April 29, 2010

Dynamic Difficulty in Platformers

We’ve all played, and been frustrated by, games that were too difficult for us (Demon’s Souls) or games that were too easy (Smurfs: Rescue In Gargamel’s Castle). In fact, for most games it’s an immense design challenge to create levels that can be enjoyed by both skilled players and noobs. Wouldn’t it be great for a game to automatically modify its levels during play to match the player’s skill?

Some effective dynamic difficulty adjustment techniques have been developed for particular games (SiN Episodes, Left4Dead, Mario Kart), and I aim to add to this tradition with a more structural approach.

April 28, 2010

Using Procedural Content Generation to Build Casual Games for Mobile Platforms

I recently ported Infinite Mario to the Android platform in order to evaluate the use of procedural content generation in mobile devices. My goal was to develop a casual platform game, where players can jump right into the action without worrying about making it to the next save point. Procedural content generation is used to provide the player with short, unique gameplay sessions. The player’s goal in Mario Forever is simply to complete a level. The major challenge in this game is learning to defeat levels you have never encountered before.

Mario Forever

Rusch Visits from MIT

from tiltfactor
by @ 9:10 pm

Dr. Doris Rusch visited Dartmouth today, and offered a compelling discussion of the purposeful use of games. She looked at the ways in which the human condition is expressed through other media such as language, literature, and film, and went on to argue for the value of thinking about games in their use of metaphor. Discussion several important recent design trend, Rusch skillfully moved between the theoretical and the practical, making lofty goals ideas concrete in designed form. This was followed by a game night at Tiltfactor, hosted with the help of the Jewel of India.

in the Tiltfactor laboratory

in the Tiltfactor laboratory

April 25, 2010

Friends of Tiltfactor in the News!

from tiltfactor
by @ 7:17 pm

News about game development, from USC’s great games program to the island of Malta! Tracy Fullerton’s game innovation lab is featured in the New York Times. Tiltfactor is happy to be honored with not only her work on various advisory boards, but also her insiprational pedagogy and loyal, generous students who also contribute to Tiltfactor and to Dartmouth’s games courses.

The University of Malta is part of an initiative to develop a games industry in the country.

Putting the WTF Back into YouTube

from Post Position
by @ 5:18 pm

What … exactly … is … the … deal?

April 24, 2010

Infinite Fun Mario

Once again, the IEEE conference on Computational Intelligence and Games (CIG 2010) is hosting a Mario competition. This time, they’ve added a level generation track to the competition. The goal is to procedurally generate Mario levels that are entertaining. EIS is working on an entry and here’s what we have so far:

I’ve made a few modifications to the game engine to explore a new direction in platformers. Each time the player loses, a new level is generated on the fly. The idea is to prevent the player from getting frustrated by always  presenting the player with a new level. Rather than frustrate the player, the system provides the player with unlimited fun levels. You can try out our level generator by downloading it here and running the Jar.

Mining the World of Warcraft Armory

Mining is hard work! (thanks RipTen)

Many people have mined the World of Warcraft Armory for all sorts of information. Until recently, the data being mined out of the Armory was largely something I call “descriptive statistics”: statistics that are interesting in and of themselves, but don’t really require much more than counting up instances of labels. How many Orc hunters are there? Are there more Death Knights or Warlocks? What talents are most popular? Some deeper data mining, joining some of these statistics together, or using some more advanced techniques, could yield exciting insights into the game design.

April 23, 2010

Another attack — NOT

from Post Position
by @ 11:40 am
An analyst assesses Alphabetical Africa and another authorial account about antithesis and absence.
Luis Bury does not pull punches in reviewing Doug Nufer’s Negativeland and Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa in ebr.

April 22, 2010

Defining a Gesture Ontology for Games

Games are increasingly making use of gestures as a way for players to interact in game worlds. While enabling players to perform a large number of actions in the game world, the use of gestures in games can also confuse players accustomed to conventional controls. Bob Mitchell’s recent talk at UC Santa Cruz discussed developing games for 2020 and one of the points he made was that gestures are going to become prevalent in games due to the introduction of new interfaces. However, it is first necessary to build standard definitions of gestures in order for players to build expectations of how to interact with games.

