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Microsoft AI Programming Games

Microsoft Research Takes On Go 175

mikejuk writes "Microsoft Research has used F# and AI to implement a consumer-quality game of Go — arguably the most difficult two-person game to implement. They have used an interesting approach to the problem of playing the game, which is a pragmatic cross between tree search with pruning and machine learning to spot moves with a 'good shape.' The whole lot has been packaged into an XNA-based game with a story."
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Microsoft Research Takes On Go

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  • Confusing title (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:04AM (#34735902) Homepage

    When I saw "Microsoft takes on Go", I thought of Google Go [wikipedia.org]. It only adds to the confusion that both F# and Go attempt to solve some concurrency issues, though I thought it odd to compete with an imperative language using a functional one. I had to do a double-take to understand it was talking about a game.

    Sheesh, I need sleep. And perhaps to stop learning so many useless programming languages.

  • Go is not a game (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kim0 ( 106623 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:12AM (#34735922)

    Go is not a game because it does not have rules that are clearly interpretable, except the new Tromp/Taylor rules.
    One sign of this is that Japanese monks have for about 400 hundred years quarreled about how certain patterns should be interpreted.

    When I started to learn the game, I was told that it was exceedingly simple, but learned that there was a thick book of how to interpret patterns, which obviously is not simple. And after playing it a little, and thinking about it, it became apparent to me that there were end game effects that were simply ignored. The Japanese versus Chinese "rules" give very different endgames, but the practice is to simply ignore that and pretend there is no problem. One just stops when the players agree that the rest of the game would be obvious and boring, without that necessarily being true.

    Robert Jasiek has done extensive analysis of Go, and seems to be the only one actually understanding the game as it is played in practice.
    Here are a short list of the major mistakes that Go rulesets contain. [snafu.de]
    Here are lots of short analyses of different scoring methods. [snafu.de]
    Here are some game patterns that give different problems in different rulesets. [snafu.de]

    When it is not even possible to analyze parts of games then true optimal play regresses to quarreling about it, which is precisely what the Japanese tradition has done for at least some hundred years. Robert Jasiek has made the only consistent interpretation of the Japanese "rules", and it is somewhat insane to read, with 3 levels of recursion. It means that instead of there just being an ordinary game tree, the rules at each node in the game tree are determined by hypothetical game trees at these nodes, and the same goes for the hypothetical game trees. Gaaahrgle!

    Those programming Go players typically do statistics on games played by humans instead of having a scoring function, or they use the Tromp/Taylor rules.

    So Go is riddled with quarrels and pretense. Not a game in practice. More like politics, or Zen.

    Kim0+

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:20AM (#34735956)

      Sir, I think you should re-read what you just wrote.

      Since when is Go not a game? Because it's just complicated?

      Have you ever actually played go? If so, you'd know it takes alot of skill and even more practice to master.

      Anything that takes practice, skill and involves fun is a game.

      Red Rover does not have any 'rules' or 'regulations'. Yet, I bet you played it when you were little.

      ~Valk

      • by Demonoid-Penguin ( 1669014 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:40AM (#34736392) Homepage

        Sir, I think you should re-read what you just wrote.

        Since when is Go not a game? Because it's just complicated?

        Have you ever actually played go? If so, you'd know it takes alot of skill and even more practice to master.

        Anything that takes practice, skill and involves fun is a game.

        Red Rover does not have any 'rules' or 'regulations'. Yet, I bet you played it when you were little.

        ~Valk

        Everything is a game. There's always a winner, and a loser, the trick is to determine when you are the latter, to become the former. All games have consequences. In the end the only guarantee you have is, that sooner or later, you lose.

        Wake up Jake!

    • by dair ( 210 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @06:01AM (#34736064)

      In practice the problem you see (ambiguities in the endgame) are only really an issue for computer Go. Human players rarely disagree over when a game is "over", as typically the outcome becomes obvious long before each stone is played out to the absolute end.

      Perhaps a good analogy is poetry: it is perfectly possible for a poem to convey meaning, even if it does not conform to the rules of the language or have a literal meaning (and yet, people still understand it).

      The thick book of "how to interpret patterns" is simply a set of standard plays that people have found empirically to work well (in exactly the same way as opening books are used in chess). Like chess, you are free to ignore those patterns if you like, but typically that leaves you in a weaker position than you would be in otherwise.

      These patterns are most commonly used in the opening moves, but local instances of them pop up all the time ("if he moves there, I should move here, then he *has* to move there I'll capture these stones").

      The rule is that game is over when both players agree that it is over: if there is a disagreement, the game is played on. Some positions lead to an infinite repeat (A captures B, B captures A, A captures B, etc) but thee plays typically don't determine the final score (if the score was equal, and there was an infinite repeat, then humans would simply call it a draw). Computers can recognise trivial cases of this easily, and do OKish with heuristics for simple cases.

      However the real difficulty in computer Go is understanding just why humans make the moves they do, as outside of the standard sequences a move is often made intuitively as a way to steer the other player even though the consequences of that move may be some way off (or may need to be abandoned, or redirected, or reused in some unplanned way).

