By Ashley Forseille, Operations Coordinator at Dyspatch

The fifth annual Victoria Battlesnake Tournament took place a few weeks ago, on March 2, 2019, at the Victoria Conference Centre. Over 800 competitors and spectators came out to the event!

The big news this year is that Battlesnake is now available all year long. Anyone can create an account, add a snake, and play against friends or leaderboard snakes to see how they stack up. If you’re not sure if Battlesnake is your new favorite side project, head to play.battlesnake.io to watch recent games and view the documentation on how to go from zero to snake on MacOS, Linux, or Windows.

The tournament this year was top notch. Thanks to the Battlesnake community who built play.battlesnake.io, teams could create a profile to compete in the tournament and track their wins or rewatch games. We plan to hold online tournaments in the near future!

The tournament had many highlights and quite a few of this year’s teams have become Battlesnake legends, joining Medusa and Chicken Snake as snakes to remember. Here are a few of my favorites, but definitely not an exhaustive list!

Battlesnake 2019-2

Team Pixel – 2nd Place, Beginner Division

One of my favourite aspects of Battlesnake is that it has such a wide audience. The event draws both spectators and competitors from all kinds of backgrounds. Children cheering on parents or siblings who are competing; high school students just dipping into coding for the first time; university students looking to connect with tech companies before applying for co-op positions; and senior technical talent who come to Battlesnake every year to try to win the big cheque!

Team Pixel is a great example of that diversity. A father, who works as a full stack developer, and his 8-year-old son competed together to come in second in the Beginner Division. Seeing the team up on stage cheering for their snake in the final rounds will be one of my favorite moments of Battlesnake 2019. Have a look at their repo on GitHub and look for upcoming posts about their experience on the Battlesnake blog.

Battlesnake 2019-3

Niedersächsische Kreuzotter – 2nd Place, Intermediate Division

Full disclosure: our casters are not fluent in German. You can imagine how pronouncing Niedersächsische Kreuzotter went. By the end of the tournament, this team became known as Neider Snake. I think that in itself will become a Battlesnake legend. For inquiring minds, a niedersächsische kreuzotter is a snake common in the region of Germany that the team is from.

Niedersächsische Kreuzotter was definitely our farthest travelling team! This two-person team came to Victoria specifically for Battlesnake, as part of a tour of AI competitions. They had just competed in the  MIT Battlecode competition before joining us for Battlesnake.

This team used Machine Learning to train their snake to second place! Their strategy was to use the full allotted timeout (500 ms) to complete a deeper search of the tree. It meant that their super-smart snake sllloooowwed down some of the games for a dramatic frame-by-frame match as the server waited for a response.

Undefined Behaviour

Undefined Behaviour – 1st place, Expert Division

Undefined Behaviour gave us some of the most exciting games to date! With a winning strategy of controlling as much of the board as possible by staying small in order to control the movements of opponents, it was something we’ve never seen before. Undefined Behaviour would only eat food when necessary not to starve, which was often the opposite strategy taken by opponents on the board. We saw multiple games where Undefined Behaviour forced much larger snakes into themselves to win the match. Up against machine learning snakes, Undefined Behaviour was able to slither past the competition to take home first place in the Expert Division. If you don’t believe that it was an exciting finish, you can watch the final game in the animation below or at 2:42:00 in the Twitch stream. You can hear the gasps from the audience as Undefined Behaviour avoided food on the board. Phew.

Caleb Meyer, the developer behind Undefined Behaviour, says he’ll be back next year and will be, “Hopefully bringing slightly more defined behaviour.” Definitely a snake to watch out for at the 2020 Victoria Battlesnake Tournament!

Battlesnake 2019-4

If you missed the tournament this year, you can still watch it all play out. We’re expecting stiff competition at Battlesnake 2020, as competitors have a full year to test their snake on play.battlesnake.io. Can’t wait to meet the new legends next year.

Winning Battlesnake Battle

Final battle in the Expert Division.