October 19, 2012

UC Santa Cruz seeks game developer and game designer staff

The Univ. of California, Santa Cruz is seeking applicants for two new full time staff positions, a Lead Game Programmer and a Lead Game Designer to work with myself, Michael Mateas, and Luca de Alfaro in support of the CHEKOFV project.

July 19, 2012

Now Hiring: Game Designer in Residence

The Center for Games and Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz is in search of a talented game designer with a portfolio of interesting games for a new position, the Game Designer in Residence. Like an Artist in Residence, the game designer will continue to work on personal projects as well as contribute to the academic environment with a mix of teaching duties, offering feedback and critique, collaborating on research opportunities, and providing design guidance.

The full job posting is here:

September 28, 2011

Foundations of Digital Games arrives in Raleigh in 2012

The Foundations of Digital Games conference, which covers research on a broad range of computer game topics, will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA from May 29-June 1, 2012. Magy Seif El-Nasr (Northeastern Univ.) is the conference General Chair, while Mia Consalvo (Concordia Univ.) and Steve Feiner (Columbia Univ.) are the Program Co-Chairs.

The conference will feature workshops immediately before the main conference, along with paper and poster presentations. As in past years, a doctoral consortium will provide a venue for new researchers to highlight their work. The call for papers is out, with full papers due December 19, 2011. Workshop proposals are due October 17, 2011.

September 16, 2011

Emergent properties: game testers are “stuffed”

Illustration: Alexis Demetriades

Chris Lewis, a member of the Software Introspection Lab at UC Santa Cruz has his game testing work profiled in Science Notes 2011, in the article “Fixing Glitchy Games” by Donna Hesterman.

Games increasingly have emergent properties brought about by the complex interactions between the player, AI-driven non-player characters, level geometry and items in the game world. Except for the player, all of these have become more complex in the latest generation of AAA titles, leading to an exponential increase in potential interactions. Lewis states it well:

May 26, 2011

Fantasy, Farms, and Freemium: What Game Data Mining Teaches Us About Retention, Conversion, and Virality

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote presentation at the 2011 Mining Software Repositories (MSR 2011) conference (part of the pleasure being the location, Waikiki beach in Hawaii). My slides are available in pdf (1.3M) and ppt (13.5M).

November 21, 2010

IEEE Software on Engineering Fun

The journal IEEE Software will be running a special issue on the topic of “Engineering Fun” for its September/October 2011 issue. The call for papers is out now, with a deadline of February 1, 2011. Guest editors for the issue are Clark Verbrugge of McGill University and Paul Kruszewski of GRIP Entertainment. IEEE Software has a magazine format and publishes academic research aimed at a software practitioner audience. It has a circulation of over 10,000.

November 9, 2010

Analyzing Level Design: A Genre-Specific Approach (@ DePaul, Friday)

Jim Whitehead

This Friday I will be visiting Jose Zagal at DePaul University (his book Ludoliteracy has just come out) and giving a talk on my view of level design. My goal in giving the talk is to develop a framework spanning the research my students Gillian Smith, Ken Hullett, and I have been doing over the past few years (along with Mee Cha, Mike Treanor, and Michael Mateas). The core idea of the talk is this: level design is inherently a genre-specific activity, and each game genre possesses its own approach for designing levels in the genre. While there are some concepts, such as pacing and tension, that span multiple genres, to provide compelling explanations for how to create game levels requires an analytical approach that is tailored to a specific genre.

FDG goes to France in 2011

Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux, France

Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux, France

The yearly Foundations of Digital Games conference will be held in Europe for the first time in 2011. The Foundations of Digital Games promotes the exchange of information concerning the scientific foundations of digital games, technology used to develop digital games, and the study of digital games and their design, broadly construed. FDG 2011 will be held in Bordeaux, France from June 28-July 1, 2011. The conference General Chair is Marc Cavazza (Univ. Teeside, UK), and the Program Co-Chairs are Katherine Isbister (Polytechnic Inst. of NYU, USA) and Charles Rich (Worcester Polytechnic Inst.).

June 9, 2010

IEEE TCIAIG Special Issue on Procedural Content Generation

Sparked by the strong interest in the Procedural Content Generation Workshop upcoming at FDG 2010, I have been working with Julian Togelius and Rafael Bidarra to create a special issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence in Games (IEEE TCIAIG). Deadline for submissions is November 1, with publication aimed for June, 2011. Details below the fold.

Call for Papers: Special Issue on Procedural Content Generation
IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games
Special issue editors: Julian Togelius, Jim Whitehead and Rafael Bidarra

January 25, 2010

If the ACM had a Special Interest Group on Games, would you join?

