In the robot rumble, the programmers win

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In the robot rumble, the programmers win

For those who wanted to take a more fundamental approach to gaming, the Robocode Cup last week was the perfect event.
The Robocode Cup is a battle tournament for robots that operate on Robocode, a Java technology developed by Mat Nelson, a software programmer at IBM. The script was converted to an open source last year, and enables anyone to create Java “robots” (actually, programs) and make them fight on screen. Armed with two tools, robot creators basically need only two screens: one for the battlefield and one for the robot editor.
The robot, which is generally a squarish, tank-shaped object ― is composed of a gun, radar mount and vehicle base, all of which can be altered within the open-source Java codes. A “template” is provided by the editor tool, so that someone with no Java programming experience can easily design the codes to build a robot.
Although this sounds complicated, it’s actually a simple procedure. To start with, the programmer inserts a series of commands into the editor. Those commands could be “move forward” or “turn right 45 degrees,” or something similar. What’s different about this game from other combat games is that you can’t command your robot once the battle has started ― the robot only moves based on the commands that you give it at the start. The programmer must therefore think of a combination of maneuvering and firing commands that would give it a better chance of shooting and blowing up its opponent.
Thinking of this strategy is not such a simple procedure.
For advanced programmers, the commands become intricate. Firing a bullet, for instance, isn’t just a mere “aim and shoot”; commands must be given to make robots select the amount of force with which to fire, based on the supposed distance from the target. Some other codes are calculated based on how long it would take a bullet to travel to where the enemy is.
Scores are based on survival, bullet damage and Ram damage, which are added up to produce a total score. Games usually end in a couple of minutes, so the Robocode Cup preliminaries were based on playing several games and seeing who won the most.
In the past, the participants were mostly students, but this year, the players included professional developers, soldiers and students studying abroad. First place went to Kim Jeong-hoon, a graduate student at Sungkyunkwan University; second place went to Park Ji-eun, an undergraduate student at Inje University. Ms. Park was one of the few female contestants. She said she participated in the Robocode Cup to learn more about Java and that she didn’t expect to get so far in the tournament.

by Wohn Dong-hee
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