[Melbourne-pm] AI Contest - some strategy

Nathan Bailey nathan.bailey at monash.edu
Wed Nov 10 22:44:28 PST 2010

My goal is to get perl into the top 100. Currently, the best Perl bot  
is ranked 175.

Obviously I'd like to do that myself, but I'm also happy to see  
someone who is a better coder, mathematician or strategist than me get  
there, so here's some basic thoughts from me to help you get started,  
if you haven't already (and it's not hard to get started!)

Given that this is a clearly the kind of AI problem that AI people  
find trivial to solve in LISP, I'm actually surprised that LISP  
doesn't make more of an appearance in the top 100, but the #1 bot is a  
LISP bot.

Every game played for the rankings is recorded, and you can watch  
them, which gives you some insight into people's strategies - you can  
play back games turn-by-turn, seeing where they attack first, how many  
ships they send and which planets they consider most valuable. It's  
definitely worth doing this for the #1 bot. It's possible that you'll  
come up with an even better strategy that outthinks the current top  
ones, but the current ones have some common elements that are easily  
determined by watching.

About 50% of the time, when I think I've improved my bot, I've  
actually made it worse. So before submitting it, I play it against  
itself. Toby's distribution includes 100 maps; I play my new bot  
against my old bot for all 100, and if my new bot doesn't win a  
majority of the games, I rework it!

I've been thinking about saving the maps each time I play over TCP; I  
suspect there are as many as 1000. Some of the maps have significantly  
different configurations (eg. home planets very close to each other at  
the start of the game) that are likely to affect your strategy.

I've also been considering writing a merged bot, based on which types  
of maps each variant of my bot performs best at - or perhaps I should  
just work out why that is the case and incorporate it into my  
strategy :-)

Although I've joined Toby in the top 10, I don't think my bot is that  
sophisticated, and I'm sure I'll be overtaken once y'all have some  
time to improve your bots :-)

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