Handy Vandal's Almanac

Resources for Game Designers

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Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch

Mega Man 8-Bit DeathmatchMy friend Tom recommends Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch, a free project created by CutmanMike and Team MM8BDM who consist of hardcore fans of Capcom’s classic Mega Man series. Powered by the Zandronum engine, this retro styled first person shooter is designed around the look and feel of the 8-bit Mega Man games.

Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch is a free project created by CutmanMike and Team MM8BDM who consist of hardcore fans of Capcom’s classic Mega Man series. Powered by the Zandronum engine, this retro styled first person shooter is designed around the look and feel of the 8-bit Mega Man games. It includes every robot master as a playable skin, over 50 weapons and maps based off the original games, 32 player online play, a singleplayer botmatch campaign and much much more. If you’re a fan of online first person shooters or Mega Man, you simply have no excuse to not download and give Mega Man 8-bit Deathmatch a try today!

About MM8BDM

MM8BDM can be modified:

* Modification @ mm8bdm wiki: “As MM8BDM is created in Zandronum, it shares its extremely flexible modding capabilities. Creating your own levels, gameplay modifications, skins etc.”
* So you want to learn to map, eh? @ Cutstuff Forums

Zandronum is a source port of the Doom engine, which was originally used in the video game Doom:

Zandronum was first released as version 1.0 on August 24, 2012. Zandronum improved support up to 64 players online per server and introduced software rendering for 3D floors, previously an OpenGL-only feature in Skulltag. Zandronum runs on a huge number of PC architectures (including Windows, Linux and OSX) and comes with Doomseeker – A utility to browse for available servers in network, automatically download the required data packs (WADs) and start one’s own server. Zandronum’s most recent version is 3.0, released on September 7, 2017. [Source: Wikipedia]

Artificial intelligence finds surprising solution to Q*bert

Q*bertArtificial intelligence sometimes solves problems using solutions which surprise humans. I find this quality charming — menacing*, but charming.

The Verge reports: “A video game-playing AI beat Q*bert in a way no one’s ever seen before.”

[A] trio of machine learning researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany … were exploring a particular method of teaching AI agents to navigate video games (in this case, desktop ports of old Atari titles from the 1980s) when they discovered something odd. The software they were testing discovered a bug in the port of the retro video game Q*bert that allowed it to rack up near infinite points.

As the trio describe in [their] paper, published on pre-print server arXiv, the agent was learning how to play Q*bert when it discovered an “interesting solution.” Normally, in Q*bert, players jump from cube to cube, with this action changing the platforms’ colors. Change all the colors (and dispatch some enemies), and you’re rewarded with points and sent to the next level. The AI found a better way, though; the researchers report:

“First, it completes the first level and then starts to jump from platform to platform in what seems to be a random manner. For a reason unknown to us, the game does not advance to the second round but the platforms start to blink and the agent quickly gains a huge amount of points (close to 1 million for our episode time limit).”

The research paper: Back to Basics: Benchmarking Canonical Evolution Strategies for Playing Atari.

* By “menacing”, I mean real-world systems with life-and-death consequences — medical devices, weapons systems, etc. — not Q*bert.

Loot box legislation

Loot box from Overwatch.Loot boxes are subject to legislation in some countries; other countries are debating legislation.

What is a loot box? Wikipedia states:

In video games, a loot box (sometimes loot crate or prize crate, among other names) is a consumable virtual item which can be redeemed to receive a randomised selection of further virtual items, ranging from simple customization options for a player’s avatar or character, to game-changing equipment such as weapons and armor. A loot box is typically a form of monetisation, with players either buying the boxes directly or receiving the boxes during play and later buying “keys” with which to redeem them.

… Loot boxes are regulated under gambling law in China, Japan, Australia, and the Isle of Man and are the subject of investigations by the gambling regulators of several more countries. They have been criticised as being anti-consumer when implemented in full-priced games. They are a common source of the virtual items used in skin gambling.

[Source]

Recent news about loot box legislation:

[Image: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55508954]

Bio-reactors: converting waste into food

Someone should make a game about this:

Autoclavable bench-top laboratory bioreactor used for fermentation and cell culturesSpace scientists propose technology which converts human waste into food:

… A Penn State research team has shown that it is possible to rapidly break down solid and liquid waste to grow food with a series of microbial reactors, while simultaneously minimizing pathogen growth.

“We envisioned and tested the concept of simultaneously treating astronauts’ waste with microbes while producing a biomass that is edible either directly or indirectly depending on safety concerns,” said Christopher House, professor of geosciences, Penn State. “It’s a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo.'”

… They reported in Life Sciences in Space Research that they grew M. capsulatus that was 52 percent protein and 36 percent fats, making it a potential source of nutrition for astronauts.

… [The process is] “quite robust and fast and breaks down waste quickly,” said House. “That’s why this might have potential for future space flight. It’s faster than growing tomatoes or potatoes.”

[Source: Microbes may help astronauts transform human waste into food @ Pennsylvania State University]

I like the phrase “series of microbial reactors” — it suggests a series of challenges that the player must overcome — a microscopic Mario, jumping from microbe to microbe, rescuing wayward proteins, defeating evil pathogens, turning that waste into food so the astronauts can reach Mars (where they will continue to eat microbial goo).

[Image: Autoclavable bench-top laboratory bioreactor used for fermentation and cell cultures. By Miropiro, www.bioreactors.eu, www.bioreactor.ch, www.lambda-instruments.in – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29055211.]

