as general themes. Here are several example variables one can look
- Bias: A biased Maze is one with
straightaways that tend to go in one direction more than the others. For
example, a Maze with a high horizontal bias will have long left-right passages,
and only short up-down passages connecting them. A Maze is usually more
difficult to navigate "against the grain".
- Run: The "run" factor of
a Maze is how long straightaways tend to go before forced turnings present
themselves. A Maze with a low run won't have straight passages for more than
three or four cells, and will look very random. A Maze with a high run will have
long passages going across a good percentage of the Maze, and will look similar
to a microchip.
- Elite: The "elitism"
factor of a Maze indicates the length of the solution with respect to the size
of the Maze. An elitist Maze generally has a short direct solution, while a
non-elitist Maze has the solution wander throughout a good portion of the Maze's
area. A well designed elitist Maze can be much harder than a non-elitist one.
- Symmetric: A symmetric Maze
has symmetric passages, e.g. rotationally symmetric about the middle, or
reflected across the horizontal or vertical axis. A Maze may be partially or
totally symmetric, and may repeat a pattern any number of times.
- River: The "river" characteristic means that when creating
the Maze, the algorithm will look for and clear out nearby cells (or walls) to
the current one being created, i.e. it will flow (hence the term
"river") into uncreated portions of the Maze like water. A perfect
Maze with less "river" will tend to have many short dead ends, while a
Maze with more river will have fewer but longer dead ends.
Focus: The focus class is obscure, but shows that Maze creation can be
divided into two general types: Wall adders, and passage carvers. This is
usually just an algorithmic difference when generating, as opposed to a visual
difference when observing, but is still useful to consider. The same Maze can be
often generated in both ways:
- Wall adders: Algorithms that focus on walls start with an empty area
(or an outer boundary) and add walls. In real life, a life size Maze composed of
hedges, tarps, or wood walls, is a definite wall adder.
- Passage carvers: Algorithms that focus on passages start with a solid
block and carve passages. In real life, a Maze composed of mine tunnels, or
running in the inside of pipes, is a passage carver.
- Template: Mazes can of course be both
passage carved and wall added, and some computer algorithms do just that. A Maze
template refers to a general graphic that isn't a Maze, which is then modified
to be a valid Maze in as few steps as possible, but still has the texture of the
original graphic template. Complicated Maze styles like interlocking spirals are
easier to do on a computer as templates, as opposed to trying to create a valid
Maze while keeping it conforming to whatever style at the same time.
Other: The above is by no means a comprehensive list of all possible
classes or items within each class. They're just the types of Mazes I've
actually created. :-) Note most every type of Maze, including Mazes with special
rules, can be expressed as a directed graph, where you have a finite number of
states and a finite number of choices at each state, which is called Maze equivalence. Here are some other classes and
types of Mazes:
- Direction: This is where certain
passages can only be traveled in one way. In Computer Science terms, such a Maze
would be described by a directed graph, as opposed to an undirected graph like
all the others.
- Segmented: This is where a Maze
has different sections of its area falling in different classes.
- Infinite length Mazes: It's
possible to create an infinitely long Maze (a finite number of columns by as
many rows as you like) by only keeping part of the Maze in memory at a time and
"scrolling" from one end to the other, discarding earlier rows while
creating later rows. One way is with a modified version of the Hunt and Kill
algorithm. Visualize the potentially infinitely long Maze as a long film reel,
composed of individual picture frames, where just two consecutive frames are
kept in memory at a time. Run the Hunt and Kill algorithm, however give bias to
the top frame so it gets finished first. Once finished, it's no longer needed,
so can be printed out, etc. Either way, discard it, make the partially created
bottom frame be the new top frame, and clear a new bottom frame. Repeat the
process until you decide to stop, at which point let Hunt And Kill finish both
frames. The only limitation is the Maze will never have a path that doubles back
toward the entrance for a length greater than two frames. An easier way to make
an infinite Maze is with Eller's algorithm, as it already makes Mazes one row at
time, so simply keep letting it add rows to the Maze forever.
- Virtual fractal Mazes: A virtual
Maze is one where the whole Maze isn't stored in memory at once. For example
only store the 100x100 section of passages or so nearest your location, in a
simulation where you walk through a large Maze. An extension of nested fractal
Mazes can be used to create virtual Mazes of enormous size, such as a billion by
a billion passages. Note a life size version of a billion by billion Maze (with
six feet between passages) would cover the Earth's surface over 19000 times!
Consider a 10^9 by 10^9 passage Maze, or a 10x10 Maze nested with 9 levels
total. If we want at least a 100x100 section around us, we only need to create
the 100x100 passage submaze at the lowest level, and the seven 10x10 Mazes it's
nested within, to know exactly where the walls lie within a 100x100 section.
(Actually it's best to have four adjacent 100x100 sections forming a square, in
case you're near the edge or corner of a section, but the same concept applies.)
To ensure the Maze remains consistent and never changes as you move around, have
a formula to determine a random number seed for each coordinate at each nesting
level. Virtual fractal Mazes are similar to a Mandelbrot set fractal, where the
pictures in a Mandelbrot exist virtually, where you just need to visit a
particular coordinate at a high enough zoom level for them to reveal themselves.
