History and Other Pages

According to Wiki, the game was invented by Hiroyuki Imabayashi, and was published by Thinking Rabbit, a computer games company in the town of Takarazuka, Japan. The game design is said to have won first prize in a computer games contest. Because of the simplicity and elegance of the rules, and the intellectually challenging complexity of the composed problems, Sokoban quickly became a popular pastime.

Several versions of the game appeared over the years, among which are PC, Macintosh and Unix versions. There exists a quasi standard set of 50 problems, ordered roughly easiest to hardest in difficulty for a human to solve. According to Hiramatsu, this set of 50 problems is derived from a PC version by Spectrum Holobyte from 1984. Very similar problem configurations can be found in "Sokoban 2" from 1984 and are now included in the collection "Sokoban Perfect". Some of the problems have been altered slightly, probably to fit into a 19x16 format.

Unfortunately, much of what followed in recent years is rather sad, and even I had to be made aware of much of this -- thank you Masato Hiramatsu. Because copying levels is so easy, many got pirated and copied into other versions of Sokoban. I had a list here once of other programs, but removed it, because some very dedicated friends from Japan told me that many of these programs contain stolen Sokoban creations.

In my opinion, to write an interface is as much work as to design a simple stage of Sokoban. If you now go out to the net and download 200 foreign stages to include them into your program, you pirated many hours worth of effort. That would be OK if the original author allows you to do that, but if you just get these stages and do not even acknowledge their origin, you are stealing somebody else's work.

Somebody new to Sokoban cannot even imagine the depth of some of those designs. Just solving them is not the point alone. The beauty of design, the idea of its creation, the communication of intricate detail make Sokoban such an intellectual play ground, that making it the object of petty theft is as ridiculous as stealing a Rembrandt! For a child it is just an old picture, but for the connoisseur it is an example of some of the finest pieces of art, priceless in its intent, execution, style and meaning. Stealing it does not devoid the picture of its value, but violates it.

I think all these stages should be available. They should be known to the entire world. I was allowed to see some of those fine pieces of work and I felt privileged - and the more I know, the more so! However, for fear of theft, some of the most wonderful Sokoban stages are kept in the dark, hidden from those that are willing to appreciate their beauty and recognize and credit their creator. That is petty. Unfortunately, I don't know how to rectify the problem.

Some people could say that stealing/copying a stage still leaves it to the original author, but that is not true if the copyright is removed. And that is often the case. I had no idea until I was told, that these original authors are even known! There have been stages stolen and changed - what a horrible idea! Take a Rembrandt and add a few strokes of paint on top - does that make it your own creation? No, you just destroyed a piece of art and what is left, is a piece of junk. It takes years of experience to develop the skills that qualifies somebody to make a valuable contribution in stage design. I don't have that skill, so I better leave these stages alone.

And then there are commercial interests, but I will not touch on those, money is not my concern...

- Andreas

[University of Alberta] 
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[Department of Computing Science] 
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