Monty and Morgion 110: Western Diplomacy

29Oct04 (Monthenor): I don't have time to type up the rest of the UIUC travelogue at the moment, but I will describe the MechMania contest -- it's necessary to understand the finer points of the above comic, which I think stands on its own quite well, but now it's time to end this sentence.

Last year we were tasked with guiding mechs to mining spaces, generating the cash we needed to create ever larger mechs and eventually stomp the enemy. This year the grid was gone, but the basic premise was the same. There were two sides ("coastlines") that built ships of varying types and attempted to capture ("bomb the shit out of") islands in the middle. These islands started neutral and regenerated health ("health") at a steady clip. When you killed an island to 0 health, it turned your color, unless the other team also shot it that turn, it which case it stayed neutral and both teams would generally deadlock until one side or the other brought more ships over. Once an island was on your side it started regenerating again, only twice as fast. The person with the most island health at the end of 4000 turns won.

This was a pretty awesome game to code for. They even gave us decent pathfinding so teams could concentrate on programming in some strategy. It wasn't until after I got some sleep that I thought about the indigenous island populations and their fearful capitulation at the barrel of our mighty destroyers' deck guns.

Screw 'em.

30Oct04 (Monthenor):

24Oct2004: Mechmania X

The day started off watching old MechManias playing on the video wall. MechMania 3 and 4 were featured because they had the most competent AIs they were cool.

1430: MechMania was scheduled to start now, but Phil Zimmerman is still bitching about the Patriot Act and asking for Linux help. Whatever. The room is waaaay too hot.

1447: Every year they try to start up a "shiny" viz with better graphics and effects, and every year it falls flat. This year there's a rather nice-looking 3D version with exquisitely detailed ships. It also lacks a zoom out button and the camera literally moves itself around in a "cinematic" manner. Being useless as a viz, it is sent to the void where it belongs.

The contest itself wasn't nearly as exciting as some years, but it worked. Both NDSU teams won a couple matches and eventually got screwed out by mysteriously seg faults. See, the provided pathfinding code had some random chance of hitting an infinite recursion and killing the stack. It was rare, but it did happen. Once they release the server source code we're going to run some more extensive tests in the ACM office.

Anyway, anticlimax, we took the usual 5th and 8ish places in the contest. To add to the ennui, the trip home was mercifully traffic- and construction-light, and we made excellent time.

The end.