How An EdTech Startup Is Reinventing Esports And Providing A Competitive Platform For Creative Coders

At the start of 2021 we launched the CodeCombat AI League. Built on the foundation of our annual CodeQuest competitive coding hackathon, this new and innovative esport was born. The CodeCombat AI League is the first of its kind, part AI battle simulator and part code engine for learning real Python and JavaScript. We are redefining what an esport can be and giving the next generation of engineers a platform to showcase their creative coding abilities.

Founded in February of 2013, CodeCombat was born from a simple idea: make learning to code engaging and accessible to all. The game-based learning platform teaches real typed Python, JavaScript and C++ coding languages through the power of play. The dungeon crawl gameplay is paired with a scaffolded curriculum to allow self-paced learners the ability to master foundational programming concepts before moving on to the more complex. Each level challenges the player to type the code necessary to advance their hero and achieve the level goal. With the basics down, the competition can now begin.

“Coding competitions or hackathons are not new,” said Nick Winter, CodeCombat’s CEO, “but our drive to evolve the format has led us to develop the CodeCombat AI League, a unique esport that turns competitive coding into the spectacle it deserves to be.”

With a basic knowledge of coding, anyone can step into the arena to compete. In this league, your code powers the strategies and tactics in battle. So instead of directional keys or a joystick, players write the code that informs what heroes to summon and what they will do. Need resources? Program a thief to snatch them from your opponent. Want to protect your base? Code your soldiers to form a wall.

When a player is confident that their code is ready to compete, they enter the arena and challenge tens of thousands of other coders from around the globe. Players can run test matches against any competitor, then allow the AI to simulate hundreds of asynchronous battles on the global leaderboard in seconds. When a match completes, the platform adjusts its Bayesian estimate of each player’s skill and updates the rankings. Players can refine their code at any time, rerun the battle, and position themselves for the season final championship.

The creativity we’ve seen out of these young coders is incredible,” said Valentin Briukhanov, AI League Design Architect. “I designed these arenas, but the code that some of these players are generating, I never could have imagined.”

With three seasons per year and two new themed arenas each season the intensity and creativity in competition continues to grow. Tens of thousands of players participate in the competitive head-to-head arenas each season with more than just bragging rights on the line.

Endemic esports mainstays RESPAWN and HyperX are proud partners of the CodeCombat AI League, and along with great prizes, they offer confirmation that competitive coding has a place in the esports landscape.

Just like every other sport, competition drives innovation. Competitors are continually looking for ways to gain an edge. Without the limitations of defined interfaces like directional keys and joysticks, there is an immense amount of control and flexibility that comes with using code in competition. We believe that we’ve only just scratched the surface of what competitive coders can achieve and are excited to see what future seasons of the AI League will evolve into.


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