Intrinsic Algorithm News

Dave Mark to speak at Lockheed Martin in Boston

June 28th, 2010

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.

Back from E3

June 21st, 2010

E3 ExpoAfter 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.

And that’s where we can help.

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 at E3

June 12th, 2010

E3 ExpoIntrinsic 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!

Dave Mark to Speak at GDC Online (Austin)

June 9th, 2010

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:

Session Description
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’s Dilemma, this lecture offers practical tips on how game theory methodologies can be used to craft well-balanced games—and potentially avert disaster!

Session Takeaway
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.)

Airline Traffic Manager: OpenGL Interface?

June 1st, 2010

After my news update from late last week about the interface changes to Airline Traffic Manager, a number of my game development colleagues weighed in on what I should possibly use to develop the interface for. In particular, I was pointed to OpenGL using GLUT (GL Utility Toolkit). Specifically, for my data interface needs such as what I was getting with MFC and Windows Forms, I can add on the GLUI (GL User Interface) library.

The combination of GLUI and OpenGL means that I can have the data-display and input functionality of buttons, lists, select boxes, etc., without having to write the code for them myself. On the other hand, I can also use a robust graphics package that will support all sorts of nifty stuff that we may want to add to ATM in the future such as 3D overviews of airports terminals.

The other thing this solves is the scalable window issue. With the MFC solution (and a little with the proposed Windows Forms one), I was really tied to one resolution. That also means that I wasn’t developing a full-screen graphical game. With OpenGL et al, the game can be full-screen and everything will scale regardless of resolution.

Another major bonus is that it will also be cross-platform. The initial suggestion came from a colleague that is a big aviation buff (and will want to play the game) and is also a Mac user. Sure, his recommendation of GLUT/GLUI was a little selfish in that regard, but it looks like a great solution nonetheless.

Right now, I will just be experimenting with OpenGL on my own to get a feel for it. (Might need a book or two but I haven’t ever really shied away from teaching myself new techs.) If I can do the interface programming myself for a bit, that’s great. Eventually, however, it will be best for me to bring on someone to do it for me to let me concentrate on the engine, simulation, and AI programming. (When I get to that point, I will make an announcement here and update the IA jobs page accordingly.)

Anyway, not a lot of movement, but certainly a lot of planning going on.

Airline Traffic Manager Interface Decisions

May 28th, 2010

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 GDC/GameX Lecture Slides

May 24th, 2010

Lost in all my annoyance at the old blog issues, I never mentioned that I have created a page to hold the slides from my lectures in the past. These include:

2009 GDC AI Summit
Breaking the Cookie-Cutter: Modeling Individual Personality, Mood, and Emotion in Characters

2009 GDC Austin
Cover Me!: Promoting MMO Player Interaction through Advanced AI

2009 GameX Industry Summit
The Art of Game AI: Sculpting Behavior with Data, Formulas, and Finesse

2010 GDC AI Summit
Improving AI Decision Modeling Through Utility Theory
AI Devs Rant!

Some of these were joint lectures but only contain my content. The exceptions are the GameX one and the Utility Theory lecture. Both of those were joint with Kevin Dill. I have permission to use his content (as he does with mine).

I will continue to update that page as I do other lectures in the future.

Email is back up and running

May 23rd, 2010

For those of you were simply dying to send me email, we finally figured out what was wrong in the transfer of web hosts. Apparently our A records were fighting with our MX records and DNS chaos ensued. Laurie and Dave are back up and running. In particular, we are looking forward to more spam in arabic.

Unfortunately, due to a new database server being installed at our web hosts, we are in a queue waiting to have 2 new MySQL servers set up for the “IA on AI” and “Post-Play’em” blogs. As soon as those SQL servers are established, it won’t take long to get those blogs back online.

Also, now that I actually can feel comfortable with the authoring software (WordPress instead of Blogger), I plan on doing a lot more on those two blogs. Hopefully IA on AI will see a little somethin’-somethin’ every few days.

Heading to E3 2010

May 23rd, 2010

Dave Mark will be heading out to SoCal once again for E3.

E3 ExpoMuch 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.)

New Host, WordPress, and Dead Email

May 23rd, 2010

Well, after beating my head against the wall, I’ve finally left my old web host and put this site on GoDaddy. I have to admit, I had no idea that really nifty integrated tools were out there. My earlier host was so bad that their support site wasn’t even debugged properly. The only thing that hasn’t worked out was switching my email over. The MX records can’t seem to make up their minds as to where they are pointing. Hopefully that will sort itself out by tomorrow. In the mean time, I’m not receiving any email. Please be patient.

Anyway, I have also begun the process of moving my 3 blogs on this site from Blogger to WordPress. Most of my time was spent on integrating WordPress into the site so that it looks seamless. I have finished the IA News blog and will due the other two fairly quickly now. Thankfully, the import tool from Blogger to WordPress works quite well.