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Better Game Design through Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Speaker Name: 
Alex Zook
Speaker Title: 
Senior Data Scientist
Speaker Organization: 
Blizzard Entertainment
Start Time: 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018 - 11:15am
End Time: 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018 - 12:15pm
Michael Mateas

Abstract: Games are used for an ever-broadening array of purposes: educating, training, citizen science, and even data collection. Yet our ability to make games for these diverse purposes remains limited: game design and development practices are poorly understood and tools for making games are very limited. In this talk I will present research on artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques for supporting and automating game design and development practices. I will discuss this approach in the context of applications of tensor factorization to model temporally varying player skills, constraint solving for formal game mechanic modeling and generation, active learning to improve playtesting technologies, and general game playing for analyzing how design decisions shape the space of player behavior in a game. These tools enable new development practices while contributing formal, computational models of game design that lead to a future science of game design. Concluding the talk I will discuss the potential for this approach to enable new game designs and design practices through the next generation of intelligent game development technologies.

Bio: Alex Zook is Senior Data Scientist at Blizzard Entertainment with a PhD in Human-Centered Computing from the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing. He researches technologies to improve game design and development and formally model game design through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Alex has been a recipient of Georgia Tech's Foley Scholarship, outstanding graduate research assistant award, and Presidential Fellowship, as well as the International Game Developers Association Game Developers Conference scholarship. Alex has published at diverse, high-impact venues including AAAI, CHI, the Foundations of Digital Games, and ACM Creativity & Cognition. He founded the Experimental AI in Games workshop and has co-chaired the Intelligent Narrative Technologies workshop and Workshop on the Global Game Jam. His work has been recognized with licensing by the Army Research Labs and an exemplary paper at FDG 2014. He is using machine learning and simulations to understand and design for player behavior in games including Hearthstone, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and Heroes of the Storm.