Announcing: The Saturday Papers Season 2

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Back last year I started a blog series called The Saturday Papers – a fortnightly post in which I took a cool research paper about games and gave a quick overview, to give developers, players and anyone else a little insight into some new ideas or new fringes of research into videogames. The response was incredible, and I’m sorry I had to put the series on hold this year as work piled up. This is a quick post to announce that The Saturday Papers will be back again really soon, with a slightly new format.

Inspired by a friend’s approach to YouTube, I’ll be running The Saturday Papers in twelve-week ‘seasons’ of six posts, once a fortnight. Then between seasons I can have some downtime to prepare for the next one. This gives me time to pick the best papers I can find, and hopefully avoid long hiatuses with nothing in them like the one we’ve just had. Coming up this year I have my thesis submission and the Procedural Generation Game Jam, so there’s still a lot on my plate. But I’m hoping to get the season going soon after the jam ends.

While I’m planning the season, why not flick through the archives and catch any you might have missed? Let me know if you have any favourite Saturday Papers posts from the past. I’m always trying to find the most interesting papers I can, but it’s great to know what people like to see.

Play Games, Help Science – GWAPPY BIRD

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I just spent a week at AIIDE in the US chatting with Alex Zook and Mark Riedl from Georgia Tech. They’re doing a variety of great research involving crowdsourcing information, and there’s some amazing results coming in – but they need your help! They need players for their games like their latest, Gwappy Bird, a Flappy Bird-a-like with a crowdsourcing twist. Got a few minutes in your coffee break? Go tap your spacebar:

Play Gwappy Bird here

Thanks to everyone helping out with this series of posts. We’ll have exciting #procjam news soon – it’s only a few weeks away, now!

A Family Feud

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At AIIDE 2014 this year many of the conference attendees found themselves, myself included, arguing over Twitter about the relationship between academic research and the wider games industry. It’s easy to dismiss the feud that occurs at conferences like AIIDE as ‘the same old argument’ as if this is a family dispute at Christmas that no-one really takes seriously and is just a bit tiring. There are issues underlying ‘the same old argument’, however, and these issues aren’t going away it seems. What they are doing, though, is impacting the trajectory of research, of researchers, of conferences and of fields. That, to me, is important.  Continue reading

An EXAG Science VI

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

What can artificial intelligence provide us outside of the game space? AI is behind so much in games already – controlling non-player characters, rebalancing the difficulty, creating new worlds and challenges for players to encounter. Does AI have more to offer outside of games in helping communities of creators to collaborate, invent and be more productive? Kazjon Grace and Mary Lou Maher’s paper Towards Computational Co-creation In Modding Communities offers some thoughts on what the future could hold. Read on for a preview!  Continue reading

An EXAG Science V

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

What is the content we’re really generating when we talk about procedural content generation? In theory it’s any kind of content we can imagine, but in practice games tend to fall back on generating the same kinds of content again and again: levels, numbers, names. Random shapes of data that fit into an already-existing game theme. Spelunky’s beautiful level generator doesn’t actually know anything about Spelunky’s mood or atmosphere. It’s never seen Indiana Jones. It didn’t grow up playing Tomb Raider and pretending to adventure through jungles. What if procedural content generators understood more about the world, though? What games could we make then? This EXAG preview is about Michael Cook and Simon Colton’s paper A Rogue Dream: Automatically Generating Meaningful Content for GamesContinue reading

Appreciating Bots

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Recently, Appreciation Bot – my Twitter bot that responds to museum artefacts with pseudo-intellectual responses – tweeted something a bit off-colour. Not something intentionally offensive perhaps, but certainly something that would raise eyebrows were a human to tweet it. I didn’t include the tweet directly but you can view it here. Even a bot tweeting this elicited some responses from people, and I wanted to write a bit about the bot, why this happened, and what it made me think of. Before I go any further, let me just say: my bots shouldn’t offend people, and when they do it’s my fault. But this event did throw up some interesting things for me to think about. Continue reading

An EXAG Science IV

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

Procedural content generation (PCG) is a thriving area for games. Everyone from indies to AAA developers is using PCG. Spelunky, Minecraft, Diablo, Dwarf Fortress, and many others use PCG at the core of the game. But are the games we have now using PCG in all the ways they can? Where has PCG been and where can it go next? Gillian Smith, in her paper “The Future of Procedural Content Generation in Games“, covers five major lenses on PCG and what unexplored areas the future might hold. Read on for a preview.  Continue reading

An EXAG Science III

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

Game stories often have an intended path for the player to follow. But players don’t always play along. Sometimes players just miss the main story thread. Other times players even try to foil the intended story arc. Is there a way to adjust the story or world to keep players on track? Can an interactive narrative give players unconstrained choices while maintaining the intended story? Justus Robertson and R. Michael Young, in their paper “Gameplay as Online Mediation Search“, present the General Mediation Engine system (GME) to guide players along an intended story in a game world. Read on for a preview of how the system works to guide players along an author’s intended story path.  Continue reading

An EXAG Science II

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

AI is deeply connected to gameplay, perhaps more than graphics, audio, or other in-game assets. Yet we’ve seen  few games that put interaction with AI systems at the core of the game. Existing game AI developed in support of already popular genres like first-person shooters or real-time strategy games. This lead to refined systems for reactive gameplay situations. Classical AI, however, is best at using expressive formalisms for tasks like complex problem solving and question answering. In his paper “Game Design for Classical AI” Ian Horswill designs new game mechanics around high-end classical AI. What problems does an AI-heavy game need to address? What game design supports this kind of AI? Read on for a preview.  Continue reading

An EXAG Science

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

‘The Ideas Person’ has a bad reputation in the games industry – someone who offers up game concepts but doesn’t want to pull their weight. But everyone needs ideas from time to time, and when we’re stuck for inspiration, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a source of ideas on-hand? In their paper ‘Towards the Automatic Generation of Fictional Ideas for Games‘, Maria Teresa Llano Rodriguez, Simon Colton, Rose Hepworth, Michael Cook and Christian Guckelsberger describe their ‘What-If Machine’ (WHIM) project and how it might be applied to invent ideas for games. Here’s a preview.  Continue reading