The Path of Go
BGJ 155 Spring 2011 Reviewer: David Carter-Hitchin
Microsoft Research has recently developed Go-playing software, which was released last December to run on the Xbox 360 games console. I downloaded it out of interest. It’s polished but the AI engine is very weak—it looks to be about 15 kyu! It will appeal to children though, and anything which promotes Go is a good thing, particularly when big names like Microsoft put their name behind something. Shame about the AI though, really. The ’story mode’ does a reasonable (but not perfect) job of teaching the rules; for example it was asking me where to play to make a live group (by making eyes), without explaining the principle of two eyes, or the suicide rule.
Missing and very easy to add: Joseki dictionary and problems. Considering all the free stuff out there to play and learn Go, this is good for kids who know of no alternatives. However, since it appears to be only available via the Microsoft marketplace, this requires an internet connection, so I imagine anyone who can download this can probably log onto to the Internet and use KGS, look at free Go problems, read Sensei’s Library site2, look at free online joseki dictionaries, etc.
Scores (out of 10):
- Promotion of Go using a medium that will reach out to millions: 10
- Interface: 7 (a bit clunky in places, i.e. viewing the board can only be at right angles).
- Tutor: 6 ( I didn’t play through it all, but it looked OK, though not in the order I would teach things).
Conclusion: don’t buy if you’re already into Go and have other software and know about Internet resources. Buy if you know nothing about Go and prefer playing board games on the Xbox, otherwise explore the Teaching Room on KGS with a PC/Mac.
Finally, the AI is really a disappointment, since there is a lot of computing power inside an Xbox. Microsoft Research needs to do some.