At the awakening of the worlds, when all were alone, and, isolated, fought many and varied battles unaided, a voice was heard to cry, “Bolo!” and warriors found their brothers in arms.
The game takes the form of a tank battle for up to 16 players, set on an island. Players enter the game with their tank on a boat, somewhere off the coast of the island. They move to the island's shore, and leave the boat to drive up onto dry land. Players can shoot at each other, lay mines which only they can see, and engage in battles with the automatic pillboxes which are found on the island. They can also form teams to work together as allies, and can alter the map in various ways. For example, when a mine explodes, it leaves a crater. If the crater is adjacent to sea or river, it will flood with water. Players can build bridges over rivers, and buildings to make a fortress wall, and farm the forests by cutting down trees, to provide the materials for all this building. The forests also grow, not under the control of the players, but in a semi-random fashion designed to appear realistic. All these changes to the map must be communicated to all the other machines in the game so that all players see an identical map at all times. This is the central problem of the project—the maintenance of a distributed replicated database, where some data, such as the location of a particular tank, has a primary site (that player's machine) and some, such as the map and alliance information, does not.
Dan W., my friend from FAU, was a big fan of Bolo, but I didn't realize it was the result of a university dissertation.