Maze War (also known as The Maze Game, Maze Wars, Mazewar, or simply Maze) was a historically significant computer game.
Maze War originated or disseminated a number of concepts used in thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of games to follow. Both the innovation and the combining of these elements created prior art which enabled thousands of later games to be developed without concern for intellectual property disputes involving these features.
Game play is simple by later standards. Players wander around a maze, being capable of moving backward or forwards, and turning right or left, and peeking through doorways. Other players are seen as eyeballs. When a player sees another player, they can shoot them. Players gain points for shooting other players, and lose them for being shot. Occasionally in some versions, a duck also appears in the passage.
Features either invented for Maze War or disseminated by it include:
- First-person 3D Perspective. Players saw the playing field as if they themselves were walking around in it, with the maze walls rendered in one point perspective. This makes the game one of the first, if not the first first-person shooter. It also could be considered a very early virtual reality system. - Avatars. Players were represented to each other as eyeballs. While some earlier games represented players as spacecraft or as dots, this was probably the first computer game to represent players as organic beings. - Player's position depicted on level map. Representation of a player's position on a playing field map. Unlike the playing field of a side-view or second-person perspective, this is only used for position reference as opposed to being the primary depiction of play. It does not normally depict opponents. The combination of a first-person view and a top-down, second-person view has been used in many games since. - Level editor. A program was written to edit the playing field design. - Network play. Probably the first game ever to be played between two peer-to-peer computers, as opposed to earlier multiplayer games which were generally based on a minicomputer or mainframe with players using either terminals or specialized controls, in 1973. - Client-server networked play. An updated version may well have been the first client-server game, with workstations running the client connecting to a mainframe running a server program. This version could be played across the ARPANET, in 1977. - Observer mode. In the 1977 version, a graphics terminal could be used by observers to watch the game in progress without participating. - Internet play. Yet another port was probably the first network-aware game which could be played across the modern Internet, in 1986. - Online chat between players. While probably not the first game to feature this, it certainly was a very early example. - Modifying clients in order to cheat at the game. - Encrypting source code to prevent cheating.