Evolve or die: Face BrilliANT
Imagine you're an ant, living on a toroidal grid of 11x11 cells. Fifteen of these cells are occupied by food pieces. Your field of view is limited to 5x5 square around your current position. Your goal is to collect as much food as possible within your lifetime, which lasts for 35 moves. Each move consist in shifting by one cell horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
Another ant is lurking somewhere on the board. Intially, it is as far as possible from you, that is 6 cells to the north, south, west, or east (remember, the board is toroidal, i.e., it is 'glued' on the edges). At a distance, you are not a threat to each other. However, if the opponent enters the cell occupied by you, you die; and the other way round. There is no extra reward for killing the opponent, but the killed ant, quite naturally, cannot continue collecting food.
This game of Ant Wars is symmetric: players have exactly the same perceptual ability and mobility, and make moves in turns.
The applet to the right allows you to play Ant Wars against a specific ant called BriliANT. Now, the tricky part is that BriliANT has not been manually programmed, but evolved using Genetic Programming, a variant of Evolutionary Computation. BriliANT learned how to survive by playing hundreds of thousands of games against other competing ants, without any human intervention (also, without playing games against humans).
BriliANT won the Ant Wars contest, one of the competitions organized within GECCO'2007, Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, in London, England, July 7-12, 2007. Details on the experiment setup may be found in a separate report, and the original statement of the problem is available here.
Note: The outcome of the game heavily depends on the initial board state. Some food arrangements are better for you, some others for BriliANT. To make your and BrilliANT's chances as equal as possible, every two games in a row start with same initial board, with your and BrilliANT's role exchanged (called Ant0 and Ant1). You'll need to play several games to fairly compare your performance against BriliANT.
The checkboxes allow you to optionally turn on the sound and listen to BrilliANT's (and yours) gulps, check its score, and even uncover its position. However, each of these extensions provides you with extra information, hence gives you a handicap and makes the game unfair. Such games therefore do not count in all-time statistics shown at the bottom of the applet.
Have fun facing BrilliANT!