Google AI Challenge 2010

Team Blue Iris (that's me!) placed 77th out of 708 in the Google AI Challenge 2010 contest. The contest was to design an AI for a Tron lightcycle game.

My entry used the standard min/max approach, similar to many other entries. I guess that's why it performed similarly to so many other entries. :-) I didn't have any time to investigate better algorithms, due to other obligations.

In addition to my own entry (which was in C++), I also created starter packs for JavaScript and Google's Go language. These starter packs enabled people to enter the contest using JavaScript or Go. In the end, 6 people entered using Go, and 4 people entered using JavaScript. I'm pleased to have helped people compete using these languages.

I initially wanted to use JavaScript and/or Go myself, but the strict time limit of the contest strongly favored the fastest language, and that made me choose a C++ implementation. Practically speaking, there wasn't much advantage to using another language. The problem didn't require any complicated data structures, closures, or dynamic memory allocation. And the submitted entries were run on a single-hardware-thread virtual machine, which meant that there wasn't a performance benefit for using threads.

This contest was interesting because it went on for a long time (about a month) and because the contestants freely shared algorithm advice during the contest. This lead to steadily improving opponents. My program peaked at about 20th place early in the contest, but because I didn't improve it thereafter, its rank gradually declined over the rest of the contest.

The contest winner's post-mortem reveals that he won by diligent trial-and-error in creating a superior evaluation function. Good job a1k0n!

Congratulations to the contest organizers for running an interesting contest very well. I look forward to seeing new contests from the University of Waterloo Computer Club in the future.

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