Easier Said Than Pun

I’m hoping to submit a paper to this year’s Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE to its friends) so radio silence on the site here is simply a symptom of lots and lots of coding over here, rummaging around in ANGELINA’s innards, putting in lots of new functionality. I’ve now come to a stop, so I can start generating games and writing about them. Watch this space, and ANGELINA’s Twitter feed, for playable links in the near future. There’s been lots of changes since Space Station Invaders and its ilk, but I won’t go into all of them here. I just want to focus on one particular bit of functionality that tickled me yesterday – ANGELINA has some basic wordplay skills now.

This all came out of a need to generate good titles for the games ANGELINA’s making now. Since they’re all much more distinct than before (as you’ll see soon) I wanted the titles to stand out too. I tried lots of different things, including a system similar to that which named Revenge and After Squad, but nothing really clicked. Finally, I had an idea for a simple system that would give ANGELINA some really rudimentary punning abilities. Here’s some examples:

Sitting On A Powder Clegg
Starting word: Clegg (Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK)

Dangerous Koreaisons
Starting word: Korea

Back To Square Pun
Starting word: Pun

Dance Dance Retribution
Starting word: Retribution

They’re all very basic, and nothing you couldn’t come up with yourself (except perhaps the Korea one, which I thought was quite inventive) but they get the job done and it’s very flexible. It’s also simple to boot:

  1. Use online rhyming dictionaries to look up a catalog of perfect or near-rhymes for the target word.
  2. Sift through corpora of phrases, games, films and song titles to look for matches.
  3. Substitute a rhyming match for the original word.

Of course, with a system this basic, you also get a lot of duds. ANGELINA won’t be coming out with winners all the time right now, but what I’m hoping is that future versions (post-AIIDE) might be able to choose an appropriate substitution where the meaning is understood by ANGELINA and explicitly selected. For instance, the Clegg pun has its root in the phrase Sitting On A Powder Keg, which implies a dangerous situation that might explode at any moment. If we can find a way for ANGELINA to unpick certain phrases like this, even if we restrict ourselves to very simple ones, we can give the system a much higher-level creative control. That could be quite cool indeed.

ANGELINA has other methods for choosing a title for the game too, which it uses from time to time, mostly when it can’t find a good match in the rhyming dictionaries. More on this, and the games themselves, soon!

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