RogueLeader23 is the creator of the now-infamous Just a Walk in the Park, also known as the World’s Largest Hedge Maze.
Part sculpture, part social experiment, part AI study, his creation has sparked a cult following on forums like Reddit. The story of the park-goers exploring the hedge maze, over the course of in-game centuries, has been chronicled by RogueLeader23 as narrator, primarily following the adventures of our two heroines, Beverly P. and Regina. I reached out to RogueLeader23 for an interview. The following has been lightly edited for clarity. You can find the original posts on IMGUR here, and here.
What seeded the idea for the Just a Walk in the Park, did the idea grow organically? Are you particularly drawn to the idea of the labyrinth outside of this project?
Playing RollerCoaster Tycoon when I was younger was always one of my favorite pastimes. I enjoyed drawing too, but could barely draw a stick figure family. One day I was bored at a restaurant and used a paper placemat to draw a maze. From that point forward I became somewhat addicted to the process of creating mazes. I never tried to solve them, because the way that they were designed, I wouldn’t have been able to finish the design if I had accidentally cut off a route. So in a sense, I had already solved the maze.
A few years later, I had picked up RCT2 as a nostalgia gift and thought about how interesting it would be to create a maze in-game. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to construct such a massive project. That is, until years later, RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic arrived on mobile devices.
I picked up the game and instantly decided to start the maze project. The rest is history.
Just A Walk in the Park is staggeringly complex, how did using RCT on a mobile device affect construction, for better or worse?
Using the mobile port was a serious chore [as] someone who has big thumbs. While constructing the maze, I had to tap these itty bitty directional arrows to add tiny sections. Needless to say, I had quite a few errors to correct after hitting the wrong direction. Using a mouse would have boosted construction time by a few hours.
In your most recent post on Reddit, you included schematics of the park itself, can you talk about your design process? What steps are involved in making each new move?
To be quite honest, the process was fairly easy. The only rule with making a maze is to always keep an open route. You can add as many intersections as you wish, but always keep track of having one open route. But, while the process is simple, the project itself took fourteen taxing hours over two weeks.
A huge part of your public posting has been narrating the fictional stories of the maze’s AI participants. How did it feel to watch that narrative play out? Did you become emotionally attached to them?
It was an immensely overjoying feeling to see Beverley P. reach the first checkpoint out of five. It took her quite a while (years to her) to hit that point. Then, years later I find her backtracking to the entrance. A terrible feeling. Needless to say, I felt for the dopey AI. Keeping the laptop open and running, looking at her progress on and off, I obviously began to wonder about my own mental state if I were in her shoes. And so I incorporated those thoughts (with a hint of dark comedy) into the posts.
I was there when Regina was close to completing the maze. I watched her get closer and closer, then backtrack, for almost an hour. It was like watching the Super Bowl or World Series with your favorite team being (as an understatement) the underdog. When she finally crossed the exit’s threshold, I felt a wave of relief.
How long has this been going on?
Including construction and gametime, this project has been going on for more than three months. Just having the game open, building and running, the park has been running for thirty-two total hours.
The project may seem like it’s come to a close, but the original project was to let a single park guest (Beverley P., the OG) into the maze and see how long it took them to complete it. Regina may have finished it first, but I will continue to run the game until Beverley P. crosses the finish line. The final update will come once this happens, and I will be satisfied with the project and release it as a download for others to play with. When that happens, only time will tell.
What’s next for you? Is this a one-off project? From your description, maze building in itself is important to you – any thoughts on expanding out of RCT?
The internet prefers originality. I hadn’t considered sharing the maze until after a bit of searching online until I was sure this type of project had yet to be released to the public eye. The infamous Mr. Bone’s Wild Ride was the closest post (much respect to Mr. Bones) I knew about, but I felt Just a Walk in the Park took things to another level. At least, in a park visitor’s eyes.
As for expanding out of RCT, my next project idea was to do a Minecraft-esque game maze. Being able to work in a sandbox map with basically unlimited creativity to breed a new “3D” labyrinth for players to navigate on their own. Obviously, it would be the same or higher caliber as this current project.
How have your family and friends reacted to A Walk in the Park?
My girlfriend is slightly obsessed with Beverley P.’s fate. She’s thoroughly enjoyed reading the posts and everyone’s comments. My friends and family who use IMGUR & Reddit tend to text me and let me know they saw one of my posts on their front pages, and it’s a pretty cool feeling for me too.
In reality, I know this project will fade into the depths of the internet sooner than later, but I remained humbled through the adventure and sincerely appreciated everyone’s comments and concerns for Beverley and the rest of the gang. Because truthfully, this is all about their adventures.