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Caravel Forum : Caravel Boards : Contests : Snakes! ...to the Death (Our Contest for August.)
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ErikH2000
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Are you ready to play Snakes! ...to the Death? Of course you aren't. That's why I'm going to explain it to you!

Summary

In Snakes! ...to the Death, you control one snake situated on a grid with a bunch of other enemy snakes, controlled by other players. This grid is called "the snakepit". You want to be the last snake alive in the snakepit, or in other words, you want all the other snakes to die before you do. Snakes die when they run out of space into which they can move. Kinda like lightcycles in Tron, if you are familiar with that.

The Snake Page

You might want to open the Snake Page in another window or tab. That's the page used for both viewing the snakepit and issuing commands to your snake. You'll see a text box for entering and updating "Your Pending Moves", and there are two dropdown boxes for selecting a snake head of someone who is either alive or dead.

If you are registered as one of the snakes in the snakepit, entering text into "Your Pending Moves" can affect your snake's movement in the game. Otherwise, anything you enter here doesn't really do anything. Before you start entering commands though, let's consider what your snake will do if you don't enter any commands for him at all.

Game Elements

These are the game elements that you can see inside of the snakepit.

snake - The snake occupies multiple squares. You can't move into a square occupied by a snake, but you can jump over his body. You can jump over a snake's head only if it is dead.


snake head (alive) - You can't move into or jump over an alive snake head.


snake head (dead) - You can jump over a dead snake head, but can't move into it.


box - You can jump over a box, but can't move into it.


wall - You can't move into or jump over a wall.


clear squares - You can move into clear squares, but can't jump over them.



The movement rules are described in their entirety below, but the above list is provided to give you a gist of how things work.

The Unattended Snake

Every 2 hours your snake will attempt to move to a new square. If he is successfull, you will remain in the game. Otherwise your poor little snake will die, and the game will be over for you. How does an uncommanded snake move? He tries, in order, one of seven movements and performs the first that is possible. The movements are:

1. Head moves forward 1 square.
2. Head turns clockwise and moves forward 1 square.
3. Head turns counter-clockwise and moves forward 1 square.
4. Head jumps forward 1 or more squares.
5. Head turns clockwise and jumps forward 1 or more squares.
6. Head turns counter-clockwise and jumps forward 1 or more squares.
7. Head u-turns 180 degrees and jumps forward 1 or more squares.

The non-jumping movements 1-3 are possible if the square your snake moves into is clear, or in other words, does not contain a wall, box, snake body, or snake head. The jumping movements 4-7 are possible if there is a square along the column or row of travel that is clear, and no walls or living snake heads are between your snake's head and that square. Note that jumping over a dead snake head is permitted.

When your snake moves, the length of his body grows to reach the new square. In the case of jumping, your snake will cover two or more squares in one turn. Once your snake's body occupies any square, it will occupy that square for the rest of the game.

Jumping and Bumping--Commands for Your Snake

So that describes how the snake moves by default. You can influence your snake's movement by issuing "jump" and "bump" commands. Put as many as you like in the queue of "Your Pending Moves"--"J" for jump, "B" for bump. Whenever there is an obstacle in front of your snake's head at the beginning of a turn, the first (leftmost) command is removed from "Your Pending Moves" queue and used to decide how the snake should move.

If you've specified jump ("J"), then your snake will try to jump with attempts made in this sequence: forward, clockwise, counter-clockwise, u-turn. If there is no obstacle to jump over in an attempted direction of movement, your snake will undramatically move just 1 square in that direction without passing over obstacle squares. If your snake can't jump in any of the four directions, then he'll die with no moves available to him.

If you've specified bump ("B"), then your snake will just follow the normal sequence of movement attempts (Moves 1-7 shown above).

