Three Body Problem (Robin Burkinshaw)

three body problem

From an initial set of data specifying the positions, masses and velocities of three bodies for a particular point in time, find the optimal path for the third body to avoid a collision and reach the provided destination.

Avoid making mistakes for high score.[Author’s description]

[Play Online]
[Play Online (Kongregate)]
[Windows Download]
[Mac Download]


  1. I was just about to tweet this at one of you. This is a fantastic game.

  2. current high score of eleven

  3. This is so very good. The sort of game that feels almost like a discovery of a whole new gametype.

    The best I’ve done is 21, shortly after getting the hang of it, but now after moving over to the Kongregate link to see the highscores I haven’t gotten over 16 and usually get around 12. I think the field of view may be wider on the developer’s site, but I’m not sure that would explain it.

    • [This is a bit inappropriately long and rambling, but I’m apparently quite taken by the game and don’t have time to edit it down now…]

      Okay, I’m up to 34, which, coincidentally enough, seems to be the dev’s currently posted score.

      I want to write a couple more tentative thoughts on this.

      The neat thing here is that everything is (presumably) deterministic, but the system feels pretty chaotic, by which I guess I just mean that it feels like small differences in player movement cascade into large and unwieldy differences in world-state. Everything’s happening precisely because of what you’re doing, but it’s nonetheless tricky to stay in control.

      But one can imagine a species better at intuiting the calculus involved in determining — again and again — each of the body’s updated velocities, in which case I suppose the game becomes trivial. This is equally true of something like Terry’s Super Hexagon, in which a computer could certainly play flawlessly forever, but it sure tickles our brains to try and keep up anyway.

      Here, however, there’s sort of an extra purity, since you know that the game isn’t throwing new patterns at you, but rather is applying its single algorithm to react precisely to what you’re doing (complicated, of course, by both other objects’ positions needing to be taken into account to calculate the new gravity vector).

      More practically, everything became easier-feeling once I stopped thinking of this as a high-speed game of interplanetary Danger, and instead started thinking of it as a game about Herding. The other two bodies aren’t out to get you and when it comes down to it they’re really under your control.

      That said, I’m definitely not yet wrapping by head about all possibly configurations, but it seems like there are some basic tactics [it’s often best to thread your way between them, often dangerous to swerve around both at once because if they manage to clump together they’ll come straight for you next, almost always foolish to start going one direction and then change your mind to try to go around the other way] and then novel situations you haven’t quite trained yourself for [say, after a hard ricochet off a wall, or if they do manage to clump together].

      One last thought, which hopefully won’t sound like diminishment of how good I think this game is (which is “tremendously”): I’m starting to suspect we’ll soon see absurdly high scores populating the list, because I think if you play enough you’ll start simply being able to intuit everything, playing slowly and steadily, only going for the targets when absolutely convenient, simply not making mistakes.

      Oh, one more thing: the player has a higher mass than the other two objects, right? I’m tempted to say that must be part of why it works so well, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’m imagining it completely.

      • So…after already feeling a bit abashed at having written such a long comment — and one with such a small ratio of insight to word-count! — it turns out I think I was making a fundamental mistake about how this game’s system works.

        Playing around with it some more now, and focusing just on the movement and not on the score, I now think there may be no evidence at all of any gravitational force being applied between the two “enemy” objects.

        I guess I was tricked by the title into assuming the unpredictable-feeling behavior was because a center-of-mass for the whole three-body system was being used in each moment to determine each body’s new acceleration vector?

        Now I think they may simply both be constantly accelerating toward the player? (And it doesn’t seem like the acceleration increases at all as distance from the player decreases?)

        As for the other stuff I was going on about, imagining an alien species for whom certain games we find challenging would be absurdly trivial, it seems obvious in retrospect that this could be said about literally any single-player game that doesn’t rely upon hidden information. So…not very insightful, either…

  4. the gentleman way to start this is to go down up and down (the yellows clash at the bottom and you just pass between them twice), right?

  5. I finally understand why they found “The Game” on Star Trek TNG so damn addicting.

  6. AWESOME AI and physics!!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ 😈