Here's a list of general algorithms to create the various classes of Mazes
- Perfect: Creating a standard
perfect Maze usually involves "growing" the Maze while ensuring the no
loops and no isolations restriction is kept. Start with the outer wall, and add
a wall segment touching it at random. Keep on adding wall segments to the Maze
at random, but ensure that each new segment touches an existing wall at one end,
and has its other end in an unmade portion of the Maze. If you ever added a wall
segment where both ends were separate from the rest of the Maze, that would
create a detached wall with a loop around it, and if you ever added a segment
such that both ends touch the Maze, that would create an inaccessible area. This
is the wall adding method; a nearly identical way to do it is passage carved,
where new passage sections are carved such that exactly one end touches an
- Braid: To create a Maze without
dead ends, basically add wall segments throughout the Maze at random, but ensure
that each new segment added will not cause a dead end to be made. I make them
with four steps: (1) Start with the outer wall, (2) Loop through the Maze and
add single wall segments touching each wall vertex to ensure there are no open
rooms or small "pole" walls in the Maze, (3) Loop over all possible
wall segments in random order, adding a wall there if it wouldn't cause a dead
end, (4) Either run the isolation remover utility at the end to make a legal
Maze that has a solution, or be smarter in step three and make sure a wall is
only added if it also wouldn't cause an isolated section.
- Unicursal: One way to create a
random unicursal Maze is to take a perfect Maze, seal off the exit so there's
only the one entrance, then add walls bisecting each passage. This will turn
each dead end into a U-turn passageway, and there will be a unicursal passage
starting and ending at the original Maze's beginning, that will follow the same
path as someone wall following the original Maze. The new unicursal Maze will
have twice the dimensions of the original perfect Maze it was based on. Small
tricks may be done to have the start and end not always be next to each other:
When creating the perfect Maze, never add segments attached to the right or
bottom walls, so the resulting Maze will have an easy solution that follows that
wall. Have the entrance at the upper right, and after bisecting to create the
unicursal routing, remove the right and bottom wall. This will result in a
unicursal Maze that starts at the upper right and ends at the lower left.
- Sparseness: Sparse Mazes are produced
by choosing to not grow the Maze in areas that would violate the rule of
sparseness. A consistent way to implement this is to, whenever considering a new
cell to carve into, to first check all cells within a semicircle of chosen cell
radius located forward in the current direction. If any of those cells is
already part of the Maze, don't allow the cell being considered, since doing to
would be too close to an existing cell and hence make the Maze not sparse.
- 3D: Three and higher dimensional
Mazes can be created just like the standard 2D perfect Maze, except from each
cell you can move randomly to six instead of four other orthogonal cells. These
Mazes are generally passage carved due to the extra dimensions.
- Weave: Weave Mazes are basically
done as passage carved perfect Mazes, except when carving a passage you're not
always blocked by an existing passage, as you have the option to go under it and
still preserve the "perfect" quality. On a monochrome bitmap, a Weave
Maze can be represented with four rows per passage (two rows per passage is
enough for a standard perfect Maze) where you have one row for the passage
itself and the other three rows to make it unambiguous when another nearby
passage goes under instead of just having a dead end near the first passage. For
aesthetics you may want to look ahead before carving under an existing passage,
to ensure you can continue to carve once you're completely under it, so there
won't be any dead ends that terminate under a passage. Also, after carving under
a passage, you may want to invert the pixels adjacent to the intersection,
making it so newer passages can go over instead of always under existing ones.
- Crack: Crack Mazes are basically
done as wall added perfect Mazes, except there are no distinct tessellation
cells other than random pixel locations. Pick a pixel that's already set as a
wall, pick another random location, and "shoot" or start drawing a
wall toward the second location. However, make sure you stop just before running
into any existing wall, so as not to create an isolation. Stop after you haven't
been able to add any significant walls in a while. Note that random locations to
draw to that may be anywhere else in the Maze, will make it so there will be
several straight lines going across the Maze, and other proportionally smaller
walls as you look between them, the number of walls only being limited by the
pixel resolution. This makes the Maze look very much like the surface of a leaf,
so this is technically a fractal Maze.
- Omega: Omega style Mazes involve
defining some grid, defining how the cells link up with each other, and how to
map the vertexes that surround each cell to the screen. For example, for the
triangular Delta Maze with interlocking triangular cells: (1) There's a grid
where each row has a number of cells that increases by two. (2) Each cell is
connected to the cells adjacent to it in that row, except the third passage is
linked to an appropriate cell in the row above or below based on whether it's in
an odd or even column (i.e. whether the triangle is pointing up or down). (3)
Each cell uses the math for a triangle to figure out where to draw it on the
screen. You can draw all walls on the screen ahead of time and passage carve the
Maze, or keep some modified array in memory and render the whole thing when
- Hypermaze: A hypermaze in a 3D
environment is similar to the reverse of a standard 3D non-hypermaze, where
blocks become open spaces and vice versa. While a standard 3D Maze consists of a
tree of passages through a solid area, a hypermaze consists of a tree of bars or
vines through an open area. To create a hypermaze, start with solid top and
bottom faces, then grow tangled vines from these faces to fill the space
between, to make it harder to pass a line segment between the two faces. As long
as each vine connects with either the top or bottom, the hypermaze will have at
most a single solution. As long as no vine connects with both the top and bottom
(which would form an impassable column), and as long as there are no vine loops
in the top and bottom sections that cause them to be inextricably linked with
each other like a chain, the hypermaze will be solvable.
