The untimely demise of Kolnogorov’s project and the "resignation" of Kolosov became a serious test for the dots community on the post-Soviet countries, but in an absolutely disassembled state it remained relatively short-lived. Help came, where did not expect - from the West. Details will be analyzed a little later. At the beginning let's try to look into the more remote past.
Being a specific Soviet invention, dots never boasted a vast geography of distribution. Nevertheless, a couple of original development centers with local communities and their own traditions on the world map nevertheless appeared. Being in Russia, to study the history of Polish and Czech dots is quite difficult. Work even with those more or less intelligible sources of information that appear from the time of the widespread of the Internet is seriously hampered by the language barrier, it is hard to find eyewitnesses and communicate with them doubly. Therefore, the detailed coverage of the topic we will be left to local researchers, if they will appear one day, we will limit ourselves to large strokes, apologizing in advance for possible inaccuracies.
Both in Poland and in the Czech Republic, before the beginning of the Internet era, dots occupied the same niche as in the Soviet Union - the intellectual fun of the students. About when and in what ways the game has penetrated into these countries, one can only guess. The available evidence makes it possible to say with certainty only that Polish and Czech schoolchildren already played dots in the 1990s. Most likely, they played in the late 80's, but this is confirmed only from the Polish side. Inventory was used classical: a sheet of paper in a cage and pens (pencils) of two colors. The game was not as popular as in the USSR and, later, in the post-Soviet countries: all interviewed eyewitnesses claim that it was problematic to find a rival for full-time confrontation.
The situation with the name is interesting. The Polish word "
The abundance of variations in the rules (with more or less unshakable basic), conditioned by amateur status and the disunity of the community, is inherent in Polish and Czech dots in the same measure as the Soviet one. At the same time in the Czech Republic, local specifics, like the name, are more pronounced. At least, the option that formed the basis of the most famous Czech computer program (repainting of surrounded dots with subsequent calculation of all occupied points) is completely different, although the author did not invent anything himself, but simply copied what he played on paper. The Poles, who for the last decade cultivated on their online resources the original implementation of the game for the territory, before that, judging by eyewitness accounts, they practiced including the "Soviet classics" themselves with an arbitrary trajectory of environment, trap houses and counting of dots. An example of this may be the
Summarizing the above, we can make the following assumptions. It is unlikely that Poland and the Czech Republic were independent centers of the origin of the game. Most likely, it was borrowed by local schoolchildren and students from Soviet peers at the outset of the existence of the socialist community, the blessing that there were enough ways of such a cultural exchange in those days. This is indicated by the coincidence of the audience, inventory, basic rules, in the case of Poland - and the name, as well as low popularity - dots was clearly not perceived by the Poles and Czechs as something of their own, traditional and ingrained. Close proximity to Belarus and Ukraine, where the game has always been much more widespread than in Russia (relative to the population, of course), also fits this scheme well. Czech specificity may be due to a more creative approach to the introduction of someone else's invention, and the mediation of borrowing (for example, through the same Poland), and the features of a community that is objectively small and, apparently, more fragmented.
As in the post-Soviet countries, a powerful impetus to the development of Polish and, to a lesser extent, Czech dots has given wide adoption to computer technology and the World Wide Web. And the Poles at first significantly outstripped even Russian and Ukrainian colleagues in the shop. How technologically, creating excellent game programs, and socially, quickly merging into an albeit not too numerous, but an active and sustainable community.
The beginning of this process was laid in 2001, when the Polish game portal "Cronix" appeared, which was a small selection of desktop and card games.
The first mention of it in the web archive refers to July, but dots appeared in the list of available games in September (Go there, by the way, was originally).
In early 2002, the site changed its address from cronix.com to zagraj.pl, and in the end it went under the wing of the largest web portal in Poland - onet.pl (about the same time, apparently, the game was no longer free). Since February 2003, the web archive defines a new version of the main page, where the old brand is mentioned only in copyright.
