Your AI Just Wants To Have Fun

Upcoming AAAI Workshop: AI and Fun:

Interactive entertainment (aka computer games) has become a dominant force in the entertainment sector of the global economy. The question that needs to be explored in depth: what is the role of artificial intelligence in the entertainment sector? If we accept the premise that artificial intelligence has a role in facilitating the entertainment and engagement of humans, then we are left with new questions…

Papers due March 29…

Anonymous Commenting Disabled

who gave me this dang thing

Sorry, commenters, but the signal-to-noise ratio of anonymous comments was approaching zero. šŸ™ It was getting to the point I almost rejected some real though short comments because they were looking like the spam comments I was getting – I apologize if I dinged a real person by accident. But when you don’t know who’s sending a gift, you never know what’s inside the wrapper.

-the Centaur

Pictured is my cousin Bryan Norman, receiving a joke gift of a mailbox at last Christmas’s White Elephant gift exchange – though I dispute the Wikipedia article, I lived 38 years in the Southeastern United States and never heard it called a “Yankee swap” – always “White Elephant” or the less-politically-correct “Chinese Christmas”.

Screenshots Cannot Do It Justice

starcraft 2 screenshots cannot do it justice

So, at GDC 2010, I saw Starcraft II in action for the first time.

Screenshots cannot do it justice.

You know, Starcraft has always had a kind of muddy, visually busy, hard-to-grok visual style which made it less impressive in screenshots than it is when playing the game with knowledge. Starcraft II takes this to a whole new level – it’s still busy, but the tiny incomprehensible units are now clearly visible 3D models, and they’re constantly engaged in animation which displays their personality or explains their shape or just makes them interesting to watch. And there’s some new visual filigree which makes it easier to see what your actions in the game will take.

So if you’re into Starcraft, don’t bother torturing yourself with screenshots. Just get the game when it comes out.

-the Centaur

GDC 2010 Overview

gdc 2010 at moscone south

Every year I go to the Game Developers Conference to keep tabs on how artificial intelligence in games is developing. Each year I take copious notes. And each year I promise myself I’ll blog my notes online, and yet I never do.

Until now.

GDC 2010 seems smaller than GDC 2008, but it doesn’t feel wrong. In the past few years it’s been held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, taking up the massive Moscone West building and the North and South halls. I say 2008 because 2010 feels about the size of 2009, but where 2009 felt outsized, this year they’ve ditched Moscone West, filling out North and South “just right” for a smaller, saner, but still vibrant conference.

gdc 2010 show floor

The show floor is still massive, going on and on, filled with books and tools and technologies and games and career opportunities and just about anything you can imagine.

gdc 2010 show floor keeps going

And I mean just about anything. Steve Weibe? Really? No offense, but that seems more of an E3 or Comicon thing. Of course, maybe he’s super cool, but since I missed him at the booth it was just a bit jarring to see the machine there all by its lonesome.

gdc 2010 steve wiebe really

The South Hall held the AI Summit and many interesting talks. I’ll talk about the AI Summit, Starcraft, indie games, and future technologies (past and present) in a subsequent post.

gdc 2010 north entrance

But there is a whole other hall, where more talks are held. The AI Roundtables occurred here, as did talks on the Sims 3; I’ll fold these into the above posts.

gdc 2010 stairs down

But the thing that strikes me about the North Hall (other than the giant black hole of cell reception and borked wifi) is the churn of people going to talks, coming from talks, talking about IP and licenses and techniques and advances. Here, simply because of its physical layout you really can see the industry’s creative malestrom churning.

gdc 2010 make games

“I want YOU to make games.” Indeed.

-the Centaur

Playing Hooky from GDC 2010

two laptops for two jobs

Today I’m playing “hooky” from GDC 2010. I look forward to GDC every year, where I see friends, catch glimpses of new games, and learn more and more about artificial intelligence and games. But for various reasons (cost, cats) I don’t have a hotel this year, and have been driving up to San Francisco from my house in the South Bay.

It’s fun seeing the gang, especially the always engaging Neil Kirby, and fun watching the speakers, especially the entertaining R.A. Salvatore. But yesterday I spent four hours in the car – two there, two back – a grueling experience in the morning in which I not only missed breakfast, missed the Starcraft talk but almost missed the NEXT talk, and an equally grueling experience in the evening racing home to the Saint Stephen’s in-the-Field Vestry meeting.

I’d have lot more time in my life if I didn’t work two jobs – one by day at the Search Engine That Starts With A G, and one by night as a science fiction author – and so things pile up. By the time GDC rolled around I was already worn thin working and prepping my novel, and then after the drive up and back each day I was totally exhausted, so at the end of each day I’d just feed the cats and crash.

So this morning, I got up, earlier this time, in more than enough time to make the first talk … and said, “screw it.”

What a relieved feeling! Felt like the best decision that I’d made in a long time. I cleaned house, did laundry, played with the cats … and then popped open the work laptop around the time I’d normally LEAVE for work and worked for a few hours. Yes, that’s right … I took a break from my vacation to work. Not that I want to, but there are things that need to get done that take a lot of “wall clock” time but not lots of programming time, so I answered some email, submitted a changelist, fired off a Mapreduce …

… and then took a two hour nap on the futon in the library with a cat on my chest.

It was a pretty good day … so far. And it isn’t over yet.

-the Centaur

ok i decide to go out now u wait for me ok

Pictured: the two-laptop setup I use to keep my work and writing life distinct (just change the cables to give a different computer the main monitor) and Gabby, my very most computer literate cat.