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Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

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Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby broken_form » July 23rd, 2017, 8:52 pm

Dear all,

I was looking for a really good page to explain Conway's LIFE to an absolute beginner. I've been over the links in the sticky thread: the math.com one would be nicely illustrative, but is littered with the residue of broken applets. Or maybe not broken, but browsers have moved on. The original SciAm article is of course where I started, along with many other people, but it's pretty 'texty' by modern standards, and has a dated feel (as it should, it was a 'classic' when I got to it!).

The context is that I've been working on a game project that's sort of like LIFE meets Tempest meets RTS. I don't know if anyone has done 2-player life quite this way before. This is still a work in progress. I've got the current prototype up, it's got 25 levels, it works with mouse input as well as touchscreen, and I hope someday to finish it and wrap it up into a Droid app. Or even, with the help of someone who does Apple, an IOS version as well. Right now it's a web game. Sound is mp3 and should work on most browsers, but I'm aware it may not work on all of them.

You can find it here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mslutsky ... fecto.html

Of course it is unfinished and changes regularly as I work on it.

Anyway, I would like the game to have an 'About' box which provides a link to a reasonable explanation of the whole Conway LIFE thing. To some sort of stable, maintained page.

I don't think you need to know a thing about CGOL to play the game, but I'd like it to at least have some pointer in that direction.
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby dvgrn » July 23rd, 2017, 10:14 pm

broken_form wrote:I was looking for a really good page to explain Conway's LIFE to an absolute beginner. I've been over the links in the sticky thread: the math.com one would be nicely illustrative, but is littered with the residue of broken applets. Or maybe not broken, but browsers have moved on. The original SciAm article is of course where I started, along with many other people, but it's pretty 'texty' by modern standards, and has a dated feel (as it should, it was a 'classic' when I got to it!).

What did you think of the other link in the first group in the Life Links thread? The Wikipedia article has been pretty stable for many years now, and the Rules section is fairly concise. Maybe it's also too "texty", though -- a few illustrations of different neighborhood counts might be nice.

One idea would be to patch up the Rules section of the LifeWiki equivalent of that Wikipedia page with a few such illustrations, and link to that. We really ought to patch up that page anyway, with a nicer animation -- there's just a static image of random ash there at the moment, with an option of animation on a separate page. We can do that much more cleanly in a pop-up LifeViewer window nowadays, with a better transition at the end of the animation loop, etc., etc.
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby broken_form » July 24th, 2017, 3:31 am

I did see the LifiWiki version as well as the Wikipedia one. It just seems like a tough sell to the sort of person who didn't grow up reading Martin Gardner collections. Yes, pictures of the rules in action would definitely help. Like, this is a block, this is a blinker, this is a glider, right up front. Just thinking, selling CGOL up front for what it is first, and then maybe talk about Conway and Neumann and the philosophical ideas that surround it.

But who knows, I mean, I had assumed some sort of LIFE For Dummies was already up somewhere and it doesn't seem to be.

I guess I'm really making LIFE For Dummies here. You don't have to know that the cursor is dropping things called 'blinkers' or that the things being blocked are called 'gliders' or 'spaceships'. But if I ever release this thing, I think it would be rude not to have a good reference.
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby dvgrn » July 24th, 2017, 7:41 am

broken_form wrote:...I had assumed some sort of LIFE For Dummies was already up somewhere and it doesn't seem to be.

Yes, years ago I would have pointed to the intro on math.com, but now it's definitely in need of an update:

Download the latest browser - Internet Explorer 5.0
Download the latest browser - Netscape 4.7...

I had another look this morning, and this appears to be the closest thing to the math.com site updated for modern browsers. It even borrows some of the same illustrations.

And there's a workable Life simulator just a little farther down the page that you can scribble on while it's running, similar to the math.com site when it was working -- always a good feature. It's easier to get people interested if they can cause their own random explosions as quickly as possible...!
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby gameoflifemaniac » July 24th, 2017, 1:54 pm

idk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6EoRBvdVPQ
One big dirty Oro. Yeeeeeeeeee...
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby broken_form » July 24th, 2017, 5:41 pm

That one is really nice, actually. Appreciate it.

