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Java Programming Game Is Latest Craze

Robocode, downloaded 80,000 times so far, is proving to be a popular method for sharpening Java programming skills.

Battling robots do not usually have a positive effect on learning Java programming--but that's changed with the advent of Robocode, a new programming game sweeping the IT nation to the tune of 80,000 downloads.

Launched in July on the AlphaWorks Web site, IBM's portal for emerging consumer technology, Robocode helps wannabe Java developers learn the code by helping them to construct Robots that are real Java objects. The robots then can be used to attack other robots in competitive, animated battles complete with guns, explosives, and other personalized weaponry.

"There are plenty of programming games and plenty of Java games, but this is the first that's so realistic and offers so much coding freedom," says game developer Mat Nelson, who during the day works as an advanced Internet technology developer for IBM. Nelson says he's amazed by the ingenuity many players have shown in building their robots. Some have learned to predict attacks and dodge bullets by tracking drops in opponents' energy fields that coincide with weapons being fired.

Last week, IBM said it would offer free licenses to any academic institution teaching Java programming. With schools such as the University of Michigan already promoting the game as a learning tool, it appears Robocode will add to the number of such licenses being distributed. The game can be found at http://robocode.net or http://robocode.alphaworks.ibm.com .

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