Game development for everyone

Learning to master artificial intelligence through game development

The threshold for developing digital games is rather high today because computer programming often involves a steep learning curve. This means that many innovative games never get realised, as many creative people lack the programming skills necessary to turn their ideas into reality. In addition, even games that are commercially available—with good visual effects and compatible for use on mobile devices—do not come equipped with artificial intelligence (AI).

To make game development accessible to everyone, companies have developed tools to help the general public learn basic programming logic for creating simple games. However, these tools are generally not very useful for creating serious games.

Intuitive and simple game design
Our team at the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (DSAIR) at NTU has embarked on the research and development of a next-generation programming language, with the goal of developing a system-independent, programming-free game authoring platform.

The product of this research, the game development studio IntelliK, equips users with the necessary tools to design and develop different types of games in an easy and efficient manner.

IntelliK uses elemental operations, which, when combined, provide users with an intuitive graphical editor. The integrated environment allows users to seamlessly define and create different kinds of game objects, logics, interfaces, control scripts and AI tools through fourth-generation visual programming.

An AI generator tool helps users to quickly define and embed different kinds of AI in their games using a visual interface. In addition, games created using IntelliK can be designed for various mobile devices and operating systems.

Delving into the technology
IntelliK pays special attention to the use of AI technologies, including expert systems, decision and behaviour trees, fuzzy rules, state machine, and neural and deep networks. Researchers can use IntelliK to easily verify, validate and compare different AI algorithms by integrating the algorithms into the platform and validating them in real time through game play. Beyond AI, researchers can use IntelliK to collect real-time data from developers or gamers for data analysis.

Additionally, IntelliK allows users to make use of AI tools to create novel forms of games and interactions between users and the gameplay, a feature that could potentially revolutionise the gaming industry given the large number of smartphone users today.

Figure 1: Exemplifying games developed by IntelliK, EmoSphere embeds AI capabilities into the game play and uses deep learning to enable players to use facial expressions to interact with the game. Credit: Jaime Rubio Hervas.

 

Applications in education and healthcare
IntelliK can be employed in a number of different industries, and it also complements Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.

One of the most direct applications of IntelliK is in the education sector, where the platform can be used to develop learning tools for coding and AI. Where traditional teaching methods may fail to maintain students’ interest in coding and AI-related concepts, IntelliK’s attractive visual script editor can be used to teach the basic principles of machine learning and AI to young people. Some of these features have already been tested and validated for primary school-age children and as a teaching tool in NTU’s computer science classes.

Beyond education and academia, the wellness and healthcare industry also stands to benefit. Serious games can seamlessly be developed using IntelliK with a variety of applications such as customised therapies, general wellness and health education, or health monitoring and disease prevention, using the embedded AI and data collection and analysis tools.

In summary, IntelliK provides those without much coding experience the opportunity to create their own interactive stories and games. One of the most attractive features of the platform is that a wellspring of new applications is likely to come from its users as they apply IntelliK in novel and creative ways.

Figure 2: Using visual interfaces and drag-and-drop blocks, the IntelliK Games Creator is a fun way to learn AI and coding. In this example, the user establishes a set of rules triggered by different actions (e.g., touching a virtual object) and data-driven AI such as deep learning-based facial recognition (e.g., emotion detection) to develop the game. Credit: Jaime Rubio Hervas.

 

Figure 3: IntelliK’s AI-powered games being demonstrated by research team member Ng Wai Foong (left) at GameStart Asia 2017. Credit: Ivan Yew.

Authors: Ong Yew Soon and Jaime Rubio Hervas
An expert in computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, Prof Ong Yew Soon wears multiple hats—he is Chair of NTU’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, Director of the Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Research Centre at NTU (DSAIR), Director of the A*STAR SIMTech-NTU Joint Lab on Complex Systems, and Principal Investigator of the Data Analytics & Complex System Programme in the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Lab. As one of the world’s foremost computer science researchers, he was listed in The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2015 report by Thomson Reuters. Dr Jaime Rubio Hervas is a project manager at DSAIR.
Watch a video demonstrating the IntelliK game authoring platform at bit.ly/2hZO8Oz.
The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #12, December 2017).

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