Category: Review

Jetpack Joyride

I’ve been a game player for many years, although these days don’t have the time to sit down for hours at end in front of an XBox or PC, so now my gaming is limited to game ‘snacks’ generally on my iPhone.  This is a trend is causing a fair amount of turmoil in the games industry, as the large development houses who employ hundreds of designers, programmers and testers to build large games are finding that gamers are moving to mobile and social games and taking their revenue with them.

Mobile and social games are competing in a crowded marketplace, and have to reduce development costs to a minimum in order to survive.  A hugely successful way of doing this is to make use of PCG to develop game infinite game content, another is to get the players to generate their own content for friends (more on this another day).

A great example of PCG in games is Halfbrick Studios Jetpack Joyride, available on the Apple App Store.

The player has managed to steal a jetpack from a secret development facility, and needs to find a way out.  In this case there are a number of hazards including rockets, zappers and laser beams, however rather than these being placed by a human designer in increasing difficulty, the game itself decides when and where to introduce the dangers based upon a number of rulesets.  While this could become repetitive, the game developers have made use of fast pacing, a quick restart, a variety of powerups, varying challenges and in game currency to keep players interested.

As independent game studios are on the increase I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of PCG content on mobile and social gaming platforms.

Computer games represent a vast number of artificial intelligence routines, and many people are attracted to the video games industry as the ultimate creative and technical software challenge.  While the computer game industry is very competitive and as such most of the technical development experience doesn’t make it into the public domain, occasionally people like to give something back to help out others.

There are a number of online resources for this, including GamaSutra (the art of making games), AIGameDev (run by Alex, a very chilled and wise guy), AI Wisdom and others, the games industry does have a regular magazine called, obviously, Game Developer.

In order to get a picture of the state of the art in Game Development, a quick review of the last few years Game Developer magazines, looking for articles relating to Procedurally Generated Content or Virtual Agents.

  • December 2004, page 40, optimizing pathfinding at low levels
  • June 2006, page 30, blob physics
  • December 2007, page 16, Multi User Dungeons & MMO’s
  • Feb 2008, page 16, creating waves in game
  • March 2008, page 32 – MapZone, creating procedural textures
  • April 2008, Page 36, Intelligent Mistakes, AI
  • September 2008, page 48, Game economies
  • March 2009, page 14 – Using particle systems for terrain modeling.  Basic concept is like comets hitting the earth
  • June/July 2009, page 14 – Procedurally Generated Content in space games
  • August 2009, Page 40 – Procedurally Generated flowers
  • September 2009, page 7, building worlds with voxels (3d pixels)
  •  Feb 2010, Page 40, Procedurally Generated Content
  •  Feb 2010, page 48, Procedurally Generated plants, trees and models
  •  August 2010, Page 8, how to build social games
  •  January 2011, Page 48, techniques for better AI
  •  Feb 2011, page 24, interview about Minecraft, a breathtaking use of procedurally created worlds
  •  April 2011, page 21 – Procedurally Generated Content with Minecraft and perlin noise
  •  Career Guide Fall 2011, page 12 – Useful path finding techniques
  •  August 2011, page 6 – random generation of structures

Apologies for not putting in any more context, however if you’re interested then you’ll know where to go to find out more…