As the owner of copyright, the limited liability
The text of the game's annotation is noteworthy: "dots are a game of the "sheet and pencil" type, in which we put the points so that they surround and close the enemy's dots, known to everyone who was bored at the lectures." The old good Soviet dots, both according to the description of the rules, and the nostalgic school-student notes.
What of itself was actually a game client, is for certain unknown. We can assume that it was a Java applet that worked in the browser. Currently, we have only a couple of screenshots made no later than March 2003.
It can be seen that the players had their own nicknames, there was a rating system (most likely based on the Elo rating), game statistics were played. The parties started by creating a table. The field is square with three size options. The appearance is quite modern: white background, gray lines, blue and red dots. The size of the dots was regulated. Judging by the configuration of the blue area of the environment, the principle of the minimum area was not observed. Time for the game was limited (presumably, according to Fisher's system), the current account was conducted in surrounded dots. The game menu is quite rich. Here, both the highlight of the last set dot, and the return stroke, and several options for the completion of the game (draw, surrender, scoring, cancellation). The environment was carried out manually (buttons "stop" and "ok"). In the settings there is a game mode characteristic for the Polish dots with an immediate victory when you reach a certain advantage in the account. The territory was taken into account, it is rather difficult to understand - there are no obvious signs. The social component is represented by a chat, there was also something like F.A.Q.
At least two client versions were released, but the appearance of the earlier one was not preserved. In any case, even according to two relatively late screenshots it is clear that "Cronix" is a very perfect product for its time, created by no amateurs. In terms of functionality, only a couple of years later, "Points XT", can compete with him. It is not surprising that life around this Polish project immediately began to boil.
On June 4, 2002, the first
"Cronix" in the early years is mentioned quite often. It is with kropki.legion.pl that the above
Polish players very quickly came to the idea of holding competitions - it is central to the "Legion". The first League
Judging by some screenshots from the web archive, the activity of users of the "Legion", as well as the number of participants in the first competition, "Cronix" was the most visited dots client of the early 2000s. Comparable audience had "Points XT" in the best years, and a qualitative leap occurred only with the advent of "Dots in Vkontakte".
There were, however, problems. Uninterrupted work "Cronix" did not differ, as the records of users of the "Legion" say, and, for example, the
Replacement came not immediately. Hints for alternative projects occasionally appeared on the forum, but only two of them were brought to real realization, although with different final result.
Initially the first signs of life were filed by "Szkrab". In fact, it was an analogue of the early "Cronix" - a portal with a selection of several games. He appeared at the end of 2002 - for now, without dots.
Work on the dots client
Something, however, went wrong and soon dots disappear from the site. At the forum the project was safely
Patience was rewarded in September 2005, when "Kropki.net" appeared. As can be understood from the title, the project was exclusively dots. The author was a someone myszkin. Screenshots of the client did not survive, but the web archive
Technologically, it was, apparently, the same browser-based Java applet. Users registered and entered the game under their own nickname. There are mentions of the rating system and a separate tournament functionality. The size of the field can be changed, the game was accompanied by sounds, it was possible to send messages. The environment, unlike "Cronix", was produced automatically. Points were awarded for the surrounded dots, but the condition for the completion of the game could be not only the achievement of a predetermined preponderance on points, but also the filling of dots and areas of the environment with a certain percentage of the field area.
The project for some time developed, however, judging by the opinions of eyewitnesses, did not enjoy much popularity: the players did not like the absence of a time limit and the very automatic environment that did not always work correctly. Launched by the author of a separate thematic forum worthy alternative to "Legion" also did not become (in fact, at present, redirecting from kropki.net goes exactly to kropki.legion.pl).
