No Press Diplomacy

Digressive Commentary Regarding the Judge Code

Many PBEM players, particularly those who do not play no-press Diplomacy, may not have known much about the details of what the judge does and does not test in order for orders to be accepted. While I don't lose a great deal of sleep over what the judge does and does not allow, I must admit that it bothers me a bit. It's not so much whether or not the judge checks to see if a set of orders is legal that bothers me, but rather the lack of consistency in what gets checked.

Let's take a look at a couple of examples:

These are just a few examples - the syntax section above is full of many more.

As I see it, the judge should either allow any move, whether it is feasible or not, or it should reject all infeasible moves. Rejecting all infeasible moves would hinder one's ability to communicate without press, but would by no means eliminate it. My own preference would be to have the judge allow any order, feasible or not. This would make communication much easier (as it is with hand-adjudicated games). But that's not the reason for my having that preference.

What it comes down it is what is the role of the judge? If the role of the judge is to ensure feasibility for moves, then it should do so for all moves, not just some of them. I'm of the opposite opinion. As I see it, the judge is an adjudicator, not a babysitter. It shouldn't look over my shoulder and tell me I'm making mistakes - submitting correct orders is my own responsibility. If I order an army from Greece to the Ionian Sea, the judge rejects it telling my that that is not a legal move. Why? The judge should accept the move (as a human adjudicator would) and when moves process, the move fails and it's too bad for me for not having paid attention, just like in hand-adjudicated games. After all, could you imagine being at the table in a FTF game and when they start to adjudicate moves they get to your order for Army Greece - Ionian and you say "Wait! You should have told me I was making a mistake so that I could enter a different move!" You'd either get laughed at or beaten up.

Because the judge is a computer and not a human, it is understandable that it checks actual syntax of orders. If I misspell "hold" as "lold" in a hand-adjudicated game, the GM would correctly interpret the order. The judge is not, not being a little more rigid in its syntax, would not correctly parse the order. However, testing of correct syntax of orders says nothing about their validity or feasibility, and could be done independently of all the other tests that currently cause the judge to reject syntactically correct orders.

But I'm quite curious about other peoples' opinions. Do you agree, disagree, or not care? Should the judge be consistent, and if so, which way - by testing everything or testing nothing? If enough people agree with me, I would be willing to compile a comprehensive list of inconsistencies. Eliminating tests should be relatively easy from a coding point of view. In terms of the other side of the coin - testing everything - most of the changes would also be simple to implement. There are a couple of exceptions, such as calculating all possible convoy paths for testing feasibility of convoy orders, but nothing that couldn't be overcome if people think it matters. Let me know what you think.

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Simon Szykman
([email protected])

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