American Go E-Journal

Steam moving ahead with first go client

Saturday April 2, 2016

Steam, the largest distribution platform for online games, is moving ahead with its first-ever go client. Developed by Hart Laboratories, Ancient Go was approved on March 15 through a process called Steam Greenlight, which uses community support to select games for distribution. Although a release date is forthcoming, once available Ancient Go will provide players with another digital arena in which to test their mettle. 2016.04.02_Steam Greenlight  Ancient Go
Coming on the heels of the AlphaGo – Lee Sedol series, the timing of Ancient Go’s introduction is fortuitous. Online interest in go spiked despite Lee Sedol’s 1:4 performance against AlphaGo. In Reddit’s r/baduk, members noted a 20% increase in subscribers, which grew to over 10,000 users. The Online-Go Server also noted a surge of new players. Comments left on the Ancient Go Greenlight site were enthusiastic about the new go client, which will run on Steam’s proprietary distribution system.
2016.04.02_ancient-go-preview_3DBoardBuilt on the Unreal 4 Engine, Ancient Go is visually appealing. The goban and stones are rendered well, and its interface is striking for its minimalism – perhaps even too much so. There is no window for chat and no time display is evident in the game demonstration. While the Unreal 4 Engine supports 3D graphics, there are no plans to extend 3D presentation beyond the tutorial section, at least through the initial release. Games will still be played in two dimensions. “The priority [for Ancient Go] is to be beginner friendly, rather than being feature full. The goal is “to draw in new players instead of compete with existing servers,” notes Christopher Hart, Ancient Go’s developer, who also mentioned that the client will emphasize “quick play on smaller boards.”
There are still many unknowns about Ancient Go and several potential drawbacks. Chief among these is the lack of SGF 2016.04.02_ancient-go-preview_Tutorialsupport which, although standard on all other clients, evidently did not make the “feature full” cut for the first release. Ancient Go will also only be available on Steam’s Windows-compatible platform, not its Linux or Mac OS X versions. At this time there is no information about the quality of Ancient Go’s AI. The developer has also not announced any plans to introduce life and death problems or community forum features to the client. How all of this will affect the Steam community’s response to Ancient Go is yet to be seen.
Bearing all of this in mind, the release of Ancient Go will still be cause for excitement. Steam, which is owned by the Valve Corporation, boasts some 125 million accounts and has proven a versatile platform for online gaming. Extending go to this platform is sure to introduce more people to the game, and if even only a small fraction of these develops a deeper interest in go, I think the effort will have been worthwhile. Ancient Go should prove a welcome addition to the online go community.
- Daniel Acheson
Categories: Computer Go/AI
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