Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Category: Video Games(Page 1 of 38)

My Book About Pokémon GO is Available Now

The Unofficial Pokémon GO Tracker's Guide: Finding the Rarest Pokémon and Strangest PokéStops on the Planet

The Unofficial Pokémon GO Tracker’s Guide: Finding the Rarest Pokémon and Strangest PokéStops on the Planet

Pokémon GO took the world by storm this year by providing an AR experience that Pokémon lovers have wanted forever. Accordingly, this past summer Page Two Books asked if I wanted to write a book on the game. Instantly I said yes!

Pokémon GO is all about getting out into the world and exploring it, so I decided to celebrate that part of the game in the book. Throughout The Unofficial Pokémon Go Tracker’s Guide I provide the strangest and best places to play the game. Think about it as a sort of tour book to take your Pokemon GO playing to the next level.

Inside The Unofficial Pokémon Go Tracker’s Guide you’ll find places around the world that will add to your Pokemon GO experience. Thanks to my travels around the world I used my personal experiences to choose the niftiest PokeStops and gyms. You’ll also find stories about how some people have expressed their joy around Pokemon GO in novel ways!

Much more than a player’s guide, The Unofficial Pokémon Go Tracker’s Guide takes you on an epic journey to all the weird and wonderful places Pokémon appear across the planet — from the Pentagon to Iceland’s Westfjords to Frankenstein Castle — and shows how everyday players are taking the world’s greatest, most exciting treasure hunt by storm.

Uncover secrets of the player community in this one-of-a-kind, visually striking guide. Experience infamous and obscure PokéStops first-hand through the eyes (and screens) of real-life Pokémon GO players — just like you! See how players congregate at bustling Central Park to capture a care Vaporeon and kayak to the middle of New Zealand’s breathtaking Oriental Bay to claim an undiscovered PokéGym. Learn about PoGo yarn bombing, moth research, mountain climbing, and other quirky elements of the world’s favorite game.

Where to buy

You can get the book now at any of the following stores:

  • Amazon
  • Amazon Canada
  • Indigo
  • It is also sold in Walmart, Costco, Shopper’s Drug Mart, select Loblaws, American Urban Outfitters, Barnes and Noble, and chain and independent stores around the world.

A Game About Game Ideas

My most recent game is out and you can get it now for iOS and Android! Game Design Improv is all about generating and pitching game ideas!

gamedesignimprovlogo

You can play it as a fun party game or use it to generate game ideas for your own purposes (as in for games you’re making). Inspired partly by Oblique Strategies, the game will help you conquer and creative difficulties you may have! Ok, maybe not all of them – but some. At the very least it can be used to get you out of whatever the equivalent is of a writer’s block for a game designer.

Game Design Improv screen

It’s an evolution of my One Game a Month game of the same name which I made two years ago(!). Indeed you can see the previous version and the most recent version in the screenshots below. It’s obvious the impact good art direction can have, and for that I must thank Samet Choudhury.

Original version of the game idea game

Original version of the game idea game

Game Design Improv screen of game ideas

Game Design Improv

From Wero Creative.

Generate game ideas like never before!

Have fun competing with others to create the best (or just hilarious) game idea! You can also use it on your own for some fun last-minute game jam ideas.

Game Design Improv is a digitized game design exercise which I use to quickly produce ideas for games in all forms. It’s all about quickly creating game ideas based on limited information in a fun way.

Use it to come up with ideas for:
– Video Games
– Escape Games
– Board Games
– Puzzle Games
– Any other games!

The way to play it is to use what’s presented on the screen in a short ~1 minute game pitch. Keep it quick and it works as a fun, quick, useful activity.

This started at Board Game Jam and has evolved into this app you see in front of you now. You really should download it as there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Wero Creative wants you to make games! Do whatever you want with the ideas you generate from this app – no restrictions!

Game Design Improv screen of game ideas

Get it now on iOS and Android!