As far as random explosions, if you try the game you'll see it's basically all about that. Where to hit Max to stop it growing? Or a flotilla of LWSS? I just think someone might want to know why the gliders glide, why the.blocks just sit there, and so on.

dvgrn wrote:
broken_form wrote:...I had assumed some sort of LIFE For Dummies was already up somewhere and it doesn't seem to be.

Yes, years ago I would have pointed to the intro on math.com, but now it's definitely in need of an update:

Download the latest browser - Internet Explorer 5.0
Download the latest browser - Netscape 4.7...

I had another look this morning, and this appears to be the closest thing to the math.com site updated for modern browsers. It even borrows some of the same illustrations.

And there's a workable Life simulator just a little farther down the page that you can scribble on while it's running, similar to the math.com site when it was working -- always a good feature. It's easier to get people interested if they can cause their own random explosions as quickly as possible...!
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby dvgrn » July 25th, 2017, 10:04 am

broken_form wrote:I've got the current prototype up, it's got 25 levels ...

It does indeed -- and it also has 26 levels. Got there early this morning but then had to stop, so I don't know how much higher it goes now. I hadn't actually tried the game before yesterday evening.

The play is nicely balanced -- the cursor is overpowered enough to kill still lifes reliably, but it takes a moment to confirm the cleanup, and you can't be everywhere at once. And for active explosions you have to be careful with your angle of approach or you may push the bad guys in the wrong direction.

The big difference between this and previous efforts at Conway's Life Computer Game seems to be that this is zoomed out enough that you have to work at the level of statistical likelihood -- "this wall of random ash is probably thick enough that that wave of junk won't get through". The game goes fast enough that there's not much hope of placing single blinkers perfectly accurately, let alone single cells as in previous multiplayer Life games.

I'm trying the game out with a mouse. Not sure how it would change with a touch screen, but it would probably be more fun to jump around and scribble out the flare-ups.

Just out of curiosity, have you tried other "attack patterns" that turned out not to be as powerful as you thought they would be? I keep expecting to see guns, like maybe a p156 multi-gun (minus the eaters) at each corner of the Evil Box, plus maybe the usual phalanx of *WSSes lined up along the edges between them. Maybe p156 is too slow, but what about p22 or p20 for a little more variety, along with the old standard p30s?

If they are as annoying as I was guessing, you probably don't have to answer that, because I'll see them eventually as I keep working through the levels...!
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby broken_form » July 25th, 2017, 5:37 pm

The game is as 'zoomed out' as I could get and still have it not run like a pig on my cheap prepay phone - that's my low-end target there. 192x192 grid. I think computers are good enough these days that why go any smaller? Of course it screams on my new touchscreen i7 laptop, but that can't be THE target.

Definitely you've got me thinking about attack patterns. I went with flotillas of gliders or LWSS because no gun can fire in such a dense manner: at least no pattern that could reasonably fit within the white 'firing' square. The game is running at about 30 frames per second, so your standard Gosper gun would be like plunk, plunk, plunk. I could probably fit more than one in the firing area, of course, so that's something to think about. I could probably, if I had the white square at 80x80 pixels or so, fit 8 of them around the edges firing in different directions. It might be a neat surprise for a level or two, but it would be very easy to block the gliders and wreck the guns. Could try it!
So far the attack patterns consist of soup, 1- 2- and 4-directional glider flotillas, LWSS flotillas, the 'box', MAX, 'nothingness' (wipes cells), loose array of blocks, and tight array of blocks.

Now I'm wondering whether I could do something with outward-facing queen bees doing their 'jump'.

Still not sure how many levels I'm going to want. 1-9 were basically easy ones, 10-19 introduced new attack patters, 20-29 start playing with the 'firing' box and some new attack patterns. I think maybe 30-39 should be levels where you fire gliders instead of dropping blinkers, 40-49 could be ones where you fire LWSS, and after that I could just do some real difficult ones with lots of fast, large spawns and maybe even crank up the frame rate a bit.