If bumping just makes your snake do what it would normally do, why even put bump commands in your "Pending Moves" queue? Typically, you will need to plan the jumps for your snake hours in advance so that they can be performed while you are away. You might need to sleep at some point, right? You can specify the place you want your snake to jump by counting the bumps that will occur before he reaches the jump point. I.e. entering "BBBJ" means that you want your snake to jump after he has bumped three times. You might need to wait hours or even days for your planned jump to be made, so having the ability to specify a jump well in advance with bumps preceding the jump is useful.

There is also the possibility that your plans will go awry. Snakepits are chaotic places, after all. One of the other snakes might jump in front of you and turn you off in an unexpected direction, making your commands choose a completely different path for your snake. You just have to predict as well as you can. Sometimes if your commands depend on what another player will do, you can schedule yourself to look at the snakepit after his critical move and revise your commands based on it. But many times, you won't be able to get to your computer to check. It's not always fair, but everyone else will be having the same kinds of problems.

Which Snake Moves First?

The order that snakes move relative to each other is assigned at the beginning of each game and stays the same for the entire game. The leftmost snake head on the first row is snake #1, and then order is assigned #2, #3, and so on to snake heads travelling clockwise along the perimeter of the snakepit. You can tell what order has been assigned to snakes by looking at the numbers next to player names in the dropdown box on the Snake Page.

If snake #1 and snake #2 are both travelling into the same square, snake #1 will get there first and force snake #2 to take a different path (or perhaps die). More accurately put, snake #1 will move first and after his movement is complete, the square he has moved into will be considered blocked to snake #2 and all other snakes.

From this explanation you might gather that it is desirable to be a lower-numbered snake. You can take the initiative and snatch space from competing snakes. Certainly, this is an advantage.

There is also a corresponding disadvantage to being a lower-numbered snake. If a number of snakes die on the same turn as you, you will be considered to have died before the higher-numbered snakes. That can definitely affect your final standing in the game.

So do the advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out perfectly? I would be a lucky game designer if they did. I'm not really sure how to weight these advantages yet. I can tell you from the test games I ran that the lower-numbered snakes didn't tend to survive longer than higher-number snakes in any substantial way. But I suspect with human players, the advantage of a lower number will be heavier. To what extent? I'm just not sure.

I am going to assign positions based on when people entered the contest (submitted Jumping Snake Puzzle solution). Earlier entries get earlier positions. In future games, we might come up with some kind of handicap for the earlier positions. A little post-game analysis by someone clever might give us a good handicapping formula.

The Contest Snakepit

The snake screen is currently showing a demo snakepit where all snakes are left to wander without receiving commands from players. This snakepit is updated every 10 minutes to show new moves. It's just there to entertain and inform.

We will start the contest snakepit with real human-controlled snakes on:

Local Time:08-13-2006 at 12:00 AM

The above time is shown in whatever timezone is set for your account. You may want to check your profile to make certain your timezone is set correctly. Then all the times related to the contest will be shown accurately for you.

The contest snakepit will be updated every 2 hours until only one living snake remains. It won't have the same layout as the demo snakepit being shown now. It may be larger or smaller, with more or less snakes in it.

There will be one very simple "Initial Test" built into the beginning of the snakepit designed to weed out anybody who isn't really playing or paying attention. You'll need to enter a command for your snake within the first 24 hours of the contest to keep him alive. If anyone is seriously interested in participating in the contest but will be unavailable in the 24 hours after the contest start, then e-mail me and we can work something out. Note that you only need about 5 minutes in that first 24 hours to look at the situation and decide what you want your snake to do.

After your snake passes the initial test, he will enter a "Pair Chamber" with one other snake (presuming the other snake you are paired with survived his initial test). This chamber is designed as a warm-up exercise to allow you to become comfortable with how snake movement works, especially when there are other snakes involved other than your own. It's possible but difficult to die inside of the Pair Chamber. In fact, you can only die as a result of your own initiative. So this isn't a dangerous part of the snakepit; it is just a place where you can learn.

