Thursday, July 14, 2011

Help us test new strategy game ideas

We have two new playtests/surveys going on, this time about strategy games. Those of us working on AI in the Center for Computer Games Research are interested in creating adaptive mechanisms for games, and automating the generation of various forms of game content. For strategy games, we are working on automatic map generation, automatic rule generation and AI techniques for competently playing strategy games with little domain information.

What we want from you is some help with evaluating the results of our recent endeavours.

The first survey is about automatically generated rulesets and general AI. If you take this survey, you will play a tutorial scenario and then two different (very short) scenarios in a strategy game you have never seen before. You will then be asked which one you prefer, which opponent AI was best, and a couple of other relevant questions. It will take you about 10 minutes. Click here to participate in the playtest survey.

You can also read the paper describing some of the previous research leading up to the system used in the current playtest. However, you are only allowed to read the paper after you've taken the survey. No cheating!

The second survey is about automatically generated maps for the classic real-time strategy game StarCraft. If you take this survey, you will be asked to look at ten different StarCraft maps and judge their relative qualities. It helps if you have played StarCraft, but it's not necessary. This survey will take you about 5 minutes to complete. Click here to take part in the StarCraft survey.

When you're finished, you could reward yourself with reading a paper on how the maps were created (though the current version of the system has evolved a bit). But only after you've taken the survey, or you'll bias the results...

Seriously though: thanks a lot for helping us with this!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On the Game AI versus traditional AI debate

Luke Dicken wrote a very nice blog post the other day on the differences between how AI is viewed in academia (and among students) and in the game industry. He focuses on the real-time requirements of game AI, and how little processing power most games make available for AI. He also talks about how NPC behaviour in games needs to be entertaining, not just high-performing, and reminds the reader that in striking contrast to e.g. AI for robots, game AI is allowed to cheat if it makes the game better.

Kevin dill wrote a response post where he points out that "traditional AI" is simply trying to solve very different problems than those faced by AI in games. Far from being simplistic and primitive, the techniques devised specifically within game AI are well suited to their specific purpose: reliably providing interesting NPC behaviour, while being understandable and moddable by designers. Perhaps academic AI research should take a hint or two from industrial game AI, rather than the opposite.

I am not fundamentally disagreeing with anything Luke or Kevin say. I think they both make several good points. However, I'd like to point out that I have a rather different and, I think, broader perspective on what game AI is. Both posts make implicit assumptions on what games are and what AI is, which I think are limiting.

The main game examples used by Luke and Kevin are Red Dead Redemption, Dragon Age, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Left 4 Dead. While these are impressive games, they are all representatives of a pretty small subspace of gaming: AAA first-person story-driven games with a real-time component and graphics that require them to run on a home console or computer. They are also all targeted at a classic "hardcore gamer" audience. These are the sort of games that we typically talk about when discussing games, and these are the sort of games that everybody wants to work on. But not the games that most people play. It's like if in the automotive industry, everybody would want to work on the next Porsche, while most people drive a Toyota.

Bejeweled, FarmVille and Diner Dash don't have a first-person perspective, don't have complex graphics and don't have a story in the same sense as the games above. Yet as far as I know, they have more players than those games. Importantly, they don't have NPCs that need to be controlled by AI, but still they present a number of interesting AI problems. Even traditional hardcore strategy games like Civilization, StarCraft or Total War present hard AI problems which are only insufficiently solved by the techniques used in the game industry.

The other limiting assumption is that AI is used for controlling NPC behaviour. In fact, this is only one of many applications for the bountiful toolbox of techniques found in artificial intelligence. AI techniques can also be used to generate game content (levels, maps, rules, puzzles etc), model players, adapt various aspects of the game (such as the difficulty or the reward schedule), match players in online games, control artificial economy, debug game mechanics or implementations, and so on.

Between all the myriad types of games out there and the multitude of interesting AI problems within them, I feel there's more than enough to work on even for an academic like me. Real-time pathfinding and planning for FPS and RTS games is all great, and I look forward to playing the results, but I'm happy to see someone else doing that specific work.

