In August 2009, Sergey Karakovskiy and Julian Togelius held a competition on behalf of the ICE-GIC (IEEE Consumer Electronics Society Games Innovation Conference) for contestants to build a soft-bot that played Super Mario.
The Super Mario Engine they used was a modified version of one built in Java by the one and only Markus Persson , a.k.a. “Notch” of Minecraft fame. The Engine is named Infinite Mario Bros., and is still playable online for free. Entrants into the competition had to build an agent who would tell the engine Mario’s next move every 40 milliseconds.
The competition was held in 2009, and again in 2010. Robin Baumgarten won this competition with his bot, AStarAgent, both years. I stumbled upon this competition in late August 2010 and was immediately intrigued. I had wanted to build an agent that played a known game –any game, really—for some time. A modern first person shooter like Halo or RTS like Starcraft would be mind-blowing, exciting, and most of all, recognizable to family and friends.