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PLATO soft. published 49 years ago by Wallace, Bruce

Not listed in MAME yet

Build-Up © 1975 Wallace, Bruce.

A three dimensional maze game based on a story by James Graham Ballard. Unlike most mazes this game also features passages going up and down.


Released in June 1975.

Bruce Wallace wrote the program as a class project for a Science Fiction summer class at Florida State University that he was taking to get some English basic study credit. Being a math/compSci major, and working as a programmer on the side for the FSU Computing Center, he had access to the new whiz bang Plato system. And since the English prof didn't limit the projects to scholarly papers or what not, he used it as an excuse to try its hand at Tutor (the prog language of Plato).

From a letter to Bruce Wallace asking for more information(1):
"I frankly didn't remember being inspired by anything other than JG Ballard's Build Up short story for the game design, but decades later when I came across a web page about the Maze Game. I was shocked at how identical it looked, so I must have somehow seen a picture in Scientific American magazine or some such and said I can program that!
(...just like I did later with Asteroids in Space for the Apple II after playing an Asteroids prototype being beta-tested by Atari at a local saloon in Mtn View. I went home that Fri nite and by Mon morning it was all programmed in Apple Pascal... it turned out so well, just too slow, that I hand translated it to 6809 assembly code and then marketed it by walking around one afternoon at the 1980 West Coast Computer Faire giving demos to publishers; took the best of 4 offers on the spot)... but I digress ;-D

Because of the very extended character set, and graphics capability of Plato/Tutor, the program listings you'd get from the CDC line printers (normally not even having to handle lower case given CDC's 6-bit character codes) were fairly useless and unreadable if the goal was to be able to re-enter the program just from the listing. I had a printout for years but I believe I dumped it in 2008 along with many others in my post-divorce existential crisis: I'm going light/mobile and moving to France! LOL

UNLIKE the Maze Game, but like the short story, my game was 3-D also in the sense that there were multiple levels to the maze with openings in the floor and ceiling that connected the maze at each level.

[Brief synopsis of short story Build Up: Future Earth is so built up with multi-story buildings and elevated trains, etc that you can take trains UP for ages before hitting the top if it even existed because it has been long forgotten if there even was an end to the build up. The protagonist goes on a quest to get to the "top".]

As far as the game, The player begins in a random spot in the maze, and would therefore not know where they were when looking at the separate maze map view until they had moved around a while taking note of where the doors were and weren't. (Can you say: Adventure?) They would move one "step" at a time either forward, left or right, up or down, depending on which directions were open at that point. (Again the visuals are just like Maze Game picture...I definitely never played that game but the still photo/drawing is really similar.) Like the short story, the goal was to find your way out the top of the top level There was a separate map display that you could toggle between showing the maze layout for the multiple floors.

AS IS often the case with great ideas, a fun feature came out of a mistake. It turns out that I had a bug in the program that, if the map data was wrong, caused a door in one direction to be missing after you went thru it, effectively making one-way doors. As a side effect that meant that you might get trapped in a dead end section of the maze because you couldn't go back out once you were in! I decided that was a neat "feature" and added a "warp" command to move you randomly to some other place in the maze so that you could get out of being boxed in forever.

Since Plato programs could communicate from one user's instance to another's, I had plans to let you see other people currently playing if they were in your view. Also had plans to add the ability for players to put markers on the walls so that you could leave your own bread crumbs as it were. Those features never got added since I ran out of summer. ;-D

Programs on Plato (at least at FSU) were just left going once they were there (unlike normal mainframe programs you would write for programming classes), so, the program definitely lived beyond the class demonstration, but I have no idea what happened to it after I graduated in Dec 1977 and moved to Silicon Valley."


Written by: Bruce Wallace