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Harvard CS50 pset3/hacker3: The Game
of Fifteen
30 Friday Dec 2011
POSTED BY DM IN ASSIGNMENTS, C-FU, HARVARD, PROGRAMMING
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Assignments, C-fu, CS50, CS50 hacker3, CS50 pset3, Dijkstra, Game of Fifteen, Game of Fifteen Auto-
solver, Harvard CS50, Programming in C, sorting algorithm
fifteen.c output -- a 9x9 game, auto-solved by God Mode!
Course: Harvards CS50
Problem Set 3: The Game of Fifteen
pset3/hacker3 is where things start getting interesting.

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This is where you go beyond simple, few lines of code and get into the world of bigger programs
(well not so big). There is nothing particularly difficult to it other than the learning curve with
managing code with more than just one main() function.
By now you have already been, or you will be, introduced to:
make and Makefiles.
random numbers. rand() and srand().
headers (.h)
programs split across multiple files. (ie. making your own library, or just
compartmentalizing.)
various sorting algorithms.
binary search.
gdb.
(hacker3:) Path finding Algorithms.
For this problem set you get to:
choose a sorting algorithm and implement it.
implement binary search.
make your own Game of Fifteen implementation.
(hacker3:) Look into how and when a sorting function can be O(n). (This really is a special
case, not a general application)
(hacker3:) generate a random initial state for the game of fifteen, that is valid (solveable)
(hacker3:) make a game of fifteen auto-solver.
pset3
FIND
Pretty straight forward, the most fancy thing you could possibly do is xor swap in your
sorting function. You are introduced to many different sorting functions during class. That
animated sorting algorithms demo happens to have source code in it What more do you
need?
Youre instructed to not touch find.c and helpers.h, so leave those alone.
helpers.c (view | download)
GAME OF FIFTEEN
The pset3 version of game of fifteen is easy enough to implement and its a non-trivial/boring
thing to work on; I suggest you dont spoil it by looking at the source here. The distribution
code is already 180 lines long; the solved end result should not be more than twice that many
lines (quite less really). Just dont over-think it.
fifteen.c (view | download)
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hacker3
FIND
The hint you are given may not be straightforward enough:
because you may assume that each of the arrays numbers will be non-negative and less than
LIMIT, leverage that assumption.
There are two things you should think of; once you do, the answer will land itself in your
brain. This is a major Duh! moment when you figure it out, especially if youve worked on
Perl or PHP before.
1. Even though in the scope of find.c/helpers.c, MAX(N) == LIMIT == HAY_MAX
pretend you dont `know that.
2. You have N elements of something where something is between 0 and 65536. Think this
problem from the perspective of a HUGE N. Ignore small Ns near the LIMIT. Think BIG.
Think 1,000,000 times, or more, larger.
Got it? good Didnt get it? Theres a link on this dot right here > .
GAME OF FIFTEEN
You probably have already looked at: Dijkstras algorithm, A* algorithm, saml.pdf (mirror)
and pami94.pdf (mirror). Right?
I Implemented the auto-solver the way it is described in saml.pdf with a limited use of (see: a
bastardization of) Dijkstras algorithm.
First things first: forget nano! Use a text editor or an IDE that will help you get it done and still
remain sane. ie: Notepad++, EditPlus, Scite, Netbeans. I use all of these at different times. If
using the VM, you can run SciTe or netbeans from within it. If youre using some other
remote setup a quick thought would be to mount the remote /path/to/src/ you usually
work on as a local path/drive.
As an aside: If you actually are a student at Harvard, you probably should finish up pset3
first, just in case. Cause hacker3 can take a while to get through and you should not look at
my code!
OCW users might want to watch a few more of the lectures/sections first, and/or re-watch the
last few and take a second look at the lecture sources provided. You will find this problem set
much easier if you have some more tools and syntax well known to you. ie. recursion,
multidimensional arrays, pointers, structs, linked lists
Play with them in small scale. To get your feet wet
Thinking part 1 struct.c
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I started with this; while my solution for the Game of Fifteen auto-solver was still a speck in
my mind.
struct.c (view | download)
Thinking Part 2 path.c
The next logical step is to try to implement a (bastardized) Dijkstra algorithm in a simple-ish
way.
This demonstrates the steps it takes to move to the next square.
output of path.c: 9x9 grid showing steps it takes to go from top right square to green square.
Red=Blocked,Blue=Not visited.
Theres plenty of room for improvement there, but by now the general concept should start
making sense. In a better solution the searching would stop at
~2*taxicab_distance(p_start, p_goal), because more moves than that make no
sense in the context of game of fifteen (they do on any other context). It should also stop right
after finding the target (and roll back to investigate the paths, or whatever); but then again, this
is not proper Dijkstra, its a bastardization of it.
The pathrecurse() function here is almost identical to the one I use in the final solution.
path.c (view | download)
Thinking Part 3 the possible moves
I plotted most (all?) possible moves here.
Heres a thought: a two-dimensional array holding known (specific) nodes of a linked list.
Does this data structure idea make sense to you? If not, then my code will probably not make
sense.
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End Result
Keep in mind that there probably is an easier (and better) way to do this (especially if youre
coming from an OO perspective) but this is how I did it when I was following this course. My
thought at the time was something like: a linked list with nodes I could directly refer to from
an alternate perspective than just from within the list It made sense at the time I guess, and
it still does! (nodes=tiles of the board).
This is the 3rd or 4th iteration of the code as in: getting stuck and starting over.
I split the code so it was easier to manage.
fifteen.c (view | download)
fifteen.h (view | download)
fifteen_solver.c (view | download)
Build by using something like:
gcc.exe -std=c99 -Wall -Wformat=0 -c -g -Werror -MMD -MP -MF fifteen.o.d -o fifteen.o fifteen.c
gcc.exe -std=c99 -Wall -Wformat=0 -c -g -Werror -MMD -MP -MF fifteen_solver.o.d -o fifteen_solver.o fifteen_solver.c
gcc.exe -std=c99 -Wall -Wformat=0 -o hacker3_fifteen fifteen.o fifteen_solver.o -lcs50
This took quite a while to finish, and it could still use some re-touching up. Every time I look
at the code I keep finding things to improve. ie. those mzToX functions are leftovers from a
previous logic I was using, that I have since dropped; so they should be removed altogether at
a later re-touching. This solution is not optimal because: To begin with, it doesnt do diagonal
moves.. And whats more, a more optimal algorithm would use an A* search algorithm; ie
entire board states in a linked list and all possible moves investigated w/ a heuristic formula
in mind and best over-all path chosen for the whole solution.
Enjoy!
P.S. If I was to write it from scratch, now, Id probably try an A* implementation. The hard part
is making a heuristic formula, once thats done the rest should be easy maybe.
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