Designing video games is commonly understood to be a creative task,
drawing on a designer's talent, inspiration, and personal experience.
The last ten years have seen multiple calls from the design community to
produce reusable knowledge about the structure of games and the design
process itself. These designers would like to establish a standardized
language and libraries of design patterns so that the next generation of
designers can benefit from the best of past generations. The
realization of such a move can be read as a transition from thinking
about game design as a playable-artifact creation process to a science
of play in which we might see the designer's goal as discovering new
gameplay structures and their production of concrete games as a side
effect of this process.
Thirty years ago, a similar-yet-disconnected thread of research in
artificial intelligence was just being born. First marked by Doug
Lenat's AM (an “automated mathematician”), discovery systems aim to
automatically produce new and interesting knowledge. Such systems
contrast sharply with the then-popular expert systems which applied
fixed libraries of “expert” knowledge to various tasks. Discovery
systems, which have commonly operated in the domains of natural science
and mathematics, are now seen as distant ancestors of contemporary,
statistical machine learning techniques which find extensive application
in a wide array of industries. Contrary to the current emphasis on the
optimal learning statistical descriptions of data, some recent
developments in machine learning, specifically combined abductive and
inductive logic learning systems, are bringing the production and
revision of structured, symbolic knowledge back into focus.
Simultaneous research in computational creativity is making inroads into
modeling the creative process and the production of creative artifacts.
This is the question I aim to answer: If we squint a bit to see game
design as the science-of-play that some designers imagine it to be, can
we build a discovery system that really works in the domain of game
design? Can we build an intelligent game designer?
In my thesis proposal I lay out a plan to build an intelligent game
designer that learns from the process of game design, including the
observation of human players, and exports newly discovered design
knowledge. This will require an operationalization of game design as an
automatable, scientific process and a detailed re-synthesis of the
creative design of expressive artifacts as a knowledge-seeking effort.