Category: The Saturday Papers

The Saturday Papers – The Next Top Model

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As game developers, we’re tempted (if not outright encouraged) to code first and think later. There’s lots of good reasons for this – games are big projects, and feeling out a game’s mechanics through play is much easier than imagining them. What can we gain from planning, modelling and thinking out systems ahead of time, though? Maybe there are different ways of thinking about games that have their own power and usefulness. This week on The Saturday Paper we look at a language for modelling systems in games, and think about why it might come in handy.

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The Saturday Papers – Express Yourself

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Procedural generation is getting broader and deeper in games every passing month. While more and more genres are finding ways to generate parts of their play space, familiar faces are finding innovative applications for generative techniques – from universe-scale vastness to the intricate details of a single lost culture. In the midst of this rapid growth, we desperately need new and better ways to talk and think about generative design. This week on the Saturday Papers I want to show you one particular paper with an idea that’s really resonated with me lately, but that’s simple enough to use in games of all shapes and sizes, right now. Let’s jump in!

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The Saturday Papers – Would AI Lie To You?

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As promised, The Saturday Papers are back, in a new format with shorter ‘seasons’ of six articles apiece. More info on the series’ future later – for now let’s get into some new research!

A lot of great storytelling relies on the intricacies and weaknesses of human character – a villain lies to further their own ends, an eyewitness misremembers a crucial detail, a fairytale hero forgets the one thing they were told not to do. Of course, all of these weaknesses are exactly the things software is designed to avoid – computers are reliable, accurate, and always follow orders. It makes for great word processing software, but it doesn’t always make for interesting games – so why don’t we try and model these weird human idiosyncracies and see where it leads?

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An EXAG Science VI

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

What can artificial intelligence provide us outside of the game space? AI is behind so much in games already – controlling non-player characters, rebalancing the difficulty, creating new worlds and challenges for players to encounter. Does AI have more to offer outside of games in helping communities of creators to collaborate, invent and be more productive? Kazjon Grace and Mary Lou Maher’s paper Towards Computational Co-creation In Modding Communities offers some thoughts on what the future could hold. Read on for a preview!  Continue reading

An EXAG Science V

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

What is the content we’re really generating when we talk about procedural content generation? In theory it’s any kind of content we can imagine, but in practice games tend to fall back on generating the same kinds of content again and again: levels, numbers, names. Random shapes of data that fit into an already-existing game theme. Spelunky’s beautiful level generator doesn’t actually know anything about Spelunky’s mood or atmosphere. It’s never seen Indiana Jones. It didn’t grow up playing Tomb Raider and pretending to adventure through jungles. What if procedural content generators understood more about the world, though? What games could we make then? This EXAG preview is about Michael Cook and Simon Colton’s paper A Rogue Dream: Automatically Generating Meaningful Content for GamesContinue reading

An EXAG Science IV

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

Procedural content generation (PCG) is a thriving area for games. Everyone from indies to AAA developers is using PCG. Spelunky, Minecraft, Diablo, Dwarf Fortress, and many others use PCG at the core of the game. But are the games we have now using PCG in all the ways they can? Where has PCG been and where can it go next? Gillian Smith, in her paper “The Future of Procedural Content Generation in Games“, covers five major lenses on PCG and what unexplored areas the future might hold. Read on for a preview.  Continue reading

An EXAG Science III

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

Game stories often have an intended path for the player to follow. But players don’t always play along. Sometimes players just miss the main story thread. Other times players even try to foil the intended story arc. Is there a way to adjust the story or world to keep players on track? Can an interactive narrative give players unconstrained choices while maintaining the intended story? Justus Robertson and R. Michael Young, in their paper “Gameplay as Online Mediation Search“, present the General Mediation Engine system (GME) to guide players along an intended story in a game world. Read on for a preview of how the system works to guide players along an author’s intended story path.  Continue reading

An EXAG Science II

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

AI is deeply connected to gameplay, perhaps more than graphics, audio, or other in-game assets. Yet we’ve seen  few games that put interaction with AI systems at the core of the game. Existing game AI developed in support of already popular genres like first-person shooters or real-time strategy games. This lead to refined systems for reactive gameplay situations. Classical AI, however, is best at using expressive formalisms for tasks like complex problem solving and question answering. In his paper “Game Design for Classical AI” Ian Horswill designs new game mechanics around high-end classical AI. What problems does an AI-heavy game need to address? What game design supports this kind of AI? Read on for a preview.  Continue reading

An EXAG Science

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(This is a series of short ‘previews’ of papers to be presented at the upcoming Experimental AI for Games workshop at AIIDE 2014. Tune in live on Twitch on October 8th to catch the presentations of these papers, or find the PDFs online at http://www.exag.org)

‘The Ideas Person’ has a bad reputation in the games industry – someone who offers up game concepts but doesn’t want to pull their weight. But everyone needs ideas from time to time, and when we’re stuck for inspiration, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a source of ideas on-hand? In their paper ‘Towards the Automatic Generation of Fictional Ideas for Games‘, Maria Teresa Llano Rodriguez, Simon Colton, Rose Hepworth, Michael Cook and Christian Guckelsberger describe their ‘What-If Machine’ (WHIM) project and how it might be applied to invent ideas for games. Here’s a preview.  Continue reading

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!