After passing through the Pair Chamber, you will arrive in the General Arena with all the other snakes that made it past their own Initial Test and Pair Chamber. The General Arena is divided into smaller subarenas, which tend to keep snakes in one area of the snakepit. A large part of your strategy is figuring out which area of the snakepit is the best to be in. There will be trap areas which a snake should never enter. There will be bonus areas where if a snake is able to enter there before any other snake, he can have a few days of safe coiling before he's returned to the chaos of the General Arena.

No other game elements will be present beyond what has been described.

Entering the Contest

I think it will be frustrating if we have too many people entered into the contest that don't understand the rules. For that reason, I would like people to provide a solution to a Jumping Snake Puzzle I've posted in this other topic. You can reply with your answer there, and that will be considered your entry into the contest.

If you understand how to solve this puzzle, you will understand most of what you need to play a good game of Snakes! ...to the Death.

Winning

Last snake standing gets 100 rank points and any item of his choosing from the Prize Pile.

The 2nd and 3rd place runners-up get 50 and 25 rank points, respectively.

Oh Man, That Was a Lot of Typing

Alright, let the questions begin!

-Erik

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[Last edited by ErikH2000 at 08-12-2006 11:34 PM]
08-06-2006 at 05:49 AM
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TripleM
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quote:
ErikH2000 wrote:
If you've specified jump ("J"), then your snake will try to jump with attempts made in this sequence: forward, clockwise, counter-clockwise, u-turn. If he can't jump then he'll try to move on the ground, with attempts made in this sequence: forward (except in this case forward is already known to be blocked), clockwise, counter-clockwise.


How is it possible that the snake can't jump but he isn't dead?
08-06-2006 at 07:34 AM
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Jason
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He could turn to the right or left!

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08-06-2006 at 07:36 AM
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silver
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when will we know if you've verified our entry-puzzle submissions? will it be in sufficient time to redo them if they are wrong, and still enter this contest if our re-does are right?


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[Last edited by silver at 08-06-2006 08:45 AM]
08-06-2006 at 08:43 AM
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Tahnan
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Pits? Chambers? Arenas? How odd. I was expecting, I don't know. A plane, I guess.
08-06-2006 at 09:14 AM
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TripleM
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quote:
Jason wrote:
He could turn to the right or left!


But if it could do that, then it could also jump to the right or left, since jumping 1 square is also legal.
(In other words, as I've understood it, a bump is a jump as well (since it says 1 or more squares), so not being able to jump -> not being able to bump.)
08-06-2006 at 10:35 AM
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Mikko
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IMO the best way to solve the movement order issue is to have the snakes move one at a time. Instead of all snakes moving every 2 hours, one snake would move every X minutes, where X would increase as the number of surviving snakes decreases.

If this is not practical, then one option would be to use a reverse movement order every two turns. I.e. Snake1 moves first on turns 1, 3, 5 etc and last on turns 2, 4, 6 etc.
08-06-2006 at 12:24 PM
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Chaco
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Yeah - I think it would just be a matter of saying "Okay, I'd like to jump NOW please", adding bumps if it will happen sometime during the night.

I hope you've got an automated process for counting the spaces a snake takes up.

EDIT:

Speaking of automated processes, will a shrunken image of the playing field be available at all times, or was that a manual process you did for that?

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[Last edited by Chaco at 08-06-2006 01:44 PM]
08-06-2006 at 01:42 PM
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Banjooie
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I thought snakes (on a @#*$ing plane) could jump backwards and U-turn over their whole bodies in the original puzzle?
08-06-2006 at 03:21 PM
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quote:
ErikH2000 wrote:
7. Head u-turns 180 degrees and jumps forward 1 or more squares.

That would be it.

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08-06-2006 at 03:41 PM
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Oh, dang - I kept meaning to get around to entering this but never actually did. Good luck to all participants!

