Programming games, games where you program to win

In the aftermath of Hardcore Computer Simulator’s canning, I’ve been working on some fine code for Deadrock – proper camera frustum culling, for a start. But I thought I’d post a few things I’ve been looking at that are related to HCS. In this post you can see some games where the main gameplay interface is a programming language. I haven’t tried any of these games, but some of them look terrific.

I guess the best-known game of this type is Corewar, and if it isn’t then it’s the biggest one I’d heard of when I heard about it.

Corewar is a game played between two or more computer programs on behalf of the players who create them. Known as warriors, these programs are written in Redcode, a low-level language similar to assembly. Warriors battle to eliminate all opponents in the core memory of the MARS virtual computer.

Here’s a lengthy review of the game.

Two computer programs in their native habitat — the memory chips of a digital computer — stalk each other from address to address. Sometimes they go scouting for the enemy; sometimes they lay down a barrage of numeric bombs; sometimes they copy themselves out of danger or stop to repair damage. This is the game I call Core War. It is unlike almost all other computer games in that people do not play at all! The contending programs are written by people, of course, but once a battle is under way the creator of a program can do nothing but watch helplessly as the product of hours spent in design and implementation either lives or dies on the screen. The outcome depends entirely on which program is hit first in a vulnerable area.

I also found a link to one million other games involving robots or other programming activities as their gameplay. The rest of these I got from there. Kudos to Steve Robbins for compiling and maintaining that list! It’s awesome! The rest of this post is made up of quotes from the game websites or from Steve’s page.

Grobots is game in which robots eat, fight, and reproduce under the control of programs written by the players. It runs on Mac OS, Windows, and (without graphics) Linux. Screenshots:
A caption explains what's going on.
A few World Toads trying to stem the tide of Algae.

JROBOTS is a clone of an old game called CROBOTS. Some bots fight in an arena, firing missiles and avoiding enemies’ projectiles. At the end only one will survive! This game is involving, but it is not interactive: you must develop the AI algorithms of your own bot using the Java language, then you upload it in the arena and follow online its fights against other bots.

The bots in AIWars are insect-like mechanized units, programmed in their own command language. They come fully loaded with scanners, shields, sensors, energy cells, friend or foe beacons, mines, fuel, ammo, missiles, and even a self-destruct mechanism for those really sticky situations. This game has many web sites hosting regular tournaments.

Roboforge lets you construct gigantic robotic gladiators, train them to think and fight, and then unleash them in massive international tournaments for money and prizes. Videos here. Screenshot:

I think it’s great that there are so many of these games. Keep it up guys!

One thought on “Programming games, games where you program to win

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *