# Amaze, A Maze Generator

Posted by **Cleve Moler**,

My MATLAB® program, `amaze`, generates mazes by combining old friends, `numgrid` and `delsq`, with a new friend, the `graph` object. Let's see how we make this example maze.

### Contents

#### Beginnings

Select a maze size. Our example is 15-by-15.

n = 15;

We are going to make two graphs, the barriers and the cells. The barriers, `B`, is the graph of the classic five-point discrete Laplacian on an n-by-n square grid. Each node is the interior is connected to its four closest neighbors and each node on the boundary has two or three neighbors. The functions `delsq` and `numgrid` have been in the `sparfun` directory since sparse matrices were introduced in 1992. The `graph` object was introduced in R2015b. We are going to carve a path through this grid.

Db = delsq(numgrid('S',n+2)); B = graph(logical(Db),'omitselfloops');

The cells, `C`, are also based on the five-point discrete Laplacian, but on an (n-1)-by-(n-1) grid. Initially `C` has just the nodes, no edges. When we plot `B` and `C` together, the nodes of `C` are centered in the squares of `B`.

m = n-1; Dc = delsq(numgrid('S',m+2)); C = graph(logical(Dc),'omitselfloops');

#### Random walks

available = 1:m^2; % Nodes we haven't visited yet. branches = []; branching = 'middle'; tree = zeros(0,2); % Depth first search. p = 1;

Now we make a series of random walks on `C`.

while true % Break when available is empty

available(p) = 0; if ~any(available) break end

Each step is from a node to a random choice of one of its neighbors that has not already been visited.

```
[~,~,ngh] = find(available(neighbors(C,p)));
if ~isempty(ngh)
```

idx = randi(length(ngh)); % Random choice. q = ngh(idx); % Next cell. tree(end+1,:) = [p q];

At the same time, the edge in the barrier `B` that is blocking the step is removed.

[i,j] = wall(p,q); B = rmedge(B,i,j);

We keep a list of the nodes where a random choice between two or three neighbors is made.

if length(ngh) > 1 branches(end+1) = p; end p = q;

Eventually the walk reaches a dead end, a node whose neighbors have all been visited. Here is the first such walk in our example.

#### Backtrack

When we reach a dead end, we backtrack to one of the nodes on our list of nodes where we had a choice of available neighbors. Here another kind of choice is made. We can go back to the *first* node on the list, to the node in the *middle* of the list, or to the *last* node on the list.

else switch branching case 'first' idx = 1; case 'last' idx = length(branches); otherwise idx = round(length(branches)/2); end p = branches(idx); branches(idx) = []; end

Here is the result of backtracking to the middle and then walking to a second dead end.

Here is the result after several more backtracks.

```
end
C = graph(tree(:,1),tree(:,2));
```

Near the end of this process, the length of a path before a dead end and a backtrack becomes shorter and shorter. A path may involve a single point. Eventually all the nodes in `C` are covered. Here is the final result.

When the entire path is plotted with `linestyle = 'none'` we have the maze.

#### Shortest path

We can easily "solve" the maze by asking for the shortest path from one corner to another.

path = shortestpath(C,1,m^2);

(*Exercise*: How does the `branching` parameter affect the average length of this `path`?)

#### Animation

#### Software

I have a program called `amazing` that allows you to investigate `amaze`. I've submitted it to the MATLAB Central File Exchange and will put the link here. I will also add `amazing` to version 4.40 of Cleve's Laboratory.

#### Thanks

Thanks to Pat Quillen who provided invaluable help.

Get the MATLAB code

Published with MATLAB® R2018b

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