- Planair: Planair Mazes with
unusual topology are generally done as an array of one or more smaller Mazes or
Maze sections, where it's defined how the edges connect with each other. A Maze
on the surface of a cube is just six square Maze sections, where when the part
being created runs into an edge it flows onto another section and onto the right
- Template: Mazes based on templates are
done by simply starting with the base template image, then running the isolation
remover to ensure the Maze has a solution, followed by the loop remover to
ensure the Maze is hard enough, resulting in a perfect Maze that still looks
very similar to the original image. For example, to create a Maze composed of
interlocking spirals, just create some random spirals without worrying whether
it's a Maze or not, then run it through the isolation and loop removers.
There are a number of ways of creating perfect Mazes, each with its own
characteristics. Here's a list of specific algorithms. All of these describe
creating the Maze by carving passages, however unless otherwise specified each
can also be done by adding walls:
- Recursive backtracker: This
is somewhat related to the recursive backtracker solving method described below,
and requires stack up to the size of the Maze. When carving, be as greedy as
possible, and always carve into an unmade section if one is next to the current
cell. Each time you move to a new cell, push the former cell on the stack. If
there are no unmade cells next to the current position, pop the stack to the
previous position. The Maze is done when you pop everything off the stack. This
algorithm results in Mazes with about as high a "river" factor as
possible, with fewer but longer dead ends, and usually a very long and twisty
solution. It runs quite fast, although Prim's algorithm is a bit faster.
Recursive backtracking doesn't work as a wall adder, because doing so tends to
result in a solution path that follows the outside edge, where the entire
interior of the Maze is attached to the boundary by a single stem.
- Prim's algorithm: This requires
storage proportional to the size of the Maze. During creation, each cell is one
of three types: (1) "In": The cell is part of the Maze and has been
carved into already, (2) "Frontier": The cell is not part of the Maze
and has not been carved into yet, but is next to a cell that's already
"in", and (3) "Out": The cell is not part of the Maze yet,
and none of its neighbors are "in" either. Start by picking a cell,
making it "in", and setting all its neighbors to "frontier".
Proceed by picking a "frontier" cell at random, and carving into it
from one of its neighbor cells that are "in". Change that
"frontier" cell to "in", and update any of its neighbors
that are "out" to "frontier". The Maze is done when there
are no more "frontier" cells left (which means there are no more
"out" cells left either, so they're all "in"). This
algorithm results in Mazes with a very low "river" factor, with many
short dead ends, and the solution is usually pretty direct as well. It also runs
very fast when implemented right, with only Eller's algorithm being faster.
- Kruskal's algorithm: This
algorithm is interesting because it doesn't "grow" the Maze like a
tree, but rather carves passage segments all over the Maze at random, but yet
still results in a perfect Maze in the end. It requires storage proportional to
the size of the Maze, along with the ability to enumerate each edge or wall
between cells in the Maze in random order (which usually means creating a list
of all edges and shuffling it randomly). Label each cell with a unique id, then
loop over all the edges in random order. For each edge, if the cells on either
side of it have different id's, then erase the wall, and set all the cells on
one side to have the same id as those on the other. If the cells on either side
of the wall already have the same id, then there already exists some path
between those two cells, so the wall is left alone so as to not create a loop.
This algorithm yields Mazes with a low "river" factor, but not as low
as Prim's algorithm. Merging the two sets on either side of the wall will be a
slow operation if each cell just has a number and are merged by a loop. Merging
as well as lookup can be done in near constant time by giving each cell a node
in a tree structure, with the id at the root, where merging is done quickly by
splicing the trees together. Done right, this algorithm runs reasonably fast,
but not as fast as either of the above two, because of the edge list and set
- Aldous-Broder algorithm: The
interesting thing about this algorithm is it generates all possible Mazes of a
given size with equal probability. It also requires no extra storage or stack.
Pick a point, and move to a neighboring cell at random. If an uncarved cell is
entered, carve into it from the previous cell. Keep moving to neighboring cells
until all cells have been carved into. This algorithm yields Mazes with a low
"river" factor, only slightly higher than Kruskal's algorithm. (This
means for a given size there are more Mazes with a low "river" factor
than high "river", since an average equal probability Maze has low
"river".) The bad thing about this algorithm is that it's very slow,
since it doesn't do any intelligent hunting for the last cells, where in fact
it's not even guaranteed to terminate. However since the algorithm is simple it
can move over many cells quickly, so finishes faster than one might think. On
average it takes about seven times longer to run than the above algorithms,
although in bad cases it can take much longer if the random number generator
keeps making it avoid the last few cells. This can be done as a wall adder if
the boundary wall is treated as a single vertex, i.e. if a move goes to the
boundary wall, teleport to a random point along the boundary before moving
again. As a wall adder this runs nearly twice as fast, because the boundary wall
teleportation allows quicker access to distant parts of the Maze.
- Wilson's algorithm: This is an
improved version of the Aldous-Broder algorithm, in that it produces Mazes
exactly like that algorithm, with all possible Mazes generated with equal
probability, except that Wilson's algorithm runs much faster. It requires
storage up to the size of the Maze. Begin by making a random starting cell part
of the Maze. Proceed by picking a random cell not already part of the Maze, and
doing a random walk until a cell is found which is already part of the Maze.
Once the already created part of the Maze is hit, go back to the random cell
that was picked, and carve along the path that was taken, adding those cells to
the Maze. More specifically, when retracing the path, at each cell carve along
the direction that the random walk most recently took when it left that cell.