      Go is a truly fascinating game, and also a very human one (computers will play it well one day, but probably about the same time that they get good at writing poems, playing tricks, or asking why).

      • by shentino ( 1139071 ) <shentino@gmail.com> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:12AM (#34736286)

        Infinite capture loops are illegal moves because of the rule of Ko.

        • Re:Go is not a game (Score:4, Informative)

          by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:43AM (#34736406) Homepage

          Not under Japanese rules, or Korean rules, or any ruleset lacking a superko rule. What dair(210) says is also wrong: The corner cases are NOT a problem for computer go, because programs rarely play with the traditional, informal rulesets lacking superko. (When they are forced to, such as in certain tournaments, they perform slightly worse, but not disastrously so).

          A more common problem for Go programs is bugs in the superko handling. Nick Wedd runs monthly bot tournaments at KGS, if you take a look at his reports, you'll see hardly a tournament goes by without some program crashing, or timing out due to wanting to play an illegal move (forbidden by superko)

        • by sam0vi ( 985269 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:17PM (#34740296)

          And let's not forget that you play with a given number of stones, so one of the players will eventually run out of stones. That's an objective end for the game if there ever was one.

      • by Kim0 ( 106623 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:21AM (#34736532)

        Thanks for telling me a little more about the book.

        I have done deep game theoretical analyses for some years, and gotten some interesting results. One of them is that if one appears to be on the losing side, one can decrease the chance of that by making the game more random by running into more complicated fields of game space.

        Wether those fields exist or not depends strongly on the end game, and in Go there seems to me likely to be the possibility of impenetrable almost infinite thickets. I do not know yet if that really is the truth, but there are some powerful hints of that, like John Tromps work in the direction making Go boards that are universal computers, and in the construction of infinite draw situation patterns.

        The upshot of this is that endgames of almost maximally strong Go players may be almost infinitely long and complicated.

        • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:57PM (#34737888)

          The upshot of this is that endgames of almost maximally strong Go players may be almost infinitely long and complicated.

          No, it isn't. You need to get your head out of the clouds and actually learn Go. The game simplifies greatly the closer it gets to the endgame. That's why experienced human players can almost always agree on what stones are dead under Japanese rules without using Jasiek's precise definition of Japanese rules.

        • by nten ( 709128 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @01:32PM (#34738116)

          Does retreating to chaotic gamespace work in other complex games too? It makes intuitive sense that if an opponent is better at you with pistols at ten paces, that you choose shotguns at twenty. If it is not considered bad form to refuse to acknowledge defeat until the last move, it seems this technique could turn Go into a game of mental endurance.

      • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:32AM (#34736584)

        In practice the problem you see (ambiguities in the endgame) are only really an issue for computer Go. Human players rarely disagree over when a game is "over", as typically the outcome becomes obvious long before each stone is played out to the absolute end.

        How many times people have considered something "obvious" that later turns out to be wrong, when you analyze it to the absolute end? There seems to exist a consensus that some positions are better than others, but how do you know it unless you play it to the end?

        I've never played go, but I often see comments on how difficult it seems to be to implement a good software to play go. Perhaps that's because go isn't really that well understood by humans either. When computers start playing go better than humans, some of these winning positions may not be so good after all.

        • by Kim0 ( 106623 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @10:21AM (#34737020)

          I could not agree more.

          Kim0+

        • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @01:24PM (#34738050)

          There seems to exist a consensus that some positions are better than others, but how do you know it unless you play it to the end?

          Exactly true, and the Japanese rules only make sense by referring to rules where you can play the game out. The history of Go rules are murky (the game is thousands of years old), but I firmly believe that Japanese rules were derived as a shortcut from simpler rules were it was easy to play things out. If you learn Chinese-style rules first, you can gain this insight as to how the Japanese rules make sense.

          In practice, Chinese-style rules and Japanese-style rules are equivalent to within 1 point. Most games are decided by more than 1 point, and the game is played virtually the same.

          Perhaps that's because go isn't really that well understood by humans either.

          In practice, greater than 99% of games end without any such mystery when played by strong players. Players new to the game do not have this experience, so they should start with Chinese-style rules to avoid the mysterious nature of the endgame.

        • by umghhh ( 965931 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @10:12AM (#34743176)
          Well it is a game with full information which means if you knew all there would not be a point in playing. I guess so called Go Gods would not need play then as all would be clear to them from the onset. This particular property of the game is especially visible in determination of so called Komi which is a number of points White gets for having to start as a second.

          Playing till the end is one way of ensuring that the result is correct and this is I think foreseen in some rule-sets that if players do not agree on status of some groups at the end of the game then they have to play out the game. This still does not guarantee that the result of such play-out is correct. One of fascinating things about this game is how it is similar to problems we encounter in our lives where complete information even if seemingly available (as with all stones on the board) still the knowledge what the status is, is not available. Why should it be? Looking at this from another angle do you think that Monte Carlo bots that seem to be approaching level of profi players or any hypothetical software that could win against strongest human know anything about the game?

