Game developers (and academics) are really good at sharing their knowledge in certain ways. We have lots of conferences, we like talking to people about techniques and ideas, and the Internet is full of scattered blog posts describing this, that and the other. It’s always nice to see a larger-scale attempt to record and share our knowledge, though. This week on The Saturday Papers, there is no Saturday Paper! I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to write anything up. If you like procedural content generation, though, I do have something for you to read…
While we certainly value innovation in the games industry, it’s fair to say that many areas of game design are stuck in their ways: people know what they want, and designers try their hardest to give it to them. While it can be very satisfying to refine, polish and perfect a particular type of game design, a bit of disruption can be a valuable source of new ideas. In the first Saturday Paper we looked at how procedural content generation could be used to explore new ideas for RPG classes. This week we look at a similar project aiming to design new types of weapons for first-person shooters.
Over at Niagara Falls right now CIG 2013 is taking place! CIG is always a great conference, and also home to the Platformer AI Competition results! The competition has many tracks, including level generation, but today they’re judging the Turing Test track of the competition, and you can help! All you need to do is watch a few videos of a platform game, and decide which video was a human, and which was a bot!
The competition is really well-run and has had some exciting results in the past, including the infamous Infinite Mario AI which you may have seen on YouTube. Help them take the competition a step further!
Procedural content generation isn’t just about bits of code that run silently and invisible inside games while players play them. The power of procedural generation, exploring a huge, near-infinite space of content, is also a great way to build effective tools that can help designers (or players) quickly accomplish creative tasks. This week on The Saturday Paper we look at one such tool that uses procedural generation to help people tackle deep, detailed design problems in an elegant and flexible way.
Which is more important – story or setting? In some games, particularly RPGs, it feels almost impossible to separate one from the other. Setting dictates the where, the when and the how of the game. But the story has demands of its own – the order in which things must happen, and what it is the player will be experiencing. Is it possible to include procedural generation in this process without upsetting the balance? This week on The Saturday Paper, a world generator that understands stories – and can adapt to both the designer’s and the player’s preferences.
Over the weekend I went to Paris to attend an exhibition being put on by my supervisor, Simon Colton. For the last eleven years he’s been building a piece of software called The Painting Fool - software which he hopes will one day be taken seriously as an artist in its own right. The exhibition, which continues this week if you’re in Paris, is the first solo exhibition by The Painting Fool. I was there on Saturday for a rather special event – live portraiture.
We like to believe that because we play games we understand how players think. This filters into every aspect of game development – imagining how players will react to seeing this, hearing that, being here or wanting to be there. One of the great things about science is that a well-designed experiment can challenge even the most obvious of assumptions. This week on The Saturday Paper we look at a fascinating result about the how, the where, and then when of players solving problems.
As I wrote earlier this month, I’m now working on a Unity-powered version of ANGELINA. One of the common themes in the silly things I’ve coded up, as well as a lot of other computationally creative systems, is their ability to use information and media from the web in the content they create. We see this in human creativity too, and it’s a good way to add both scope to the project (because there’s a lot more for ANGELINA to use) and creativity to the system (because breadth can lead to more interesting creative decisions). Before I had even fired up Unity, I knew I wanted one thing above all else in this version of ANGELINA – the 3D Warehouse, a huge collection of 3D models made in Google Sketchup. Unfortunately, it’s not trivial to get Sketchup models integrated into Unity, particularly automatically. Here’s a rough guide to my current hacked solution.
Earlier in the year, I helped my supervisor write an application for funding that would let me work on ANGELINA beyond my PhD funding end date (which was this October). We learned a couple of weeks ago that the funding had been approved, which means that ANGELINA and I are secure in our research for another two years, working at Goldsmiths College in London where my supervisor has now moved. What are we going to be doing there? Lots of things! Below is some early details on what I hope to get done.
Conference talks are a really great way to communicate about your work. You get sound and vision, you can talk naturally about what’s on screen, and the time limit means you don’t go into laborious detail like you might in a normal paper. That’s one of the reasons why conferences are so great to go to – a good conference talk is worth a dozen articles. Problem is, conferences are very expensive to go to if you’re not employed by a university, and not everyone can travel to them.
I decided that after giving my talk at ICCC 2013 I would try and re-record the audio and put up some slides on YouTube. I finally got around to it today – it’s not bad for a first try I think but I need to work on the idea and my delivery a bit! Still, if you want to know what I talked about, you can watch the first attempt at a YouTube conference talk below. Hopefully this will let a few more people learn about my work in a different way!
I’m a complete newbie to YouTube and making videos. Let me know what you think and what I can do to improve the format!