Artificial Intelligence in Relation to Games

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been said by many to bring us a utopia and, now more frequently, a dystopia. Regardless of where research into AI takes us we’ll be seeing the benefits in games in multiple ways. AIs are not new to games and have been used in games for a long time, what’s more is that a good way to test AIs is to use games.

In the 90s an IBM computer beat a world champion chess player and that was impressive at the time. A chess AI can be programmed relatively easy since there’s a set way to play (basically look at all possible moves of a set and pick the best one).

DeepMind

A Game like go is harder to program for and as a result was deemed to be a triumphant challenge for programmers to create a program that can beat a human (the quantity of what needs to be coded for is huge). Last month, Google’s DeepMind beat a top-tier European go player.

Instead of programming for every possible move like in Deep Blue, Google let their program learn on its own. “AlphaGo was not preprogrammed to play Go: rather, it learned using a general-purpose algorithm that allowed it to interpret the game’s patterns, in a similar way to how a DeepMind program learned to play 49 different arcade games.” This is striking because it’s a leap in how we make AIs that play games. We just toss the AI at the game and hope it learns what to do – just like we do with human players.

To hear more about the future of DeepMind watch this lecture by Demis Cassabas (founder of DeepMind) about the future and capabilities of artificial intelligence.

Challenges for DeepMind’s Artificial Intelligence

Does DeepMind seem too good to be true to you? It’s probably because the annoucnemtn around how it beat the go player is a big claim. Gary Marcus deconstructs the advancement and looks at the challenges AlphaGo (and AI in general) needs to still overcome.

But not so fast. If you read the fine print (or really just the abstract) of DeepMind’s Nature article, AlphaGo isn’t a pure neural net at all — it’s a hybrid, melding deep reinforcement learning with one of the foundational techniques of classical AI — tree-search, invented by Minsky’s colleague Claude Shannon a few years before neural networks were ever invented (albeit in more modern form), and part and parcel of much his students’ early work.

What’s more is that AI still hasn’t reached a level of knowledge and reasoning to deal with questions that require multiple contexts. Indeed, a recent test concluded that present AIs can’t beat an 8th grader.

The Allen Institute’s science test includes more than just trivia. It asks that machines understand basic ideas, serving up not only questions like “Which part of the eye does light hit first?” but more complex questions that revolve around concepts like evolutionary adaptation. “Some types of fish live most of their adult lives in salt water but lay their eggs in freshwater,” one question read. “The ability of these fish to survive in these different environments is an example of [what]?”

These were multiple-choice questions—and the machines still couldn’t pass, despite using state-of-the-art techniques, including deep neural nets. “Natural language processing, reasoning, picking up a science textbook and understanding—this presents a host of more difficult challenges,” Etzioni says. “To get these questions right requires a lot more reasoning.”

It’s only a matter of time until the AI teams get from the 8th grade to high school then to the university level.

How does this relate to games though? With smarter AI comes we will get better bots in games and we’ll see that making NPCs will get easier.

Developing a Unified AI Framework

This month Firas Safadi, Raphael Fonteneau, and Damien Ernst published a paper in the International Journal of Computer Games Technology about how we ought to think about AI in games. They argue that we need a unified framework for dealing with AI development and deployment in games.

Their paper, Artificial Intelligence in Video Games: Towards a Unified Framework, is worth a read and will undoubtedly shape how we think about AI in games for years to come. Think about the possibility that game engines will ship with a suite of default AI behaviours that can be easily modified by non-coders.

Here’s the abstract:

With modern video games frequently featuring sophisticated and realistic environments, the need for smart and comprehensive agents that understand the various aspects of complex environments is pressing. Since video game AI is often specifically designed for each game, video game AI tools currently focus on allowing video game developers to quickly and efficiently create specific AI. One issue with this approach is that it does not efficiently exploit the numerous similarities that exist between video games not only of the same genre, but of different genres too, resulting in a difficulty to handle the many aspects of a complex environment independently for each video game. Inspired by the human ability to detect analogies between games and apply similar behavior on a conceptual level, this paper suggests an approach based on the use of a unified conceptual framework to enable the development of conceptual AI which relies on conceptual views and actions to define basic yet reasonable and robust behavior. The approach is illustrated using two video games, Raven and StarCraft: Brood War.

