Last Friday, I was asked by Game Developer Magazine editor-in-chief, Brandon Sheffield, to write an article for their regular monthly column, The Inner Product. While I was very honored to be approached, there was a catch… he needed it done in about 3 days! Considering that I had a number of other things to do (including finishing up with preparing submissions for this year’s GDC AI Summit), it was a pinch. Oh yeah… I got sick over the weekend as well.
Regardless, I wrote up a quick article for him that taps into subjects that I have written and spoken on before – specifically, some tricks to use in converting boring numbers into useful concepts for AI.
I expect that it will be included in the upcoming January issue about a month from now. Again, I was honored that Brandon asked me to help them out. I hope that I will be able to contribute something more in the future… just with a little more notice!
I will be presenting a 1-hour lecture on artificial intelligence in games at the Lockheed Martin facility in Burlington, MA outside of Boston. The presentation, “Beyond State Machines: AI Doesn’t Have to be Robotic”, is based on a combination of lectures that I have presented at GDC and GameX in the past year.
Thanks to long-time game AI developer, colleague, tech editor, and good friend, Kevin Dill, for inviting me to speak. (Actually it was more along the lines of “you’re coming to Boston? You’re speaking at Lockheed.”)
On a related note, I’m looking forward to meeting with a number of companies in the Boston area, and especially being able to spend some time with a portion of the veritable cornucopia of excellent AI devs in the area.
After dealing with delays in LA, stand-by flight bookings, and a late-night sprint through concourse B in Denver, I have returned from E3.
People keep asking me what I thought of the show and I realize I have no answer for them. After enough E3′s, they all just blend together. I didn’t see any of the keynotes yet – I’ll see them online or read about them. I didn’t wait in line to do demos of all the hot technologies – my time is too valuable for that. To be honest, I didn’t play a single game.
However, I did lurk and watch a lot. My goal at E3 is to take the temperature of the industry. What’s going on? What are companies doing or not doing? And then, I talk to people. It’s amazing how many studios are showing off smoke and mirrors at E3 and passing it off as gameplay. That’s unfortunate, but it is also what the consumer wants. They want to dream and salivate (mostly salivate). It’s also necessary as part of the business model that thrives on pre-release “buzz”.
“Sometimes, the result is a final product that is still smoke and mirrors.”
Anyway, it is also a good time for me, after observing what they are showing, to quietly and discreetly ask them what they really need going forward. And often, assistance with AI is high on the list. After all, placeholder AI for a demo is more smokey and mirrory than anything else. Unfortunately, unlike gameplay and building more levels, which can be planned out to some extent, most of the companies don’t really seem to know where they are going with AI. Sometimes, the result is a final product that is still smoke and mirrors.
On that note, it’s time to do all my follow-up communication. Hopefully in the next few weeks we can announce who we are going to be working with. There’s plenty of companies we are talking to. And we’re excited about every single one!
Intrinsic Algorithm will be at E3 in Los Angeles. Once again this year, we are meeting with studios, individuals, and recruiters to discuss potential AI consulting contracts. (To learn more about Intrinsic Algorithm’s AI consulting work, go here.)
If you or your studio needs a little help (or a big push) with your game AI, we still have some time slots available during the week. Please contact us so we can meet!
Oh… and maybe we will get to actually see some of the show floor this year. But we would rather meet with you instead!
I will be speaking at the 2010 GDC Online conference in Austin again this year. GDC Online is October 5th – 8th at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX.
Here is the tentative description of his session proposal as accepted by the GDC Online Advisory Board:
Many areas of game design and programming benefit from very simple premises found in the 50-year old discipline of game theory. When games go awry, it is often due to not applying one or more of these ideas. Online competitive games in particular are prone to tipping precariously out of balance. By comparing staple online games such as World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, and Starcraft to classic game theory examples such as Rock-Paper-Scissors and Prisoner‚Äôs Dilemma, this lecture offers practical tips on how game theory methodologies can be used to craft well-balanced games‚ÄĒand potentially avert disaster!
The attendee will see some of the classic example problems of game theory in action, how their concepts can be applied to the design of online competitive games, and how those applications can create richer gameplay.
This will be my second appearance at GDC Online (formerly GDC Austin) and my 4th overall participation at GDC events. My 2009 GDC Austin lecture,¬†”Cover Me! Promoting MMO Player Interaction through Advanced AI” garnered a attendee rating of 4.9 (out of 5) compared to the conference average of 4.29. This included a 4.9 score on the item, “Would you recommend this session to a colleague?”
My thanks to the GDC Online advisory board and the wonderful conference staff, Jen Steele and Kara Foley, for the opportunity once again. A special nod to board member Raph Koster whose excellent “Games Are Math” session from last year gave me a reminder of ¬†how relevant this topic is.
Hope to see you all there!
(To download lecture slides from any of my past conference lectures, visit our “media” page.)
For those of you who are following the development of Airline Traffic Manager (especially all those people who keep sending us wonderful emails asking about it), there are some decisions ¬†that are starting to be made that will help jump-start the process once again.
First and foremost is how to proceed with the game interface. The original interface was written in Microsoft Foundation Classes. MFC was never meant to be permanent solution. Instead, it was merely a way of visualizing what was going on in the game simulation engine. Unfortunately, MFC is a bit unwieldy. It got to the point where it was more of a¬†hindrance¬†than a help.
We have been keeping an eye open for possibilities during this (very long) lull in development. One option was to go to the successor of MFC, Windows Forms. Windows Forms are based in .NET and are significantly easier to use than MFC and they can be customized nicely to make for an attractive interface. However, there is still that “Windows app” feel to it. That’s not all bad. On the other hand, I’m a little wary of combining my existing C++ code with .NET as that tends to get a little prickly.
Other solutions have been proposed by colleagues including Flash, something from TorquePowered, and even simply using DirectX. One of the drawbacks of ¬†those options is that I would have to bring in someone else to do the interface – which the budget does not support at the moment. Windows Forms I can do on my own for the most part.
Speaking of money, we have been keeping an eye on the rise of community fundraising sites like KickStarter. It’s a way to raise funds from the community by promising contributors a final product and maybe even perks on top of it. If the funding goal doesn’t get met, the contributors don’t pay anything. I have a feeling that a couple of well-placed mentions of the fundraising would generate a ton of money. Again, it’s something we are looking into.
Anyway, I just wanted you all to know that we haven’t abandoned what was our original pet project. For all of you people who are dying to play the most detailed, realistic airline management sim ever made, I’m still planning on making it! Hang in there!
Dave Mark will be heading out to SoCal once again for E3.
Much like last year, actually attending the conference (as in seeing the show floor) is a bit of a misrepresentation. In fact, there were rumors going around that there was some sort of show where you could play all sorts of new games. There was no time to see if any of that was true, however. Too many meetings!
So, like last year, Intrinsic Algorithm is actively meeting with studios, outsourcing companies, and recruiters regarding their need for AI consulting. If you would like to set up and appointment, feel free to contact us.
Otherwise, if you are one of our many colleagues and will be trolling around the Staples Center, make sure you say “hi”… if you manage to pick Dave out of a crowd of 50,000. (Giving me a call might be easier.)
Intrinsic Algorithm has entered into a consulting contract with Project Aurora Games to provide AI design and programming services for their debut space-based title.
Project Aurora entered into discussions with Intrinsic Algorithm in October of 2009 after their Founder and Creative Director, Mbambu Miller, met Dave Mark at the 2009 GameX Industry Summit in Philadelphia.
Intrinsic Algorithm is excited about assisting in the creation of Project Aurora’s unique gameplay vision.