That avoids adding loops along the retraced path, resulting in a single long
passage being appended to the Maze. The Maze is done when all cells have been
appended to the Maze. This has similar performance issues as Aldous-Broder,
where it may take a long time for the first random path to find the starting
cell, however once a few paths are in place, the rest of the Maze gets carved
quickly. On average this runs five times faster than Aldous-Broder, and takes
less than twice as long as the top algorithms. Note this runs twice as fast when
implemented as a wall adder, because the whole boundary wall starts as part of
the Maze, so the first walls are connected much quicker.
- Hunt and kill algorithm: This
algorithm is nice because it requires no extra storage or stack, and is
therefore suited to creating the largest Mazes or Mazes on the most limited
systems, since there are no issues of running out of memory. Since there are no
rules that must be followed all the time, it's also the easiest to modify and to
get to create Mazes of different textures. It's most similar to the recursive
backtracker, except when there's no unmade cell next to the current position,
you enter "hunting" mode, and systematically scan over the Maze until
an unmade cell is found next to an already carved into cell, at which point you
start carving again at that new location. The Maze is done when all cells have
been scanned over once in "hunt" mode. This algorithm tends to make
Mazes with a high "river" factor, but not as high as the recursive
backtracker. You can make this generate Mazes with a lower river factor by
choosing to enter "hunt" mode more often. It runs slower due to the
time spent hunting for the last cells, but isn't much slower than Kruskal's
algorithm. This can be done as a wall adder if you randomly teleport on
occasion, to avoid the issues the recursive backtracker has.
- Growing tree algorithm: This is
a general algorithm, capable of creating Mazes of different textures. It
requires storage up to the size of the Maze. Each time you carve a cell, add
that cell to a list. Proceed by picking a cell from the list, and carving into
an unmade cell next to it. If there are no unmade cells next to the current
cell, remove the current cell from the list. The Maze is done when the list
becomes empty. The interesting part that allows many possible textures is how
you pick a cell from the list. For example, if you always pick the most recent
cell added to it, this algorithm turns into the recursive backtracker. If you
always pick cells at random, this will behave similarly but not exactly to
Prim's algorithm. If you always pick the oldest cells added to the list, this
will create Mazes with about as low a "river" factor as possible, even
lower than Prim's algorithm. If you usually pick the most recent cell, but
occasionally pick a random cell, the Maze will have a high "river"
factor but a short direct solution. If you randomly pick among the most recent
cells, the Maze will have a low "river" factor but a long windy
- Eller's algorithm: This
algorithm is special because it's not only faster than all the others that don't
have obvious biases or blemishes, but its creation is also the most memory
efficient. It doesn't even require the whole Maze to be in memory, only using
storage proportional to the size of a row. It creates the Maze one row at a
time, where once a row has been generated, the algorithm no longer looks at it.
Each cell in a row is contained in a set, where two cells are in the same set if
there's a path between them through the part of the Maze that's been made so
far. This information allows passages to be carved in the current row without
creating loops or isolations. This is actually quite similar to Kruskal's
algorithm, just this completes one row at a time, while Kruskal's looks over the
whole Maze. Creating a row consists of two parts: Randomly connecting adjacent
cells within a row, i.e. carving horizontal passages, then randomly connecting
cells between the current row and the next row, i.e. carving vertical passages.
When carving horizontal passages, don't connect cells already in the same set
(as that would create a loop), and when carving vertical passages, you must
connect a cell if it's a set of size one (as abandoning it would create an
isolation). When carving horizontal passages, when connecting cells union the
sets they're in (since there's now a path between them), and when carving
vertical passages, when not connecting a cell put it in a set by itself (since
it's now disconnected from the rest of the Maze). Creation starts with each cell
in its own set before connecting cells within the first row, and creation ends
after connecting cells within the last row, with a special final rule that every
cell must be in the same set by the time we're done to prevent isolations. (The
last row is done by connecting each pair of adjacent cells if not already in the
same set.) One issue with this algorithm is that it's not balanced with respect
to how it treats the different edges of the Maze, where connecting vs. not
connecting cells need to be done in the right proportions to prevent texture
- Recursive division: This algorithm
is somewhat similar to recursive backtracking, since they're both stack based,
except this focuses on walls instead of passages. Start by making a random
horizontal or vertical wall crossing the available area in a random row or
column, with an opening randomly placed along it. Then recursively repeat the
process on the two subareas generated by the dividing wall. For best results,
give bias to choosing horizontal or vertical based on the proportions of the
area, e.g. an area twice as wide as it is high should be divided by a vertical
wall more often. This is the fastest algorithm without directional biases,
although it has the obvious blemish of long walls crossing the interior. This
algorithm is a form of nested fractal Mazes, except instead of always making
fixed cell size Mazes with Mazes of the same size within each cell, it divides
the given area randomly into a random sized 1x2 or 2x1 Maze. Recursive division
doesn't work as a passage carver, because doing so results in an obvious
solution path that either follows the outside edge or else directly crosses the
- Binary tree Mazes: This is
basically the simplest and fastest algorithm possible, however Mazes produced by
it have a very biased texture. For each cell carve a passage either leading up
or leading left, but not both. In the wall added version, for each vertex add a
wall segment leading down or right, but not both. Each cell is independent of
every other cell, where you don't have to refer to the state of any other cells
when creating it. Hence this is a true memoryless Maze generation algorithm,
with no limit to the size of Maze you can create. This is basically a computer
science binary tree, if you consider the upper left corner the root, where each
node or cell has one unique parent which is the cell above or to the left of it.
