Phaser-Powered Battle Bots Game Revolutionizes Learning at UN AI and Big Data Forum 2023

Posted on 9th Jan 2024. Follow @phaser_ and get the Phaser World newsletter.

The United Nations AI and Big Data Forum 2023 was a two-day conference which took place in Trinidad and Tobago on November 21st and 22nd. It featured a mix of panel discussions, keynotes and presentations by academics and professionals in the Artificial Intelligence and Data Science industries. The event also included an AI competition, powered by Phaser, which saw 20 secondary schools across the country participating.

The United Nations Big Data Forum event coordination team reached out to Teleios Systems for assistance with creating and implementing a competition geared towards giving students exposure with the latest developments in AI. Teleios Systems is a software development company in Trinidad which has been hosting Code Jam competitions for several years, so we leveraged that experience to conceptualize a competition that would meet the goals of the United Nations team.

In order to demonstrate the potential of AI, we specifically wanted to ensure that students did not need to have any programming experience whatsoever to participate in the competition. To realize this, we decided that an AI-driven, Battle Bots game in which students gave instructions in natural language to their robots would make for an exciting and engaging competition, whilst also introducing the students to AI concepts like prompt engineering in a fun and highly visual manner.

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Having worked with Phaser since version 0.9 all the way back in 2013, we knew that it would be a great choice for building Battle Bots, especially considering the unique requirements that this competition imposed. The game was designed as a pixel art battle arena, in which mechs representing each player would spawn. All of the mechs had the same amount of health, maneuverability, weapons and shields, but each was outfitted in the specific school's colours and displayed the school's emblem. Battle Bots was developed to be played via a twitch live-stream, with the students tuning in from wherever they are and sending their commands in real-time.

In order to control their mechs, the students used their mobile devices to send messages via WhatsApp to our special Battle Bots mobile number. Our API would then be invoked to convert the natural language prompts from the students into Javascript code via OpenAI's GPT3.5. This code would then be applied as the AI for the bots. In essence, the students were generating Javascript to control their bots by simply explaining what they wanted to happen in regular English. This proved to be a powerful way to demonstrate what the future of coding might look like, especially given the fact that many of the students hadn't been introduced to programming yet and some weren't even doing computer science at all.

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To allow the participants some time to get familiar with the game and to practice experimenting with different types of prompts, we made a test arena available for a few days before the competition. Many students jumped onto the test arena twitch stream to hone their prompts. Since there was only 1 instance of the test arena being live-streamed 24/7, there were several times when students from different schools encountered each other. This led to a fun little impromptu pre-competition rumble. We included a special leaderboard exclusively for the test arena and some bots were able to surpass 300 wins during the short period of time that the arena was available.

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On the day of the competition, teams of 3 students from each of the 20 secondary schools gathered together at the Hyatt Regency hotel to duke it out in a tournament-style contest. The teams were first divided up into 4 groups of 5 teams for a round-robin group stage. The 4 winners from the group stage, as well as the top 2 losers moved on to the 2 semi-final matches and then the 2 winners went on to the finals. There was also a 4-team losers skirmish to determine the 3rd place winner.

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At the end of it all, the students had a fantastic time and learned a lot in the process. Battle Bots exceeded all expectations and received glowing commendations from the students, teachers, as well as industry professionals who attended the Big Data Forum. In the words of the United Nations Big Data coordination team, the Battle Bots tournament ended up being the most successful and impactful part of the entire conference and they hope to make it an even bigger event next year.

Battle Bots TTT Live Video