On the Road to Aesthetics and Meaning

Believe me, I'm as sick of that Santa sprite as you are. He's not in the games any more.

I mentioned that I’m writing a paper about the latest edition of ANGELINA, but I haven’t really explained what it is that ANGELINA can do that’s different from a few months ago. It’s been very changeable up until about a week ago, but I’m finally producing games and getting reasonable results. This post is about what new capabilities ANGELINA has gained over the last few months, so that the games make the most sense when I post them soon.

I’ve already spoken a little bit about my intentions with ANGELINA right now, but the gist is this – ANGELINA can now read a news article on The Guardian’s website, go out into the web and retrieve images, sound effects and music, and arrange them as part of its game design process to create a playable game with a (usually appropriate) visual and aural theme. That’s not to say it produces September 12th-level masterpieces of newsgaming, because that’s not necessarily the aim. The aim is simply to show that ANGELINA can produce a game with a defined theme, and look at some of the issues surrounding that.

The games are rougher and readier than the previous ones we released, because ANGELINA is taking over more control in the design process. That means taking a hit in quality in return for a stronger, more interesting AI process behind the whole thing, which I’m very happy to do. My hope is that this will develop into a system that can read and expand on a simple theme and create an appropriate game to suit – the sort of system that could have taken the recent Ludum Dare‘s theme of ‘Small World’ and actually gone out and made something meaningful on that theme.

As you’ll see when I post two of ANGELINA’s games next week, we are a long, long way off that. But not as far as we were back in January, which is the encouraging thing about research projects. Slow, steady progress, with bits of excitement in between.

Once the paper’s been done and submitted ANGELINA will continue to publish games based on current news articles. Hopefully over time you’ll see the quality (and the independence of ANGELINA) increase, and perhaps we’ll even be surprised from time to time at what is produced. I really hope so.

There’s a lot more to say about the current batch of games and the state of ANGELINA’s art right now, but that can wait until after the paper. The games should go up early next week.

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