|Platform(s)||PLATO system, Apple II series|
RobotWar is a programming game written by Silas Warner. This game, along with the companion program RobotWrite, was originally developed in the TUTOR programming 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 is 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 states, "The task set before you is: to program a robot, that no other robot can destroy!"
The main activity of the game is to write a computer program that operates a (simulated) robot. The player selects multiple robots which do battle in an arena until only one is left standing. The robots do not have direct knowledge of the location or velocity of any of the other robots; they only use radar pulses to deduce distance, and perhaps use clever programming techniques to deduce velocity. No physical dexterity is required or even relevant in RobotWar; there is 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.
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 2000 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 multi-component circuitry design than programming.
Harry White reviewed RobotWar in The Space Gamer No. 45. White commented that "RobotWar is worth [...] the price. And if you don't have an Apple, but do own some other brand of personal computer, just wait - there'll be a similar game for you soon. It has to happen."
In its first issue Computer Gaming World praised RobotWar's language as easy to learn, and for several years hosted contests for robot programs. In 1996 the magazine named it the 85th best game ever. 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.
- RobotWar, Baltimore, MD: MUSE SOFTWARE, Inc., 1981, p. 1
- White, Harry (November 1981). "Featured Review: RobotWar". The Space Gamer. Steve Jackson Games (45): 4.
- Edmunds, William (November–December 1981), "RobotWar: A wargame for all programmers", Computer Gaming World, pp. 13–17
- Brooks, M. Evan (May 1994). "Never Trust A Gazfluvian Flingschnogger!". Computer Gaming World. pp. 42–58.
- "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Feigel, Craig (December 1981). "Robotwar". BYTE. p. 24. Retrieved 19 October 2013.