Sunday, January 28, 2007

Zillions of Games

Title: Zillions of Games
Author: Zillions Development Corp.
License: Commercial

This is the last and least traditional in my little three part series in compilation games. Zillions of Games is a game playing system. The rules for a game are encoded in .zrf file (Zillions Rule File, maybe?). The syntax is similar to lisp. The game engine reads in a .zrf rules file and plays the game.

Zillions of Games comes with 50 rules files, most of which contain several variants. The game engine is designed with two-player abstract strategy games in mind. The included rules files allow you to play chess, checkers, go, and many other games against the computer. However, the .zrf syntax is flexible enough to allow for puzzle games. Included with the game are some classics: peg solitaire, 8 queens, and knight tours.

These 50 included .zrf files are just the beginning of Zillions of Games. Fans have submitted, as of the today, 1353 more .zrf files covering all manner of games and puzzles. Here is the index. The range and scope of the games is impressive, and shows the simplicity yet power of the .zrf syntax and game engine.

Since most people concentrate, rightfully so, on the 2-player games, I want to list some of the interesting puzzle games which people have written for Zillions of Games. Obviously, I have not tried all of the 1353 submitted .zrf files. So, this is in no way a comprehensive list.

I hope this gives you some idea of the puzzle possibilities with Zillions of Games.

The majority of these puzzle .zrf files were written by Karl Scherer. I want to thank him for making Zillions of Games such a wonderful toy for us puzzle and logic fans.

What is bad about Zillions of Games? The graphics are weak, and the interface is clunky at times. Both are "who cares?" in my book. The there is no real quality control in the user submitted .zrf files. Some are buggy, and some are less interesting. I wish there was a rating system for submissions. The game does not record which puzzles you have completed. For some 2-player games, the heuristic used in the min-max search is weak. The computer backgammon player is truly awful. This does not effect the puzzle games.

I hope that any puzzle/logic fan who has avoided Zillions because they thought it was only for 2-player games will give it another look.

(*) In the interest of full disclosure: Adam Chalcraft is a friend. So, I might not be fully objective on this one.


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