By Ashley Forseille, Operations Coordinator at Dyspatch
Another spring has come to the island and that means another Battlesnake in the books. On March 4th, 2017 over 400 participants took over the lower level of the Victoria Conference Centre for an amazing day of programming, camaraderie and serpentine silliness. The event turned out great and the feedback we are still receiving has been amazing! After the tournament finals wrapped up we ran over to the Guild for an amazing after party hosted by Barkerville Brewing.
Changes in 2017
This year we switched things up by moving the event downtown. This was to accommodate the ever growing number of participants. With over 400 participants this year, we filled out the entire lower level of the Victoria Conference Centre. This year’s venue was able to handle a conference style programming competition of our scale, allowing us to focus on the most important aspects of the event (like the after party and food). Being downtown allowed us to partner with local food trucks to provide lunch and dinner to the participants and volunteers, meaning more variety, shorter lines and more time to work on snakes.
We were also able to keep the excitement going well after the last battle was finished, with our first ever sponsored after party. The event reached capacity in less than 20 minutes, which is the largest attendance we have seen yet. Barkerville Brewing provided plenty of free bites and drinks, making it a great way to wind down from an intense day of programming.
This year also brought on a significant change in how the game server was built. For the first time ever we partnered with another local tech company, Stembolt, to build the Battlesnake game server. They did an amazing job, making this year’s game server the best one yet. Stembolt’s help allowed the Sendwithus team to focus on promotion and event logistics, which helped us reach our goal of over 400 attendees.
Battlesnake was successful because of the support we received from the rest of the Victoria tech community. More than 20 amazing companies like Workday, Rooof, Heroku, Checkfront, Hello Ventures and many more pitched in both time and money to help us present the largest programming competition in Victoria BC.
We can not stress enough how important all of our sponsors and supporters are to making this event a success. We want to say THANK YOU one more time, to all of our amazing supporters.
What is Battlesnake
Battlesnake is the largest programming competition held on Vancouver Island. It is an annual AI competition held at the Victoria Conference Centre. It is a multiplayer version of the classic arcade game “Snake”, where you eat pixelated apples and avoid running into your own tail and walls. Battlesnake makes things even exceptionally challenging by adding up to 8 snakes on the board at the same time, creating a frantic snake vs. snake environment.
Sendwithus partnered with Stembolt to create the platform and game mechanics for Battlesnake. We had volunteers from several companies create developer resources to help get teams started in the right direction. Sample snakes were available in Python, NodeJS, Ruby, Go, and a few other languages. Each participating team writes code that controls their snake on the board. The snakes are then pitted against multiple other snakes for a battle of supremacy that can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes.
Why do we do this?
Battlesnake was created for a couple of reasons. First we wanted to create an event by programmers for programmers. It is the alternative to the typical networking and recruitment events that we saw happening in the community. Those have their purpose but we wanted to create an event where programmers can come together as a community and have a lot of fun competing in a different environment. It is not a hackathon, it is not a code challenge, it is Battlesnake! We also wanted to build something that would draw the tech community and students together to build and foster relationships between the two groups. We want to show off the ingenuity and creativity that is happening in the Victoria tech scene and to continue to grow the community, we need aspiring engineers, developers, and entrepreneurs to stay in Victoria.
Battlesnake is an all day affair. Teams show up at 10am for check-in, team registration, and orientation. They work all day, get help from mentor developers from various companies and strategize. Throughout the day teams could battle each other, as well as Bounty Snakes provided by sponsoring companies. Defeating a Bounty Snake earned teams additional prizes, ranging from a Nintendo Switch, to custom Battlesnake t-shirts, to Luchador Masks. We saw some great battles and many a team went home with some great prizes and swag.
From 6pm to 8pm is when teams see the real fruit of their labours. Some tears are shed and some cheers are voiced and in the end we had 6 teams step away from the carnage as victors. We had 135 teams enter in the two divisions, Classic and Advanced (twice the number of teams we saw last year!). In the Classic Division, D.Va Snake came ahead to take first prize with Dizastre coming in second and Codesnek third. In the Advanced Division Better than Aleksiy’s Snake took the grand prize home after a great final round, with Medusa walking away with second place and Barnet with a strong third place finish.
Now that Battlesnake 2017 is finished and we have licked our wounds and recovered from our intense caffeine highs, we start looking forward to 2018. With the change in both venue and format this year, we have a lot of great ideas for making next year even better (and bigger!) We can’t wait to continue to grow Battlesnake in Victoria with the support of the community. Battlesnake 2018 HERE WE COME!