Binary tree Mazes are different than standard perfect Mazes, since about half
the cell types can never exist in them. For example there will never be a
crossroads, and all dead ends have passages pointing up or left, and never down
or right. The Maze tends to have passages leading diagonally from upper left to
lower right, where the Maze is much easier to navigate from lower right to upper
left. You will always be able to travel up or left, but never both, so you can
always deterministically travel diagonally up and to the left without hitting
any barriers. Traveling down and to the right is when you'll encounter choices
and dead ends. Note if you flip a binary tree Maze upside down and treat
passages as walls and vice versa, the result is basically another binary tree.
- Sidewinder Mazes: This simple
algorithm is very similar to the binary tree algorithm, and only slightly more
complicated. The Maze is generated one row at a time: For each cell randomly
decide whether to carve a passage leading right. If a passage is not carved,
then consider the horizontal passage just completed, formed by the current cell
and any cells to the left that carved passages leading to it. Randomly pick one
cell along this passage, and carve a passage leading up from it (which must be
the current cell if the adjacent cell didn't carve). While a binary tree Maze
always goes up from the leftmost cell of a horizontal passage, a sidewinder Maze
goes up from a random cell. While binary tree has the top and left edges of the
Maze one long passage, a sidewinder Maze has just the top edge one long passage.
Like binary tree, a sidewinder Maze can be solved deterministically without
error from bottom to top, because at each row, there will always be exactly one
passage leading up. A solution to a sidewinder Maze will never double back on
itself or visit a row more than once, although it will "wind from side to
side". The only cell type that can't exist in a sidewinder Maze is a dead
end with the passage facing down, because that would contradict the fact that
every passage going up leads back to the start. A sidewinder Maze tends to have
an elitist solution, where the right path is very direct, but there are many
long false paths leading down from the top next to it.
||Dead End %
|Hunt and Kill
This table summarizes the characteristics of the perfect Maze creation
algorithms above. The Unicursal Maze algorithm (unicursal Mazes are technically
perfect) is included for comparison. Descriptions of the columns follow:
- Dead End: This is the approximate percentage of cells that are dead
ends in a Maze created with this algorithm, when applied to an orthogonal 2D
Maze. The algorithms in the table are sorted by this field. Usually creating by
adding walls is the same as carving passages, however if significantly different
the wall adding percentage is in parentheses. The Growing Tree value can
actually range from 10% (always pick newest cell) to 49% (always swap with
oldest cell). With a high enough run factor the Recursive Backtracker can get
lower than 1%. The highest possible dead end percentage in an 2D orthogonal
perfect Maze is 66%, which would be a unicursal passage with a bunch of one unit
long dead ends off either side of it.
- Type: There are two types of perfect Maze creation algorithms: A tree
based algorithm grows the Maze like a tree, always adding onto what is already
present, having a valid perfect Maze at every step. A set based algorithm builds
where it pleases, keeping track of which parts of the Maze are connected with
each other, to ensure it's able to link everything up to form a valid Maze by
the time it's done.
- Focus: Most algorithms can be implemented by either carving passages
or adding walls. A few can only be done as one or the other. Unicursal Mazes are
always wall added since they involve bisecting passages with walls, although the
base Maze can be created either way. Recursive Backtracker can't be done as a
wall adder because doing so tends to result in a solution path that follows the
outside edge, where the entire interior of the Maze is attached to the boundary
by a single stem. Similarly Recursive Division can only be done as a wall adder
due to its bisection behavior. Hunt and Kill is technically only passage carved
for a similar reason, although it can be wall added if effort is made to grow
inward from all boundary walls equally.
- Bias Free: This is whether the algorithm treats all directions and
sides of the Maze equally, where analysis of the Maze afterward can't reveal any
bias. Binary Tree is extremely biased, where it's easy traveling toward one
corner and hard to its opposite. Sidewinder is also biased, where it's easy
traveling toward one edge and hard to its opposite. Eller's algorithm tends to
have a passage roughly paralleling the starting or finishing edges. Hunt and
Kill is nearly bias free, although the back and forth systematic searching will
give a slight bias along that axis.
- Memory: This is how much extra memory or stack is required to
implement the algorithm. Efficient algorithms only require and look at the Maze
bitmap itself, while others require storage proportional to a single row (N), or
proportional to the number of cells (N^2). Some algorithms don't even need to
have the entire Maze in memory (these are marked with a asterisk). Eller's
algorithm requires storage for a row, but more than makes up for that since it
only needs to store the current row of the Maze in memory. Sidewinder also only
needs to store one row of the Maze, while Binary Tree only needs to keep track
of the current cell. Recursive Division requires stack up to the size of a row,
but other than that doesn't need to look at the Maze bitmap any.
- Time: This gives an idea of how long it takes to create a Maze using
this algorithm, lower numbers being faster. The numbers are only relative to
each other (with the fastest standard algorithm being assigned speed 10) as
opposed to in some units, because the time is dependent on the size of the Maze
and speed of the computer. These numbers are from creating 100x100 passage Mazes
in the latest version of Daedalus. Usually creating by adding walls is the same
speed as carving passages, however if significantly different the wall adding
time is in parentheses.
- Solution: This is the percentage of cells in the Maze that the
solution path passes through, for a typical Maze created by the algorithm. This
assumes the Maze is 100x100 passages with the start and end in opposite corners.
