This is not a solution to the puzzle, but provides notes from its poser. This type of answer has been approved by the community.
Caution: This post may contain spoilers.
This puzzle hinges on two main ideas:
- Using actual words to extract imgur links by means of a look-up table; and
- Spatial exploration of something abstract like a mathematical equation.
I had been mulling over the first idea for some time. This was a time when the relatively new concept of imgur-mazes was slowly taking shape; and I really liked this idea that allows one to hide several components of a multilayer puzzle in a nice-looking way. However, the fact that we're merely extracting meaningless five-character strings for an otherwise interesting puzzle seemed somewhat unappealing to me. So I decided to give this conversion table thingy a try.
The trick of encoding important information in spatial positions of puzzle components was inspired by humn's excellent puzzle The Case of the Missing Rebus. Following a protagonist in his journey through the components, revealing one scene at a time, sounded interesting. Euler's identity, which often represents mathematical beauty in pop-science, was an obvious choice.
Now that I had a rough idea of the basic structure of the puzzle, I had to fill in the details. Now I noticed a constraint on this kind of attempt; the answer for each step had to be a five-letter word; what's more, it must have five distinct letters. So for example, AGAIN couldn't be a possible choice since I had no way of guaranteeing that the first and third characters of the imgur address would be the same. After some trial and error, I came up with six answers that could be somehow squeezed into the story:
DREAM, STAIR, FORTH, BELOW, FRONT and ADIEU.
Of course, I had to make a puzzle for each of them. Riddle seemed to be a natural choice, since rhyming riddles fit nicely into the dreamy, poetic theme. Making riddles that specifically pinpoint a particular word (and not any of its synonyms) usually requires some sort of wordplay; Hugh Meyers' brilliant riddles were my guiding examples in this respect.
But, not everyone is Hugh Meyers (which, incidentally anagrams to
Huge rhymes), and rhyming is hard. I had zero experience in rhyming, and my first attempts were terrible. After some rather discouraging early attempts, I came up with some moderately decent riddles. Our fellow puzzler dcfyj's suggestions in chat were extremely helpful for me. Thanks, dcfyj!
As for the images, the graph-paper-ish background was chosen to hint at mathematics, and the stick-figure style simply because it's easier to draw :P.
The images were drawn using a combination of MS-Paint and Adobe Photoshop. Also, I used the xkcd font for the hints on the walls, because they go nicely with the cartoonish feel of the overall 'art'work.
Some solvers may have noticed the little rebus-y thing in the last room, just above the door:
This wasn't supposed to be a part of the puzzle. It was entirely based on a whim, and intended to be a silly half hearted easter egg. The idea was to mimic the chinese exit sign and create some sort of visual pun. It didn't come out too well, honestly. Oh well.
I made the clues of the individual elements too obscure. It contained a variety of mostly unrelated clue types, and each one admitted of too many possible interpretation, so the solving process turned out to be heavily luck-dependent. So I learnt a good lesson: always ensure there's a natural solution path!
Also, thanks to my sloppy paint-skills there was an unintentional speck in front of the stickman in the penultimate room, as pointed out by olesaw. But when I noticed it, it was too late to edit. I guess that's another drawback of imgur-mazes in general; editing anything after posting is almost never an option.
That aside, I'm quite happy about the way the puzzle was received, and the fact that it inspired another nice puzzle by olesaw.