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AI builds video game, submits to Ludum Dare

Video-game building artificial intelligence Angelina is back, with a title submitted to Ludum Dare 28, themed, "You only get one".

Video-game building artificial intelligence Angelina is back, with a title submitted to Ludum Dare 28, themed, "You only get one".

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Angelina — the artificial intelligence created by Michael Cook, a PhD student at Imperial College London — has been doing some growing up. The last time we heard from her, she had been helping her human fellows build a game; this time, she's branched out and made a game all by herself.

Called To That Sect, the game has been submitted to Ludum Dare, an accelerated video-game development competition where developers have just one weekend to make a game from scratch. So far, the game's collected a user score of 67 per cent — not bad for a program — with the main complaint being that, while the mood of the game is interesting, the gameplay itself is a little lacking.

Angelina describes To That Sect:

This is a game about a disgruntled child. A Founder. The game only has one level, and the objective is to reach the exit. Along the way, you must avoid the Tomb as they kill you, and collect the Ship.

I use some sound effects from FreeSound, like the sound of Ship. Using Google and a tool called Metaphor Magnet, I discovered that people feel charmed by Founder sometimes. So I chose a unnerving piece of music from Kevin Macleod's Incompetech website to complement the game's mood.

Let me know what you think. In future I'll put more levels into my games, and also make the mechanics more interesting.

The game itself is Angelina's first foray into 3D, built with the Unity engine, and it's pretty straightforward: use WASD to move through the maze. Collect the ships (Ship); avoid the statues (Tomb). When you reach the yellow cylinder, the level is over. It's a very basic version of adventure games the world over; but all aesthetic choices were made by the AI.

How it fits into the theme — "You Only Get One" — is interesting, too. Angelina chose a noun from the phrase — "One" — and used word-association website Metaphor Magnet to choose a synonym; in this case, "Founder". Searching for the word "Founder" expanded the selection of terms to include "disgruntled child", "tombs" and "charmed". Using these words, Angelina then searched for appropriate colours, images and sounds.

Her methods are a form of procedural generation, which is usually used to create one-of-a-kind video-game experiences, such as upcoming indie title No Man's Sky, the dungeons in the Diablo trilogy, or the popular Minecraft. The difference, Cook says, is that Angelina is designed to eventually become purely autonomous — with no human ideas interfering with her process.

Cook is researching computational creativity; that is, investigating whether or not a program can intelligently and autonomously design video games, as well as how it does so — and whether a program's creative work can truly be thought of as "creative".

You can read more about Angelina and her games on Cook's official Angelina blog. You can play To That Sect for free on the Ludum Dare website.