If you're interested in the "other" game AI work I'm involved, you might want to read our recent survey papers on generating game content and on adapting games based on player models.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

New Infinite TD playtest

Elvis has now done significant additional development on his Infinite Tower Defense game. Please help us by playing the game and answering

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Infinite Tower Defence: please help us playtest the prototype

My student Elvis Alistar has developed a first version of his "Infinite Tower Defence" game, which aims to continuously creating personalized challenges in response to your playing style. The game is an application of experience-driven procedural content generation to tower defence games, a very popular yet relatively complex and cerebral genre of casual strategy games.

We are currently looking for playtesters. Please head over to and play a few rounds of the game, and then answer our questionnaire about it. Those who provide best feedback will be included in the credits for the game!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Second CfP for CIG 2011. Yes, the deadline has been extended!

Second call for papers -- deadline extended!
Call for tutorial proposals

2011 IEEE Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games

COEX, Seoul
South Korea, August 31-September 3, 2011

Games have proven to be an ideal domain for the study of computational intelligence as not only are they fun to play and interesting to observe, but they provide competitive and dynamic environments that model many real-world problems. Additionally, methods from computational intelligence promise to have a big impact on game technology and development, assisting designers and developers and enabling new types of computer games.

The 2011 IEEE Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games brings together leading researchers and practitioners from academia and industry to discuss recent advances and explore future directions in this quickly moving field.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

* Learning in games
* Coevolution in games
* Neural-based approaches for games
* Fuzzy-based approaches for games
* Player/Opponent modeling in games
* CI/AI-based game design
* Multi-agent and multi-strategy learning
* Applications of game theory
* CI for Player Affective Modeling
* Intelligent Interactive Narrative
* Imperfect information and non-deterministic games
* Player satisfaction and experience in games
* Theoretical or empirical analysis of CI techniques for games
* Comparative studies and game-based benchmarking
* Computational and artificial intelligence in:
o Video games
o Board and card games
o Economic or mathematical games
o Serious games
o Augmented and mixed-reality games
o Games for mobile platforms

The conference will consist of a single track of oral presentations, tutorial and workshop/special sessions, and live competitions. The proceedings will be placed in IEEE Xplore, and made freely available on the conference website after the conference.

Tutorial and special session proposal deadline: March 15, 2011
Paper submission deadline: March 30, 2011 -- extended!
Decision notification: May 15, 2011
Camera-ready submission: June 15, 2011
Conference dates: August 31-September 3, 2011

General Chair : Sung-Bae Cho
Program Co-Chairs: Simon Lucas and Phllip Hingston
Competitions Chair: Julian Togelius
Publicity Chair: Clare Bates Congdon
Proceedings Chair: Mike Preuss
Tutorials and special sessions chair: Georgios Yannakakis
Local Chairs: Kyung-Joong Kim, Kyu-Baek Hwang, Eun-Youn Kim

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

CIG 2011

The 2011 IEEE Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games will run in Seoul, Korea, August 31-September 3.

This conference builds on the massive success of last year's conference, and we hope even to surpass the quantity and quality of that conference. So if you're at all interested in CI and/or AI in games, you need to be there.

Submission deadline March 15.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Super Mario data collection - play a game and contribute to science!

Don't ask what Super Mario can do for you. Ask what he can do for us. And what you can do for science.

We're running two separate data collection experiments using the Infinite Mario codebase. Both are connected with modelling player preferences and procedurally generating game levels.

If you have a few minutes to spare, please head over to this page and play a few short levels of Super Mario Bros and answer some simple questions. You will contribute to science and (hopefully) have fun at the same time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 Workshop on Procedural Content Generation (PCGames)

We're organizing the PCG workshop this year again (well, actually Gillian is doing most of the organizing), following the success of last year's workshop. Yes, it's co-located with FDG this year again. Which means it's in France at the end of June. Probably best to stay far away from it then, unless you're one of those people that like sunshine, good food, good wine and/or good scientific discussions then.

So, if you have any interest in procedural content generation, see you in France in June!