|Why this guide?|
|You've bested the bugs that come with AI Wars. You even beat lrscanner
and Survivor. Your bug can take on all of the swarm bugs, alone. You're
tough. You know it. You've gone as far as you can go. You download a
tournament class bug from the Internet. You get slaughtered. You
This happened to me and I think it happens to a lot of people. Don't get discouraged! The AI Wars language has a lot of room for optimizations in it--far more than you'd imagine at first, especially if you have any formal Computer Science training.
This guide gives newcomers some places to start looking when they want to radically speed up their bugs. Some of the tips in here have, until now, been considered by the few that knew them to be absolutely top secret.
|The Tournament Difference|
|I will refer in this guide to three kinds of bugs: Tournament class
bugs, Newcomer bugs, and Sample bugs. The sample bugs are the ones that
ship with AI Wars. Newcomer bugs are bugs written by new users when they
first download AI Wars. Tournament bugs are bugs that use the tricks and
techniques that have evolved on various tournament sites over time.
Tournament bugs were very intimidating for me at first, since they so easily dispatched the bug that I had worked on so hard. They generally use common techniques and strategies that make them much more successful than the sample bugs. As new techniques emerge, they are adopted by others for their own bugs, thus causing tournament bugs to evolve. Here are some common differences between tournament bugs and newcomer bugs, as well as some great ways to speed up your bugs.
|Primary Weapons vs Missiles|
|I've only seen one or two tournament bugs successfully use "Fire Weapon" to attack an enemy, although I believe this will change in the future. Fire Weapon does almost no damage to a shielded bug unless at extremely close range. Since most bugs run around with their shields up most of the time, most users choose missiles as the weapon of choice.|
|Before downloading and watching a few tournament bugs, I never
discharged energy. Not only was it not very effective (causing only three
points of damage) but it also cause damage to the attacking bug! There
were no sample bugs that used it well.
A tournament bug, when it detects an enemy on the perimeter, typically flashes it's "discharge energy" four times in a row (4 * 3pts damage > 10) to immediately kill the opponent. So if you end up next to a tournament bug and it scans you first, you die. Fast. Once you die, it takes your flag to recover any damages and pick up ammo.
|Which brings me to another major difference. Almost all tournament
bugs seem to have a fixation for flags, even when they are perfectly
healthy. Reading the documentation and competing with the sample bugs got
me thinking that I should avoid flags like the plague, unless I was
injured. Most newcomer bugs do just that: they ignore or specifically
avoid flags when they aren't injured.
Here are the advantages that come with picking up a flag. Every flag (in 3.7c, where the tournaments are run) represents 30 ammo points. That's three missiles! It also represents complete repairs of any damage and 350 units of fuel. 30 ammo points is the really tempting part for most bugs. Nearly all tournament bugs will deliberately hurt themselves with a discharge so that they can pick up a flag safely.
|The heartbeat of a bug is the click. Everything--and I mean
EVERYTHING--is tuned and designed around the click. Knowing how to
count clicks is the key to the rest of this guide.
For sharware users, one line is one click, except for blank lines and comments. This includes line labels, returns, gotos, "end if" lines, etc. Tournaments at Battle Dome no longer use this method. This 3.7c introduces a "smart click" mode that makes counting clicks much harder, but makes it much easier to optimize your bugs. Shareware users should keep this counting method in mind when they write their bugs
|Assign and Math are the only two places where there is no ~ in front
of a variable. This trips me more times than I care to imagine.
You can assign just about anything to a variable. This is mentioned in the official guide, but not stressed. Why does this matter? You can have a self-programming bug, in effect. For example,
|I looked long and hard before I ever found a use for GPS scan. It took
me too long to calculate the X and Y coordinates needed for evaluation. I
know of one or two bugs use it, usually to scan the other side of mines.
Here are some other uses:
gps scan x #friend_x y #friend_y
If this scan finds a friend, you're not the only bug left on your team. If this scan didn't find a friend, you're the only one with your IFF code left.
gps scan x #strat_x y #strat_y
This scans the strategy node and tells you if an enemy is racking up points there.
|A warning about gosub and goto: Unless running under 3.7c rules (smart
clicks), the goto and the label you are jumping to counts as
clicks, so every goto has at least a one-click overhead.
You can use goto to jump to variables as well. For example,
Note that if you repeatedly gosub to a label that doesn't exist, your bug will eventually stop working, and all gosub statements will fail.
|First, it is a complete waste to use the form
Additionally, you can string as many If ... then if ... then if ... then statements on a line as you want without adding time to the processing. So the following code
Using if's after scanning can save several clicks. Since most bugs don't want to do anything if a scan turns up nothing, a barrier, or a friend, using nested if statements can save a lot of time (especially when combined with the previous tip):
|Your bug can change names at any time in its execution. This can be a big debugging tool, since you can turn on cybug names while the bugs are battling. This gives your bugs a method for communicating with the outside world (or just you). In 3.7c, this name change doesn't even use a click.|
|Do you have more?|
|Do you have more tips, ideas, or hints for others? Let me know and
I'll add it to this list. My goal here is not to give away anybody's
secrets, but to increase the quality and quantity of bug writers
everywhere! Remember that the more AI Programmers out there who stick with
it, the more fun the game will be for everyone.
What gave you the most problems as you started competing on-line? What struck you as odd in the behavior of others? What should new users know?