Practicing Good Level Design

Level design is a key part of game design because it forms what the player has to do and the environment in which the player performs. The look and the feel of a level can change how a player plays and how immersed the player feels, because of this level design ought to be consciously thought through with intent.

If any of the material below gets you more interested in level design you can keep on researching. There are links below to good GDC Vault presentations. Another great resource for level designers is Level-Design.org.

Conceptual approaches to level design:

“Spaces like identities are constructed.” Is the summation of the this video and it’s worth watching!

Level Design Histories and Futures
Robert Yang examines how level design tools and techniques have evolved over the years. Towards the end he argues that we ought to use architecture terms to talk about levels (I agree!). The talk finishes at the end looking into possible futures of level designs.

Tips from level designers:

AAA Level Design in a Day Bootcamp

Gain deep insights into the level design process for our industry’s biggest games, including Gears of War, Bioshock, and Skyrim in this intense day-long tutorial, moderated by Coray Seifert. The most respected voices in level design weigh in on all aspects of their craft, engage with attendees via numerous Q&A sessions, and offer a once-in-a-career opportunity: a mock interview with a panel of the most veteran level designers in the business.

Don’t Juice It or Lose It

Gradients on limited palettes, dust clouds kicked up in places where there is no dust, bouncy tweens on hard rocks — through the idea that adding polish makes a game feel more alive, we’re actually losing a level of immersion. There has been such a tremendous focus on putting eye candy in our games that the context doesn’t get considered.

Galak-Z: Forever: Building Space-Dungeons Organically

While there exists a myriad of well-documented algorithms for generating procedural content, the combination and usage of these techniques is far more of an art than a science, and one that’s inherently unique to each game project. In this talk, lead engineer Zach Aikman will discuss a few different failed approaches before presenting a detailed breakdown of Galak-Z’s dungeon generator, including its usage of some unorthodox math, and his thoughts on the proper balance between hand-crafted and procedural content.

Jobye Carmaker works at Ubisoft and has made a ton of levels. On his blog he reflects on some key things that he takes into consideration when making levels. He tries to use assets in creative ways to ensure a playable experience while adding texture, narrative, and more to each level.

Imperfection – This is a tenant I’ve carried with me ever since our very first high-level Art Direction meeting with Scott Lee. One of the art pillars of Splinter Cell: Blacklist was Imperfection. That’s something that applies whether you’re making something for a war-torn map, an abandoned warehouse or a perfectly pristine government facility or private estate. Nothing in life is ever really perfect. There’s always some sort of imperfection whether it be in its placement, its shape, its material quality (this is where you get a lot of your imperfections for ‘clean’ environments), etc.

Multiplayer level design:

Community Level Design for Competitive CS:GO

This talk will focus on the subtle aspects of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive level design which have proven critical to creating a successful, popular, and well-designed experience for professional players and those aspiring to become professional players. Designing levels for Counter-Strike: GO is illustrative of broader challenges in multiplayer game design. For instance, Counter-Strike levels should always reward players and teams for skillful play, while at the same time providing ample opportunities for individual and team creativity.

Ben Burkart reveals eight secrets of multiplayer maps over at 80 Level. It’s good series of tips to keep in mind when making multiplayer experiences.

It is always important to have a goal and purpose for your level, deciding this early on should influence how you make decisions regarding layout/visuals/balancing through every step of your levels creation. When preparing to design your level you should have a clear indication as to what kind of visual theme you are going for as it should influence your layout as well as allow you to get the right assets together or to get a better idea of what kind of assets you are going to need.

Just for fun:

A fast level design exercise making a medieval inn:

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