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08-06-2006 at 04:21 PM
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Erik, you seem to have gotten into a bad habit of editing your old posts rather than making new ones. I've noticed these changes to the "Jumping Snakes Puzzles" thread since you first posted it:

* You've changed the example puzzle slightly for no apparent reason.
* You've removed all reference to the notation originally presented in the post, even though it was in use in the discussion thread. People trying to read the discussion now will have to guess what the notation means. And since the post no longer states that solutions may be submitted with the old notation, you've left me unsure whether I've actually submitted a valid solution.
* You've added a statement that by default, a post in the thread will be considered a request to enter the contest, thus adding at least 40 people to the list of contestants with no notification whatsoever.
* The original post said that if people had submitted an incorrect solution, you'd let them know at least a week before the contest deadline. It now says 2 days before the deadline.

I understand that it can be convenient to edit the old post to include new information, but it's really annoying that I have to read the entire post again in order to be sure that you haven't changed a few sentences in the middle. Also, editing a post doesn't mark the thread as unread, so the only way to know that something's changed is to check the thread to see if the "last edited" timestamp has changed.

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08-06-2006 at 04:30 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
TripleM wrote:
How is it possible that the snake can't jump but he isn't dead?

I'll have to clean up the wording a bit to make things clearer. Basically, a 1-square jump is the same thing as a bump.

-Erik

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08-06-2006 at 10:30 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
Chaco wrote:
I hope you've got an automated process for counting the spaces a snake takes up.

Not sure what you mean by this. Why would it be useful information to know how many spaces a snake takes up?
quote:
Speaking of automated processes, will a shrunken image of the playing field be available at all times,

Maybe, but probably not.
quote:
or was that a manual process you did for that?

Manual.

-Erik


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08-06-2006 at 10:32 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
silver wrote:
when will we know if you've verified our entry-puzzle submissions? will it be in sufficient time to redo them if they are wrong, and still enter this contest if our re-does are right?


To be honest, I plan to let anybody into the contest if it looks like they were honestly trying to understand the movement rules and provide a correct solution. Sometime this week, I'll run through the current solutions and look for problems. If someone gives an incorrect solution, then I'll point out the problem not so they will submit a new correct solution, but so that they can understand the rules.

-Erik

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08-06-2006 at 10:37 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
eytanz wrote:
Oh, dang - I kept meaning to get around to entering this but never actually did. Good luck to all participants!

Eytan, you and everyone else has time to enter. The deadline is this Saturday, which as I write this is 6 days away. (Exact time is shown in the first post.) If you can find a spare 20 minutes to solve the entry puzzle, then you're in!

-Erik

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08-06-2006 at 10:39 PM
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eytanz
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Oh! I thought for some reason that the deadline was yesterday.

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08-06-2006 at 11:09 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
Watcher wrote:
Erik, you seem to have gotten into a bad habit of editing your old posts rather than making new ones.

This is one of the more complicated contests and there are a lot of rules and information to get across. There will be new people coming to look at the contest and enter it this week. I want the topics to have all of the information in one place. Yes, changes have been made, but honestly, there's not much for you to worry about here.
quote:
* You've changed the example puzzle slightly for no apparent reason.

Sigh. The change in the example puzzle is just accidental, and I don't think spending 30 minutes to generate a new set of images consistent with the first puzzle is time well spent. The phrase "try walking in my shoes" comes to mind. Can you ease up a little? Putting all this information and working online game together in such a short time is difficult.
quote:

* You've removed all reference to the notation originally presented in the post, even though it was in use in the discussion thread. People trying to read the discussion now will have to guess what the notation means.

The first notation (i.e. "7,26,58...") was chosen before the online interface to game was created which uses the second notation (i.e. "JBBJB...") shown currently for the entry puzzle. I decided to describe the second notation for the entry puzzle so people could learn something consistent with the online interface. I decided not to also include the first notation because it clutters up the article and makes it harder for new people to learn. A description of the other notation could be posted in the discussion topic if people get confused when they go over there.
quote:
And since the post no longer states that solutions may be submitted with the old notation, you've left me unsure whether I've actually submitted a valid solution.

Please don't worry about this. I'll accept the old notation solution as well.
quote:
* You've added a statement that by default, a post in the thread will be considered a request to enter the contest, thus adding at least 40 people to the list of contestants with no notification whatsoever.

