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fitting tournaments into the calendar

About a dozen bots have been updated in the last week, and a bunch of new bots have been uploaded this month. We’re going through a burst of activity similar to the one around the previous SSCAI tournament.

The reason might be that the CIG tournament is coming up. The timing fits, but other evidence is not as clear. I don’t see an upcoming tournament as a good reason to release new rushbots, or to put out an instance of McRave playing terran (Sparks). But only the bot authors know their own motivations. Maybe some will comment?

A tournament in April or thereabouts might be a good way to maintain interest, if tournaments really are good motivation. Thinking about the timescale on which interest waxes and wanes, I guess April would be about right, depending on how long the tournament runs. The CIG and AIIDE tournaments are tied to academic conferences and can’t be moved around the calendar, and SSCAIT traditionally runs starting near the end of the year. It’s possible that a gap-filling tournament, if people see it as important, might keep the scene lively. Well, it’s a speculative idea, but spacing tournaments around the calendar makes sense. Authors should have time to make updates before the next submission.

Sparks, by the way, has a pretty good strategy. It is McRave set to play terran, and obviously some thought has been put into the terran, though McRave’s protoss play is more sophisticated (so it will presumably play as protoss in tournaments). I imagine it is named after “sparks terran,” which was traditionally a sunken bust timed for just before mutalisks came out. (Sparks terran is a strategy I’ve been keeping in mind as tough for a zerg bot to counter when following a mutalisk plan. Luckily for Steamhammer, it’s not easy to implement well. Tscmoo comes closest but is missing skills.) Today people often say “sparks terran” and mean nothing more than straight infantry play.

Anyway, Sparks the bot opens with 2 barracks and puts its first marines in the mineral line for safety. When it has enough it transfers them to the ramp, arranging them in a nice arc. When stim is done, upgrades are started, and medics are available, it moves out to attack. A terran should stop the attack easily; a protoss shouldn’t have much trouble if it saw what was coming; but a zerg needs to pay attention and defend smartly to hold. It’s a good attack timing.


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McRave on :

I spent about 2 hours making Sparks from my McRave code, so far it should be a reasonable mid-tier bot for people to code around. It beat McRave actually but I think that's because the Dragoon micro was broken.

krasi0 on :

One of my openings resembles yours although I also include wraiths and almost never expand in that case. Not sure if it is Sparks or not, I coded up to punish greedy Zergs (although there is an equivalent in all three Tv* matchups).

Jay Scott on :

The build that Sparks plays is a pretty standard sparks terran build, down to details like ebay before academy and timing of the third barracks. It should counter 3 hatch muta unless zerg recognizes it early enough and adapts (which Steamhammer doesn’t), and it should counter anything more greedy too.

krasi0 on :

Jay, what format do you suggest the April tournament to be? I guess we could discuss any ideas with Michal C. and organize a small tournament around that time

Jay Scott on :

Assuming somebody wants to run it? Any format that people see as serious, I would say. How it’s presented seems more important. One idea would be to bill it as preparation for the academic CIG and AIIDE competitions. If so, it should be timed to start late enough for people to see the connection and finish early enough that authors have time to adjust their bots based on the results.

jtolmar on :

A small tournament would be easier to run, and would be easier to arrange live commentary for. I'd love to see a co-casting setup with a Starcraft expert and an AI expert. That suggests a single-elimination invitational as the format (selecting interesting bots whose authors are willing to explain their bots to the AI commentator).

Jay Scott on :

Another idea would be to position it not as supporting the major tournaments, but alternative to them. In that case, bill it as just-for-fun and pick a format like single elimination which favors excitement over seriousness. Slightly wacky rules or funny prizes would be good—”And the Swiss Cheese award for the shortest games goes to....”

jtolmar on :

For a silly tournament, you could take the "AI commentator" I mentioned in the other comment far too literally, get a bunch of people to submit new observer bots, and run a tournament for them (based on popularity polls, American Idol style).

Thomas on :

With a just for fun tournament, you could also use nonstandard maps. Something like having the whole tournament on Blood Bath. Or maybe an island map. Or throw in a lot of strange maps to test the bots versatility.... I think a tournament like that would push the bots in a new way.

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