This is a measure of the "windiness" of the solution path. Unicursal
Mazes have maximum windiness, since the solution goes throughout the entire
Maze. Binary Tree has the minimum possible windiness, where the solution path
simply crosses the Maze and never deviates away from or ceases to make progress
toward the end. Usually creating by adding walls has the same properties as
carving passages, however if significantly different the wall adding percentage
is in parentheses.
There are a number of ways of solving Mazes, each with its own
characteristics. Here's a list of specific algorithms:
- Dead end filler: This is a
simple Maze solving algorithm. It focuses on the Maze, is always very fast, and
uses no extra memory. Just scan the Maze, and fill in each dead end, filling in
the passage backwards from the block until you reach a junction. This includes
filling in passages that become parts of dead ends once other dead ends are
removed. At the end only the solution will remain, or solutions if there are
more than one. This will always find the one unique solution for perfect Mazes,
but won't do much in heavily braid Mazes, and in fact won't do anything useful
at all for those Mazes without dead ends.
- Wall follower: This is another
simple Maze solving algorithm. It focuses on you, is always very fast, and uses
no extra memory. Start following passages, and whenever you reach a junction
always turn right (or left). Equivalent to a human solving a Maze by putting
their hand on the right (or left) wall and leaving it there as they walk
through. If you like you can mark what cells you've visited, and what cells
you've visited twice, where at the end you can retrace the solution by following
those cells visited once. This method won't necessarily find the shortest
solution, and it doesn't work at all when the goal is in the center of the Maze
and there's a closed circuit surrounding it, as you'll go around the center and
eventually find yourself back at the beginning. Wall following can be done in a
deterministic way in a 3D Maze by projecting the 3D passages onto the 2D plane,
e.g. by pretending up passages actually lead northwest and down lead southeast,
and then applying normal wall following rules.
- Cul-de-sac filler: This
method finds and fills in cul-de-sacs or nooses, i.e. constructs in a Maze
consisting of a blind alley stem that has a single loop at the end. Like the
dead end filler, it focuses on the Maze, is always fast, and uses no extra
memory. Scan the Maze, and for each noose junction (a noose junction being one
where two of the passages leading from it connect with each other with no other
junctions along the way) add a wall to convert the entire noose to a long dead
end. Afterwards run the dead end filler. Mazes can have nooses hanging off other
constructs that will become nooses once the first one is removed, so the whole
process can be repeated until nothing happens during a scan. This doesn't do
much in complicated heavily braid Mazes, but will be able to invalidate more
than just the dead end filler.
- Blind alley filler: This
method finds all possible solutions, regardless of how long or short they may
be. It does so by filling in all blind alleys, where a blind alley is a passage
where if you walk down it in one direction, you will have to backtrack through
that passage in the other direction in order to reach the goal. All dead ends
are blind alleys, and all nooses as described in the cul-de-sac filler are as
well, along with any sized section of passages connected to the rest of the Maze
by only a single stem. This algorithm focuses on the Maze, uses no extra memory,
but unfortunately is rather slow. For each junction, send a wall following robot
down each passage from it, and see if the robot sent down a path comes back from
the same path (as opposed to returning from a different direction, or it exiting
the Maze). If it does, then that passage and everything down it can't be on any
solution path, so seal that passage off and fill in everything behind it. This
algorithm will fill in everything the cul-de-sac filler will and then some,
however the collision solver will fill in everything this algorithm will and
- Blind alley sealer: This is
like the blind alley filler, in that it also finds all possible solutions by
removing blind alleys from the Maze. However this just fills in the stem passage
of each blind alley, and doesn't touch any collection of passages at the end of
it. As a result this will create inaccessible passage sections for cul-de-sacs
or any blind alley more complicated than a dead end. This algorithm focuses on
the Maze, runs much faster than the blind alley filler, although it requires
extra memory. Assign each connected section of walls to a unique set. To do
this, for each wall section not already in a set, flood across the top of the
walls at that point, and assign all reachable walls to a new set. After all
walls are in sets, then for each passage section, if the walls on either side of
it are in the same set, then seal off that passage. Such a passage must be a
blind alley, since the walls on either side of it link up with each other,
forming a pen. Note a similar technique can be used to help solve hypermazes, by
sealing off space between branches that connect with each other.
- Pledge algorithm: This is a
modified version of wall following that's able to jump between islands, to solve
Mazes wall following can't. It's a guaranteed way to reach an exit on the outer
edge of any 2D Maze from any point in the middle, however it's not able to do
the reverse, i.e. find a solution within the Maze. It's great for implementation
by a Maze escaping robot, since it can get out of any Maze without having to
mark or remember the path in any way. Start by picking a direction, and always
move in that direction when possible. When a wall is hit, start wall following
until your chosen direction is available again. Note you should start wall
following upon the far wall that's hit, where if the passage turns a corner
there, it can cause you to turn around in the middle of a passage and go back
the way you came. When wall following, count the number of turns you make, e.g.
a left turn is -1 and a right turn is 1. Only stop wall following and take your
chosen direction when the total number of turns you've made is 0, i.e. if you've
turned around 360 degrees or more, keep wall following until you untwist
yourself. The counting ensures you're eventually able to reach the far side of
the island you're currently on, and jump to the next island in your chosen
direction, where you'll keep on island hopping in that direction until you hit
the boundary wall, at which point wall following takes you to the exit. Note
Pledge algorithm may make you visit a passage or the start more than once,
although subsequent times will always be with different turn totals. Without
marking your path, the only way to know whether the Maze is unsolvable is if
your turn total keeps increasing, although the turn total can get to large
numbers in solvable Mazes in a spiral passage.
