Category: The Saturday Papers

The Saturday Papers – Hiatus

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As you may have noticed, the last few weeks have been quiet over here. Things are really busy – lots of talks coming up, I’ve started writing my thesis, and there’s lots of little side projects that are filling in all the crevices with task-based rubber cement. At times like this, something has to suffer, and in this case I’m going to have to put The Saturday Papers on hold for a little while.

The good news is in that time there’s going to be some great conferences, so when we come back I’ll have plenty to tell you about! I also have some little projects in the meantime that will be of interest to anyone who liked The Saturday Papers. It shouldn’t be more than a couple of months, but I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out the ongoing work on The Procedural Generation Book and of course the archives of The Saturday Papers past. Thanks to everyone who continues to read, comment and share – we’ll be back soon!

The Saturday Paper – Mechanic Miner

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Is there anything that can’t be generated? In the past, games have tried their hands at generating level designs, monsters and items, world histories, musical scores, artwork and puzzles[1] - it seems like there’s nothing we couldn’t try to generate. I like that attitude a lot. I think that trying to generate every bit of a videogame we can think of can help us shine a light on new game mechanics, new ways to approach game design, and new ways of thinking about game creation. This week we’re looking at a system I put together just over a year ago for generating simple game mechanics for platform games.

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  1. [1] There are many other examples for this list – these were just the ones that leapt out at me.

The Saturday Paper – How Does Your Content Grow?

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One of the nice things about procedural content generation (PCG) is that it encompasses a wide collection of designers and programmers, who all use it for different purposes and at different stages of their game and its development. That’s how we get the amazing variety of approaches, applications and tools that you see in games today, and the research we’ve covered in this column. What similarities can we see? And how might that help us think differently about the systems we already use? This week on The Saturday Papers: a study of procedural generators, and an interesting means of classifying them.

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The Saturday Paper – Ludus Ex Machina

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I haven’t discussed my own research in this column yet, but you may know that I’m interested in automating the process of game design in its entirety. At the highest level, game designers produce mechanics that connect to our understanding of reality – gravity makes you fall, projectiles hurt things they hit, touching food heals you – and through this convey meaning that can be anything from representational to metaphorical and artistic. Can machines do this? This week on The Saturday Paper: a system that tries to connect the real world to game mechanics.

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The Saturday Paper – Exhausting

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When programming systems it makes sense to keep complexity and scale in mind. Don’t try and render 400,000 sprites all at once. Don’t try and send the entire world state to every player on the server. What about our design tools, though? Are we being too cautious when it comes to coding, and what riches might we be able to access if we jumped in the deep end from time to time? This week on The Saturday Paper: the power (and responsibility) of computing everything at once.

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The Saturday Paper – Guaranteed Candy

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For some developers, all this talk of procedural content generation is bittersweet. If you’re generating a world map, for instance, you probably don’t have too many requirements of it. A bit of land, not too many mountains – other than that, the randomness is part of the appeal. But what if you have very specific requirements? Well, then you’d need to test the content you generate to make sure it’s okay to give to the player. For many games this is a tricky and daunting task. How on earth would you automatically test a physics puzzle game, for instance? I’m glad you asked. This week on The Saturday Papers – a novel approach to simulation that can test real-time physics-based games (and more).

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The Saturday Paper – Tower of Gamebel

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Header image: Atlas Shrank, a PuzzleScript game.

One of the aims of The Saturday Papers is to introduce people to new academic research that I think might inspire, help or just excite them. It’s also a great way to link up academics with developers who are interested in putting new techniques or wild experimental ideas into practice in their own projects. Occasionally, though, there are unusual overlaps between the work of developers and researchers that are just too perfect not to point out. This week on The Saturday Papers, we’re looking at game description languages.

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The Saturday Papers – Empirical Results

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While it isn’t quite twelve months since the start of The Saturday Paper, it’s the end of the year and that always makes me want to start summarising things, so I thought I’d take a look at how The Saturday Papers had fared in the entries we’ve had over the last few months or so. I don’t want to name specific papers because it would imply that some work is more popular than others (which is the opposite really – it’s down to how I sell it, mixed with some good old Internet serendipity). With the names removed though, how about some numbers?

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The Saturday Paper – Dream Design

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 16.44.09Image: Darius Kazemi’s incredible dissection of Spelunky’s Level Generator.

What does it mean to make procedural content generation a part of your game? We can think of lots of games that use procedural content generation as a game mechanic of some kind, but as someone put it at AIIDE this year, we rarely see PCG used in as fundamental a way as physics is used in Angry Birds, for instance. Procedural content generation as a mechanic – what might that look like? This time on The Saturday Paper we look at a game that offers an answer to that question, and the research that went into it.

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The Saturday Paper – Metal Gear Science

volumeheaderScreens from Mike Bithell’s Volume (thanks Mike!)

Stealth games seem to be types of action game on the face of it – often third-person, three-dimension environments with enemies and doors and navigation problems to solve. But the pacing and mechanics of stealth games makes them more complex, adding in new dimensions to consider like how the levels and positions of obstacles change over time. That makes them hard to design for – but help is at hand. This week on the Saturday Papers: an open-source Unity tool that analyses stealth game levels in time and space.

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