Therefore, apparently, the sudden resurrection of the "Szkrab" dot client, which
The new client was built on the basis of Java Web Start technology: users downloaded the JNLP file to their computer and run the application outside the browser (not only Windows but also Linux was supported). Currently, it does not open, but the detailed user's guide is saved on the page
The general continuity with "Cronix" is visible at first sight, however technological and functional progress is obvious. Two types of users: guests and registered players. Rating system with color differentiation of ranges. Detailed game statistics, including such things as a schedule for changing the rating and indicators of personal meetings. The archive of games with the possibility of "cloning" and export to sgf. Game field with alphanumeric coordinate grid and five available sizes. Rich visual settings (color and size of dots, a shade of the playing field). Fisher's time with the ability to add seconds to the opponent. The beginning of the game by creating a table or joining it, the game configuration templates, the status of "busy". Sounds of invitation, the resumption of the game and the setting of the dot. There are no starting scratches. The game mode with a handicap in addition to the traditional victory by a margin. Manual environment, cancellation of moves. The same few options for completing the game: a draw, surrender, scoring, cancellation. Extensive social component: avatars, chats, including private, a list of contacts, useful links. Three languages: Polish, Russian, English. Finally, the main highlight of the client - the so-called Polish rules of the game for the territory, which, apparently, was finally formed precisely at "Szkrab" and became not just the dominant variation in dots in Poland, but a kind of brand name of the community. The essence of these rules in general terms is that when counting points, not only the dots of the opponent surrounded by the button "stop" are counted, but empty points located inside the uncompleted areas of the environment and / or houses. The principle of minimum area of environment is not observed, there is no landing.
The client's architecture was finally formed by 2009. Perhaps, at that time it was the best program for playing dots on a set of characteristics (if, of course, leave behind the brackets the question of the difference in the rules). The only drawbacks are the binding to the Java platform, which required additional manipulations from the user and, in general, is morally obsolete, as well as extremely functional design (another feature of the Polish projects). In addition, on the "Legion" quite often there are complaints of players about problems with access, the reasons for which it is difficult to say something specific.
The client lasted much longer than Cronix, becoming for several years the main playground of the Polish community (in 2011 the portal changed the design of the main page, and the latest screenshots of the web archive refer to 2015). Tournaments were held at "Szkrab", the strongest Polish players, for example, Jakub Zurawski aka kubusio, also perfected the skills. Characteristic features of their style, formed, apparently through playing for territory, were caution and positional literacy.
The Polish dots infrastructure became especially attractive with the appearance of such a resource as "EidoKropki". This browser
The client is connected to a server that stores a huge number of batches. This archive is constantly replenished due to the manual addition of sgf-files, as well as their automatic saving on the conjugated playgrounds. The functionality allows you to view games, make compositions, create and save an arbitrarily branched tree of variants of each move, leave text comments and make various notes on the field. A unique in its kind, simple and accessible tool for learning and improving game skills.
On this major note, we will digress briefly from Polish affairs and move to the neighboring Czech Republic. Not for long, because there is very little information about the Czech dots Internet era.
For example, from the first game program created in the Czech Republic (from those that could be found) there was only a title and a brief annotation. The authorship belongs to the person with the nickname Tramp, who at the turn of the millennium placed his own developments on the personal
The page opens and now, but the program, unfortunately, is not available for download. From the description it is clear that it was written on Delphi, it occupied 115 kB of memory, and it was possible to play with it even by four (hardly online, of course). It is interesting that in addition to the main name of the game - "Území" - there is also an additional "židi". Judging by copyright, the program was created in 2000, which, in general, correlates with the level of technologies used by the author.
A more thorough attempt to stake out a place on the Internet for Czech dots was made in 2002, when "Kolonie" appeared, judging from the copyright on the only surviving screenshot.