- Chain algorithm: The Chain
algorithm solves the Maze by effectively treating it as a number of smaller
Mazes, like links in a chain, and solving them in sequence. You have to specify
the start and desired end locations, and the algorithm will always find a path
from start to end if one exists, where the solution tends to be a reasonably
short if not the shortest solution. That means this can't solve Mazes where you
don't know exactly where the end is. This is most similar to Pledge algorithm
since it's also essentially a wall follower with a way to jump between islands.
Start by drawing a straight line (or at least a line that doesn't double back on
itself) from start to end, letting it cross walls if needed. Then just follow
the line from start to end. If you bump into a wall, you can't go through it, so
you have to go around. Send two wall following "robots" in both
directions along the wall you hit. If a robot runs into the guiding line again,
and at a point which is closer to the exit, then stop, and follow that wall
yourself until you get there too. Keep following the line and repeating the
process until the end is reached. If both robots return to their original
locations and directions, then farther points along the line are inaccessible,
and the Maze is unsolvable.
- Recursive backtracker: This will
find a solution, but it won't necessarily find the shortest solution. It focuses
on you, is fast for all types of Mazes, and uses stack space up to the size of
the Maze. Very simple: If you're at a wall (or an area you've already plotted),
return failure, else if you're at the finish, return success, else recursively
try moving in the four directions. Plot a line when you try a new direction, and
erase a line when you return failure, and a single solution will be marked out
when you hit success. When backtracking, it's best to mark the space with a
special visited value, so you don't visit it again from a different direction.
In Computer Science terms this is basically a depth first search. This method
will always find a solution if one exists, but it won't necessarily be the
- Trémaux's algorithm: This Maze
solving method is designed to be able to be used by a human inside of the Maze.
It's similar to the recursive backtracker and will find a solution for all
Mazes: As you walk down a passage, draw a line behind you to mark your path.
When you hit a dead end turn around and go back the way you came. When you
encounter a junction you haven't visited before, pick a new passage at random.
If you're walking down a new passage and encounter a junction you have visited
before, treat it like a dead end and go back the way you came. (That last step
is the key which prevents you from going around in circles or missing passages
in braid Mazes.) If walking down a passage you have visited before (i.e. marked
once) and you encounter a junction, take any new passage if one is available,
otherwise take an old passage (i.e. one you've marked once). All passages will
either be empty, meaning you haven't visited it yet, marked once, meaning you've
gone down it exactly once, or marked twice, meaning you've gone down it and were
forced to backtrack in the opposite direction. When you finally reach the
solution, paths marked exactly once will indicate a direct way back to the
start. If the Maze has no solution, you'll find yourself back at the start with
all passages marked twice.
- Collision solver: Also called the "amoeba" solver, this
method will find all shortest solutions. It focuses on you multiple times, is
fast for all types of Mazes, and requires at least one copy of the Maze in
memory in addition to using memory up to the size of the Maze. It basically
floods the Maze with "water", such that all distances from the start
are filled in at the same time (a breadth first search in Computer Science
terms) and whenever two "columns of water" approach a passage from
both ends (indicating a loop) add a wall to the original Maze where they
collide. Once all parts of the Maze have been "flooded", fill in all
the new dead ends, which can't be on the shortest path, and repeat the process
until no more collisions happen. (Picture amoebas surfing at the crest of each
"wave" as it flows down the passages, where when waves collide, the
amoebas head-butt and get knocked out, and form there a new wall of unconscious
amoebas, hence the name.)
- Shortest path finder: As the name
indicates, this algorithm finds the shortest solution, picking one if there are
multiple shortest solutions. It focuses on you multiple times, is fast for all
types of Mazes, and requires quite a bit of extra memory proportional to the
size of the Maze. Like the collision solver, this basically floods the Maze with
"water", such that all distances from the start are filled in at the
same time (a breadth first search in Computer Science terms) however each
"drop" or pixel remembers which pixel it was filled in by. Once the
solution is hit by a "drop", trace backwards from it to the beginning
and that's a shortest path. This algorithm works well given any input, because
unlike most of the others, this doesn't require the Maze to have any one pixel
wide passages that can be followed. Note this is basically the A* path finding
algorithm without a heuristic so all movement is given equal weight.
- Shortest paths finder: This
is very similar to the shortest path finder above, except this finds all
shortest solutions. Like the shortest path finder, this focuses on you multiple
times, is fast for all types of Mazes, requires extra memory proportional to the
size of the Maze, and works well given any input since it doesn't require the
Maze to have any one pixel wide passages that can be followed. Also like the
shortest path finder, this does a breadth first search flooding the Maze with
"water" such that all distances from the start are filled in at the
same time, except here each pixel remembers how far it is from the beginning.
Once the end is reached, do another breadth first search starting from the end,
however only allow pixels to be included which are one distance unit less than
the current pixel. The included pixels precisely mark all the shortest
solutions, as blind alleys and non-shortest paths will jump in pixel distances
or have them increase.
- Random mouse: For contrast, here's an inefficient Maze solving
method, which is basically to move randomly, i.e. move in one direction and
follow that passage through any turnings until you reach the next junction.
