Dice game research leads Steven Hnath '12 to conference in Netherlands

The college experience is all fun and games, right?

Maybe not, but one particular game has played a unique role in a Gettysburg College student's higher education experience. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Steven Hnath '12 spent the summer preparing a computational research analysis on the dice game Dudo.

Dudo is a centuries-old Inca bluffing game. Played by two or more people in rounds, each player guesses how many dice, hidden under cups, show a certain number. The player who loses a round must forfeit one or more dice, and the last player to retain dice is the winner. Characters played a simplified version of this game in the film "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

Hnath, a mathematics and theatre arts double major minoring in computer science, collaborated with Prof. Todd Neller to complete the analysis. Neller is Chair of the computer science department and has extensively researched and studied game design and analysis.

Hnath and Neller submitted their research results to the International Computer Games Association, and their work was selected from a competitive group of applicants to be published in the 2012 edition of "Computers and Games." They were also invited to speak at the 13th Advances in Computer Games Conference at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. "I enjoy mentoring students and finding opportunities for them to research, publish, and present their work," said Neller. "I see this as part of my role as a professor."

DudoDuring their co-presentation, the pair demonstrated how a modification to Counterfactual Regret Minimization (CFR), through imperfect recall of actions, reduces the number of information set updates from exponential to linear time. This modification allowed Hnath and Neller to complete the first full-game approximation of optimal play for Dudo.

"My favorite part of this entire experience was seeing my research through to fruition. The presentation process showed me how to create and share academic material at the highest level," said Hnath, who plans to attend graduate school.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Tracey Dukert, assistant director of news content, 717.337.6521