American Go E-Journal

Virtual Go a Labor of Love for Games Programmer

Wednesday May 29, 2013

When Glenn Fiedler first came to go in 2004, he was immediately taken with the aesthetic side of the game, the black and white stones, their biconvex shape, the sound they make hitting a wooden board.  “I especially loved the way go stones wobble and how stone placement becomes irregular as the game progresses, because the go stones are just slightly larger than the grid,” he told the EJ.  Playing on a computer, though, was not the same experience.  “When I play go on a computer it feels like I’m playing on a magnetic board. In real life, I don’t want to play on a magnetic board. I wanted to make a go board that I could play on the computer that felt like I was really playing go.”  The desire led the Australian Fiedler to a career change.  He became a network game programmer with a specialization in physics and started developing methods of synchronizing physics simulations across multiple computers.  “I ended up inventing new techniques and talking at GDC (Game Developers Conference) about how to network physics simulations. And all the techniques I invented were originally thought up because I wanted to network a simulation of a go board and stones!”

Now, after finishing work on his latest project at Sony, “God of War: Ascension,” Fiedler has finally turned his attention to programming go.  The idea is not to provide an AI opponent, but instead provide a beautiful and compelling simulation of an actual 3D goban and stones that other developers could include in existing go software like SmartGo or Many Faces of Go, Fiedler said.  It is a painstaking step-by-step effort he is chronicling in a blog on his website, Gaffer on Games.  The blog lays out the code and the physical reasoning behind it.  Fiedler hopes to make some commercial use of the software eventually, though it will be hard to do.  In the meantime, that’s not what’s on his mind. “I’ve had some time to work on my dream project after almost 10 years. It’s really satisfying.” -Andy Okun.  Diagram of a stone from Fiedler’s blog: Gaffer on Games.

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