# Boulder Dash is NP hard

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1 Boulder Dash is NP hard Marzio De Biasi marziodebiasi [at] gmail [dot] com December 2011 Version 0.01:... now the difficult part: is it NP? Abstract Boulder Dash is a videogame created by Peter Liepa and Chris Gray in 1983 and released for many personal computer and console systems under license from First Star Software. Its concept is simple: the main character must dig through caves, collect diamonds, avoid falling stones and other nasties, and finally reach the exit within a time limit. In this report we show that the decision problem Is an n n Boulder Dash level solvable? is NP hard. The constructive proof is based on a simple gadget that allows us to transform the hamiltonian cycle problem on a 3-connected cubic planar graph to a Boulder Dash level. 1 Introduction The videogame Boulder Dash [8] was created by Peter Liepa and Chris Gray in 1984 and was originally released for the Atari 8-bit system in 1984 under license from First Start Software, which still owns the rights to the game. It was a great success, so it was soon ported on other personal computers (ZX Spectrum, C64,...) and console systems (ColecoVision, NES,...); moreover it gave origin to many sequels and clones. The most famous clones are Emerald Mine by Voler Wertich, released for the Amiga personal computer, and the various versions of Diamonds Caves by Peter Elzner, released for the Amiga, MS-DOS and Windows. 1.1 Boulder Dash rules and objects The game is subdivided into levels; each level is a n m grid. Each cell of the grid can be one of the following objects: Rockford : the main character controlled by the player. Rockford can move in one of the four directions: left, right, up, down, one cell at a time. Space : space is just an empty cell. Rockford can freely move on space cells. 1

2 Dirt : dirt can serve for blocking and/or suspending other objects such rocks or diamonds. Rockford can freely move on a dirt cell, but he clears it and the cell becomes a space when he leaves it. Wall : walls are unmovable and undestructable objects; Rockford cannot move on them. Rock : rocks are undestructable and Rockford cannot move on them, but he can push a single rock horizontally if there is a space beside it. If the dirt is removed from beneath, the rock falls until it reaches a solid ground again. A rock can also roll off other rocks or walls if there is enough space. If Rockford is hit by a falling rock, he dies and the level is restarted. Diamond : diamonds are the items that Rockford must collect in order to complete a level. Exit door : at the beginning of a level, the exit door is closed. When Rockford collects all the diamonds, the exit door opens and Rockford must reach it to complete the level. Figure 1: Game objects: Rockford, Space, Dirt, Wall, Diamond, Exit door. The original game has other objects: Fireflies, Butterflies, Amoebas, Expanding Walls, Magic Walls, Steel Walls; but we will not use them. Furthermore in the original game, there is also a time limit for each level; but we will assume that Rockford has unlimited time to collect the diamonds and reach the exit door. 2 NP hardness of a puzzle game In complexity theory a decision problem is a problem expressed in some formal system, for which the desired answer is yes or no. The complexity class P contains all the decision problems that can be solved by a deterministic Turing machine in polynomial time. The complexity class N P contains all the decision problems whose solutions can be verified by a deterministic Turing machine in polynomial time. The question if P = NP? is perhaps the major still-open problem in computer science. The NP complete class of problems contains all decision problems such that they are in NP and every other problem in NP is Karp reducible to them in polynomial time: a problem A is Karp-reducible to a problem B if there is a polynomial time algorithm that given as input an istance I A of problem A produces as output an instance I B of problem B and the answer for I A is yes 2

3 iif the answer for I B is yes. For a complete introduction to NP completeness see the book of Garey and Johnson: Computers and Intractability [3]. Many of the puzzle games that people play are interesting because they require intuition and logic reasoning to be solved. Most of them can be mathematical modeled and the difficulty of solving them is deeply tight to the complexity of the corresponding decision problem. For example the following puzzle games have been proved to be NP complete [5]: Sudoku, Kakuro, Instant insanity, Light up, Lemmings, Clickomania, Mastermind, FreeCell. The NP hard class of problems contains all decision problems that are at least as hard as the hardest problems in NP : a problem A is NP hard if and only if there is as NP complete problem B that is polynomial time Turingreducible to A. Some puzzles are even harder and are P SP ACE complete, the complexity class of decision problems solvable by a Turing machine in polynomial space and such that any other problem in PSPACE can be reduced to them. For example Atomix [4], Rush Hour [1] and Sokoban [6] have been proved to be P SP ACE complete. 3 Boulder Dash is NP hard We will prove that the decision problem Is an n n Boulder Dash level solvable? is NP hard. The constructive proof is based on a polynomial reduction from the N P complete problem hamiltonian cycle on a 3-connected cubic planar graph (3PHC) [2]. A graph is k-connected if there does not exist a set of k 1 vertices whose removal disconnects the graph. A planar graph is a graph that can be drawn on te plane in such a way that its edges intersects only at their vertices. A cubic graph is a graph in which all vertices have degree three. A 3-connected cubic planar graph is at the same time 3-connected cubic and planar. Figure 2: A 3-connected planar cubic graph. 3