      • by nloop ( 665733 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:52AM (#34736890)

        Computers play it well right now. It would take a beginner years of practice to rival gnu go and that is by no means the strongest one out there. The best engines are playing at 4 dan, or borderline pro, currently. Deep Blue isn't far off.

      • Re:Go is not a game (Score:5, Informative)

        by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @01:44PM (#34738238)

        In practice the problem you see (ambiguities in the endgame) are only really an issue for computer Go.

        Wrong. New players frequently have a hard time understanding Japanese rules. This is why people like Kim0 exist. On their own, the Japanese rules logically don't make sense. You have to know how to play to end the game, and you have to know how to end the game before you can learn how to play.

        Instead, new players should be referred to Chinese-style rules. The Japanese rules are fine for experienced players.

        Perhaps a good analogy is poetry

        No, that's a terrible analogy. There are no rules to poetry, and there is no winner and loser. You're just adding confusion.

        The rule is that game is over when both players agree that it is over: if there is a disagreement, the game is played on.

        That's the problem with Japanese rules. It is not easy to "play on" and determine the score. It is trivial with Chinese-style rules.

        Go is a truly fascinating game, and also a very human one (computers will play it well one day, but probably about the same time that they get good at writing poems, playing tricks, or asking why).

        Computers already play the game well. They have reached dan status.

    • by qmaqdk ( 522323 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @06:28AM (#34736152)

      The Japanese versus Chinese "rules" give very different endgames, but the practice is to simply ignore that and pretend there is no problem.

      That's because it would destroy the harmony [guardian.co.uk] of the game if you start discussing all the problems with the rules.

    • Re:Go is not a game (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @06:39AM (#34736198)

      Rubbish

      Go is a great game. The chinese and aga rules are precise and assign a score to every position in a simple way with no arguement. The japanese rules are potentially complex but in practise the sort of positions in which difficulties arise rarely if ever occur. The Japanese rules are more conveniant to play with although not as mathematically complete. Still, in 10 years of tournament play I have never seen a position the outcome of which depended on the rules employed.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:00AM (#34736254)

      Do you actually play the game. From your post it seems like you are trying to program it without any insight as a player. Sorry, but that will fail.

      Go is not a game because it does not have rules that are clearly interpretable, except the new Tromp/Taylor rules.

      Wrong, the rules are simple and clearly interpretable for humans. There are some odd cases, in which the different rule sets disagree, but they are very rare and it practice the game in exactly the same regardless of which set of rules you use.

      The Japanese versus Chinese "rules" give very different endgames, but the practice is to simply ignore that and pretend there is no problem.

      Wrong. Except a few rare situation they are equivalent.

      Robert Jasiek has done extensive analysis of Go, and seems to be the only one actually understanding the game as it is played in practice.

      Jasiek has done a nice job of cleaning up the rules text, but again, in practice it is no difference at all. I've been playing for ten years and I have never ever made a different move because of the rule set.

      Please try to learn the game a bit deeper before making judgements. Go is a hard game for beginners to grasp, and you will have to play many games before the confusion starts to clear.

    • by outsider007 ( 115534 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:40AM (#34736388)

      Games evolve. There's a new computer variant that koreans are playing where you can place hidden stones that your opponent doesn't know where they are until he surrounds it. It's like a cross between go and battleship but it looks like it makes it more interesting.

    • Re:Go is not a game (Score:4, Informative)

      by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:01AM (#34736480) Homepage

      You only see these kinds of "problems" with the game when you haven't played long enough to understand the game. There really aren't any problems along the lines you're thinking. Nearly everything you said is incorrect. The Chinese vs Japanese rules do sometimes differ by a few points here and there, but rarely, and if you know which ruleset you're playing under it really shouldn't matter. In fact, if you include stone passing (see AGA Rules) then Chinese and Japanese rules work out the same. Oh, the horror.

      As to the Ko rules, ... yes, I've personally fretted over the dreaded triple Ko and I've been frustrated over 4 in the corner, but the triple ko never really comes up and you can play out 4 in the corner if you're obstinate. There are complicated solutions to the tripple ko, such as Ing rules, but nobody cares. It just doesn't matter.

      I've also played many new players, presumably like yourself, that can't tell when a game should end. That's normal when you're starting out. What we do with those new players is keep playing until they feel like stopping and sometimes comment on why their plans don't work or why they're losing points. You see, if you keep playing in Japanese rules, you will lose points. Under Chinese rules, you simply keep playing until you get really bored, so you only need to point out that the score isn't changing and isn't likely to change. Problem solved.

      The thing that really puzzles me more than anything is why you'd take the time to claim Go isn't a game. Clearly it is, people play it all the time; millions in fact. It's even televised in many Asian countries. Is it some kind of grudge? Are you a chess player that's really jealous? I don't get it. Weird.

      • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @01:36PM (#34738162)

        In fact, if you include stone passing (see AGA Rules) then Chinese and Japanese rules work out the same.

