Even though I should realize that "back then," K&R-style
function declarations were the right way to go, nowadays, it
pisses me off to not see nice, ANSI C-style declarations.
As you might guess, I've been hacking on some old C
namely, the war game xbattle. Xbattle is a pretty fun game;
you and your opponent begin with blobs of stuff (your
troops) occupying various cells around the board. You move
this stuff around the board intending to destroy any and all
enemy blobs in sight. If you're lucky, you have the whole
board covered with your blobs in a matter of 2-3 minutes.
It's a fast-paced, real-time game that can be pretty
multiplayer fun in the sense of Doom or Quake. The graphics
don't quite compare, but it's still fun :-)
Anyway, I'm currently taking this "Embodied
grad course where they expect us to complete a project by
the course's end. Lucky for me, "evolving some sort of
creature in some sort of world" is an acceptable project.
Two of my friends and I jumped at the chance to "evolve"
Xbattle is a bit dated. If you visit the web
see written in large letters, "There has been no work done
on xbattle since 9/1/96." A good chunk of the code is not
ANSI C compliant, include files are somewhat numerous and
run up to three levels deep and the make system is based on
xmkmf. Ick, ick, and double ick.
Giving xbattle a decent make system was my first
I broke out the autoconf info pages and had a GNU-style make
system up-and-running in a matter of an hour or two. Not
after that, I decided that it would be nice to bring in C++
classes in order to define a player module. Since I was
to change a good bit of the code anyway, I decided it
was time to give in and bring xbattle's coding style up to
speed. I ended up combining most of the .h files
into one, xbattle.h, rewriting every function header in ANSI
C style and compiling a list of function declarations in
xbattle.h (declarating functions to avoid compiler warnings
must have been an unpopular thing in the early 90s...).
So, now I can look at the code and not scream in
still don't dare to try to fix all of the bits that g++ will
complain about given the -Wall argument. It was painful
enough to fix all of the function headers. What I find to
be very cool about the code is that it is almost to the
point that it could be released to allow others to write
xbattle players. I'm thinking about running a small
computer-player xbattle competition here at MIT. I also
need to go talk to the original authors---see if they'd be
interested in releasing ANSI C code rather than the
K&R-style that they currently put out.
Even though I'm complaining about the xbattle code, I do
have to say that I am greatly indebted to the authors. It's
quite an impressive and versitile bit of code; things are
well documented and it wasn't too hard to get in and
add a wholly-autonomous computer player. Cheers go to Steve
Lehar and Greg Lesher for writing the thing in the first