Maze vs labyrinth

When do you call something a maze? And when do you call it a labyrinth?

Mazes and labyrinths both have an entrance and a goal.

So these two words have a lot in common. In English, these two terms usually mean the same thing.

If you’d ask an enthusiast though, there is a big difference between a maze and a labyrinth.

And since you’re visiting this page, you probably want to find out what that difference is.

What is a labyrinth?

When explaining what a labyrinth is, I couldn’t skip the story of the first labyrinth.

The first labyrinth

This most famous labyrinth was designed by Daedalus for King Minos of Knossos.

Daedalus had to design a labyrinth to contain a ferocious monster. Half-man, half-bull. The Minotaur.

The labyrinth Daedalus designed was really complex. It was so complicated that he, himself, could barely navigate it.

This myth does not have a happy ending, though. Once Daedalus escaped from the labyrinth, he was immediately imprisoned by Minos. So that he would never reveal the secret of how to escape from the labyrinth.

So, what exactly is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth has one path. There are no intersections, no choices to be made.

If you want to use a complicated word for this, a labyrinth is unicursal. It’s a space-filling curve that visits all areas of the space exactly one time with no branches.

So a labyrinth might be winding and potentially disorienting. But it only has a single route to it’s endpoint. Usually the center.

What is a maze?

A maze is a path or collection of paths, typically from an entrance to a goal.

A maze might has one or more paths. A maze might have intersections.

You can do a lot more fun stuff in a maze.

Why were mazes built?

While the oldest labyrinths go back to four thousand years ago, the word maze only dates back to the 13th century.

Early mazes were build to entertain royalty. In the 16th century European royalty began building hedge mazes.

These mazes provided

Can the paths of a maze change during the game?

Well, that would be hard on your typical piece of paper.

Of course, when playing a digital game, this might happen.

For example, in WanderOut we will have the ability to shuffle bits of paths. This happens in a predictable manner to prevent total chaos and anarchy, of course.

Is each labyrinth a maze?

Yes, each labyrinth is a maze.

The other way around though: no. A maze with an intersection is not a labyrinth.

Are the levels in WanderOut mazes or labyrinths?

If the levels of WanderOut would be labyrinths, the game would be significantly easier. There would only be one path.

So the levels in WanderOut will be mazes.

If you’re interested in the game we are creating, check out our trailer. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter if that’s your thing.