Cite this as: Newell, P.A., Aycock, J and Biittner, K.M. 2022 Still Entombed After All These Years: The continuing twists and turns of a maze game, Internet Archaeology 59. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.59.3
The Atari 2600 video game Entombed (1982) left open questions in the design and implementation of its efficient maze-generation algorithm that, through serendipity, we are able to address at last. We have analysed almost 500 artefacts that capture the development process leading up to Entombed, artefacts that have not been seen for decades, including a distinct, unreleased Atari 2600 game. This work is interdisciplinary between the fields of archaeology and computer science in the area of archaeogaming; computer science has allowed informed technical analysis of the artefacts, with processes from archaeology used to manage and organise the large number of artefacts, as well as view game development in a human, archaeological context. The deliberate inclusion of a co-author who was a first-hand participant in the game development additionally raises interesting questions about autoethnography, authorship, and objectivity.
Figure 1: The Atari 2600 game console, produced from 1977 to 1993 (photo: Evan Amos, public domain)
Figure 2: Annotated Entombed screenshot, taken in the Stella Atari 2600 emulator
Figure 3: Maze generation algorithm, reflecting its usage in Entombed
Figure 4: Excerpt from original maze documentation printout (October 1981)
Figure 5: Multi-block view of maze algorithm context
Figure 6: (VIDEO) A modern reconstruction of the maze-generation algorithm, allowing experimentation
Figure 7: Excerpt from near-final source code for Entombed, showing commented-out easy mode
Figure 8: The maze algorithm in action, summer 1981; PAN recalls the 'Forbidden' refers to him being instructed to stop working on his maze game in favour of Towering Inferno
Figure 9: Harris matrix for the Entombed assemblage; the asterisk denotes some uncertainty, as explained in the text
Figure 10: (VIDEO) Gameplay of the unreleased Atari 2600 game
Figure 11: (VIDEO) MINOTR7's maze-generation demo in operation
Figure 12: Credits from design documents
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