        As if by magic? You're confused. The AGA rules are just Chinese rules in disguise. They let you mechanically count the board as you would with Japanese rules, but the winner would be determined as if played under Chinese rules, not Japanese rules. Dame is worth 1 point and needs to be strategically considered.

        I've also played many new players, presumably like yourself, that can't tell when a game should end. That's normal when you're starting out. What we do with those new players is keep playing until they feel like stopping and sometimes comment on why their plans don't work or why they're losing points. You see, if you keep playing in Japanese rules, you will lose points.

        A smart and logical student will plunk a stone done in the middle of his opponent's territory and point out that it takes 4 stones for their opponent to kill the stone, thus causing the opponent to lose points. The student is then berated and made to feel ashamed for being "stubborn" for trying to apply logic.

        Under Chinese rules, you simply keep playing until you get really bored, so you only need to point out that the score isn't changing and isn't likely to change. Problem solved.

        Yes, Chinese rules actually make sense when you try to play the game out. That's why new players should learn them first.

        • by jvkjvk ( 102057 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:59PM (#34740464)

          A smart and logical student will plunk a stone done in the middle of his opponent's territory and point out that it takes 4 stones for their opponent to kill the stone, thus causing the opponent to lose points.

          Perhaps, perhaps not.

          If that stone is unable to kill anything, or make shape, and I pass, then I have just gained a point, as White. In fact there are a number of scenarios where all stones you play I can just pass.

          It may be that after enough passes I actually have to act. In that case, I am only up by the number of stones up until my action.

          However, there are worse things to do than try and cause trouble, even if you don't read out the situation. It is surprising how much trouble a "stubborn" player who "doesn't know when they are beat" can be.

          Regards.

          • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:42PM (#34740618)

            If that stone is unable to kill anything, or make shape, and I pass, then I have just gained a point, as White.

            The problem, though, is that to prove that the stone is dead, it would take 4 stones to kill it, which would end up losing points. You can tell a beginner that it is "dead" and can be removed without play, but then you just leave the beginner confused about how grossly unfair and arbitrary the rules are.

            Japanese rules don't define an easy procedure to continue play without changing the score. Chinese-style rules do.

            • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:17PM (#34740950) Homepage
              Nobody I know berates the new player. We simply pass until we have to act (like the reply before last said). If they try to leave the stone there, we point out that it doesn't have two eyes, so it's dead. It's not arbitrary at all, it was explained before we began play. This just proves my point. Only beginners see this as a problem because they don't understand life and death yet. It is most certainly well defined.
              • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @12:23AM (#34741106)

                Only beginners see this as a problem because they don't understand life and death yet.

                Which is entirely the point. What is alive or dead should be determined by the skill of the players and simple rules, not appeal to authority.

                If they try to leave the stone there, we point out that it doesn't have two eyes, so it's dead.

                A simplistic and incorrect rule. First, you have to precisely define what an eye is. What you really mean is that two eyes *can* be made, which depends on skillful play. Second, seki doesn't conform to that rule.

                It is most certainly well defined.

                If you consider hypothetically perfect play, then maybe it's well defined, but now you're getting into Robert Jasiek territory. Japanese rules require Go skill, to acquire Go skill you have to understand the rules so you can play, resulting in the absurd Catch-22 situation.

                Now compare all of the above to Chinese-style rules. What is alive or dead? Just play and find out.

                • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:37AM (#34742940) Homepage

                  There is no appeal to authority. The rules are very clearly defined. You're simply choosing to not follow them. At tournaments, there are sometimes 200 people none of which would ever disagree about what is dead and what is not.

                  The problem is (and I can agree that this is a problem, but only for the first few games at most), that Japanese rules require that you understand alive and dead.

                  In games with beginners, I explain that you need two eyes and then encourage them to try to live or kill my shape. It's all quite clear after the first few times. And there's no ambiguity at all; no matter how hard you try to create some, there simply isn't any.

                  In any game, even amongst the most skillfull, players are encouraged to try to kill things they think are dead. There is always an ahh-hah moment were you see why you were wrong (or right). In that sense, there's no difference between the Chinese and Japanese rules. The only practical difference is that in the Japanese rules the attempt will change the score -- so you have to consider whether it's worth the attempt.

                  If you are unable to see what I mean, then it's clear to me you still don't understand the Japanese rules. Trust me on this: there is no ambiguity and no appeal to authority. We all understand what is alive and what is dead. But you do have to know the basics and it takes a few days to master.

                  • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @11:24AM (#34743782)

                    There is no appeal to authority. The rules are very clearly defined.

                    No, they aren't, and that is why there is a very long history of failed attempts at formalizing them. They work well enough among experienced players.

                    At tournaments, there are sometimes 200 people none of which would ever disagree about what is dead and what is not.

                    Disagreements are rare, but not the zero concurrence you indicate here.

                    The problem is (and I can agree that this is a problem, but only for the first few games at most), that Japanese rules require that you understand alive and dead.

