Archive for January, 2009

My New Project: Conway’s Game of Life

January 16th, 2009

Sometime around the start of December I was reminded of Conway’s Game of Life – a mathematical “game” that I was first introduced to in my grade 12 programming class. Unfortunately for me and my research, I found the game much more interesting this time around and have proceeded to spend almost the entire last month dedicated to it.

It started out innocently enough; I thought that a webpage that uses the canvas tag to run the Game of Life would be the perfect way to hammer home what I was talking about in this post. It turns out that the game gets quite computationally intensive for even moderately-sized patterns however, so although the tool was functional, it chugged. What would be the solution to this problem? Write the tool in a pre-compiled programming language like Java, of course.

There are several Java implementations of the game freely available on the internet, but at this point I wanted to make an online tool that does a bit more than just evolve patterns; I wanted also to be able to upload, save, and download pattern files from the tool, something that is quite impossible from a Java applet. Also, because building interfaces for Java applets is a bit of a chore, most of the pre-existing Java applets implementing the game are a bit hard to look at. All of these problems can be solved via a bit of server-side ASP and some Java-to-javascript communication, fortunately (something I will post about separately later).

The end result? Well, I don’t really know yet, but here’s the beta 0.2.0 result:

The Java applet that runs the game itself is based on Alan Hensel’s brilliantly fast Java staggerstep algorithm, with some added file manipulation functionality and a dynamic online database of patterns. The applet is still very much a work in progress and there are quite a few known bugs, but it works well enough for now.

The real star of the website for now is the LifeWiki, which I’m hoping will fill a huge gap on the internet that I was rather shocked to find – even though there are many great homepages with bits and pieces of information about the game scattered across the internet, there really is no central resource that catalogues everything about the game; LifeWiki will hopefully fill that gap. I have started it off with some 150 articles and uploaded as many images, but I’m hoping that I can draw a few other Life enthusiasts to the wiki to help expand it so as to ease some of the burden.

Anyway, that’s about all I have to say for now about the website; I’ll likely make another post or two in the reasonably near future with coding tips/tricks based on my experience making the tool and site in general. Until then, I present to you my favourite pattern for the Game of Life, the Canada goose:

Canada goose

PS. Happy birthday to me!