Procedural Content Generation – Audiosurf

One concept which has been in focus in game AI research is procedural content generation. What it means is, generation of gameplay objects and environment dynamically based on user actions and inputs. This includes from things like changing story based on user action or the topology of the environment based on time of the year. More information of this here.

One of the games, which applies PCG to a large extent is audiosurf. In the game you have to surf your ship through the course while avoiding the hurdles in the way. The path you travel, speed of travel and the obstacles are generated using the beats of a song which you can select before starting to play the game. The is available on Steam, I encourage all of you to definitely try out the free demo. See video below.


Board Games- From boards to tablets

With the rise of online casual gaming and mobile gaming, board games have lost their value for the casual gamer. However, some of the board games have excellent design and hence been very successful in their times. Now companies like EA are bringing back big board game titles onto the tablets (primarily iPad). There are a myriad of board games which have been ported to the iPad but some of the most popular ones include, the Game of Life, Boggle and BattleShip. A more detailed list of games and gameplay can be found here and here.

Rule of Three

Three is an important number. It is a part of a pattern used in stories, plays, game scripts, narration and even design. It is interesting to see how important this number is in the world around us.

How many elements does the game, rock,paper scissors have? What would happen if I added an additional element of a gun with the rock paper and scissors? Could you think of a potential problem? Lets see more, how many stooges were there? or Blind Mice? Does the term “omne trium perfectum” make sense now?

Three creates progressive tension which is then built up and finally released. More references can be found here and here.

Facebook Timeline

I am sure most of you are already aware of the facebook timeline feature. It basically is a significant change in the design of a your homepage and also gives your friends the option of going through your old posts and activity which is logged from the time you have started using facebook.

Though promised in September, the timeline feature has not been enforced for all users but only for the developers who chose to do it. It has just rolled out in New Zealand for all users. More info here. If you have not switched over yet here is the link with instructions. Wait! Before you go on, here are some interesting security implications which might interest you.

Consort- An augmented reality based game

During Spring 2010, I had a chance to work under Dr. Blair MacIntyre in the HAR class. One of the games I built in the class was an augmented reality based combat game. Basically, the mechanics of the game were: The camera(controller) will the an aerial body which will oversee a ship going from a point A to B. During this travel, many enemy ships will come and circle around the mother ship shooting at it. The goal is to ensure that the mother ship reaches from the point A to B with minimum health remaining. The user can also repair the ship by solving a small mini game. Check out the video!!


Electronic Arts- The big studio now gets bigger

EA has been one of the biggest and arguably the most successful studios in console and PC gaming. It has been around for long and has produced some great titles like the FIFA series, NFL, NFS etc. EA initially started to get its hand dirty with an in house social gaming team, with games like The Sims on facebook which is infact been quite popular. The realm of social gaming has been expanding exponentially.

Last quarter EA bought out one of the biggest social and online gaming studios, PopCap Games for $750M. The acquisition is completed and now PopCap is fully owned by EA. More info can be found here.

This month, EA bought of the fastest growing facebook games company KlickNation for $35M. Details of this acquisition can be found here.

Seems like this giant is growing bigger by the quarter. I say go Zynga!!

Multiplayer for Mobile games

Multiplayer gaming has been around for a long time. But multiplayer gaming has still not taken off for mobile gaming. The main reason for this hurdle is the performance of gaming over the network. Except Apple Inc., no other company has been successfully been able to overcome this hurdle. Apple introduced the Game Center, which basically allows users to play with different users in the vicinity. So still, even though it makes multiplayer better, there is a limitation of being on the same network.

Companies like OpenFeint and PapayaMobile have been able to introduce frameworks using which developers can now build games allowing the users to socially interact with each other. Recently, an Israel based company, Nextpeer is involved in the development of a framework which will allow users to compete against each other in real time. This will be great news for mobile gamers! More info can be found here.

Persistant to “Eventually Persistent”

Social gaming requires a large amount of data to be stored on the server side as most of the future game design decisions depend of the user data crunching. Zynga is one of the biggest social gaming companies with over millions of users for each game. Storing that amount of data is a big deal, and persisting it at the same time can be a large overhead.

Zynga uses a concept of “eventual persistence” in which a layer of cache is added, in this case memcache, where all the data gets stored. This layer is more robust than usual cache layers. This data can be persisted for long times in this cache layer and then is transferred to the database servers in one pass. More details of the structure of backend of Zynga engineering can be found here.

HTML5 in Mobile Gaming

So after porting a lot of games to native mobile platforms, Zynga finally moved to HTML5. In my personal opinion, it was high time that they shift their focus from flash based games to HTML5. Zynga poker has been implemented using HTML5, websockets and CSS3. The best part is, they have made their framework open as a github project. Check out more here.