                    Many people give up on the game because they don't understand the Japanese Catch-22 logic. Beyond that, disputes still occasionally occur beyond the first few games, which results in players usually verbally disputing the position, and then appealing to authority to resolve it if that doesn't work. I play on KGS. I've seen this happen many times.

                    In games with beginners, I explain that you need two eyes and then encourage them to try to live or kill my shape. It's all quite clear after the first few times. And there's no ambiguity at all; no matter how hard you try to create some, there simply isn't any.

                    Bullshit. I've already explained that your "two eyes" is simplistic and wrong. It doesn't work for seki. Let's also hear how that explanation works for bent-4 in the corner. Even 20-kyu players, who have played dozens of games, have trouble with certain life and death situations. I can even show you examples from players near 10-kyu, or even dan players, all from games that I have personally played. These are not common situations, but they DO happen now and then. I estimated it at a 1% occurrence of my games.

                    The only practical difference is that in the Japanese rules the attempt will change the score

                    Which means that they are not practical to apply.

                    • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Monday January 03, 2011 @12:43PM (#34744618) Homepage

                      It's not bullshit, the rules are fine. You don't understand them yet or you're being intentionally obstinate. I no-longer care which. Whatever man. They're definitely complicated. Nobody's arguing that.

                      Yes, the two eyes thing is simplistic but it's easy enough to explain the long version. The game is fine and it's survived thousands of years, hundreds with the rules they use now and few have problems with it. Certainly you and Ing and a couple others, but with the exception of certain edge cases, the rules are just fine and don't require the kind of crazy head games Ing wanted to play (they were academic anyway).

                      Sometimes disagreements come up at tournaments, it's true, but it's easy enough to look up in the rules and convince both players. It's pretty rare though.

                    • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @01:53PM (#34745338)

                      It's not bullshit, the rules are fine. You don't understand them yet or you're being intentionally obstinate.

                      I've already explained a couple of times why your explanation is bullshit, yet you completely ignore all the details. You are the one being obstinate.

                      The game is fine and it's survived thousands of years, hundreds with the rules they use now and few have problems with it.

                      Maybe you can explain why the Go associations for the United States, Britain, New Zealand, and France all moved away from Japanese rules. If you want the answer, look here:

                      http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~wjh/go/rules/AGA.commentary.html [cmu.edu]

                      See the section under "Transmittal letter". In particular:

                      "the American Go Association has for several years been working toward a "simplified" set of rules for use among amateurs--a set of rules at once simple enough to be understood by beginners, clear and comprehensive enough to guide tournament play among amateurs--when the tournament director (and the strongest players present) may not even be of dan level"

                      "For amateur players in the West, where professionals are few and far between, and entire cities and regions may lack even dan-level amateur players, however, such rules present difficulties. We believe that our "simplified" rules are more appropriate for use with amateurs, especially where no very strong players are available as arbiters or referees."

                      "The status of disputed groups is to be settled by playing out the full-board situation.

                      Playing out the situation allows players of varying levels to resolve complex life-and-death situations according to their abilities, without depending on outside authorities or exhaustive analysis, and hence is most suitable for amateur play. While the new Nihon Ki-in rules are carefully crafted to resolve most of the difficult cases which used to require exccptional handling, and are probably very appropriate for professional play, they depend on a high level of sophistication in analyzing each position based on rules which are slightly different from normal play (due to the special handling of kos). In principle, resolving such end-of-game disputes requires the players--or some competent authority in attendance--to have the capacity to resolve life-and-death problems of arbitrary complexity! Rather than attempt to resolve each local situation "in principle" in the ideal fashion through extensive analysis, playing the position out achieves a fair result (it is based on the relative reading strengths of the players themselves) in potentially bounded time without the need to appeal to outside authorities or make use of special rules."

                    • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Monday January 03, 2011 @04:23PM (#34747028) Homepage

                      K, fine. You win. Nobody could ever play under Japanese rules. They make no sense. Although, I think it's Ing's fault. Their primary source of funding was the Ing foundation. Also, nobody I have ever met plays under any other rules than Japanese rules, except at AGA tournaments anyway -- where people play under Japanese rules and pass a stone at the end without understanding why. But I suppose you're right. Nobody could ever comprehend Japanese rules.

                    • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @04:49PM (#34747292)

                      I never said nobody could play under Japanese rules. I just said there were problems with them, as opposed to how simple and problem-free you were painting them. Beginners struggle with them, and for a very small percentage of games, even experienced players can run into trouble. They are hard to define precisely, and you can't blame Ing for that. Even the Nihon Ki-in tried and came up short. It's just the nature of the rules.

                      As for the pass stone, you don't really need to know why it's used. All you really need to know is that AGA rules are Chinese/area-scoring rules, where dame is worth 1 point. The pass stone is used as a trick to let you count using the Japanese method, but AGA rules are just Chinese rules in disguise, and you could forgo the pass stone if you counted using the Chinese method instead.

