The delivery man system in EarthBound seems pretty simple from a player’s perspective, but on the inside, it’s a completely different story. Ever notice how the delivery guy will walk around the map like a real character instead of just plowing right through walls and barriers? That’s tough stuff to program.
Many years ago, the PK Hack regulars wanted to dig into the delivery system to see how it worked and how robust it was. So they devised a test:
Part 1: Stick Ness in a cordoned-off area and see what happens
Part 2: Open up a few areas and try again
Impressively, the game finds a route, despite being a rather complicated trip. We also get to see which paths he chose – the bottom one both times. As I think Blue Antoid once put it:
This subroutine was obviously programmed by hyper-intelligent space ants. We have not choice but to submit to the whims of our new insect overlords. Obey! Obey!
All in all, very cool, especially considering how absolutely insane EarthBound’s map system is – which happened to another (and probably THE biggest) reason for the game’s development woes.
Most other games developers probably wouldn’t have cared if a simple delivery guy walked over obstacles and walls, so I think this shows how devoted the developers were to not cutting corners. Not that that was really ever in doubt, of course
EDIT: Coming from a computer science background myself, I realize that pathfinding is not that difficult. But for whatever reason, this is cited by programmers (one of whom was Satoru Iwata) as being one of the toughest things to get working right in the game (see Sep. 9, 1994 here). Of course, the game was written in assembly twenty years ago, I’m sure it’s a lot easier nowadays.