This was on my mind, and really it just amounts to having a lot of things to write and not enough time to get it all done. In this case, I had to leave to pick my wife up at the airport, and then we came home and fell asleep. I decided to post the contest announcement to give y'all something to chew on, and then come back today and explain a few other things that might confuse people. So let's answer this one...

If you posted a solution to the entry puzzle, you are automatically entered to be in the contest. Unless...

1. The provided solution is incorrect *and* obviously something you didn't spend much time thinking about. The last criteria is subjective, but let's just say that if you worked on solving the puzzle for about 20 minutes to understand the rules and come up with a solution, then you should be in the clear.

...or...

2. You edit your solution post to specify that you don't want to enter the contest or aren't sure yet.

3. You e-mail to say the same thing. In that case, I would edit your solution post to leave a note for myself not to include you in the contest.

I'm forgoing an extra opt-in process (i.e. "I, Watcher, declare myself an entrant!") to save myself and everyone else time. Nearly everyone who has posted a solution wants to be in the contest. There might be 2 or 3 people that won't want to be, and maybe 1 of those won't get this message and be mistakenly entered into the contest. No big deal! The Initial Test will weed out non-participants.

quote:
* The original post said that if people had submitted an incorrect solution, you'd let them know at least a week before the contest deadline. It now says 2 days before the deadline.

Yeah, I changed my mind about insisting on a correct answer and all of the communication that would be needed with entrants to arrive at a correct answer. Why would I make that change? Because all this stuff takes a lot of time! Screaming chuckloads of time. Gotta streamline this whole affair or other DROD tasks will get postponed.
quote:

I understand that it can be convenient to edit the old post to include new information,

It's not about convenience. It's about clarity for newcomers.
quote:
but it's really annoying that I have to read the entire post again in order to be sure that you haven't changed a few sentences in the middle. Also, editing a post doesn't mark the thread as unread, so the only way to know that something's changed is to check the thread to see if the "last edited" timestamp has changed.

Okay, I can see how you would be miffed. Here is what my plan was:

1. Edit the post to make it as clear and concise as possible for new people. (We don't want all the rules spread across multiple posts, or cluttering up the initial post with "legacy" information.)
2. Post an extra message explaining what has changed and what is relevant for the old people already involved in the contest.

I did #1 and #2, but just not together. And I made the mistake of not warning people that #2 was coming the next day. This post is basically #2, about 16 hours after #1.

-Erik

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08-06-2006 at 11:11 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
eytanz wrote:
Oh! I thought for some reason that the deadline was yesterday.

I might have said something earlier that gave that impression. My apologies if that was the case. Anyhow, the deadline will technically be when the contest begins running, which is:

Local Time:08-13-2006 at 12:00 AM

I considered having a separate deadline for getting the entries to me, but I am just trying to keep the contest as simple as possible. I don't want people confused by different deadlines. So I will probably start making the data entry to include entrants about a half hour before I turn on the snakepit. Then I'll check one more time for literally "last-minute" entrants right before the deadline and put them in before the contest snakepit goes online.

When you go to the Snake Page at Local Time:08-13-2006 at 12:00 AM it will show the starting state of the contest snakepit. The first turn will occur two hours later at Local Time:08-13-2006 at 02:00 AM, and then follow after that on every other hour.

-Erik

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08-06-2006 at 11:21 PM
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ErikH2000
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I decided it would be clearest to call 1-move jumps "jumps" instead of "bumps", and edited a paragraph in the "Jumping and Bumping" section to this version:

quote:
If you've specified jump ("J"), then your snake will try to jump with attempts made in this sequence: forward, clockwise, counter-clockwise, u-turn. If there is no obstacle to jump over in an attempted direction of movement, your snake will undramatically move just 1 square in that direction without passing over obstacle squares. If your snake can't jump in any of the four directions, then he'll die with no moves available to him.


This isn't a change in the movement rules. It's just a more consistant explanation that what was there previously.

