Here’s the presentation slides I used for my A* Pathfinding paper at the Game’On conference.. image quality reduced and Open Office has screwed up the fonts a bit but you get the idea..
[Presentation Slides here] (~1MB)
This paper discusses the use of empirical cost-surfaces derived from substantial amounts of player-traced movements in Darkwind, for the purposes of improving A* pathfinding by AI vehicles. My core ideas are that (i) there are a number of subtle factors related to both effectiveness and aesthetic value, which define optimal routes around the terrains, and that (ii) it may not be feasible to deal with these factors algorithmically. I aim to achieve efficient, believable (‘human-like’) routes which navigate terrain features and surface types sensibly, are safe from collision damage and, where possible, enemy fire.
Since Darkwind is a well established online multiplayer game, it provides substantial amounts of empirical evidence about player-chosen routes. The basic premise is that we have thousands of player-controlled cars travelling around the maps every week, so why not let the computer learn the favourite routes taken by humans?
This is all based on ‘votes’ that I have been gathering in the game for the past 12 months or so.
We’re going to be hosting the academic/industry crossover conference ‘Game On‘ here in Galway this year. My academic colleague Colm asked me to help out on the organising team, which I’m happy to do since I know he’ll run a tight ship and I’ll only need to row in behind him
It was only really last year that I learned that valid academic research can include computer games – this was somewhat a revelation to me, as it gives me a way to combine my two major interests into a ‘win-win’. Last year I was at a ‘Serious Games’ conference in Portugal, with a PhD student talking about our work with neural networks and image processing in the development of a ‘social agent’ for online communication tools; I also presented a paper at an AI conference in which I talked about the use of Genetic Algorithms in Darkwind to train the computer to drive races more competitively. You can download the research paper here.
This is a win-win I plan to continue with.. I’ll probably put something together about the collaborative ‘virtual whiteboard’ tools in VRCGroups, for the Game On conference itself.
I was at the indie developers conference with the strange title ‘World of Love’ , presenting an invited paper on ‘Running an MMO part-time, single-handedly’. I wasn’t really sure if this would be of interest to people, but it turned out to definitely be so. I guess it has been the dream of most games developers at some point or another to create their own MMO… and it’s also a ‘known fact’ that creating one on your own is impossible.
As a conference it was very unlike the academic conferences that I have been attending since the mid-1990s. At ‘World of Love’ there were about 10 presenters and 200+ audience members; at academic conferences you’d expect nearly every attendee to be involved with a presentation on some level. This was nice because it meant lots of people wanted to talk to me afterwards and were interested in what I had to say.
The other speakers were quite mixed.. some presented well, with interesting insights into their game development process, while others didn’t really have much to say and came across (IMO) somewhat unprofessionally.
My ‘take home’ messages from Tak Fung and others.. keep experimenting; don’t get tunnel vision about focusing on one game at a time; and never let it become a chore because that sucks the life out of it all.
All in all, a very positive and supportive experience, so I guess ‘World of Love’ makes some sense as a title after all.