Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks for coming back to Games By ANGELINA. I’m hoping 2012 will have plenty in store for this site, including (most importantly of all) lots of new games for you to play. Let me update you a little on what’s going on right now and where I’m hoping to look at next.

Firstly, general stuff outside the research itself. In mid-January I’ll be receiving notification on my EvoGames paper I wrote about the work done on evolving Metroidvania-lite platformers. I’ll let you know how that turns out, acceptance or failure. I’m hoping for an acceptance, obviously, but the project was a difficult one and I imagine the reviews will reflect that.

I’ve got a few events I’m looking forward to this year. I’m attending Dare To Be Digital on the 24th January and A Bit Of Alright on the 3rd February. If you’re attending either of these events, please get in touch with me, we should meet up and talk about game design!

I’m also in the process of organising this year’s Games and Media Event at Imperial College. We’re looking at potential speaker lists right now, but I’m hoping to give a talk myself, so if you’re in London in early June and want to hear me talk about ANGELINA and what I’m up to this year, you should stop by. More on that closer to the date.

In terms of research, we’re at a crossroads with my PhD work right now. So far, I’ve tried to apply evolutionary techniques to arcade game design and platformer design, with mixed results. On the one hand, it’s tempting to apply this technique to other genres, refine the systems I’m using and present as effective a review as possible of using this method to automate game design. One route through the PhD would certainly see me do this – JRPGs, point-and-click adventures and roguelikes are all potential targets I have lined up.

Another avenue, however, is mechanic invention. In both of our experiments so far, I’ve been quite explicit with ANGELINA in describing the game design areas I want it to explore. What would happen if we relaxed this? Can we get ANGELINA to innovate and come up with new ideas for games, as well as designing levels and setups for them?

This second question is a compelling one to me, and so today I have begun implementing a new version of ANGELINA[1] which will serve as a base to investigate some of these ideas. I don’t know exactly what kind of system we’ll need to look at the question of mechanic invention, but hopefully we’ll find something of interest eventually.

Those who follow me on Twitter will be pleased to know that my whining about the time ANGELINA takes to run may be less frequent in the future, thanks to the superb Dr. Tristan Allwood who helpfully ran me through the innards of Condor, a system for distributing computational jobs across many different machines. The lab at Imperial’s Department of Computing has such a Condor server, which spreads jobs across any available machines in our computing labs. It’s even got a special set-up for Java! I’m hoping that I can use this to evaluate dozens of games simultaneously, potentially increasing the effectiveness of ANGELINA by a huge factor. More on that, again, as the system develops.

Thanks for following my progress on here so far. I literally could not have done the work I have so far if it weren’t for dozens of dedicated people willing to play terrible arcade games and platformers and give me their opinion on them. Hopefully one day we’ll all look back at this and nod sagely – this was the start of something brilliant. Here’s hoping, and here’s to an interesting 2012.

  1. [1]I’m codenaming this one (so to speak) ‘Superfrog’ and retroactively naming the previous version ‘Zool’

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