Thud, Trevor Truran, and Artificial Intelligence

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Thud, Trevor Truran, and Artificial Intelligence

Postby RyTracer » Thu Feb 25, 2016 09:29 am

Hello Kevins,
My name is Ryan. I discovered Discworld about 7 or 8 years ago and have loved every minute of it. I went to the 2011 and 2013 NADWCons and even got my picture taken with Sir Terry. Even so, Going Postal and Thud were published much longer ago than that and I missed out on the bubble of popularity around the board game Thud. Certainly it went through much more popular times than it enjoys now with an active website hosting tournaments and Trevor himself attending your British Discworld conventions. I would have loved to meet him or played a game with him. He has somewhat faded from sight in terms of internet presence. Is he well? I know he is older than Sir Terry was and probably very retired, but I would like to contact him if I can. If any of you have an inkling of how I could do this, please PM me the info.

Why? Apart from being a beacon of enthusiasm for the game, I am working on an artificial intelligence for it. Many Thud players have considered what a nice Thud app might look like, with both the ability to compete with others around the world in a play-and-wait sort of way like Words with Friends, and some sort of single-player against a reasonably talented computer. I personally don't have the skills for the bells, whistles, and mobile-device programming knowhow to personally see to the project, but perhaps these fine folks at the Discworld Emporium would be interested in doing a second Discworld themed app through whatever channels they did the first one. Anyway, I'm suggesting it here and now, think what you will. The only reason I saw why this hadn't been done earlier by someone was probably that single-player mode of a Thud AI seemed out of reach. I don't know the complete history of those undertaking such a task, but some old forums have led me to believe it was once at least a rigorous thought exercise for some, but discarded quickly.

The reason is because of what AI programmers call the "branching factor." Because there are something like 664 moves available to the dwarf player at the start of the game, and this number actually grows in the next few moves for trolls, Thud is exponentially more complex in terms of raw computing power than chess or checkers. When I first thought of the problem years ago I too was daunted, but it gnawed at my mind until I devised some cheats and shortcuts to speed up processing. The dream was rather grander than the execution. I wanted a fully functioning AI that could beat the socks off of Mr. Shine and Vetinari himself. Instead I got a program that can do just that provided you give it a couple hours per move. When you limit it to a couple seconds per move, it is still above average; a high intermediate to low advanced player. And that's where I am now. As I am currently the only playtester, I don't know if it is competitive enough to be fun. I think it is, but I could use more feedback. If I got such feedback from the game creator itself, that would be excellent. If any of you know Mr. Truran, maybe just mention that I'm working on this. Thanks.
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