PRAGUE — Students from the University of Calgary emerged the victors in an international programming face-off on the eve of the Association of Computing Machinery’s 2004 World Finals.

The Calgary team won the Java Challenge, an optional event that requires students to write components to

a chunk of code running a video game. This year, the game was Code Ruler, which has players battling for control of a Medieval kingdom. Matches consist of up to six “”rulers”” competing with each other by ordering knights to capture the peasants, knights and castles of their rivals or by ordering their peasants to claim land. Students were given several hours to program how their characters in the game would move and interact with those of opposing teams.

Calgary won the challenge with a final score of 30,558, a wide margin over its closest competitor the University of Illinois, which came in second with 17,201 points. Sixty-seven of the 73 teams competing in the World Finals participated in the Java Challenge.

The actual competition in the video game was pre-recorded prior to the broadcast of the Java Challenge. The replay was brought to a halt in the semi-finals when the system crashed and the audience was left with the “”blue screen of death.”” Organizers had to jump to the final round without showing how the final 18 teams got there.

Tim deBoer, team lead for the deployment and publishing of tools in IBM’s WebSphere Studio, helped design Code Ruler for the Java Challenge. He said the score is based in part on how efficiently each team deploys its peasants and knights and captures land. “”Many of these students don’t know Java,”” he said. “”But it allows us to give them greater exposure to Eclipse as a way of working with the code.”” Eclipse is a project spearheaded by IBM to provide a universal toolset for software development. IBM is the sponsor of the ACM World Finals.

Other Canadian teams at the World Finals include the University of Waterloo, the University of British Columbia and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Sonny Chan, a University of Calgary computer science student and one of the team members, said preparing for the event involves at least one five-hour practice session each week.

“”It’s sucking up a lot of my time. Some projects have definitely suffered,”” he admitted, “”In some ways it’s better than what we actually do in school.””

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