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LifeWars - Chaos pattern

(Results from Bristol University's 2015-2016 LifeWars competition)


LifeWars is a competitive two player variant of John Conway's famous Game of Life (also known as Life). Life is a cellular automaton, where a series of rules describe how 'live' cells propagate or diminish over a grid. The precise rules that govern these activities can be seen here. Life is a 'game' that only requires an initial input from the player to establish a starting pattern of live cells, after which the rules of Life take over (in a way that often cannot accurately be anticipated at the start, without prior experience using the same pattern). 




These rules can easily be extended to allow for two interacting players (red and blue), where one attempts to out-compete and outgrow the other. This is the basis of LifeWars, a competition launched at Bristol University for the 2015-2016 cohort of MSc Computer Science students (62 individuals).




Grid size: 150 width, 90 height, wrap-around

Starting pattern, initial live cells: 99

Total time steps: 5000

No. of matches between two players: 50

Starting pattern, x, y offset: randomised



As an entrant to this competition I decided to program a genetic algorithm, which mimics the rules of biological evolution, to determine an optimum starting pattern for Life (to occupy the largest number of grid cells after 200 time steps). A fitness evaluation at 200 timesteps (as opposed to 5000) was chosen merely to speed up the algorithm. The images above chart the evolutionary process of this pattern, named Chaos.


The live tournament took place during a lecture in October 2015, before which the top four entrants had already been established (Chaos included). Chaos consistently (and often substantially) out-competed the other opponents (it was great to watch!). As a result I feature on the C Programming module web page as the winner of the 'Lifewars' competition. The table to the right holds the results of the 50 matches between Chaos and the Life pattern that won second place (summed on the bottom row, determining the overall winner). A video is also provided below to illustrate the first of the 50 matches (in this video the competitor has been referred to as Red).

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