                    • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Monday January 03, 2011 @05:30PM (#34747738) Homepage
                      I'm not blaming Ing for the Japanese rules being difficult, I'm blaming him for screwing up AGA rules. I don't know anyone who actually likes those rules. They may be easier for beginners (although that is not my experience); but they're irritating for seasoned players.
                    • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @07:31PM (#34748972)

                      Ing had his own ruleset. As far as I know, he had nothing to do with AGA rules. AGA traditionally took money from the Nihon Ki-in, but they moved away from Japanese rules despite the funding, because Japanese rules have a complex and imprecise playout. All the Go associations that moved away from Japanese rules did so for practical purposes, as clearly stated in the Transmittal Letter I linked to and quoted from.

                    • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @08:08AM (#34752574) Homepage

                      Whatever. You already won, I said so. Japanese rules suck or whatever.

                      We should play a game some time. I figure you probably play, otherwise I can't figure why you'd care.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:03AM (#34742750) Homepage Journal

        if it was simple, you could have described the rules in the space used for the post.

        I think the original not a game rant was about that before you start a game of go, you need to decide which game you're playing, so you're not playing go, but starting the game with another game that decides what go is. I guess some people like that, adding magic to the mix and making people who've played previously with the same set of rules have an advantage.

        so it's a great way to waste time even without playing.

        • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:41AM (#34742964) Homepage

          It is not simple. It is rather complicated because it requires a complete understanding of alive and dead. It really only takes a few games to master, but it is indeed rather complicated.

          It is a concept that the Japanese (or Korean, or Chinese, etc) would learn when they're 6 or 8 and the Japanese rules are unapologetic about being complicated. But they are not ambiguous and they are very clearly defined.

          If you came to my go club, I could demonstrate and have you ready to play under Japanese rules in a matter of an hour. There's a lot to it, but it's simple once you get over the hump. Hell, you don't even need to go to my club. Hang out on KGS for a couple hours and you'll gain a complete understanding.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:32AM (#34736786) Journal

      Go is not a game because it does not have rules that are clearly interpretable

      That makes Go a great game.

    • Re:Go is not a game (Score:4, Interesting)

      by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:38AM (#34737404)

      This is like saying that real numbers are political and not mathematical because of the funny way that infinities are defined and handled.

    • by zacronos ( 937891 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:29PM (#34737660)

      Go is not a game because it does not have rules that are clearly interpretable, except the new Tromp/Taylor rules.
      [...]
      When it is not even possible to analyze parts of games then true optimal play regresses to quarreling about it
      [...]
      So Go is riddled with quarrels and pretense. Not a game in practice. More like politics, or Zen.

      So are you saying anything that has any ambiguities or regional variations in the rules (even if just in edge cases) cannot qualify as a game? Or that only games where the concept of "optimal play" is valid can qualify as games? I would disagree strongly with either of those positions.

      I have played PLENTY of board games where not-so-uncommon edge cases are not adequately handled. That doesn't stop me from playing, and it doesn't stop me from having fun. Every time I sit down with a new group of people to play, say, Hearts or Euchre, I preemptively ask how we're going to handle certain situations. Different people play slightly different ways, and that's fine with me.

      There is also such a thing as games which are played for the enjoyable experience of playing them, and so "optimal play" makes no sense. The children's game "patty-cake" is a pretty clear example, or any number of children's games, especially the ones that children make up on the spot. What about improv games such as on the TV show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" My friends and I sometimes have improv parties, where we exclusively play games like that. Or what about pencil-and-paper RPGs? Optimal play is often not the most enjoyable way to play, if it is even a concept that can be defined for a given game.

      Maybe more importantly, I'd like to point out that quarrels, pretense, and politics are central tenets upon which many games are built -- I would argue that those things are likely the most prolific inspirations for games that one could find. Formal game theory is very useful for analyzing politics and quarrels, and has also been used to study the effects of pretense and lying. Aren't chess [wikipedia.org] and Go [wikipedia.org] both likely inspired by war?

      The only way I can make sense of your post is if I conclude that when you use the word "game", you mean something very much more specific than the rest of us, containing only a tiny subset of what is generally referred to as a game in common language.

    • by sarkeizen ( 106737 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @10:42PM (#34740848) Journal
      Meh, it's kind of an idiot argument and "riddled" with holes. Why do games have to conform to your particular definition? Even so for seemingly the majority of played go sequences it does in fact have rules that are clearly interpretable. There are literally thousands of historical kifu where the board state is completely unambiguous.

      You are also equivocating. When someone says the "rules are simple" they mean that the rules for valid placement of stones what is complicated is optimal placement of stones. Even given that competition has required the creation of "superko" rules (which TT includes) these are actually rarely used even in competitive play. The idea that players agree that the outcome is obvious causes the termination of the game is really a non-issue. Even if some play exists which would entirely reverse the game - the fact that the opposing player doesn't recognize it is really no different than someone resigning from Chess even though they had a chance. Besides this only matters to one of the players if they disagree. In which case, you simply play it out until there is agreement.

