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Java Programming Games

IEEE Introduces Mario Level-Generation Competition 114

Posted by timothy
from the so-they-hate-employment dept.
bgweber writes "Last year, the IEEE conference on Computational Intelligence and Games hosted a competition to determine who could write the best AI for playing Mario levels (YouTube video). This year, the conference has expanded the competition to include a track on level generation as well, where the goal is to generate new levels online procedurally. Submitting an entry is as easy as implementing a Java interface that performs procedural content generation. The implications of this competition are techniques for greatly increasing the replayability of games, since each gameplay session could present new levels to the player."
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IEEE Introduces Mario Level-Generation Competition

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  • Done (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gpf2 (1609755) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @08:08PM (#31970390)
    Congratulations adventurer! Your quest is at an end for you have reached the home of NetHack.
  • Re:Done (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bluesatin (1350681) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @08:26PM (#31970512)

    For some games randomly generated levels work, but for a lot of games it just means un-inspired bland levels most of the time.

    It might work for some games like Mario; but even in the relatively simple genre of 2D scrollers there are some examples of where it wouldn't work, take Braid for example.

  • Re:Problems... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2010 @09:01PM (#31970686)

    Randomly generated dungeons are fine and generally fun because the entire point is to explore. Randomly generated Mario levels are going to be more frustrating than anything else because the AI is going to have very little knowledge of difficulty let alone themes and re-playability.

    Umm...I think you might be missing the point of this track of competition. It is a given that haphazard Mario levels would not be fun to plan. Developing algorithms that randomly create fun levels is a difficult problem. Test players will play these levels and rank them. Chances are, there will be some generators that consistently create fun levels, while others will consistently create boring levels. It may be difficult to anticipate the subjective tastes of the testers, but that just adds to the challenge.

  • Re:Do not want... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2010 @09:06PM (#31970714)

    Map based mario games is a lot easier once you memorized every level, hence "in the know". The dick-measuring gets real when you have to play against "new" level each time around. Suddenly you can sift REAL gamers with good eye-muscle coordination that determined to beat the game from gamers who "in the know" because daddy just bought him/her this cool game magazine with mario level maps in it.

    To me this level-generating is a good thing because it allows re-playability which sorely lacking in games nowadays.

  • Re:Problems... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2010 @09:17PM (#31970760)

    . . . Chances are, there will be some generators that consistently create fun levels, while others will consistently create boring levels. . . .

    I doubt it. It's kind of like those automated music generators (Microsoft Song Smith). They output something passable, but far from the cream of the crop that a good playable level requires.

    Okay. Let's tweak it a little: Chances are, there will be some generators that consistently create relatively fun levels, while others will consistently create relatively boring levels. Remember, this isn't a competition of man vs. machine. It is a competition of machine vs. machine. Only the entertainment value of one computer-generated level compared to other computer-generated levels has to be taken into consideration.

  • by oldhack (1037484) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @10:31PM (#31971034)
    Hehe, don't you wish you majored in EE? ;-) Pay sucks, lifestyle blows, but... actually, not much but there.
  • Re:Problems... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @10:55PM (#31971142)
    So the point of this entire competition is to lower the quality of our titles for the simple reason of saving development money? That sounds like the typical crap that companies get grilled for here on slashdot. The point is that the fun in mario lies in it's very carefully designed levels. The ability to do all sorts of cool things if you get your timing right, and even more importantly these cool things are hidden in a way that players will often stumble upon them or discover them with very subtle visual queues which may be different for every level. This type of level development may work for many games where the point was never about careful level design (like the Worms series) however Mario is solely propped up by the level design. There's no decent story, no plot development, nothing but the fun of finding out every tiny quirk in the carefully designed level.
  • Re:Done (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twidarkling (1537077) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @11:28PM (#31971236)

    For some games randomly generated levels work, but for a lot of games it just means un-inspired bland levels most of the time.

    I'd go so far as to say randomly generated levels don't work for *most* games. The problem with no level being human-crafted, and there being infinite variation is that, ironically, all the levels start feeling same-y. The big "watch it work" example is usually Diablo I/II. I admit, I probably played those for hundreds of hours *each.* But in doing so, basically developed a sixth sense in the basics of how levels were created. In any randomly generated area, I could, with about 80% accuracy, find both the exit and any waypoint straight away. No false turns, no fleshing out the mini-map, nothing. A procedurally generated environment in a platformer needs to play it even safer, so as to not create any areas that are literally beyond the capabilities of the player. With added limitations come fewer options, so how many times would you need to play in order to start recognizing "okay, two pipes is followed by a pit with an elevator I need to ride up to get on top of a block-cliff." Once you start recognizing individual elements, then it really doesn't matter how the level's put together, and it stops being fun any more, just like a human-designed level that was put together, only now if you run a course you really liked, you probably won't have an option to replay it.

  • Re:Done (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @11:57PM (#31971372)

    Dwarf fortress:
    The geography/politics/history/characters and some of the creatures are all procedurally generated on the fly.

    And that game regularly produces interesting worlds and stories of massive scale.

  • Re:Random Levels (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @11:01AM (#31974546)

    In the case of first person shooters and online gaming, people often gravitate to a select few maps.

    When you're starting, you don't know any maps and will simply play what everyone else is playing. And once you've become familiar with these maps, you prefer them, because playing an unfamiliar one would put you at a disadvantage compared to playing a familiar one.

    Switching up levels on the fly can be interesting for certain situations but disruptive in games that have high replay value with select few and well known maps.

    Making every play happen in a different level is a great idea precisely because it disrupts tactics that take advantage of level bugs, such as camping next to respawn points. It also adds new gameplay elements, such as exploration, which in turn makes a fast but weak scout a viable character, and ambushes, because you can't just memorize every possible location.

    Besides, changing the focus from route learning a coreography into quickly adapting to new situations is hardly going to make the game have less replay value. And, for that matter, why do you think that games like Mario have so many different levels, rather than just repeat a few with more enemies? It's precisely because it's fun to encounter something you haven't before. It's the premise such small franchises as Fallout, GTA and Elder Scrolls are built on. Seems to be working just fine for them.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990

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