The internal economics of a popular Minecraft server

Alice Maz Minecraft above cityAlice Maz writes about how she mastered the economics of Minecraft:

I started on my server with only a rudimentary knowledge of the game itself and ipso facto zero understanding of its economy. Within six months or so, I had perhaps as detailed a mental model of it as one could get. I knew the price ranges of most of the items in the game and everything that all of them were used for. I knew how common they were on the market, who the major sellers were, what their supply chains looked like. I knew how fast they sold through, whether the price was stable or tacking a certain way, and I had tons of theories on ways to play all this to get what I needed and turn a profit while doing it, and nearly all of them were sound. Most of it I didn’t even think about. I didn’t need to contemplate why, for instance, lumber was both cheaper and more common than it should be, such that I could buy it all and hold, force the price up, corner the market, and keep it that way. I just kind of… knew, and did it. It’s a wonderful feeling, weaving a system into your mind so tight that it’s hard to find the stitches after awhile. Highly recommended.

[minecraft]

Via Boing Boing:

Alice Maz was part of a small group of players who came to have near-total mastery over the internal economy of a popular Minecraft; Maz describes how her early fascination with the mechanics of complex multiplayer games carried over into an interest in economics and games, and that let her become a virtuoso player, and brilliant thinker, about games and economics.

Maz’s long, fascinating essay about her business ventures in Minecraft are a potted lesson in economics, one that shows where financial engineering actually does something useful (providing liquidity, matching supply and demand) and the places where it becomes nothing more than a predatory drag on the “real economy” of people making amazing things in Minecraft.

[The internal economics of a popular Minecraft server are an object lesson in everything great and terrible about markets]

Carrion: you are the alien blob monster

This looks like fun: in Carrion, you play an alien blob monster, hunting and devouring humans in a failing space colony.

Via Boing Boing:

In most examples of sci-fi horror, a desperate human protagonist must evade, hunt and vanquish the unspeakable alien creature. But what if you were a horrific amorphous nightmare blob, crawling around the red-cast darkness of a failing space colony in search of prey to devour?

This is the premise of Sebastian Krośkiewicz’s “Carrion”, and it looks amazing. Part John Carpenter’s Katamari Damacy, part Shoggoth simulator, all gore, the prototype animations depict a claustrophobic industrial scenario with our hero sliming and slorping around its terrified human victims.

It’s early days, by the looks of it …

See Sebastian Krośkiewicz’s Twitter page.

Algorithm Writes “Artspeak”

This has a playful spirit which may be of interest to game designers:

Istanbul-based artist Selçuk Artut has created a machine-learning algorithm which generates “Artspeak” — synthetic artist statements.

Molly Gottschalk has written an article about Artut. Excerpt:

The project has its roots in 2013, when Artut was writing his Ph.D. dissertation on the philosophies of Martin Heidegger, and found himself struggling to get through the philosopher’s difficult 1927 magnum opus, Being and Time. (One Amazon reviewer describes the book as ideas “buried beneath an impenetrable barrier of incomprehensible jargon.”)

But it wasn’t until this past summer when Artut, who often uses coding as a tool for his artistic practice, took online courses on machine learning and machine intelligence from Stanford University and became inspired to apply the technology to his work. He would, he decided, “teach the machine to think like Heidegger.”

Artut trained a computer with the text from Being and Time. The resulting algorithm formulates Heidegger’s words and ontological paradigms into three-sentence-long statements that sound all too similar to art world gibberish.

See:

* This New Algorithm Writes Perfect “Artspeak” By Molly Gottschalk
* selcukartut.com

Epic Games is suing me, says Caleb Rogers

Via Boing Boing: “Epic Games is suing a 14 year old for making a cheat tutorial and his brilliant mother is PISSED“:

Epic Games makes the wildly successful multiplayer free-to-play game Fortnite, which is the locus of a pitched battle between players and publisher over game-mods, especially cheat-hacks that give unfair advantage to some players.

A 14 year old boy named Caleb “Sky Orbit” Rogers made a video in which he demonstrated the use of one of these hacks. In response, the company sent Youtube a heavy-handed copyright takedown, claiming that capturing incidental footage of gameplay was a copyright violation, and that demonstrating the functionality of one of these aftermarket add-ons is also a copyright violation.

Then Caleb Rogers correctly asserted that there was no copyright infringement here….

When Caleb Rogers filed a put-back notice with Youtube that reinstated his video, Epic responded by filing a lawsuit against him, repeating the incorrect claim that Rogers’ video was a copyright infringing derivative work, and claiming that Rogers had formed, and then breached, a contract with Epic by playing their game and then talking about how to cheat in it.

In response, Rogers’ mother, Lauren Rogers, has filed an outstanding memo with the court explaining some of the problems with Epic’s suit….

Epic has claimed that after Caleb Rogers filed his put-back notice on Youtube, they were obliged to sue him, or they’d lose the right to sue other people who did the same thing. This is wrong….

Caleb Rogers did some obnoxious things: cheating, boasting about cheating, then making a video about his takedown in which he said intemperate things about companies.

But you know what’s more obnoxious that 14 year old cheaters? Corporations staffed by grown-ass humans who file lawsuits against 14 year olds that advance absurd theories about copyright, infringement, fair use, contracts, and EULAs. If Epic wins its suit, the precedent it sets will not be limited to corporations who are upset about obnoxious teens — it will establish that capturing incidental footage of games (the heart of Let’s Play videos and innumerable other forms of online communication, criticism and analysis) is a copyright infringement if you hurt some corporate overlord’s feelings in the process.

Caleb’s video: “Epic Games is Suing Me”:

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