Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Sites 61

The last Sunday Sites I posted was back in May, supposed to be a weekly feature, that was thrown out of schedule due to a crazy amount of real-life obligations I had to attend to over the summer. June brought a necessary hiatus due to reforms at school and July was spent in Santa Cruz making games. So, thus, here comes a massive posting. Have fun Halo 2600, a retro demake of Halo: Combat Evolved done as if it were released on the Atari 2600. Cyberbullying and the involvement of schools in out-of-school affairs. Many of the world’s richest pledge the greater portion of their wealth to charity new research on the POSITIVE effects of violent video games Nerd camps: something that we can use a lot more of Sure, it is a choking hazard, but an awesome one nonetheless. Nintendo should license this for their marketing of Donkey Kong Country: Returns Kantian Ethics + Video Games = Badass intellectuallery In a surprising turn of events, a high-school valedictorian speaks out against traditional forms of schooling, holding sentiments similar to that of Savio and the FSM. Ten reasons why 4chan is the most intellectual site on the web. Why Portal is the most subversive game ever, is filled with good content of both internet silliness and online intellectualism Speaking of 4chan, a lot of awesome stuff happens there. Like this.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Facade and Procedurally Generated NPC Responses

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of meeting Michael Mateas with COSMOS. Mateas is an associate professor in computer science charged with running the Expressive Intelligence Studio, a lab where research in dynamically generated content is preformed. His field of study specializes in advanced AI, furthering advances in autonomous characters and interactive storytelling. The product of the EIS’s research is Facade, a stellar piece of experimental software years ahead of today’s perception of interactivity.

facade screencap  Facade falls outside of the currently recognized aesthetics in contemporary game design. The player can move around the environment and interact with objects in the first person, but most important is the player’s relationship to Facade’s two NPC characters. This is where the game’s innovative experimentation shines.
All of the NPC’s animations and dialogue is procedurally generated in real-time. Unlike Bioware’s prerendered dialogue trees, Mateas assigns values to words that the player inputs to generate animated character models and return NPC dialogue. Trip and Grace (Facade’s NPCs) are fully voice acted using pre-recorded “snippets” of dialogue, these snippets are strung together within the program to produce grammatically correct and cogent sentences. These procedurally generated NPC reactions are nearly indistinguishable from pre-rendered reactions. Thus, Facade’s experimental AI is highly advanced and years above commercial AI. While it is not far removed from existing AI chatterbots, the integration of natural language simulation into a game-like scenario

Nonetheless, Facade’s 2005 technology still has its flaws. Several minutes into play, I encountered a situation where I input something that the AI couldn’t respond to (but again, not a lot of people know about The Game, even fewer AI chatterbots). Facade managed to cover up this hole well, the NPCs would say “what?” or “pardon” to these inputs. Procedural animation and 3D character modeling also looks primitive to modern pre-rendered animation and models. At certain times, characters would become horribly disfigured spontaneously. But given the experimental nature of these advances, such flaws are forgivable and Facade wholeheartedly succeeds at what it is meant to convey.

012208-0339-masseffect1 With the mainstream success of Heavy Rain, a PS3 interactive narrative powered by controller input rather than artificial intelligence, it is safe to say that future games will have this type of NPC interaction. Advances in voice recognition technologies could bring this type of interaction to home console games that lack keyboard input. WRPG games would be especially benefited by autonomous AI. BioWare and Bethesda games have been holding a similar brand of NPC interaction for years, albeit with pre-written inputs and scripted responses. Should procedural animation and dialogue technologies continue to advance to appear in commercial, mainstream games, the industry effect would be amazing The use of autonomous AI in commercial games will make gaming more immersive, emotionally meaningful and artistically relevant than ever before.

Facade can be downloaded for free at, you’ll need a BitTorrent client to download it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We Did It!!

After an eight month long trial regarding the constitutionality of proposition eight, banning same-sex marriage in California, Judge Vaughn Walker has given his decision upon months of testimony and research.

Proposition 8 will be overturned.

This is a victory for marriage equality, California will join the six other states where homosexual couples can wed under the same protections as heterosexual couples.

Walker wrote in his ruling: “Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples”

Nonetheless, this ruling has already created a massive backlash throughout the internet (just look at those comments!). Religious invective is ever-present on discussion threads. People justify their superiority over homosexuals by quoting Biblical text at surface level. Needless to say, America as a nation is not to be governed from an Militant Christian point of view, but an universal and all-inclusive one. By letting faith, rather than reason, be the sole motivator for voter decisions, one alienates all his fellow Americans that do not share his view.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Way back in January, I posted a link to the Prop 8 Trial Tracker. A website with a live feed of the trial regarding the legitimacy of the passing of prop 8. Well, guess what. The trial has finally drawn to a close. The result of the trial will be broadcasted tomorrow, so stay tuned to for the latest. I am fairly hopeful that the trial will create a favorable result, repealing an unethical law passed out of uninformed ignorance.

Pray and hope for the best, at this point, that’s the most we can do.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tactile Cave!!! (v. 0.9)

Well, for the last month, only one blog post was uploaded to this site. I was out for the entire month at an academic summer camp named COSMOS (California State Summer School for Math and Science) taking a game development class. Learning the Processing programming language, I was able to put together the embedded game.

In San Francisco, there is a children’s science museum named the “Exploratorium” in the Palace of Fine Arts. Within, there is an attraction named the “Tactile Dome”, which is an indoor maze left completely unlit. Visitors must rely on their sense of touch to move about the maze to the end. This game was heavily inspired by this attraction, featuring three levels of dark, tactile goodness.

The game is still in an semi-complete state. Win conditions, death, movement and all the necessities of gameplay are present and functional and the code is completely bug-free. However, subsequent revisions will add enhanced graphics and animation.

EDIT: I am having difficulty embedding the game into this blog. You can play it here.