It was a browser-based client for online games, which was hosted on a
Finally, the most famous Czech program for playing dots is "Židi". Written by former student of the University of Western Bohemia Milan Pidrman aka PiDi, and the release of the first and only version (1.0 beta) took place on March 31, 2006. You can play in it now - the program is
After downloading the client opens in a separate window. The interface is simple, the design is concise. The animation of the game progress should diversify the interface: funny smiles instead of avatars, strips of excellence and miniature positions. You can play with artificial intelligence, remotely via LAN, and also with yourself. The field is rectangular, the size is the only one (50x40 points). The color scheme is interesting: light gray lines on a dark gray background. The dots are blue and red. The coordinates of cells are displayed in a separate window when you move the cursor over the field. The last move is highlighted, there is a sound support. There is a timer, but the time for the game is not limited. The game is played until the field is filled, there are no options for early termination. The parts can be saved as a file, and the saved ones can be downloaded and played. The main feature of the client are, of course, the rules of surrounding and scoring. Actually, the areas of the surroundings are not usual: the dots of the player around which the other's chain is closed, just change the color to the opposite one. In this case, empty points inside the environment from the game are not turned off, and the dots of a different color put there are still repainted. It is impossible to surround the last move through the house - the dot is lost. Points are awarded for the number of dots of the corresponding color located on the field (one to one).
In general, a sufficiently high-quality amateur design, too specific to go beyond the Czech community, and therefore not further developed. According to the author, for the entire life of the program, it was downloaded a little less than three hundred times, and this, apparently, is not a manifestation of any shortcomings of the client, but an objective indicator of interest to dots in the Czech Republic. The same as, for example, the lack of thematic resources, like the Polish "Legion", serious tournaments and famous players. It is clear that the efforts of individual enthusiasts could not change the situation, therefore, having started almost as quickly, as well as neighbors, by the end of the 2000s the Czechs withdrew from the distance and for the further evolution of dots they watched from the outside.
Poles meanwhile continued to confidently move their own way. To do this, the community had everything that it needs: its own game and social infrastructure, its own ideas about the ways of development of the game, its traditions and informal leaders. The latter include, say, Senny Mojrzesz, who has been the main inspirer and organizer of various competitions for the last ten years. The most striking tradition of the Polish community - the memorials of Aros (Wielki Turniej Pamieci Arosa) - is connected with the tournaments. The
Nevertheless, it is impossible to call Polish dots an island of absolute prosperity. Their main problem, as it is seen from the outside, is a continuation of merits and lies in a rather distinct isolation. And if in "paper" times isolation was objectively inevitable, then with the beginning of the era of mass Internet, subjective factors began to act. By the time the "Szkrab" has established itself in the West, another standards have long dominated the East, the rules of "Points XT" and the first Kyiv tournaments became the standard generalization. Therefore, the introduction of the game by the Poles for territory that divided dots into "Polish" and "Russian" (regardless of the pros and cons of these variations) actually cut them off from the post-Soviet audience - the reluctance to abandon from own principles was mutual. Meanwhile, the inflow of local newcomers has never provided even a minimal increase in the Polish community - it has always remained steadily small (it's enough to say that less than six hundred users registered at the Legion for fifteen and a half years). With the technological obsolescence of the Java platform, on the basis of which "Szkrab" was created, the problem was only aggravated - there were fewer and fewer active players.
Finally, in 2010, for overcoming the emerging stagnation, Bartek Dyda and Jakub Grzegorzek, who are already familiar to us, took the lead. Their brainchild - "Zagram" - was eventually the most successful Polish dots project and made a significant contribution to the development of the game. Perhaps the main component of this success was the authors' style of work, which can be described in two words: responsibility and openness. Despite the amateur status and the complete absence of "commerce", the development was carried out as qualitatively and professionally as possible, and feedback from users was not organized for a tick. This bribed and motivated to fruitful interaction.
The first traces of the
The portal is built around the game client. Its architecture and appearance clearly indicate a direct relationship with its predecessors, however, in terms of the number of all possible functions and the quality of their implementation, there are no clients equal to "Zagram". In fact, it is the result of concentration and creative processing of the whole experience of the development of computer dots, not only Polish.
