2013 for ANGELINA

I’m back from my Christmas break, and in a bit of a haze following A Puzzling Present. Thanks to everyone who wrote about, tested, shared, helped out on, gave feedback about, and played the game. It was everything I hoped it’d be, and I learnt a lot (mostly through failing)! I’m ready to get to work again. Last year, I wrote a post titled “2012 for ANGELINA”. If you want a laugh at how quickly things can change course, you can read what I intended to do last year. My plan was to build generic game description languages and get ANGELINA to invent high-level game designs, but I ended up on a meandering road that led far away from that, into the weird world of internet scraping, and finally (serendipitously) back to mechanic invention.

Here are some things I’m hoping to get done this year, then – take it with a pinch of salt!

No More Me
Top of the list this year (though not a PhD priority) is getting ANGELINA to generate, in the most basic way we can, the final few things that still come from me. This mostly means the art, so I’m working on Spritely, a tool for automatically grabbing, shrinking, cutting and recolouring images from the web into sprite-sized graphics ready for use in games. I’ll be using the tool myself too, but most importantly it’ll mean ANGELINA gets to make pretty pictures without me, even if they are basic.

Larger Games
The newsgames had a limit of about 12-16 screen-sized tiles each. This was partly down to stupid algorithms, partly down to dumb implementations of games, but whatever – this year I’m hoping to tear that out and reimplement a lot of the core of ANGELINA’s platformer generation. There was a lot wrong with the idea, and it reinvented too many wheels for my liking. I’ve been inspired a lot by making A Puzzling Present, reading around about the genre, and playing games like La Mulana over the Christmas break. More on this in February, hopefully.

Code Generation and Mechanic Miner+
The work on Mechanic Miner is really only just starting – it looks like it’ll be forming a part of my research going forwards for some time now. Top, top priority is to rewrite Mechanic Miner (along with most of ANGELINA’s core). Once it has more solid debugging tools and visualisers I can start to improve the kinds of things it can do – adding stuff like object creation and code insertion, things that might let ANGELINA start impressing people.

Finish The PhD Or Find Some Money
Oh, also I’ll need to find some more funding. We’re on top of this, but we need to get it sorted – my PhD bursary runs out in September, so I either need to be finished then or have some new funding set up! I’ll be working on this problem over the next month or so.

This last point could sour all the rest – if I don’t find any funding then 2013 will mostly be thesis-writing with little time for adding bells, whistles or anything else to ANGELINA. Still, it’ll be worth it – finishing up will let us sort out what we want to do next, and secure some proper funding for long-term work on ANGELINA (if all goes to plan).

Thanks to everyone who has been involved in any way this year. 2012 has exceeded all my expectations – I have met incredible people, been very fortunate with some wonderful journalists, and had the privilege of many thousands of people playing ANGELINA’s games. I really appreciate everyone who has shown interest in the project – I’ll work hard to keep it interesting and exciting throughout next year.

Happy New Year! See you in January.

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