|Original author(s)||Silas Warner|
|Developer(s)||Muse Software (Apple II version)|
|Initial release||1970s (PLATO), 1981 (Apple II)|
|Platform||PLATO, Apple II|
RobotWar was a programming game written by Silas Warner. This game, along with the companion program RobotWrite, was originally developed in the TUTOR programming language language on the PLATO system in the 1970s. Later the game was commercialized and adapted for the Apple II family of computers and published by Muse Software in 1981. The premise was that in the distant future of 2002, war was declared hazardous to human health, and now countries settled their differences in a battle arena full of combat robots. As the manual stated, "The task set before you is: to program a robot, that no other robot can destroy!"
The main activity of the game was to write a computer program that would operate a (simulated) robot. The player could then select multiple robots who would do battle in an arena until only one was left standing. The robots did not have direct knowledge of the location or velocity of any of the other robots; they could only use radar pulses to deduce distance, and perhaps use clever programming techniques to deduce velocity. No physical dexterity was required or even relevant in RobotWar; there was no way for the player to actually take part in the battle.
SCAN AIM + 5 TO AIM ; MOVE GUN AIM TO RADAR ; SEND RADAR PULSE LOOP IF RADAR < 0 GOSUB FIRE ; TEST RADAR GOTO SCAN FIRE 0 - RADAR TO SHOT ; FIRE THE GUN ENDSUB
The robot with this program would sweep its radar in a circle, firing off radar pulses, and when it detected another robot in this way, would fire a projectile, set to explode at the correct distance as estimated by the radar pulse. This particular robot would stand still throughout the entire battle, as it never assigned any number to its movement registers.
In a way, RobotWar was a multiplayer game, in that different people could program their robots, then copy all the robots' source code to the same floppy disk and load all the robots to fight in the arena.
Crobots is a related game that uses a simplified version of the 'C' programming language to program the robots. In Crobots the game arena is displayed as simple ASCII graphics.
MindRover is a recent implementation of concepts taken from RobotWar and Robot Odyssey, which allows users to design more customized and advanced robots, although with a paradigm based more on multicomponent circuitry design than programming.
RoboCode the idea of RobotWar implemented in Java (opensource) and still supported since 2001.
In its first issue, Computer Gaming World praised the game's easy-to-learn language, comparable to BASIC, and for its first few years hosted yearly contests in which contestants sent in their robot programs. BYTE also praised Battle Language and its potential for teaching programming, as well as the sophisticated editor and debugger, but noted that the language's slow performance caused robots to sometimes behave in unexpected ways.