Users have a guest profile with reduced features and full, registration is very simple. You can add an individual description and avatar. The rating system is similar to "Szkrab", like the player's statistics (schedule, personal meetings, average rivals rating). The client is connected to "EidoKropki", where all the played games are automatically downloaded. "Cloning" with the sgf-number in stock. Visual adjustment with the help of color code or diagram gives in almost everything: windows, functional areas, backgrounds, headlines, typed text, playing field, lines, dots, areas of environment and much more. The size of the dots also changes. The collection of sounds includes an invitation to the game, its beginning and resumption, the setting of the dot, the warning of the expiration of time, the receipt of a personal message. In addition to the traditional creation of the table, there is also a challenge for a particular player from the online list. The status is "busy" and the ability to lock the user, which depends on the type of his profile and "stability." Eight options for the size of the field, including the 39x32. Alphanumeric coordinate grid. Three types of time control: without limitation, with a reserve and the addition of seconds (the Fisher system), with a reserve and time for the move. There is also the ability to throw seconds to the opponent (can be disabled in settings).
There are two main game modes, on which depends the list of available settings: for the territory and without it. With the first, in general, it is clear - the differences from "Szkrab" are minimal. Unless the environment can be closed not only manually, but also automatically (thus the principle of the minimum trajectory is observed). In the game without territory, there are initial scratches (single, double, four single), landing and group games (2 by 2, 2 by 1, 3 by 3, 3 by 2). There is no specific and ambiguous modes like an additional move. The default settings can be saved on the server. There is also the cancellation of moves and the possibility of its prohibition. The social interface is represented by common, game and private chats. In addition to Polish, Russian and English, Ukrainian is also supported, and the built-in Google Translate translates the content of chat rooms. The client is distinguished by high reliability and speed.
Over time, the information content of the portal also increased. As a result, we got a kind of encyclopedia, which was compiled by some players. Here you can find a map of the site, information about authors, frequently asked questions, rules of the game and the simplest techniques, a textbook by Alexey Priymak (more - below), rating list, archive of games (link to "EidoKropki"), information about them.
Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that as an isolated dots client, "Zagram" is close to the ideal. A serious drawback can be considered a lurid and rather primitive design, which affects not only the aesthetic perception, but, given the abundance of functions, the "friendliness" of the interface. A certain inconvenience is created by the scale of cells that varies according to the size of the field. In addition, the traditional alphanumeric coordinate grid for Polish gaming clients is not very successful (though, this only affects when the horizontal points are larger than the Latin letters). Another thing is that the concept of an individual client, even a browser, in itself, could not stand the test of time.
Here we must return to where we started. 2011 the dots community of the post-Soviet countries met without a full-fledged playground, without information resources, without an authoritative organizing center. The way out of the crisis had to look for a handful of activists who were hanging out on the hopelessly outdated "Points XT". Half a year has gone to trial and error, the result of which was mentioned in one of the previous articles pointsgame.net - a thematic site with a forum. The source of this project was the owner of the server Vasily Novikov, as well as the most active authors of the content: Priymak, Oleg Anokhin aka Oxin and someone hiding under the pseudonym Zagadka (the real name is still a mystery). Joint work has generated a certain amount of enthusiasm and creative activity. During this period that Novikov created "Vpoints" (a
The first person to appreciate the potential of the Polish project was, apparently, Priymak. Regularly to play on "Zagram" he began in January 2011, rapidly rising to the top of the rating list. Slowly, his example was followed by other well-known players from the East, bringing not only his own style, but also fresh ideas. The administration of the site met the active aliens with kindness and willingness to cooperate, which undoubtedly benefited the project, both communities, and dots as a whole.