I very much appreciate you checking it out. Hope that all features are working on your platform.

dvgrn wrote:
broken_form wrote:I've got the current prototype up, it's got 25 levels ...

It does indeed -- and it also has 26 levels. Got there early this morning but then had to stop, so I don't know how much higher it goes now. I hadn't actually tried the game before yesterday evening.

The play is nicely balanced -- the cursor is overpowered enough to kill still lifes reliably, but it takes a moment to confirm the cleanup, and you can't be everywhere at once. And for active explosions you have to be careful with your angle of approach or you may push the bad guys in the wrong direction.

The big difference between this and previous efforts at Conway's Life Computer Game seems to be that this is zoomed out enough that you have to work at the level of statistical likelihood -- "this wall of random ash is probably thick enough that that wave of junk won't get through". The game goes fast enough that there's not much hope of placing single blinkers perfectly accurately, let alone single cells as in previous multiplayer Life games.

I'm trying the game out with a mouse. Not sure how it would change with a touch screen, but it would probably be more fun to jump around and scribble out the flare-ups.

Just out of curiosity, have you tried other "attack patterns" that turned out not to be as powerful as you thought they would be? I keep expecting to see guns, like maybe a p156 multi-gun (minus the eaters) at each corner of the Evil Box, plus maybe the usual phalanx of *WSSes lined up along the edges between them. Maybe p156 is too slow, but what about p22 or p20 for a little more variety, along with the old standard p30s?

If they are as annoying as I was guessing, you probably don't have to answer that, because I'll see them eventually as I keep working through the levels...!
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby dvgrn » July 25th, 2017, 7:49 pm

broken_form wrote:I could probably, if I had the white square at 80x80 pixels or so, fit 8 [guns] around the edges firing in different directions. It might be a neat surprise for a level or two, but it would be very easy to block the gliders and wreck the guns. Could try it!

Yeah, I was thinking of them more for the novelty -- but also, sometimes a faster firing rate isn't the most likely to get through a protective layer of ash. A well-protected set of small guns in the center of the box could just keep sending out more gliders, maybe screened by *WSS fleets charging out at the edges.

I've found that at least with my current defense pattern, the thing I'm most likely to miss is a stray glider sneaking out at a corner. So a combined attack might actually be a little harder than all one kind of ship -- a slower gun is actually somewhat more likely to knock a hole in already-settled ash, where with a solid stream you just have to interrupt the leading glider or spaceship, and following ones almost always crash into the resulting explosion while it's still active.

But it'd mostly be for the entertainment value of a little more variety. There are some easier lightspeed attacks you could sneak in to earlier levels, too. You could see this one coming for a good bit longer, for example:

x = 35, y = 35, rule = LifeHistory
.2A29.2A$.A31.A$2.A29.A$3.A27.A$4.A25.A$5.A23.A$6.A21.A$7.A19.A$8.A
17.A$9.A15.A$10.A13.A$11.A11.A$12.A9.A$13.A7.A$14.A5.A$15.A3.A$16.A.A
$17.A$16.A.A$15.A3.A$14.A5.A$13.A7.A$12.A9.A$11.A11.A$10.A13.A$9.A15.
A$8.A17.A$7.A19.A$6.A21.A$5.A23.A$4.A25.A$3.A27.A$2.A29.A$.A31.A$.2A
29.2A!

broken_form wrote:I very much appreciate you checking it out. Hope that all features are working on your platform.

Everything seems to be working great, even on my rather ancient laptop.

EDIT: What does the up arrow in the lower right do? Am I missing a way to skip to higher levels once I've been there before, or is that maybe a future edition? A couple of times I've accidentally clicked a link in the bookmarks bar, and the Back button definitely doesn't get me to where I was before...!
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Re: Game project - seek good 'intro' page for CGOL

Postby broken_form » July 29th, 2017, 12:01 am

That should be a menu screen - not implemented yet. Afraid I'm on vacation now, with intermittent mobile Internet only, so I probably won't be updating it mutilate next week.

I was thinking of having it so you could skip ahead once you'd beaten a level once. It's only Javascript but I tthink this can go in localstorage on modern browsers.
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