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is a prestigious professional society serving the interests of academics and professionals with interest in computing, broadly viewed. Within the ACM, Special Interest Groups (SIGs) serve the needs of specific communities of interest by operating conferences, fostering publications, and generally promoting the creation and spread of knowledge about the topic.

Along with the other members of the board of SASDG, I am working on a proposal to the ACM for the creation of a new Special Interest Group on Computer Games, to be known as SIGGAME. We’re looking for potential members.

December 18, 2009

Digital Pioneers of Computer Art


Lloyd Sumner, 1970, color plotter print

December 2, 2009

Procedural Content Generation Workshop

I’m pleased to announce that the Call for Papers for the Workshop on Procedural Content Generation in Computer Games is now available. The PC Games workshop is co-located with FDG 2010 this coming June in Monterey, California. Deadline for submissions is February 24, 2010.

From the website:

October 29, 2009

Landscape of open source games

Yo Frankie! An open source platformer created using Blender.

Yo Frankie! An open source platformer created using Blender.

I recently gave a presentation on the landscape of open source software in computer games at the Univ. Rey Juan Carlos, where I am currently visiting the Libresoft research group. My slides are available here.

While much of the talk covered well-known libraries (SDL, OpenAL), game engines (Ogre, Irrlicht), physics engines (Bullet, Tokamak), and content creation tools (Blender, GIMP), there were a few surprises. One was how many open source game-creation systems I found (4, more than the zero I expected). These are Game Editor (2d with export to some mobile devices), Construct (2d, some 3d), Novashell (2d), and Sandbox (3d). Another surprise was the game Yo Frankie! (pictured above), which has very high quality animation and artwork, and was produced using Blender.

July 9, 2009

Al Alcorn at 2009 California Extreme show

Al Alcorn

Pong designer and videogame pioneer Al Alcorn will be speaking at the 2009 California Extreme show this Saturday. He will be participating on a panel where he’ll join Mike Hally (Gravitar, Star Wars), Steve Ritchie (Flash, High Speed, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), and Owen Rubin (Major Havoc, Space Duel, Battlezone) and take Q&A from the audience. California Extreme is July 11-12, 2009, in the Santa Clara, CA, Hyatt Regency. The show features hands-on access to 150+ arcade pinball and videogame machines, all set to free play.

Me? I’ll be there on Saturday with 17 hyper-smart students from the COSMOS program, trying hard to avoid Defender p0wnage.

July 8, 2009

Mateas named MacArthur Foundation Chair

Michael Mateas

Michael Mateas has been selected as the inaugural MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair for the UC Santa Cruz campus. The MacArthur Chair was established in 2009 for the purpose of supporting research, public service, and teaching that promotes the objectives of the MacArthur Foundation, which include working to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. Michael was selected for the chair based on his proposal, “Radically Expanding the Expressive Power of Serious Games.” Michael, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will hold the chair for five years.

June 20, 2009

Craig Reynolds on Crowds and Emergent Teamwork

This past January, Craig Reynolds from Sony’s research group in Foster City gave a presentation at UC Santa Cruz on current challenges in creating computational crowds, especially those where the members of the crowd are cooperating to perform some task. A video of the talk can be viewed here:


As a contrast to the recent talk by Mark Henne from Pixar, this talk focused on the underlying algorithmic difficulty of creating the desired algorithmic behavior. Mark’s talk focused more on how to integrate behavior into an existing pipeline, and challenges with ensuring the filmmakers retained artistic control over the procedurally generated scene.

June 19, 2009

Games for girls segment on Today show

This segment on the Today show, aired June 18, 2009, talks about how the games industry is increasingly focusing on girls and women in game creation and marketing. While the segment has its cringeworthy moments (floating talking head in a video game world, ew!), it mostly provides a good overview of current industry thinking about designing and marketing games for girls and women. Interviews with women on the floor of GDC are generally very good.

My daughter Tatum is shown in the segment (she’s in the light blue top with brown straps). She was invited up to Ubisoft in San Francisco for an afternoon during GDC for the taping of the segment. They were great hosts!

June 15, 2009

Mark Henne talk at UCSC

On Friday, May 29, 2009, Mark Henne from Pixar came to UCSC and gave a talk on crowds in the movie Wall-E. You can watch the video here:


I was impressed by the complexity of the AI underlying the characters that comprise the crowds, another reminder of just how complex seemingly simple real-world behaviors can be. I was also struck by how the entire process was optimized to ensure that the artists could, if desired, take a single character from a crowd and manually change its look and behavior. This is consistent with the entire filmmaking process at Pixar, which is optimized for complete artistic control over the end product. Games, in contrast, are much more willing to accept the limitations of the game engine being used.

Powered by WordPress