The idea of Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic for many but for game developers in particular. Enjoy this non-technical presentation which draws on recent work by a Professor at Essex University, Dr Richard Bartle. At his presentation AI for Games and AI for Gamers at Casual Connect Europe, he outlined how AI can help game development right now as well as how it will be able to help and/or hinder it in the near future. “A must read when learning AI technology is Yannakalis & Togelius: Artificial Intelligence and Games”, he recommended. Tune in for highlights on: testing game balance, prediction of player experiences, rapid testing AI opponents, data mining, story generation and automatic game creation.
Richard Bartle, Professor at Essex University, is a passionate believer in the value of games. He says, “I believe games are a force for good, and the more people who know how to design them then the better the games will be.”
Fifteen years ago Essex University was setting up their computer games programme and needed someone to teach who had a PhD, experience in the games industry and experience teaching. And, of course, this person had to live in the area. Fortunately, when Essex University came head-hunting, Richard was there and ideally suited for the job..
When asked how his past career experiences are useful in his current position, Richard says, “Well, if you want to teach computer game design, it’s a lot easier if you have actually done computer game design professionally.” Absolutely!
Leading the Way
But Richard’s experience is far more extensive than simply having done computer game design professionally. When he was an undergraduate in 1978, before there really was a games industry, he co-wrote MUD, the game that started the MMO industry. “Almost every modern MMO game today is a direct descendant of MUD,” he tells us.
Besides the games he has developed, Richard has researched the people who play video games, classifying them into four personality types. This Player Type model has been widely adopted in the games industry.
Sharing His Knowledge
He is also an influential writer on all aspects of online design and development. The most widely known of his books is Designing Virtual Worlds.
What Richard enjoys most about his work at Essex University is engaging with enthusiastic students. Unfortunately, his work there, like work everywhere, includes challenges. The most difficult of these is being given more work than there is time to do. He claims to deal with this situation by “wailing, moaning and complaining about being overworked.”
On those rare occasions when he is not being overworked, Richard plays computer games if it is term time and writes books when it is not term time. His hobby is collecting things, including packs of antique cards, maps of Europe published in 1869 and copies of issue #$ of the comic book Knights of the Dinner Table.
What Will Change; What Should Change
The big change in the games industry that Richard sees coming is the end of the free-to-play revenue model. He emphasizes, “It’s unsustainable.”
We asked Richard if there was something about the game industry he would like to discuss but had never been asked. He responded, “Why I don’t have a knighthood.” This was a serious answer. “If some of the people in the game industry had been in any other creative industry, they’d have a seat in the House of Lords for their achievements,” he insists. Games (and the people who create them) have simply not been valued by society the way they should be.
On the other hand, Richard and his accomplishments are highly valued within the game industry. He was the first recipient of the Game Developers Choice award of Online Game Legend in 2010. Earlier he received the First Penguin Award (now called The Pioneer Award) at the Game Developers Choice Awards 2005 for the development of MUD.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.