Anyone familiar with classic mobile phones or old school arcade games has played Snake—a long, pixelated creature that you control to pick up food and try to avoid hitting its tail as it grows during gameplay. This simple concept has been around for decades and has slithered its way into many different consoles and platforms, including the world of computer programming. Battlesnake has turned the single-player game into a competitive multiplayer programming game that can be played by developers all over the world. Originating from Victoria, BC, the Battlesnake team reached out to Innovation Saskatchewan and connected with David Crossman from HackRegina to bring it here to Saskatchewan.
“The snakes are programmed by individuals in the competition, and they can be programmed to do whatever,” Crossman explains. “It's a new creative twist on competition-style coding, and participants can range anywhere from having little programming knowledge up to AI and machine level abilities.”
Battlesnake operates similarly to a hackathon, but a gamed version of it. It takes the classic game of Snake and turns it into a programming competition where people can practice their skills in a fun and experimental online setting. Where it differs from a traditional hackathon, though, is that people can take their time leading up to the event to build out their snakes and start practicing. “We’re encouraging the community to come together despite separation,” Crossman shares. “I’m working with Battlesnake to run this engaging online experience with announcers and everything—it’s like an E-sports tournament.”
All that is needed to play is a live web server that implements the Battlesnake API. Encouraging people anywhere from high school students to professionals with 10+ years of development experience, Battlesnake welcomes all levels and introduces step-by-step instructions to help participants learn and progress. It’s a team-based competition where friends or colleagues can come together to collaborate, experiment, and learn together. There are different tiers to compete, ensuring that well-versed developers aren’t competing against someone who is writing their first line of code, which makes it an inviting experience for any background.
"This is the perfect opportunity for someone who is even just interested. If they have never coded or never had an excuse, this is a great chance to learn," Crossman says.
HackRegina was the perfect group for Battlesnake to reach out to, as they have been bringing the Saskatchewan technology community together since 2017. It started as a community Slack channel with ten people discussing hackathon ideas but has since become a nonprofit group that’s a direct line to the technical community—with over 447 people in the Slack channel today. From advertising events, going head-to-head in hackathons, or asking for help, HackRegina supports collaboration between companies and the community. “It’s expanded way beyond anything I could have imagined!” Crossman smiles.
Battlesnake will be streamed on Twitch, and registration for Saskatchewan opens on November 7, 2020, and the online arena opens up at that time as well for participants to test out writing their snakes and go through all of the event features. On November 14, Battlesnake BC will be hosting a tutorial walkthrough. A few days later, on November 20, the pre-show and arena highlights will be underway, where competitors can see what people have been building and get a rundown of the event. The official tournament happens throughout the day on November 21.
“It’s an exciting moment to be a developer in Saskatchewan,” Crossman says. “This first year will set a starting point, and I’m looking forward to continuing this league mentality in this tech area!”
Operating out of Victoria, BC—brought to SK by HackRegina
Organized in SK by David Crossman