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GDC: Programmer’s Challenge Stumps Panel Of Experts

After a four year hiatus, The Programmer’s Challenge - a quiz panel with questions on everything from Dijkstra’s algorithm to strangely named Gundam games - returned to GDC, injecting some much appreciated humor into the normally educationally-minded prog

Vincent Diamante, Blogger

March 9, 2007

2 Min Read

Game Developers Conference is focused strongly on education and networking for video game professionals, but Thursday evening featured a game show that the GDC had not seen in four years. Six of the industry’s most well respected programmers were brought together to form teams and answer some of the silliest video game and programming questions conceived. Written by Jeff Roberts and Casey Muratori, who also hosted the event, questions on everything from Dijkstra’s algorithm to strangely named Gundam games garnered huge laughs from competitors Josh Adams, Brian Jacobson, Chris Hecker, Eric Malafeew, Jonathan Blow, and Chris Butcher, as well as the audience. As funny as the questions were, many of them communicated some of the serious hardware and software issues that exist among game industry programmers. One category of questions - “Compensation: Questions about the largeness of things (or lack thereof)” - dealt primarily with console architecture and how they never seemed to have enough memory available. Many other questions were critical of certain practices observed within the industry, such as, “Question: How many developers does Microsoft have maintaining their current Visual Studio C++ compiler codebase? Answer: 1”. Question writer Jeff Roberts could not resist the temptation, as many video game humor writers before him, to include a question referencing the still popular "riiiiiiidge racer" and "giant enemy crab" internet memes. Surprisingly, the most difficult questions for the competitors were the ones requiring more basic math skills. A math problem framed as a story involving Infinium Labs stumped all the programmers with its basic subtraction, even after allowing a very long minute for calculation. In stark contrast, a whole category devoted to storing cereal attributes in three bits (frostiness | fruitiness | genus > 0) was powered through by Team B’s Chris Hecker. The game’s end saw The A Team’s Eric Malafeew, Chris Butcher, and captain Jonathan Blow winning over Team B by a score of 6000 to 5400. Despite the win, Blow, who performed extremely well throughout the game, was compelled to remark, “Can I say that I do game design now, honestly?”

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About the Author(s)

Vincent Diamante


Vincent Diamante is a freelance game audio designer and senior editor at games website insertcredit.com and has previously worked for XM Radio. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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