Very quickly texts were translated and brought to mind the functional for game without territory. In February 2011, the first tournament games on "Russian" rules were held at "Zagram". Since January 2012, the automated tournaments of the "RoboCup"
Thanks to more advanced technologies and coverage of the new audience, attendance of "Zagram" has grown by an order of magnitude compared to "Szkrab": 330 thousand parties in seven years against 33 thousand for the same time (surprise here, by the way, is not that the predecessor left in history, but the fact that he lasted until mid-2013, when the last games were played on "Szkrab"). Coupled with the almost simultaneous inflow of a significant number of strong players, this sharply increased competition and allowed the site to become a forge of personnel as well. For example, Roman Saraskin aka Putin and Andrey Khodyrev aka andreyko finally took place as masters of the highest level there, and the students of "Zagram" without any reservations are such stars as Alexander Shevtsov aka inthemiddle, Igor Shlimak aka NIZBAGOYNIY MACTEP and Lucyna Malicka aka Mala Mi.
The flowering period of the project nevertheless lasted relatively short. The trend towards the extinction of the initial impulse of development was already outlined in 2013, and the next became obvious. There are several reasons for this. As already noted, technological excellence was important, but by no means the only ingredient of success. The second, consisting in the influx of new players, was largely ensured by the eastern landing. However, no matter how fruitful cooperation was at the level of the administration and informal leaders, the full unification of the communities did not happen and probably could not happen. The aliens still felt like guests, and the hosts did not like too much that they were pressed in their own territory. The former did not favor the "Polish" rules, the second - "Russian", and both of them mostly communicated with their own (individual exceptions did not change the overall picture). In this respect, the
First, the effect of novelty gradually ceased to work. Players studied the new site, put their name on the local tablets, repeated the case with a couple of clones and lost motivation. Secondly, those same informal leaders, the aim of them was consisted in order to support the motivation, found themselves a more interesting occupation - scandals. At the end of 2011, the team of pointsgame.net collaborators - Priymak and Novikov disagreed on the ways to develop the resource. There was no unity on the issue of hosting tournaments, the organization of which was worth a lot of effort and often turned into a farce. Reasonable initiatives were drowned in endless disputes, and personal ambitions prevailed over the interests of the cause. This lasted a couple of years, and the results were predictable: the site ceased to be replenished with content and turned into an artifact, the forum died down, the regional teams dissolved, the "Dots Oscar" died, the stream of donations dried up, and the last serious individual tournament took place in early 2013. Further "RoboCup" was held only, whose participants, as a rule, could be counted on the fingers. The activity of the community once again froze in the zero-point region.
"Zagram", of course, had nothing to do with it, but this frenzy, including on it, affected. The number of newcomers decreased, there were not enough own ones before, and the concept of an isolated client, deprived of the amateur status of serious advertising opportunities, did not allow to attract mass people randomly. The site did not disappear, but returned to its original orbit, to this day remaining the connecting core of the Polish community.
By the way, it was in "Zagram" chat in the summer of 2013 that one Belarusian programmer accidentally met one Ukrainian and one Russian player, and the Eastern community got another chance to continue development. But this is a completely different story.
Concluding the narrative, I would like to say the following. History teaches us a simple truth: who does not know the past, has no future. It sounds, of course, grandiloquent, but it can be applied to dots to the full. It is clear that the fate of an individual (and far from the most popular) game is lost against the backdrop of countless truly serious problems. However, behind each such phenomenon are people for whom one's own hobby is not something completely meaningless and useless. And just as the snowflakes making up the avalanche are equal, the enthusiastic communities are equal, whether they play dots, football, on the stock exchange or staff cards. So people are the most important thing that we need to understand on the basis of a journey into history. People - players, people - creators, people - leaders, finally, people - the relationship between all of the above. Dots will not exist on its own - only that which is in demand can live and develop. And the need to constantly prove. New ideas, new projects, new achievements. Moving forward. We, inveterate dots players, are very few, therefore responsibility for the future of the game and the community lies with everyone. Or we will take care of achieving a common goal, investing soul, time and resources, putting aside the grievances, envy and petty ambitions, or dots will turn into an alcoholic exhibit of the cabinet of curiosities. Roughly speaking, either the Czech Republic or the "Zagram" of the heyday, clearly showing that it is always possible to find common ground - there would be a desire.
Alexander Parfenov. December 2, 2017