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Long overdue update

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Apologies to all my faithful readers who were hoping for more regular entries in this developer journal. Unfortunately the last few months have seen me doing precious little coding in favour of other activities, mostly related to study and music.

However, there is some game-development related news in my life since I last posted here.

In November I attended the CGAIDE (Computer Games: Artificial Intelligence, Design, and Education) conference, which was quite an experience. Although organised by the University of Wolverhampton, it was hosted at the Microsoft Academic Campus in Reading, which at first glance was just as intimidatingly cyberpunk-looking as any self-respecting Linux user might expect a Microsoft campus to be. MS had nothing or little to do with the content however and at least one amusing individual inserted a fake blue screen of death into his presentation (Powerpoint, naturally) to poke fun at our gracious hosts.

The talks were of a higher quality than I had expected given the low-key nature of the conference, and many of the ideas presented were very impressive, especially in the AI field. It seemed like Markov Decision Processes were the new neural networks, in terms of being a hammer which made every problem look like a nail, but the examples given showed that MDPs were actually a very good fit for many areas. Another concept that was talked about quite a lot was the Prisoner's Dilemma problem, especially the iterative variation, due to its relevance to the way strategies evolve over the course of a game.

There were also some interesting talks on procedural story generation, the Hero's Journey as applied to MMORPGs, architectures for 'social' games (eg. Diplomacy), and more. In particular I was quite encouraged by the way that 'academic' AI was shown to be applicable to the game domain with practical examples.

Apart from the conference, I haven't done much in the way of game development exactly, but I rewrote my 2D/OpenGL code (as mentioned in the previous entry) to use vertex arrays (and found no performance improvement), and have been updating my site of free game development libraries. I am a big believer in code re-use as I have little interest in the low-level details of programming - rendering especially - and think it's a good idea to use such libraries to get the game done as soon as possible. If this list helps a few people complete their projects, it'll easily be worth the few minutes I spend on it each week.

On a similar note I hope to play around with PyOGRE in the near future. Python is my preferred programming language and with its graphical support being pretty abysmal, this binding of the OGRE engine (which recently hit version 1.0) might just be what I need to get something up and running soon which looks good. As always I am lacking a decent idea to implement as my design skills fall more into the micro-design camp rather than the "hey, here's a cool idea for a game" camp, but no doubt I will think of something.
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It's good to be back! Hopefully I will have something to post about soon.

Python is a great language to work with, except in 2 small areas; multimedia and web development. Ok, ok, so those are actually 2 massive areas. ;) And that is my only gripe about the language at the moment - poor standard support for graphics/sound, and no easy route into web development along the lines of PHP/ASP. The web people are too busy trying to make Python look like Java and fit everything into the servlet model, and the game/multimedia people tend not to play with Python much due to the reported slowness (and presumably the current lack of library support). OpenGL bindings have to be downloaded separately and have several dependencies. So I think PyOgre may be a godsend for anyone wanting to do some graphical heavy lifting in Python.

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