-Erik

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08-06-2006 at 11:37 PM
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Erik - regarding editing your original post as commented on by watcher - maybe in the future, when you edit a rule post, you can use a special color (say, blue) for your edits? That will make them easier to find for people who already read the rules, while keeping all the benefits of editing.

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08-07-2006 at 12:56 AM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
eytanz wrote:
Erik - regarding editing your original post as commented on by watcher - maybe in the future, when you edit a rule post, you can use a special color (say, blue) for your edits? That will make them easier to find for people who already read the rules, while keeping all the benefits of editing.

Unfortunately, I don't think this would end up being very helpful. Someone new to the contest comes in and reads the rules, wondering what the different colors are about. Maybe I explain that in the post, but then that adds more text for people to read and think about, which is something else I'm trying to avoid. And then consider that if I made multiple edits at different times, that I'd either remove coloring from text that used to be new or let the somewhat-new text stay colored in addition to the really-new text. Anything I do short of fullblown version-tracking is bound to confuse and irritate people. And for that matter, fullblown version-tracking would confuse and irritate people.

So no, I will just make edits to the text, and if it seems the changes might affect anyone who had previously read the text, I'll also add a reply describing the change. In general, I should be avoiding real changes to the rules in the future, and any editing I do would be for clarification.

Gawd, I feel grumpy. I better do something to lighten my mood.

-Erik

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08-07-2006 at 01:20 AM
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ErikH2000
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I have to apologize for my snippy tone, particularly to Eytan and Watcher who are just trying to be helpful. I'm not in a good mood right now because I'm worried about getting a lot of different things done.

-Erik

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08-07-2006 at 01:26 AM
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techant
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Wow!!! what a lot of creativeness you have Erik. This is a great contest and I am looking forward to it.

I only had one idea which I am almost sure you thought of and discarded for a very good reason, not that I know the reason or I wouldn't suggest it...but...

My Idea: Could you rotate through the sequence of snakes so that #1 is first in the first round and then #2 is first in the second round, etc.. In the swordfight I remember that the fighters ahead of me always seemed to have an advantage and this might solve that. The down side is that it may make it too hard to predict moves for players.

Anyway just an idea...
I can't believe I can't wait.

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08-07-2006 at 02:14 AM
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Hikari
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I'm not noticing any link or anything on the Snake Page to get an overview of the map in the 'medium size'... Any chance that could get added?

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08-07-2006 at 02:56 AM
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TripleM
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I don't think there is any medium size.. it was only for that one screenshot (as mentioned in one of Erik's posts above, I think).
08-07-2006 at 03:48 AM
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coppro
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A fit-to-screen copy of the image

By sheer coincidence, when images are viewed alone in most browsers, they are automatically fit to the screen.

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08-07-2006 at 03:52 AM
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eytanz
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Erm, that's only fit-to-screen if your screen resolution is 4400x4400...

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08-07-2006 at 03:59 AM
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jamesdenem
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I'm guessing we will be told what snake # we are, or is that part of the contest?

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08-07-2006 at 05:13 AM
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NiroZ
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One thing im curious about, what happens to dead snakes? do they vanish or stay to clog up the others.

The way i see it, the first option would be more feasible but less fun, as it would end up being who has the most space(most likely), wereas the second option would take alot longer but potentially more interesting.

Also if this happens
-------
>>x>>>|
-------

were x is where the snake jumped over one empty square, and the snake hits the | and has no were to jump but backwards_as shown by the - and|'s ), would it be possible? simmalary, would snakes be able to jump over their own jumps, or the jumps of other snakes.

Also, i must sympathise with your grumpiness, i too get grouchy when i am stressed/have loads of work to do.

Edit: may i also second Mikko's suggestion to space out snakes over the period of 2 hours rather than do them all in one great clump. It would avoid alot of nasty surprises, and negate the advatage of being one of the lower numbers.

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[Last edited by NiroZ at 08-07-2006 08:16 AM]
08-07-2006 at 08:11 AM
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