Google: Virtual Spaceship Wars at Google Waterloo

I get it. Google’s just gotta have fu-un. Shipwars@Google Waterloo is no Waterloo, though.

Waterloo, Ontario: Google today announced that its employees either are too rich or have too much time on their hands. Or maybe they just need to have more fun.

Google execs today in a blog post revealed a Google programming contest — resulting in a virtual spaceship battle — at its Waterloo, Canada office. They called it Ship Wars @ Google Waterloo.

It’s “a virtual battle of intergalactic spacecraft,”  writes Google engineer Aaron Kemp on a Google blog post today. Called Ship Wars Google Waterloo, Kemp writes that this “first-ever Ship Wars Programming Competition” was an idea he came up with in partnership with another Waterloo-based engineer, Garret Kelly.

“It’s a competition in which participants code their own intergalactic crafts in the programming language of their choice, and then battle against each other in a virtual environment. The inaugural competition proved quite popular, drawing nearly 40 participants, ready for battle.”

Google’s been under a lot of stress what with lawsuits and increasing malware issues plaguing its Android mobile OS platform. It’s got to be nothing like facing the charge of the British heavy cavalry at the historic Waterloo battle, though. Then again …

On the blog, Kemp went on:

The inaugural competition proved quite popular, drawing nearly 40 participants, ready for battle.

The game itself went through a lengthy series of internal tests and refinements at the Google Waterloo office in the weeks leading up to the tournament. On the day of the event, participants quickly learned how to play and were able to code, test and enter their virtual ships into competition in under three hours. Not an easy feat!

The engineers brought their own machines (mostly laptops, but a few brought in huge desktops) to build and run their ships. After a brief overview of the rules, they were able to get started coding their ships in the language of their choice—some even switched languages mid-way through the event, changing their plan of attack. They were able to control the way the ships moved (direction and speed) and the strength of their weapons, but were only given clues as to how their ship and weapon systems would behave inside the simulation— the rest had to be deduced by playing test matches against example ships. This type of on-the-fly problem solving proved to be a unique and exciting challenge.

To test their ships in battle against other engineers’ creations, head-to-head battle stations were set up around the room. At these stations, participants could see how their ships were shaping up, watch them in action and ultimately decide what changes they could make before the final competition.

Local engineers design their virtual battleships

At the end of the evening, guests were given a tour of the Google Waterloo office while their ships “went to battle.” Thousands of simulated head-to-head battles and 15 minutes later, to the sound of much laughter and raucous cheering, the ship captains saw their results and watched replays of some of the most dramatic battles. Prizes (a Motorola Xoom Tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and a Google messenger bag) were awarded to the designers of the three ships with the most wins. For more photos, here’s a link to our album.

This wildly successful event will be expanding out to a few other Google offices in the near future. Be on the lookout, Pittsburgh and Cambridge: Ship Wars is coming to you next!</blockquote>