Don't do any 180 degree turns unless you have to. This simulates a human
randomly roaming the Maze without any memory of where they've been. It's slow
and isn't guaranteed to ever terminate or solve the Maze, and once the end is
reached it will be just as hard to retrace your steps, but it's definitely
simple and doesn't require any extra memory to implement.
||Inside / Above
||Inside / Above
||Inside / Above
||Inside / Above
|Dead End Filler
|Blind Alley Sealer
|Blind Alley Filler
|Shortest Paths Finder
|Shortest Path Finder
This table summarizes the characteristics of the Maze solving algorithms
above. Maze solving algorithms can be classified and judged by these criteria.
Descriptions of the columns follow:
There are more things that can be done with Mazes beyond just creating and
solving them, as described below:
- Solutions: This describes the solutions the algorithm finds, and what
the algorithm does when there's more than one. An algorithm can pick one
solution, or leave multiple solutions. Also the solution(s) can be any path, or
they can be the shortest path. The dead end and cul-de-sac fillers (and the
blind alley sealer when considering its inaccessible sections) leave all
solutions, however they may also leave passages that aren't on any solution
path, so are marked "All +" above.
- Guarantee: This is whether the algorithm is guaranteed to find at
least one solution. Random mouse is "no" because it isn't guaranteed
to terminate, and wall follower and Pledge algorithm are "no" because
they will fail to find a solution if the goal is within an island. The dead end
and cul-de-sac fillers are "no" because they may not do anything to
the Maze at all in purely braid Mazes.
- Focus: There are two general types of algorithms to solve a Maze:
Focus on "you", or focus on the Maze. In a you-focuser, you have a
single point ("You" above) or a set of points ("You +"
above) and try to move them through the Maze from start to finish. In a
Maze-focuser, you look at the Maze as a whole and invalidate useless passages.
- Human Doable: This refers to whether a person could readily use the
algorithm to solve the Maze, either while inside a life sized version, or while
looking at a map from above. Some you-focuser algorithms can be implemented by a
person inside (or above) the Maze, while some Maze-focusers can be implemented
by a person, but only from above. Other algorithms are complicated or intricate
enough they can only reliably be done by a computer.
- Passage Free: This is whether the algorithm can be done anywhere.
Some algorithms require the Maze to have obvious passages, or distinct edges
between distinct vertices in graph terms, or one pixel wide passages when
implemented on a computer. The wall follower, Pledge algorithm, and chain
algorithm only require a wall on one side of you. The recursive backtracker and
the shortest path(s) finders make their own paths through open spaces.
- Memory Free: This is whether no extra memory or stack is required to
implement the algorithm. Efficient algorithms only require and look at the Maze
bitmap itself, and don't need to add markers to the Maze during the solving
- Fast: This is whether the solving process is considered fast. The
most efficient algorithms only need to look at each cell in the Maze once, or
can skip sections altogether. Running time should be proportional to the size of
the Maze, or in Computer Science terms O(n^2) where n is the number of cells
along one side. Random mouse is slow because it isn't guaranteed to terminate,
while the blind alley filler potentially solves the Maze from each junction.
- Flood fill: A quick and dirty yet
useful utility can be implemented with a single call to a graphics library's
Fill or FloodFill routine. FloodFill the passage at the beginning, and if the
end isn't filled, the Maze has no solution. For Mazes with an entrance and exit
on the edges, FloodFill one wall, and the remaining edge marks out the solution.
For Mazes with the start or goal inside the Maze, FloodFill the surrounding
wall, and if the exit wall isn't erased, wall following won't work to solve it.
Many Maze creation methods, solving methods, and other utilities involve
"flooding" the Maze at certain points.
- Isolation remover: This means to
edit the Maze such that there are no passage sections that are inaccessible from
the rest of the Maze, by removing walls to connect such sections to the rest of
the Maze. Start with a copy of the Maze, then flood the passage at the
beginning. Scan the Maze (preferably in a random order that still hits every
possible cell) for any unfilled cells adjacent to a filled cell. Remove a wall
segment in the original Maze at that point, flood the Maze at this new point,
and repeat until every section is filled. This utility is used in the creation
of braid and template Mazes.
- Loop remover: This means to edit the
Maze such that there are no loops or detached walls within it, every section of
the Maze reachable from any other by at most one path. The way to do this is
almost identical to the isolation remover, just treat walls as passages and vice
versa. Start with a copy of the Maze, then flood across the top of the outer
walls. Scan the Maze (preferably in a random other that still hits every
possible wall vertex) for any unfilled walls adjacent to a filled wall. Add a
wall segment to the original Maze at that point connecting the two wall
sections, flood the Maze at this new point, and repeat until every section is
filled. This utility is used in the creation of template Mazes, and can be used
to convert a braid Maze to a perfect Maze that still looks similar to the
- Bottleneck finder: This
means to find those passages or intersection points in a Maze such that every
solution to that Maze passes through them. To do this, run the left hand wall
follower to get the leftmost solution, and run the right hand wall follower to
get the rightmost solution, where places the two solutions have in common are
the bottlenecks. That technique however only works for Mazes that wall following
will successfully solve. For other Mazes, to find bottleneck passages, find any
solution to the Maze, and also run the blind alley sealer (which may make the
Maze unsolvable if it treats an entrance or exit within the Maze as a large
blind alley). Parts of the solution path that go through sealed off passages,
- Daedalus: All the Maze creation and
solving algorithms described above are implemented in Daedalus, a free Windows
program available for download. Daedalus comes with its complete source code,
which can be viewed to see more information about and specific implementations
of these algorithms.
This site produced by Walter D.
Pullen (see Astrolog homepage), hosted on astrolog.org and Magitech, created using Microsoft FrontPage, page last updated
April 4, 2013.