Astraeus Player's Guide

History

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ROBOT WARS

Early Development

During his second year of teaching, way back in the spring of 2009, Mr. M came up with an idea: what if I have a programming project in class where students have to teach a robot how to do battle? Rather than just coding a program, students would teach an "AI" how to respond to challenges. And so Robot Wars was born.

Early on it was simple: a one-on-one match between two robots. Each had two attributes: health and heat. Using weapons would generate heat, and if you used too much heat you'd be stunned. Robots could pick from three different weapons: machine gun, flamethrower, and sniper rifle. The maps were very simplistic - just palette swaps containing open terrain and walls in slightly different patterns (forest, desert, and mountain). All projectiles were their own objects with actual physics!

Expansion

Over time the program was expanded to include a ton of new features:

  • A primary and secondary weapon system

  • An ammo and reload system

  • Additional weapons, such as the lightning gun, rocket launcher, and

  • Preset maps with a map editor for building maps

  • Additional music and the ability to tie audio to special maps

  • A 3v3 mode called "Team Robot Wars" and the switch to team projects

The Problems

First, the best teams all had to implement a pathfinding algorithm (such as Djikstra's or A*). Second, they applied that algorithm not just to finding targets but to dodging bullets! Third, you had to calculate how to lead your shots to account for bullet delay.

These were awesome programming problems, but it made success on the project a bit too binary. Students who struggled with one element really had trouble with the project and became disheartened. Furthermore it became very math-heavy. It seemed unfair to so heavily reward students with a strong mathematics background, since it wasn't something we learned in AP Java.

There was one final problem: the game had a bit of luck based on your matchups. Some weapons were just great against certain strategies, and there wasn't a lot of way to adjust midway through a match. Because of these concerns, Mr. M designed a new game in 2015....



HIVEMIND

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ASTRAEUS

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