4 A Hamiltonian cycle or Hamiltonian circuit in an undirected graph, is a sequence of edges that forms a closed loop (the last vertex is also the starting one) and visits each vertex exactly once. The decision problem of determining whether a Hamiltonian Cycle exists in a given undirected graph is N P complete. The problem stays NP complete even if the input graph is 3-connected planar cubic (3PHC) [2]. A planar graph can be drawn on the plane in many different ways; a drawing of a graph in which vertices and bends are located at grid points of an integer grid is called a grid drawing. We will use a particular grid drawing called orthogonal drawing: each edge is drawn on the grid as a chain of horizontal and vertical line segments. An orthogonal drawing for 3-connected cubic planar graphs can be found very efficiently in linear time [7]. Furthermore, the size of the resulting othogonal drawing for a 3-connected cubic planar graph is polynomial in the number of the nodes: if n is the number of nodes of the original graph, and W H is the size of the resulting graph, we have W n 2 and H n 2 [7]. Figure 3: Othogonal drawing of the graph in Fig.2. We recall that we will use only the following game objects: Rockford, Wall, Dirt, Space, Rock, Diamond, Exit door; we will also assume that the game has no time limit. Consider the following two gadgets that are possible valid parts of a Boulder Dash level: Node gadget : the Node gadget is an area made by solid walls, that has three exits (left, up, and down). It contains a diamond, three rocks and some dirt. The rocks are sustained by dirt, and it is easy to see that if Rockford moves under one of them the rock falls and blocks the passage. Therefore, in order to pick the diamond, Rockford must enter a Node gadget through one of the three passages, and exit from another one. He must pick the diamond because it is placed in the crossing of the three passages. The third passage remains free, but if Rockford uses it, he will be imprisoned in the gate. Start gadget : the Start gadget is similar to the Node gadget but contains no diamonds; it defines the Rockford starting position and the Exit door 4

6 Figure 6: Gadgets of size rearranged to simulate four T grid connections. Figure 7: Tunnels made with walls can be used to link the gadgets together. 6

7 Figure 8: The Boulder Dash level built from the orthogonal drawing of Fig.3. 7

9 Proof. We proved that given a 3-connected cubic planar graph G, we can build a corresponding Builder Dash level L in polynomial (linear) time which has polynomial size in the number of nodes of G and is solvable iif G has a Hamiltonian cycle. This reduction from an NP complete problem to the problem of determining if a level is solvable permits us to conclude that Boulder Dash is NP -hard. 4 Conclusions Play Boulder Dash and have fun! References [1] Flake and Baum. Rush hour is PSPACE-complete, or why you should generously tip parking lot attendants. TCS: Theoretical Computer Science, 270, [2] Garey, Johnson, and Tarjan. The planar hamiltonian circuit problem is NP-complete. SICOMP: SIAM Journal on Computing, 5, [3] M. R. Garey and D. S. Johnson. Computers and Intractability. Freeman, San Francisco, [4] M. Holzer and S. Schwoon. Assembling molecules in ATOMIX is hard. Theoretical Computer Science, 303(3): , [5] Graham Kendall, Andrew J. Parkes, and Kristian Spoerer. A survey of NP-complete puzzles. ICGA Journal, 31(1):13 34, [6] Sokoban Is Pspace-complete, Joseph C. Culberson, and Joseph C. Culberson. Sokoban is pspace-complete, [7] Md. Saidur Rahman. Efficient algorithms for drawing planar graphs, [8] Wikipedia. Boulder dash wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, [Online; accessed 4-December-2011]. 9

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