      Your conclusion is also flawed. In practice would imply that in most plays there is quarrel and pretense and yet that doesn't seem to be the case.
    • by umghhh ( 965931 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:53AM (#34743058)
      With all due respect for Robert: his work mostly concernes rules and faults built within and is most useful for coders of GO software and professional players. Other than that majority of players in Europe does use a system of counting that they think is based on Japanese rules yet it is not. Fascinating is that it still works for them so maybe the problem is not so widespread as some people like to think.
  • by mac1235 ( 962716 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:14AM (#34735932)
    "Many games are written in C++, but this requires a lot of ‘libraries’ to store information, along with a lot of man power to create them. XNA comes with a number of pre-made libraries, making it a lot easier to program with."

    I thought C++, (as a well established Programming language) would have more libraries than XNA, which I had not previously heard of?

    • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Informative)

      by mustPushCart ( 1871520 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:34AM (#34735998)

      XNA is effectively a game specific library that lets you develop for the xbox and windows. When they say XNA they really mean XNA + .net which combined has a pretty extensive library for game development. While XNA has a lot of helper libraries that let you work with DirectX and managed code, it does not really have anything specific related to AI and since this is an AI project primarily that statement seems to be an advertisement for XNA.

    • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Troll)

      by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:34AM (#34736002)

      You are not understanding how languages work inherently different.

      All the C++ libraries in the world will not change how C++ fundamentally works.

    • It's a matter of convenince. There are more C++ libraries than .NET libraries, but that doesn't make it convenint to find or use a good game framework that provides the libraries you need and isn't a pain to use. XNA isn't a language, but it is a framework aimed specifically at developing games, and from what I've seen it's very good at that. It's based on .NET, and typically used with C#. Thus, for game development, XNA (and .NET) is a good choice because it largely avoids the "I need to find/write code that does X" and "I need to integrate this piece of code that does X with the other piece of code that does Y" problems.

      There's nothing inherently wrong developing a game in C++, but it's a lot easier to do it if you start with the XNA framework (with the .NET language of your choice, possibly even C++).

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @03:47PM (#34739086) Journal
      It was described poorly in the article. XNA is Microsoft's framework for writing games in C#, in other words, it IS a library. It's one way to program graphics on the Xbox, and the only way on Windows Phone 7. It's not as capable as some other frameworks (if you want to see games like this [youtube.com] on WP7, forget about it). If you like C#, you will probably like XNA. In my opinion it's as good as any other sprite framework.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @09:15AM (#34742796) Homepage Journal

      remember BGI?
      borlands crappy graphics interface. sure, it sucked, but borlands dos sdk's did come with it(essentially the same thing available in c and pascal, and in finland there was even localised wrapper distributed on it, making all the drawing commands in finnish.. ugh! it was actually an elementary school course on programming, but it wasn't programming, it was scripting paint commands).

      xna is just another name for .net + set of painting etc libs.

      and of course, that sentence is saying that creating those libs takes a lot of manpower.. well, those xna libs didn't spring up to existence overnight either, they might be implying that those magical c++ libraries are harder to use and are properiaty so you can't use them. anyways, xna needs to be there for funding focus reasons for this project - and well, this project had to be in dire need of those.

  • I seem to recall (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thesk8ingtoad ( 445723 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:16AM (#34735934) Homepage

    Reading a research paper a few years ago that presented the idea that the best way to approach the game was through catastrophe avoidance. The idea was to identify the moves that would lead to a massive loss, then to take another move at random. I wonder how their AI would fare in comparison.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @05:33AM (#34735996)

    Q: How strong is the AI?
    A: The AI is strong enough that the game could challenge the vast majority of newcomers to the game. It doesn't compare like-for-like with other high performance computing solutions that have been developed for Go - which only Go experts would be able to compete with - but it does give it a more natural feel and makes the game accessible for a broader audience.

    I got excited when I saw the story. Sigh. This won't appeal to people who already play Go. It may appeal to people who have never played. I'm guessing that the game itself won't produce many more Go players. On the other hand, people may read the story on Slashdot and become curious.

    It is relatively easy to beat the existing Go games on a 19x19 board. On the other hand, the existing games are OK on a 9x9 board. On the smaller board, tactics rule. On the full size board, strategy rules. If you make a mistake on the small board, you will be ruthlessly punished.

    What does "beat" mean in Go? In Go, it is possible for an expert and a beginner to have a satisfying game. The weaker player gets to place a certain number of stones on the board before the stronger player makes his first move. The handicap system is pretty reliable and is part of Go culture. If they are properly handicapped, the weaker player will beat the stronger player 50% of the time.

    If we want to seriously talk about how strong a computer game is, we have to talk about handicap. A computer game that needs only a one stone handicap to keep up with an expert would be exciting. With a zero stone handicap, it wouldn't sound very good because it would lose most of the time. Currently, the best programs, running on heavy duty computers, can keep up if they are given a six or seven stone handicap. Wiki [wikipedia.org]

    • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:56AM (#34736470) Homepage

      It is relatively easy to beat the existing Go games on a 19x19 board.

