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Frequently Asked Questions:
"Can Zillions Support This Game?"

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"Can Zillions Support This Game?" FAQ

Q: What kind of board games are easiest to program in Zillions?

Abstract, perfect-information, turn-based, board games such as Chess, Checkers, and Othello, are easiest. 2-D manipulation puzzles such as mazes, the "15" (sliding tiles) Puzzle, and Peg Solitaire puzzles are also very easy. These are games where one or more players move or drop pieces on a board of any topology. A full list of the games and puzzles implemented on the CD-ROM can be found here. This will give you a good idea of what can be achieved.

Zillions' rules language contains many constructs, such as loops and "if" statements, borrowed from traditional programming languages. This makes Zillions very powerful and flexible. In fact, the user interface used in Zillions for selecting games is itself implemented as a Zillions game. When you are clicking a button to choose a game you are actually making a move in a "game selection" game!

Q: What kind of board games are hardest to program in Zillions?

Zillions doesn't currently support:

  • games whose object is to connect sides, i.e. "connection games" such as Hex, the Game of Y.
  • games that use a lot math in their movement or scoring (other than merely counting up pieces on the board)
  • positions that have multiple pieces on them simultaneously
  • pieces that occupy multiple positions simultaneously
  • cards

In some cases it is possible to "kludge" together solutions to things that Zillions doesn't directly support. For example, even though Zillions wouldn't easily support a game with multiple stones per position, it may be possible to define a different type of piece for every possible number of stones that may exist on a given position, i.e. a one-stone piece, a two-stone piece, etc.

Zillions can't be made to support arcade (time-dependent) games like Pacman, text adventure games, and other types of games that are far removed from board games.

Q: Can Zillions play dice games?

Yes. Though there is no direct support for dice per se, Zillions supports randomness through the use of a hidden, "random player" who chooses between his moves at random. One of the Zillions games provided on the CD-ROM, Senat, is a backgammon-like game where moves are determined via a die roll. The Zillions CD includes bitmaps for standard dice.

Multiple dice can theoretically be achieved through successive turns of the random player. Zillions doesn't support math/arithmetic in rules files, so this will limit what you can do with the results of dice rolls. For example, a game like Yahtzee wouldn't work. Exactly how easy it is program a dice game will depend on the game

Q: Can Zillions play card games?

In theory, but in practice this is hard, because Zillions was developed for board rather than card games, it doesn't have any direct support for card games and doesn't know anything about face-down (hidden) objects, hands, dealing, suits, runs/flushes/melds, etc. Also, it doesn't have the numerical flexibility to handle scoring of hands. Someone has programmed the solitaire game Free Cell in Zillions (as if it were a board game), but games like Bridge are out of the question.

Q: Can Zillions support my own chess variant (ie different pieces, and different board shape)?

Very probably, Zillions has very good support for defining new pieces and new boards. In fact, we built all the chess variants included on the CD-ROM just like you would, using Zillions.

Q: Can Zillions support three dimensional boards?

Yes. It even supports higher dimensional boards than 3, though so far we've only programmed 1-dimensional (e.g. Turning Coins), 2-dimension (e.g. Chess), and 3-dimensional (e.g. 3-D TicTacToe) games. Zillions allows you to define as many positions as who want wherever you want on the screen and linked in whatever way you want (even one-way trapdoors).

Q: Could Zillions be taught to play...

...Abalone? From what I remember of Abalone's rules I see no reason why it couldn't be implemented. In fact, check out the Jens Markmann Page link on our Other Sites page, Jens has already programmed it!

...Quarto? I believe so -- from what I remember of Quarto's rules, it's like a multi-dimensional TicTacToe, and we already ship a 4x4x4 TicTacToe on the CD.

...Terrace? Yes, in fact we programmed it in Zillions for fun one day.

...Monopoly? Monopoly is a bit complicated for a few reasons. Zillions is not designed to handle arbitrary numerical amounts that you'd need in order to handle the money. Zillions has no direct support for stacks of cards, and it would be very difficult to try to implement all the rules on all those cards. Try board games that are more "abstract".

Q: What kinds of games does the Zillions AI play well and what kinds does it play poorly?

Zillions' internal AI is basically a classical, brute-force, tree-search engine. For simple games like TicTacToe, Zillions can figure out every possibility in a fraction of a second and play perfectly! Zillions plays well in games like Checkers where it can find good tactical possibilities by looking ahead. Zillions doesn't play as well in games with huge "branching factors" (large number of moves available to play) such as "Shogi" with pieces in hand. This is a well-known syndrome of game search engines that AI researchers are currently grappling with.

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