Top-Down Programming Example: Rock, Paper, Scissors

Step #1: Goal and General Algorithm Idea

Goal: write a game to play “rock, paper, scissors”

The user chooses one of these, the computer chooses the other

Specification: user enters selection of rock, paper, scissors
Program prints computer’s selection, who wins
At end, computer prints number of games human won and it won
High-level design:
  initialize score
      ask user for choice
      if quit, exit loop
      computer selects one
      select winner and increment win count
  print number of games user won, computer won, ties

Step #2: Data Representation and Program Structure

Part #1: Data

Part #2: Functions

Part #3: Refine algorithm   

We can now put this into Python (see

while True:
	userchoice = getuser();
	if (userchoice == "quit"):
	compchoice = getcomp();
	winner = whowins(userchoice, compchoice)
	score[winner] += 1
print("You won", score["user"], "game(s), the computer won", end=" ")
print(score["computer"], "game(s), and you two tied", score["tie"], "game(s)")

Step #3: Figure out who wins

Represent (object_1, object_2) where object_1 beats object_2 as a list of pairs called winlist. To see if user won, check if the user-chosen object is the same as the computer-chosen object; if so, there is no winner. Otherwise, check whether (user-chosen object, computer-chosen object) pair is in winlist; if so, the user wins. Otherwise the user loses.

This leads to

def whowins(user, comp):
    if user == comp:
        win = "tie"
    elif (user, comp) in winlist:
        win = "user"
        win = "computer"
    return win

Step #4: Get computer choice

Given the three objects in the sequence things, choose randomly.

This leads to

def getcomp():
    pick = random.choice(things)
    print("Computer picks", pick)
    return pick

Step #5: Get user input

Loop until you get a valid input. If the user types an end of file (usually control-D) or an interrupt (usually control-C), act as though the user typed “quit”; report any other exceptions and then act as though the user typed “quit”.

This leads to

def getuser():
    while True:
            n = input("Human: enter rock, paper, scissors, quit: ")
        except (EOFError, KeyboardInterrupt):
            n = "quit"
        except Exception as msg:
            print("Unknown exception:", msg, "– quitting")
            n = "quit"
        *** check input ***
    return n
To check input, we need to be sure it’s a valid command, so see if it’s in cmdlist:

        if n not in cmdlist:
            print("Bad input; try again")
Put these together to get the user input routine.

Step #6: Make it human-friendly

The program now works correctly, but it’s rather unfriendly— the “game(s)” should be “game” or “games” as appropriate, and it should tell the user who wins each round. So we need to add something to the while True loop in the main routine, and change the print statements at the end.

Telling the user who wins is straightforward. Simply put in an if statement at the end of the loop. One tricky point is that there are actually four conditions: winner can take on three known values (“user”, “computer”, and “tie”), and any other unknown value. It should never do the latter, but just in case, we program defensively and put a special case in to catch that. The resulting code is:

if winner == "user":
	print "You win"
elif winner == "computer":
	print "Computer wins"
elif winner == "tie":
	print "Tie"
	print "*** INTERNAL ERROR *** winner is", winner

Next, the program should distinguish between 1 “game” and any other number of “games” (note you say “0 games” in English). Again, we use an if statement to handle it. Both the computer’s number of games, the user’s number of game, and the number of tie games have to be handled.

print("You won", end='')
if score["user"] == 1:
        print("1 game, the computer won", end='')
        print(score["user"], "games, the computer won", end='')
if score["computer"] == 1:
        print("1 game, and you two tied", end='')
        print(score["computer"], "games, and you two tied", end='')
if score["tie"] == 1:
        print("1 game.")
        print(score["tie"], "games.")

The resulting program is

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Matt Bishop
Office: 2209 Watershed Sciences
Phone: +1 (530) 752-8060
MHI 289I, Programming in Health Informatics
Version of November 3, 2022 at 11:28AM

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