      Really. When you say such a thing, it can mean one of two things: You're stronger than European 1 Dan (corresponding to Japanese/AGA 4 Dan, KGS 2-3 Dan) or you haven't been playing computer Go much lately. Many Faces of Go, Zen, Fuego, Aya play on a level it will take years of serious club play to beat (for most of us).

      • by GasparGMSwordsman ( 753396 ) on Monday January 03, 2011 @03:53PM (#34746676)

        Most of the rated programs require a server cluster to run at high skill levels. While it is nice that they can reach a level to be competitive against strong players, it is really stretching the facts to claim a personal user couldn't easily crush a standard install of any of the above programs.

        Some examples from wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Go#Recent_results: [wikipedia.org]

        On February 14, 2009, Many Faces of Go running on a 32-core Xeon cluster provided by Microsoft won against James Kerwin (1p) with a handicap of seven stones. The game was played during the 2009 AAAS general meeting in Chicago.[9]

        On August 7, 2009, Many Faces of Go (version 12) resigned against Myungwan Kim (8p) in a 7-stone handicap game.[10] Many Faces was playing on a 32 node system provided by Microsoft. The "Man vs. Machine" event was part of the 2009 US Go Congress, which was held in Washington DC from August 1 to August 9.[11]

        • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @04:11AM (#34751854) Homepage

          They need clusters to do their best, sure, but they're better than I will ever be on even "modest" hardware. Sensei's Library claims Zen19 is running on a Mac Pro 8 core, Xeon 2.26GHz.

          Zen19 is taking all comers on KGS - including, presumably, people who study it intensely to find predictably exploitable mistakes. It would be a very good tool for rating advancement if you could find such errors, since it's ranked at 4d.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @06:17AM (#34736110)

    Go's a pretty cool game, but maybe some of you have heard of Chess? It involves pieces that can do a lot of interesting moves and some of the existing boards out there can be incredibly ornate.

    Sorry, I wanted to be the equivalent of "That Guy" that shows up to discuss Go every time there's a chess story anywhere on the planet.

  • by Reemi ( 142518 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:25AM (#34736330)

    This article reads like a commercial without any scientific background w.r.t. the algorithms used. They even state it does not perform as well as other available programs.

    Still, interested giving the game a try? It is really simple.

    Start here to learn the rules: http://playgo.to/iwtg/ [playgo.to]

    Like the problem solving, this is a good site for problems: http://goproblems.com/ [goproblems.com] Note, 30kyu problems are the easiest, then 25kyu etc. Hardest are the dan problems. (Believe me, they are really difficult)

    Want to play against the computer? GnuGo is your friend> http://www.gnu.org/software/gnugo/gnugo.html [gnu.org]

    Playing against real oponents on the web, there are 2 options: Turn-based (the slow progress variant) or real-time. I can recommend for the turn-based variant Dragon Go Server and Online Go Server: http://www.dragongoserver.net/ [dragongoserver.net] http://www.online-go.com/ [online-go.com]

    Personally, I'm not into real-time, but KGS is an alternative: http://www.gokgs.com/ [gokgs.com] Note, people might not always be in the mood for chatting here.

    Getting hooked, try to find a local club or check for players in your neighbourhood: http://igolocal.net/ [igolocal.net]

    Have fun.

  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:50AM (#34736880)

    I don't see Clippy. GnuGo is way more than adequate as a backend for my abilities.

  • by rawler ( 1005089 ) <ulrik.mikaelsson ... UGARom minus cat> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:00PM (#34737518)

    From the title, I expected something completely different.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @02:24PM (#34738512) Homepage

    The worst part of this I see is that Go now gets a storyline:

    The game starts with the player receiving a letter from a Go master explaining that your twin is missing. When you visit the master, he tasks you with the Path of Go quest, through which you must find your twin. Through the experience, you learn and play the game. In the course of your journey you interact with a number of characters and challenge them in games of Go.

    As much as I like good stories, there are situations where you just don't need a story. A computer adaptation of a casual game is one of those times.

    Coming next year from Microsoft: The Great Solitaire Battle! As the evil sorcerer throws his magic cards at you, you must make order of them to build up your own magical reserves!

  • by northerner ( 651751 ) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:18PM (#34740300)
    The Microsoft Go program is only for Xbox.

    For those that would like to try Go on a PC, there is a good version on Go for DOS & Windows called IGO by David Fotland, and it's free.
    I've been using the DOS version which runs fine in a DOS window on a Windows PC.
    There is a Windows version called Igowin and a version for the iPhone or iPod Touch or iPad.
    I haven't tried the iPhone version yet.

    IGO plays on a reduced sized 9x9 board, but is good for an introduction to the game.
    The fill size version with a 19x19 board is called The Many Faces of Go and is available for purchase.
    The readme.txt file says:
    This program contains the same go engine as The Many Faces of Go, but only uses the first 5 levels (out of 10). It uses the same graphics as The Many Faces of Go, but is limited to 9x9 boards only.

    To download:
    http://www.smart-games.com/igo.html [smart-games.com]
    http://www.smart-games.com/igowin.html [smart-games.com]
    [the Windows has info on the iPod version]

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