CIG 2011

This is a little late coming, but I was recently in Seoul attending the IEEE 2011 Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games (CIG ’11). This is a conference I have been wanting to attend for quite some time, as it is basically right up my (research) alley.

Not only was I attending the conference, but also presenting my paper: ‘Using the Online Cross-Entropy Method to Learn Relational Policies for Playing Different Games’. The presentation went reasonably well, and I was on time. The range of questions received were mainly concerning the extensibility and comprehensibility of the relational policy, behavioural cloning behaviour into a policy (something which may need to be done for more useful module learning), and Turing behaviour, which was quite surprising.

The question about the Turing behaviour regarded a clip of the agent in the Mario environment, where some of the audience believed that the agent was a close fit to a human and could be entered into the Turing track of the Mario competition. This has never come up before and was an unexpected side effect of the agent’s learning and action resolution behaviour. Entering the Turing track in the next Mario competition is practically free, so I might as well enter next time it comes up.

Unfortunately the Ms. PacMan agent entered into the PacMan vs. Ghosts competition performed very poorly. I was fairly sure it wasn’t going to do so well when I submitted it as there was a very large discrepancy between the scores of the experiments and the scores of the agent when run by individually. I am still unsure why this error occurred, but it will be remedied. Next year I will do better!

The rest of the conference was very enjoyable, with a large emphasis on evolutionary methods and procedural generation for the various tasks. There was very little presence of traditional machine learning algorithms, which may be simply due to the nature of the problems, or just because evolutionary methods are more fun.

Finally, Seoul the city was excellent. The food was delicious and cheap (if you went to the right places), and the city is quite clean and relatively uncrowded. The worst part was the heat, which was 100% humidity all the time. I managed to extend my stay by 3 days to look around the city after the conference which was well worth it.

Global Game Jam Games

Since its inception, I have participated in the Global Game Jam (GGJ) event held every January since 2009. The event entails making a themed video game in 48 hours. At the beginning of the event, participants are given an overarching theme to incorporate into the developed games, form into teams, then get developing!

I have participated in four GGJs so far, but the third one did not result in a working game (unfortunately I had to leave early).

Canyon Chums: Our first Global Game Jam game.

The game developed for GGJ 2009 was Canyon Chums, a 2-player cooperative game where the goal is to escape a slowly closing icy canyon. The theme was something like cooperation.

Swimming Snake: Our second game developed for the Global Game Jam.

Swimming Snake was the game developed for GGJ 2010, where the game is a somewhat arcadey-style game of eating fish and avoiding puffer fish. The problem is, all fish look the same until they get close, which is when puffer fish expand. The theme for this year was deception.

The game partially developed for GGJ 2011 was a 3D Tower Defense game (think Plants vs Zombies in 3D), which involved defending the last known tree on an island from encroaching creatures.

Cosmic Hamster Wheel was the game developed for GGJ 2012. The theme this year was simply an image of Ouroboros (the cyclical snake eating its own tail), so this game involves running around a circular environment, gathering fruit and avoiding explosive robots on balloons (it doesn’t really make sense, but hey!). The game turned out quite pretty, but I was dissatisfied with how it played compared to previous year’s efforts.

Asthma Waikato Video games

On 24 June 2011, Dacre and myself were contracted to develop a couple of Flash games for Asthma Waikato. They requested a colouring game and one other game (an arcade fish jumping game). The games were required to have an educational message (but not an in-your-face message), yet still be engaging enough for kids 5-9 years old to play. Although the colouring game is basically just colouring in, the jumping game emphasises asthma management, eating healthy, and avoiding triggers.

Screenshot of Colouring Game developed for Asthma Waikato
Screenshot of Sailor's Jumpin' Snatch

Over the course of a month, we developed the two games which are now available to play here.