April 21, 2010

Retroactive Continuity and ‘South Park’

Radical Islamic website warns 'South Park' creators that they may end up dead for allegedly depicting Muhammad in a bear suit

I was shocked to see on CNN that a radical Islamic website had issued this message to ‘South Park’ creators:

“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show,” the group said. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality that will likely happen to them.”

Bill Gates at MIT

from Post Position
by @ 9:57 am

Bill Gates spoke at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium today as the chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, advocating for the brightest minds to work on the most important problems of the world – such as reducing childhood deaths through health, sanitation, and development programs. The talk was part of a tour that also includes Stanford, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Harvard. There were only a few seats free in Kresge. Among other things, Gates suggested separating the accreditation function of higher education to allow for non-place-based learning. He softened the blow by praising MIT’s Open Courseware and listing several of the OCW courses that he himself had taken.

April 20, 2010

Two Profs on Boing Boing

from Post Position
by @ 7:09 pm

Two of my friends and fellow investigators of digital media have recently been featured on Boing Boing:

Fantastic Visitors, Spring 2010!

from tiltfactor
by @ 5:53 pm

Doris Rusch, MIT Gambit Game Lab

Wednesday April 28
4pm talk, “Purposeful Game Design” Tiltfactor Laboratory, 304 North Fairbanks, Dartmouth College

Thursday April 29th
Rusch visits 10am -12:  Game Design: Values at Play Course

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Marcin Ramocki, Filmmaker

April 14, 2010

Starcraft EISbot in GamePro

Gamepro logoContinuing the EIS blog’s recent Starcraft theme, Ben and Peter were recently interviewed by John Davison, editor of Gamepro, inspired after his visit to UCSC. The interview is now up on the front-page of Gamepro.com, with Davison tweeting: “Mind blown.”

Dan Kline from Crystal Dynamics Visits UCSC

Thursday, April 15, 2010
11 am -12 pm
Hosted by Associate Professor Michael Mateas

Speaker: Daniel Kline from Crystal Dynamics

Title: How You Can Make A Great Game

In this talk, we’ll explore how anyone can make a great game.  We’ll
investigate what separates a good game from a great game, delving into
the presenter’s personal history for rich examples.  We’ll dig into
how to find the game that you want to make, and avoid common new idea
pitfalls.  And we’ll share game development best practices to help get
it done, with plenty of time to ask questions and share ideas.

Educational Technology at Digitel 2010

from tiltfactor
by @ 12:26 am

Tiltfactor reps are in Taiwan listening to a panel at The 3rd IEEE International Conference on Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning, Digitel 2010 conference, where a panel discussion ensues on Research Policies on Technology Enhanced Learning. This panel is moderated by Ovid Tseng (Taiwan), with panelists: John Cherniavsky (USA), Chee-Kit Looi (Singapore), Roy Pea (USA), Chih-Wei Hue (Taiwan), and Beverly Woolf (USA).

April 12, 2010

Digital Humanities Symposium, Friday 14th May 2010

from tiltfactor
by @ 3:27 pm

If you happen to be in New England May 14th and have a burning desire for things digital, RSVP (so we can feed you) and drop in for the open-to-all, day-long Digital Humanities Symposium at Dartmouth College, 14th of May 2010. We have an impressive lineup of speakers, including Hany Farid, a computer scientist looking at image forenics; Laura Mandell, the Director of Digital Humanities at Miami University and the Chair, Committee on Information Technology, MLA; Doug Sery, Acquisitions editor, MIT Press; William Noel, curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books and Director of the Archimedes project; Tom Streeter; and so many more. Check it out!

