Introducing Danesh (Part 1!)

Over the last few years I’ve talked to a lot of people about procedural generation. Researchers who are interested in pushing boundaries. Developers who just wish the damn thing would work. Newcomers who wish there were better ways to get started. There are a lot of complicated problems, barriers and frustrations surrounding procedural generation (or generative software in general) and there are no easy solutions to any of them, but hopefully projects like Tracery, Cheap Bots Done Quick, PROCJAM and The PCG Book are helping towards some of them. Today I’d like to tell you about something I hope will also help solve some of these problems – a tool to help people understand, poke, tweak, improve and explore procedural generators, called Danesh.

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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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EXAG Is This Weekend!

Hello everyone! I’ve been so busy having fun with PROCJAM this week that I hardly had time to let you know that all the talks from last Saturday are online for you to watch. We had a great day launching the jam, and people are making incredible, varied, beautiful things for their jam entries. Check them out on Twitter!

If last weekend’s talks weren’t enough games-related brain thinks for you, though, this coming weekend is the second Experimental AI In Games workshop – a followup to both AIGA and EXAG of years past at the annual AIIDE conference. This year it’s a two-day workshop, packed full of cool papers and fun stuff. I thought I’d give you a brief rundown of what’s happening when, and how you can tune in online.

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AI People You Should Know About, Pt. 1

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I saw an article today about the future of AI in games and suchlike and I was tempted to start tweeting about it but that inevitably leads to boring arguments and isn’t very constructive. Instead, what I’m going to do is give you a list (in no particular order) of some researchers who I think are really interesting, who are important to the future of game AI, and who have interesting things to say, and most importantly who I don’t see interviewed or talked about enough. They’d all make great people to talk to for articles, features and interviews, and each one has a research portfolio that paints a cool future for games. Go check them out!

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Would You Look At That!

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I’ve been really excited and interested in level design recently, and reading a lot of work by folks like Robert Yang about lighting, space, and building worlds in 3D. It’s amazing stuff and it links in really well to the research I want to do right now (mostly because it’s influencing the research I want to do right now!) I wanted to write a little update about some work I did recently along these lines – building a level generator that uses in-game cameras to evaluate levels.

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Appreciating Bots

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Recently, Appreciation Bot – my Twitter bot that responds to museum artefacts with pseudo-intellectual responses – tweeted something a bit off-colour. Not something intentionally offensive perhaps, but certainly something that would raise eyebrows were a human to tweet it. I didn’t include the tweet directly but you can view it here. Even a bot tweeting this elicited some responses from people, and I wanted to write a bit about the bot, why this happened, and what it made me think of. Before I go any further, let me just say: my bots shouldn’t offend people, and when they do it’s my fault. But this event did throw up some interesting things for me to think about. Continue 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