One day of professional gaming
Friday 14 October 2005 @ 2:37 pm
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IBM This week I’ve spend one full work day gaming. Doesn’t sound special, I mean, there have been times when I was a student I gamed for a full week and even in the days I started working, I spend saterdays and sundays behind my console. So what’s the point. The point is, I did it while at work! And I even did it with permission!

This week I had to teach a group of graduated youngsters, new coworkers , the fundamentals of the Java programming language. But currently every student from a computer sience related university already knows how to write Java. Java has replaced the old days of Pascal and C. Two days I’ve been busy boring them with the nitty gritty details they need to know when trying to pass the Sun certification and I had one day left to get them so bored they would run away and find themselves another employer. That’s the point where the idea of gaming came to mind. Forget the boredom of shift operators, casting floats to integers and around, subclassing innerclasses and more of the stuff that make you wonder why Java is such a great language. Forget the exam, let’s have fun! Let’s play Java!

I remembered IBM once released a java based engine that you could use to let home brewed tanks fight eachother on a small battlefield. In this game you had to program the tank yourself. You could instruct the tank to move forward, backward, fire and so on. All by programming. Once the tank was submitted to the battlefield there was nothing more left than just watch how your algorithms were performing. Great concept for the java classroom! In 2004, IBM released CodeRuler. The same idea but within a different context and, a very important aspect, available as Eclipse plugin! Read all about the game in this article.

I haven’t heard my students the whole day. Some even did not take the time to eat some lunch. Never ever had a class that silent. The only thing you could hear were the clicks of the keyboards and the sights when a bunch of knigts had kicked the enemy out of his castle. During the day I’ve been programming my own code ruler (with the beamer still on so my students could see and learn what I was doing). This way I still could do some teaching by explaining the tricks I found out myself while still enjoying the fun of professional gaming.

At the end of the day, we’ve filled the arena with all code rulers and played some quick games to see if there was a winner. And there was, and it was not me! I have to admit, some of my students have beaten me terrible. To stay within the CodeRuler context and by quoting Quintin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, they really went medieval on my ass! So what did it prove? Well, I’m probably to old for gaming and we have hired some damn good java engineers!

P.S. By the way, here’s a nice interview with the creator of CodeRuler. Not really indepth but just enough information to give a bit of insighs how to construct such a game engine yourself. Maybe one of my students can give it a try?

— By Okke van 't Verlaat     PermaLink

2 Responses to “One day of professional gaming”

  1. Johannes Says:

    I sure wish I had to perform intake tests like these. Please remember my name if someone from LogicaCMG ever comes up with the idea of designing a CMG-customized version of CodeRuler (does CMGRuler sound nice?).

    I’m wondering what algorithms the winning participants were employing. Did anyone use advanced AI stuff? Finite-state-machines, Turing-devices, or whatever the names are?

    And is there a URL where we can find some eye candy? I’d like to see a working version of the finalists, for example. After all you’ve told us, I can’t wait to see the action…

  2. Okke van 't Verlaat Says:

    Johannes, I’m sorry but I was running the central game server on my laptop, which is only once in a while connected to the network, so an URL to see the eye candy does not exists. What we could do is set-up a central LogicaCMG CodeRuler server. Than you can download the eclipse plugin and see the action on your own box.

    About the winning strategies I can not say much also. There was no time left to discuss everybodies code. But it was nice to see how some students focused on completely different approaches. For example, one of them spent a lot of time exploring knight formation tactics, an approach I hadn’t tough about up front.

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