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Reviewed: MindRover
Author: Rob Baumstark       Date: October 31st, 2000
Page: 2

The Play.

Playing MindRover can be both very simple, and quite complex at the same time. How’s this you ask? Well the simple part is playing a match. You pick the arena, a few rovers, and hit Go. There’s no interaction with the rovers once it begins, you just move the camera around to get a better view. When it’s all over, if you won you go find someone else with a better rover to go up against; if you lost, you go back and tweak your wiring a bit, which brings us to the complex part.

Once you’ve been playing for a while, chances are you’re going to end up with some rather complex logic built into these things. MindRover has an excellent interface that allows you to do quite a lot with your rover without putting in many components or wires, this makes it great for people who don’t want to learn computer programming, but to just play a game. But as a fairly experienced programmer in many much more powerful languages, I found that I ended up with huge messes of wiring that were almost impossible to come back to after a week of something else, and still know what any of it meant. For people that want to get to a lower level of control over their rover, Cognitoy allows you to get right at the code that the wiring screen generates, and edit and compile it yourself, which they call the ICE language. I think I’d have better luck coding in ICE directly than using the GUI, but that can wait a bit; I still consider myself a MindRover beginner, and have a lot to learn.

Single Player.

The entire single-player part of MindRover seems to be designed more as a teaching tool than as an opponent to try and beat. It didn’t take me long in each scenario to watch the way the supplied rovers would react, and simply program around it. Knowing how your opponent will react in any situation makes it pretty easy to beat it. As a teaching tool though it is excellent. By the time you beat all the scenarios you will have learned most of the subtle tricks of rover design and should be able to build some rather complex machines to put up against your friends.

This is all it took to beat the first single-player sumo rover. Here's the wiring for it, pretty simple stuff.

Multi-Player.

I think multi-player is definitely the future of gaming, as shown by the recent trend of multiplayer-only (eg. Q3A) and MMORPG style of games. Now before you all say you can play Q3A single-player, you should all agree that playing against a bot in a multi-player arena just isn’t the same. MindRover is the same way; it won’t be long before you want something to compete against that’ll do something different and unexpected. Because of the build’n’watch nature of MindRover though, playing against your friends is done in a very unique way. You build your rovers, and then trade them over e-mail, ICQ, a shared folder on the LAN, etc. and then one person collects them all and drops them into an arena together. If you all want to watch, you all gather around his monitor.

I tested it out against a couple of my Quake playing friends, expecting to dominate over their fast reflexes with my logic and programming knowledge, and I must say that Cognitoy did an excellent job at building a programming interface that anyone can use. I did win most of the matches, but my friends caught on quickly and were good competition. We played such that everyone had a copy of the rover that was currently the best in a given arena, and we’d keep tweaking our own till we could beat it. Once that happened we sent copies of that one around and we all got a new goal. This would continue till we got sick of that arena, and moved onto something different. Our favorite had to be the Hover Sumo arena, where your task is to build a hovercraft rover, and push you opponent out of the ring. I did fairly well on this one with the all-out offensive rover that would find the enemy, and then ram it with everything he had, but Kris’s dodging logic was good enough that I’d usually careen off his side and put myself out instead.

Overview of the wiring on Kris's sumo rover. Click here to download it and try it yourself. Kris's rover keeping itself inside the ring. And here, giving the opponent a punt out.

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Added:  Tuesday, October 31, 2000
Reviewer:  Rob Baumstark
Score:
Page: 2/3

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