Old versions shown in photo from left to right: Spite & Malice (DOS), Spite & Malice for Windows 3.1,
SpiteNET: Spite and Malice v.5 (laptop), SpiteNET: Spite and Malice v.4 (Win95)
It ain't solitaire you're playing!
Spite is... artificial intelligence and he's doing a pretty good job at competing with his human opponents. The first version of Spite and Malice was written in 1989 for DOS on a bet. By 1998, version 4 was released giving Spite two levels of card playing abilities, the "Go easy on me" and "I can take it" levels. Good players began to break even after awhile with Spite winning about 50% of the games. That in itself is a satisfying achievement for myself as the programmer. But great players still had him beat, walking away with about 75% of the wins.
In 1999, version 5 added the 3rd level, "Ruthless," which put those great players back on their toes! As the years passed, Spite got smarter and smarter with playing his cards and blocking (and his attitude).
While there is a certain amount of luck in the draw, skill is what separates the good players from the average players in the long run. Even a player without any strategy might win a few games in a row, but after a few dozen games, the "luck of the draw" winners will find themselves falling far behind on the scoreboard.
Start playing a game and about half way through, just stop and take a deep breath... Think for a moment about all the decisions you have to make each time you make a move. Is it better to use your hand card or a hold card? How close can you play to a center pile without leaving it open for Spite? What's in his hold piles that might help him to block your move or play his side card? Should you play your wild card to block, or save it to help you build towards your side pile card? Which hold pile should you drop a card to that won't block other hold cards you might need? Etc., etc...
Now translate all those decision-making processes you just went through into thousands of lines of code. That's artificial intelligence and good as it is, nothing beats the human brain. Chess games go through the same procedure, line by line, asking itself what if I make this move or that move, with every possibility having to be painstakingly coded (by a human of course!).
Besides doing his best to play like a human, Spite also tries to act human. The taunts and pouts are all part of playing Spite and Malice in the real world and the object of this game is to bring in the atmosphere of reality to make it as fun, challenging and frustrating as possible.
The Multiple Personality Edition of SpiteNET adds the fun dimension of competing against 1, 2 or 3 computer opponents, each with their own personality. Multiple opponents can be a lot more challenging and the human player needs to develop a whole new strategy for trying to win.
Mari J Michaelis, author