Core Wars

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Screenshots - Core Wars

Core Wars atari screenshot
Core Wars atari screenshot
Core Wars atari screenshot

Information - Core Wars

Language[unknown]Publisher[no publisher]
ResolutionMedium / HighLicensed from-

Thomson, David

CountryUnited Kingdom 
Graphic Artist(s)


Game design

Thomson, David

Box / InstructionsEnglish


LicensePD / Freeware / Shareware
Sound FX


Cover Artist(s)ST TypeST, STe / 0.5MB
Dumpdownload atari Core Wars Download / MSANumber of Disks1 / Single Sided

Instructions - Core Wars

The Epic Saga of CORE WARS

     CORE WARS is a computer game played both with and BY  compu
ters.  In Core Wars,  two player-written computer programs,  both
operating  concurrently  within  the same segment  of  memory.	A
program "loses" when it hits an instruction it cannot execute.

     Core  Wars is described more fully in the May 1984 issue  of
Scientific  American (in A.K.  Dewdney's column "Computer Recrea
tions"); a short synopsis follows below:

     Core  Wars Battle Programs are written in a  special  Assem
bler-style  language called Redcode,  which defines only 9  oper
ations.  Unlike  regular  assembly code,  any arguments  that  an
instruction  may  have are considered to be contained within  the
same memory location,  so addressing is very simple. For example,
the instruction JMP -2 simply means jump back 2 locations  before
this  one -- JMP 0 would be an endless loop on that one location,
and  JMP 1 simply moves to the next  location  -- essentially,	a
"No-operation" Instruction.

     Neither  program originally knows where in memory the  other
is,  or even where the program itself has started -- however, the
memory	segment used by Core Wars is "circular," and all address
ing is relative, so absolute memory addresses are not important.

     The nine Redcode instructions are:

     Instr:    Arguments:     Description/Result:

     MOV       A    B	      B will equal A (A is unchanged)

     ADD       A    B	      B will equal B + A (A unchanged)

     SUB       A    B	      B will equal B - A (A unchanged)

     JMP       A	      Program will jump to A

     JMZ       A    B	      Program will jump to A if B is zero

     JMG       A    B	      Program will jump to A if B > 0

     DJZ       A    B	      B will equal B - 1; if this is
			      zero, program jumps to A

     CMP       A    B	      If A = B, skip the next instruction

     DAT	    B	      B is data. IF A PROGRASM TRIES TO
     There  are  also three addressing modes,  or ways	in  which
arguments  can	be presented.  They  are  Direct,  Indirect,  and
Immediate.  In Direct mode, the argument is taken as an offset to
the current address.  This is the default mode.  Thus, the state
ment DJZ 12 -1 would decrement the previous location, and if that
result	were  zero,  would jump forward 12 locations (or  if  not
zero, it would move ahead one, normally).

     In Indirect mode,	denoted by the "@" symbol,  the indicated
relative  address contains a further relative  address.  Consider
the four-statement sequence:  JMP   @1
			      DAT	    1
			      JMP    12
			      CMP   -10    -11 .  The first  jump
statement will look for its argument in relative address  +1.  In
this example,  it finds a 1,  which RELATIVE TO THAT ADDRESS is 1
-- it points to the statement JMP 12.  Had it been a 2,  it would
have  pointed to the CMP instruction.  A -1 would have pointed to
the original JMP @1, and been an endless loop (assuming the enemy
program never changes either location).  Had it been 0,  the pro
gram  would  have jumped to the DAT ststement  and  been  halted,
having "committed suicide."

     Finally,  Immediate  mode takes the argument as an  absolute
number,  and is denoted by the "#" sign.  CMP #2 -3 will chack to
see  if the value at offset -3 is equal to 2.  Immediate mode has
two special cases which are very important to Core Wars -- first,
a MOV statement with an Immediate argument in the first  argument
will  cause  the  argument addressed in the  second  argument  to
become	a  DAT instruction (had the argument not been  Immediate,
MOV would instead have copied everything,  arguments and instruc
tions.	Thus, a Battle Program can move itself around in memory).
This  is a very handy way of planting "bombs" in the  enemy  pro
gram's code.