April 10, 2010

Achieving the ELIZA Effect in StarCraft

One of my research goals is to build an agent that mimics human gameplay. To achieve this challenging goal, I have implemented chat functionality in EISBot. Once every thirty seconds, EISBot randomly selects a message from a pool of 75 messages and sends it to the console. The results can be quite convincing:

Here is the complete transcript of messages:

  • EISBot: Whats up with Savior recently?
  • EISBot: Tasteless is my homeboy
  • EISBot: It says I need more pylons, what a pylon?
  • EISBot: What to ally victory?
  • Player: damn you
  • Player: im not stupid

April 7, 2010

New Publications!

from tiltfactor
by @ 7:16 pm

This spring, visiting scholar Jonathan Belman is at Tiltfactor up at Dartmouth to do some research. We’ve been productive in research lately, with two new journal publications emerging from the lab: Belman, J. & Flanagan, M. (in press). “Exploring the Creative Potential of Values Conscious Design: Students’ Experiences with the VAP Curriculum.” Eludamos: The Journal for Computer Game Culture.
Belman, J. & Flanagan, M. (in press). “Designing Games to Foster Empathy.” Cognitive Technology Journal 14(2).

Metadata, Manga, and More

from tiltfactor
by @ 7:12 pm

We’ve been busy at Tiltfactor! Our new Grow-a-Game card series is being sent to the printer as I type… We’re accumulating new Metadata games from our myriad developers, including Joe Pietruch and Charlie Whitney. We’ve begun working with Jonathan Jay Lee
on our educational, beautiful manga project. Out of the lab, we’re running the design course Values at Play: Game Design Workshop.
And, we have many more games in the works. Happy Spring!

April 4, 2010

Steven Dow visits UCSC

Steven Dow (Ph.D., Postdoctural Scholar, Stanford University) is giving two talks at UCSC on Monday, April 5.

“How Prototyping Practices Affect Design Results”

Time: 11:00 am

Place: E2 – 280


Design shapes the world we inhabit, both digital and physical. Yet surprisingly often, the design process fails to uncover the real needs and desires of people. How can designers and developers more effectively prototype? My research examines the creative process through lab experimentation. I will describe research on iteration and comparison, two key principles for discovering contextual design variables and their interrelationships. We found that, even under tight time constraints when the common intuition is to stop iterating and start refining, iterative prototyping helps designers learn. Our results also indicate that creating and receiving feedback on multiple prototypes in parallel—as opposed to serially—leads to more divergent ideation, more explicit comparison, less investment in a single concept, and better overall design performance.

Video of the Get Lamp PAX Panel

from Post Position
by @ 4:18 pm

Jason Scott, the filmmaker behind the soon-to-be-released interactive fiction documentary, has posted video of the Get Lamp panel at PAX-East. He’s also put up an MP3 with just the audio. The panelists are Dave Lebling, Don Woods, Brian Moriarty, Andrew Plotkin, your very own Nick Montfort, Steve Meretzky, and Jason Scott.

April 3, 2010

H. Edward Roberts, Inventor of the Personal Computer

from Post Position
by @ 4:53 pm

The inventor of the MITS Altair 8800, the inexpensive kit computer that is widely considered to be the first personal computer, has died at age 68.

Rilke and Prejudice and Robots

from Post Position
by @ 4:30 pm

In Robot Rilke, you can find the selected poems of Rainer Maria Rilke translated by robots. “With a special biographical introduction cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia.”

If you love it, you may want to sing Robot Love, I Love You. (Video by Ignatz Topolino, audio by Echelon and Jane Dowe, a.k.a. Oh Astro.)

April 2, 2010

Today’s CMS Masters Presentations

from Post Position
by @ 2:36 pm

Today we heard final thesis presentations from the 2010 masters students in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program.

I’ve taught in CMS, which has an undergraduate and masters program, since I came to MIT three years ago. It’s a diverse program that has included digital media research and has brought contemporary computational work, among other types of media production and reception, into juxtaposition and under consideration. Here are the titles of this semester’s masters presentations:

  • M. Flourish Klink: “Laugh Out Loud in Real Life: Twilight, Women’s Humor, and Fan Identity”
  • Sheila Seles: “Audience Research for Fun and Profit: Rediscovering the value of television audiences”
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