Daily Archives: February 1, 2012

Robot War, Anyone?

So, I’ve been getting some positive rumbles in support of a Robot War tournament. Let me therefore offer a proposal as to how it might work.

The tournament will progress through a series of single-elimination rounds, with each match being a one-on-one contest, opponents randomly determined. Should there be an odd number of robots in a round, the one left unchosen will get a bye into the next round. That might seem quite a nice bit of luck, but it’s mixed blessing in that the creator of that robot will not get an opportunity to see it in action prior to making adjustments for the next round (see the next paragraph).

I’ll run each match just one time, record it, and post it to the blog as a movie. Each round will be separated by a week or so, during which each contestant whose robot remains alive in the tournament can tinker or even, if he likes, entirely rewrite his robot. In this he can be guided not only by his own robot’s performance in the previous round, but also by that of his next opponent’s; I’ll announce matchups for the next round immediately after the previous is complete. (Of course, said opponent may also be changing her robot as well, making this very much a cat-and-mouse — or, if you like, bait-and-switch — game.)

You can modify or steal code from any of the five sample robots that come with the game, but I’ll have to take you on your word of honor that you won’t use or even examine the code to any of the robots published in places like Computer Gaming World back in the day, or available online somewhere. You are welcome to submit a robot you created by yourself at some earlier date. Although, again, I can’t really stop you, teams will not be allowed, as having two or more minds working on a problem gives an unfair advantage. One man one robot is the rule.

And that’s about it really. We continue like this until we determine a champion. I’m trying like mad to think of something to offer as a prize to the winner. I have this book coming out that I wrote about the Amiga, but I’m afraid that offering that to a bunch of Apple II fans might be like setting up a hot-dog stand outside a vegetarians convention. If you don’t want that and you do have a Kindle Keyboard or Touch, there is this game I wrote

The final decision on whether to do this hinges on whether enough people want to participate to make it worthwhile; there’s nothing more depressing than winning a “contest” with two or three participants (not to mention hosting one). I figure we need at least ten to have a contest that feels like a proper tournament. If you’re willing to commit to participate, please leave a comment here or, if you’re not a fan of comments, send me an email. If you’re interested but not happy with the rules I’ve just outlined, let me know that as well. If we can come to a consensus, we can always adjust.

I know that some of you who read this blog are involved with the Apple II community and/or other groups that might be interested in this kind of thing. If you know anyone whom you think might want to participate, please direct them this way. Likewise, if you have blogs, Twitter feeds, podcasts, etc., frequented by the right kind of folks, a quick plug would be hugely appreciated.

And if you’re not an Apple II old-timer and want to know if this is for you…

You don’t need any Apple II-specific knowledge at all, only the willingness to install an emulator and boot it from the Robot War disk image. (Solid emulators are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and probably other platforms as well.) On the other hand, this is a programming game, so you will need to learn a simple programming language to participate. On the other other hand, it’s a very, very simple language. Probably the most awkward part of the whole process will be typing and editing your source with Robot War‘s built-in editor that replaces mice and menus with control-key combinations. If you live in the Unix/Linux world and/or are comfortable with terminal-based text editors like vi, it won’t be a big stretch; otherwise it might give you 20 minutes frustration before it starts to click.

So, let me know if you’re in, and tell you’re friends, and we’ll see if we’ve got the numbers to make it happen.

(Update: We gave it a good try. Thanks to Ken Gagne and others in the Apple II community for working to get the word out. Even with all their efforts, though, we don’t quite have the number of firm commitments to make proceeding viable in my view. So the would-be Great Robot War Tournament of 2012 will not be happening, I’m afraid. Ah, well… I have enough to do as it is.)


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