ANGELINA @ EGX Rezzed

Hey everyone! It’s been quiet here for a couple of months, but I’ve been working hard on some really exciting things, and I can now announce what the first of those is: ANGELINA will be designing games live at EGX Rezzed this month! Rezzed is one of the biggest games events in the world, and ANGELINA will be there for all three days of the event, designing games all day long. This is a quick post about what ANGELINA actually is, what you can expect to see if you come along, and how you can take part even if you’re unable to attend!

ANGELINA is an artificial intelligence-powered research project that designs videogames. Over the last seven years I’ve developed a few different versions of ANGELINA, and each one has done different, weird things – one published an Android puzzle-platformer, one entered Ludum Dare for the first time, one made games about Guardian news articles and admired Rupert Murdoch. Throughout all this weirdness, I’ve used ANGELINA to research new techniques for generating game content, and also to investigate how different parts of a creative community respond to an AI turning up – like players, critics and other developers. If you want to play some of ANGELINA’s games, you can find a bunch of them on our new itch.io page here.

I’ve been working on a new version of ANGELINA on and off for just over a year now. Back in July I wrote about my plan to build a new kind of automated game designer, different to how ANGELINA has worked in the past. Past ANGELINA was like a big machine with a button on saying “MAKE GAME” and I pressed it whenever I wanted a game. But the new ANGELINA is more independent: it has a catalogue of things it’s working on; a memory of what it’s done in the past; and soon it’ll be able to do things other than just make games, too. This new version of ANGELINA will play other people’s games, and discover new design knowledge that it can use in its work. It can run 24/7 without being told when to do things – it’s more in charge of its own fate than ever before. I gave a little talk about the past and future of ANGELINA last November, which you can watch online here.

Maybe most importantly, this new version of ANGELINA is designed to be situated in the games community in a way previous versions weren’t. ANGELINA isn’t a mysterious closed box any more – it has visual output you can watch to see it test levels or design rulesets. It can stream live on Twitch and do some basic interaction with viewers. It can tweet to ask questions about the world, or post screenshots of things it’s making. My aim is to try and make ANGELINA stand alone as an independent creator, to make it feel part of the world of games rather than an experiment I keep hidden in a lab somewhere.

EGX Rezzed, later this month, will be the first big test of the latest version of ANGELINA. This new system is continuously in development – there’s no “finished” point I’m aiming at – but it’s reached a milestone lately that means it can do some pretty cool things, including invent themes for its games and analyse them to figure out interesting rules and challenges for the player. So it’s time to get it out in the public and see how people respond, and learn from this big scary experience of leaving an AI alone, in public, for three whole days.

The main thing you can do with ANGELINA right now is watch it work. ANGELINA moves between creative projects, spending most of its time designing good levels for its games right now, but you can drop by in the morning to watch it test out ideas for rulesets and then swing by at lunch to see it working on big levels for a game, and then maybe check Twitter on the train home to see what game it finally ended up making. This is a big, new step for ANGELINA – you can watch the process happen, which means you can see it make mistakes, or change its mind.

Because this is a live exhibit, I also wanted to add an interactive element to things, so you can hit a big red button on the screen to help ANGELINA be a better game designer. There are three ways you can help shape ANGELINA’s future – you can let it ask you questions about the world and give it answers (like “Would a dog chase a mouse?”); you can tell it new things about the world (whether that’s introducing a new concept, like armadillos, or a new fact about something it already knows like dogs barking); or you can suggest ideas for games. ANGELINA takes in all of this information and will try and make sense of it – some of it might happen during EGX Rezzed, other information may take longer for it to digest as it tries to sort out fact from fiction and work out what is safe to use in its games (with my help). We also have some cool things to scatter around the exhibit for you to take home with you, and some extra info on how ANGELINA works and some of the technology behind it.

I’ve done so much work in the last few weeks moving ANGELINA forwards, more work than I can ever remember doing on any version in the past, but the good news is this system is growing really well. It combines all the best bits of previous ANGELINAs – it’s doing quite detailed game design with rules and pieces; it’s got a surreal understanding of the real world; and it’s talking with people about what it’s doing. But this is just the beginning – we’re going to add so much cool stuff to ANGELINA over the coming months and years, and I can’t wait for you to see it and be a part of it.

If you can’t make it to Rezzed this year, don’t forget to follow ANGELINA on Twitter so you can answer questions and give it information, as well as play games once they’re released! ANGELINA will be doing a lot more tweeting and Twitching over Summer, I hope, once I’m back from Rezzed and have recovered.

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