     The  second  important thing to realize is that you can  NOT
have an Immediate,  or absolute, address. If the operating system
sees an Immediate-mode argument as an offset,  it will automatic
ally assume an offset of zero, which can have disastrous results.

     Which argument is which?	The second,  or "B" argument,  is
the one that contains data for ADD, SUB, CMP, and the conditional
jump  instructions.  Thus,  when  the first  instruction  of  the
Redcode sequence ADD #2   1
		 CMP  3  15 is performed, the second line will be
changed to compare locations 3 and 17. The first, or "A" argument
is almost never altered by Redcode operations (except for MOV).
     Both battle programs are executed by the Core Wars operating
system,  MARS.	In  the version presented here,  MARS is also the
program  loader;  programs may be loaded either from the keyboard
or from disk (when you give the program a name, it will check the
directory for that name -- if it finds it,  it will load it  from
disk,  assuming the program to be an ASCII file). The MARS inter
preter	simply keeps switching its program counter from one  pro
gram  to another -- ABABABABABABAB....	until either one  program
loses,	some maximum number of instruction cycles have been  per
formed	(as a safeguard against endless loops),  or until you hit
Ctrl-E to abort.

     Here is the shortest possible battle program, called "Imp":

			 MOV  0    1

     Imp  just copies the current location to the next	location,
then  advances	to the next location,  etc.  While  the  original
program  is  short,  it  will eventually gobble up  every  memory
location if unchecked,	thus becoming the largest possible battle
program as well.  It can even spread to its opponent,  since  any
program  that  jumps to a location written by Imp will become  an
identical clone of Imp.

     Here is another program, "Anti.Imp":

			 MOV  #0   -5
			 CMP  #0   -6
			 JMP  -1
			 MOV  #0   -5
			 MOV  #0   -6
			 MOV  #0   -7
			 MOV  #0   -8
			 JMP  -7

     Anti.Imp sets up a "marker" byte at -5 relative to its first
byte,  then waits for Imp to come along. When the marker changes,
it bombards the area that Imp is movinbg into with DAT 0 instruc
tiomns, which Imp can't execute and thus bites it.

     Finally, "AntiAnti.Imp":

			 MOV   4   @3
			 ADD  #1    2
			 JMP  -2
			 DAT	    2
			 MOV   0    1

     AntiAnti.Imp writes a block of code that LOOKS like Imp into
progressively higher memory locations.	When Anti.Imp senses this
"drone" Imp,  it will attack it, but to no avail -- it will still
get over-written,  and then become a clone of Imp (at which point
it  turns around and wreaks havoc on AntiAnti.Imp,  which has  no
protection against Imp itself as shown here....).
     Other program examples are given in Dewdney's article,  such
as Dwarf,  which fires "Zero Bombs" in a fashion similar to Anti-
Anti.Imp;  Gemini,  which simply runs away;  or Raidar,  which is
able  to "leapfrog" over advancing attacks.  Players who  develop
their	own  champions	are  welcome  to  append  them	 to   the

Current Contents of COREWARS.LBR

     COREWARS.LBR   contains  three   main   files:   COREWARS.C,
MARS.COM,  and	COREWARS.DOC,  which you are reading at this very
moment (and which I am writing at this very moment, but don't let
that fool you).  MARS.COM is the compiled version of the C source
code  as presented here (1000 memory locations,  Heath or  Telcon
terminal,  cutoff  after 2000 iterations).  There are  also  four
Redcode program files: IMP, ANTI.IMP, ANTIANTI.IMP, and DWARF.

     COREWARS.C was written in Small-C version 2.03 (M80),  which
is  available  to the public domain through RCP/M's  as  well  as
MicroCornucopia,  and  is absolutely the best C-compiler for  the
money  anywhere.  However,  BDS or UNIX users will be pleased  to
find  that its syntax matches that of normal C,  and the addition
of  a few << and >> operations will speed it up a bit  if  that's
your kind of scene.

Kevin A. Bjorke
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