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Java Programming Games

IEEE Introduces Mario Level-Generation Competition 114

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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  • Asshole Mario (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) <> on Saturday April 24, 2010 @08:15PM (#31970444)
    I fear the day when the singularity occurs and we peons are forced to play machine generated levels like this this [] for the amusement of our robotic overlords.
  • Re:Done (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday April 24, 2010 @08:37PM (#31970566) Journal

    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.

    I'm not so sure I agree with you. I usually don't agree with people who oversell AI but I'm going to have to claim that Braid could be coded to generate levels -- albeit a bland start you could start to think of the kinds of interleaved time relative solutions necessary on each level and mimic them in your procedural content generation to vary them and even combine them randomly.

    Difficult? Yes. Impossible? I don't think so.

    IEEE is smart for picking this as an AI competition. All other famous AI (like beating The Turing Test or video analysis) is so very hard and computationally expensive. A competition involving them would be nothing more than babies crawling. So why not do something more hands on and pragmatic?

    If you can stomach ads, here's a decent list of games that use procedurally derived content []. Check out Eufloria [] where the music, art and levels are all procedurally generated. I think that has a free demo on Steam []. While the PCG wiki isn't the greatest, it's a good starting point [] if you want to get into this IEEE thing.

  • Re:Asshole Mario (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Peach Rings ( 1782482 ) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @09:05PM (#31970706) Homepage

    I think those japanese mario world hacks are just so cool. They're a triumph of hacker ingenuity.

    In case you didn't know, the tools for making custom mario world levels were created by disassembling the data from the game ROM (ex this []) and documenting exactly what offsets corresponded to which parts of the levels, and exactly which values correspond to which enemies, exactly how sprites are stored and animated, etc. People have contributed tools for encoding custom music into the machine code, making custom graphics palettes, and custom overworlds. A lot of this stuff is far from just documenting the data formats; from what I know about it, the overworld was particularly tricky since there are multiple sprite layers, lots of animation, lots of panning around to separately-stored areas, custom movement code, and different views depending on your progress (like butter bridge appearing), all in a completely opaque binary format!

    It's a shame that this kind of thing would be totally impossible with current games. Lots of games do have excellent mod support (particularly Valve's games and the Unreal Tournament series), but some don't, and today's 50MB game executables would be impenetrable. :(

  • Random Levels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @09:12PM (#31970738)

    I've been saying this for years! Random level generation in first person shooters, racers, and platformers doesn't seem terribly complex to me. Why hasn't anyone introduced this into a game yet?

    To expand on it, random levels in first person shooters could also be changing during game play so that the 'round' never resets and the game continues endlessly. Any time a zone is unoccupied it could be redrawn. Or divide the map into a grid and randomly load the grid spaces with pre-designed sections, then when a section is free of players load a new section. The map will be constantly changing and the environment will be challenging. I believe this would effectively eliminate campers who memorize the best spots on maps and just hang out there the whole game.

  • I've played CIV and enjoyed it, but I can't play it more than once every six months or so. It's just not interesting to me to repeat the same fundamental operations over and over again.

    I like story games like GTA IV (just started ballad of gay tony) but I also play Freeciv and AlphaC compulsively. I'm not super amazing, though, for example, I just beat a game of AlphaC on Librarian level (still a couple from the hardest) in the last ten turns of the game. Incidentally, while you can play these games on maps which represent real places, the scale of the games is totally unrealistic anyway, so why bother? The randomly generated maps add very much to the game. They teach us that your starting position on the globe is very important, as if we didn't know; but it teaches it at a visceral level, which I find to be one of the primary benefits of video gaming. For example, when I had my 1989 240SX I used to obsessively use it in every racing game in which it was available, and given that street racing games were fairly ubiquitous at the time, it was not difficult. When I took it to Fort Bragg (and environs) I was making a very easy turn in wet weather, with good rubber, but some leaf slime on the road caused me to begin fishtailing (this was before I got a limited slip.) This was before I got into performance driving of the vehicle and installed race suspension and what not, but I was able to instinctively correct for the slide because I had developed reflexes. It is said that visualization is as effective as practice, when an activity is visualized correctly, so this should come as no surprise.

    So the idea that you'll get extra replayability out of random generation of levels is completely false. You'll get a random experience which has no information content behind it. It'll be valueless except as a reaction test.

    I think it's most applicable to competitive games. Super Smash Bros. for example. Or, taking that to a logical conclusion, levels for FPS deathmatch. One of the great frustrations of a new player is that the old hands know the maps well, and you spend a lot of time getting ambushed. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to generate deathmatch maps procedurally?

  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @10:50AM (#31974450) Homepage

    Back in the 80's, there was an air-combat game. Think it might've been F15-Strike Eagle...which included the concept of random missions in which you were sent out to hit one random air target and one random ground target for each mission.

    Back in the 90's there was EF2000, a flight sim that included a dynamic campaign that could simulate a complete war. All missions where automatically generated, but they weren't random, they matched the current state of the war. You could even see friend and foe flying around on their missions, while you are flying around on yours. The world was 'alive' and it was the most friggin amazing thing ever.

    Random is boring when it has no logic behind it and thus no story to tell or play. When random on the other side means a dynamic evolving world that itself becomes the storyteller it can be the most fantastic thing ever, because the game will stop feeling like a serious of script triggers and instead feel like a real world. My problem with todays games is that they simply feel like a roller coaster ride, it looks fun and exciting, but if you have played games for a while it all just looks fake.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta