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The CEO’s Post-Mortem: 2016 Windward Code Wars

Posted on 02/11/2016

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Now that Code Wars 2016 is over, here are some things I’ve learned.

Beta Testing

My biggest frustration is we can’t do a real beta test of the challenge. We have to keep it secret and so we test here at Windward. We spend a day where everyone actually codes up a client as our final test, and it makes for a fun day at work. We beat on the game. And yet… every year… there’s a bug.

We had one bug in the server. My fault. I wrote that code. I know the board game inside out. There’s no excuse. It was a dumb error. With that said, it didn’t have a great impact on the AI design and so it wasn’t a big hit.


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Purdue students engrossed in a local Code Wars final.

Where we fell down was the Python client. Our problem with Python is we need to have one of our student interns write it and others test it. Every full-time person here has either never used it or it has been years since they have. We clearly need to do better in this area and we’ll do careful Python code review next year.

The AI Game

The game itself was a good challenge I think. My goal is have a game that’s easy to understand, and given 24 hours you could write a good AI. But in 8 hours it’s brutal. You have to make thoughtful choices, test quickly, and adapt even more quickly. I think Acquire did exactly that, especially with the 5 special cards.

What Students Gained

The feedback I got from one of the proctors was that he thinks students learned more in the 8 hours of this competition than they learn in a semester in some classes. I think that’s overstating it, but I do know this was an event that students learned a lot at, as well as had fun.

I also love the fact that our contests are direct competitions between teams, with a score determining the winner. The head-to-head competition is what makes it so much more intense. And picking the winner by the score instead of a panel of judges makes it so clear as to who won.

Next Year

We’re now trying to figure out what game to do next year. Help us out by telling us: What did you think of this year’s competition?

Please let me know in the comments below.

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Author: David Thielen

Dave, Windward's founder and CEO, is passionate about building superb software teams from scratch and dramatically improving the productivity of existing software teams. He's really proud that he once created a game so compelling (Enemy Nations) that a now-professional World of Warcraft player lost his job for playing it incessantly on company time. You can read more from Dave on his personal blog, and at Huffington Post.

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