Michael Cook is a PhD researcher in the Computational Creativity Group. Previously, he studied at Imperial for an MEng in Computer Science.
For more information on what Michael is currently working on, see Games By ANGELINA.
I'm interested in research related to evolutionary programming, videogame design, and the psychology of AI.
I'm developing AI systems that design videogames in various genres, using a technique called co-operative co-evolution. For more information and updates on the project, check Games By Angelina. The research incorporates two areas of interest:
Genres and subgenres provide well-defined spaces of mechanics within which to work. We understand words like 'platformer', 'Metroidvania' and 'WoW-like' to mean certain things. If we represent these areas as domains or search spaces, how do we find good game designs within this space?
I'm interested in this task of designing good exemplars of common game archetypes, whether that means applying existing research to new genres (many of which, at the time of writing, lie unexplored!) or improving existing techniques to make systems better at creating certain types of game.
Where do game mechanics come from? The Independent Games Festival often honours those designers that were able to create new and innovative ideas, mechanics or concepts that changed the way in which players understood a certain genre or method of interaction. What would it take for an AI to be able to explore this game design meta-space and invent new game mechanics for itself?
I'm interested in the task of searching for, identifying and exploring interesting spaces of game design, using meta-level languages to talk about game designs at an abstract level, as well as more conventional evolutionary techniques to search for good examples of games using those designs. ANGELINA is beginning to look into these areas.
The process of game design, whether it's being practiced by top-grade professionals or Game Maker indie/hobbyists, has yet to be usefully augmented with the latest AI techniques. It's my hope that we can use lessons learned in automated game design to provide assistive software that can help a user be more creative, by offering constructive criticism, advice and new ideas to build upon. I'm actively exploring this currently as a side project from ANGELINA.
While not a core area of research for my PhD, I'm very interested in novel techniques and applications for PCG in games. PCG is yet to be applied in compelling ways to many areas of game design, especially in narrative design, music composition and balancing. My work with ANGELINA is unlikely to touch on these areas, but I am interested in hearing about new research in this area.
Initial Results From Co-operative Co-Evolution For Automated Platformer Design - Michael Cook, Simon Colton, Jeremy Gow – European Conference on Applications of Evolutionary Computing, Games Track 2012
Multi-Faceted Evolution Of Simple Arcade Games - Michael Cook, Simon Colton - Computational Intelligence in Games (CIG) 2011
Automated Collage Generation – With More Intent - Simon Colton, Michael Cook - International Computational Creativity Conference 2011
Ludic Considerations Of Table-Based Evo-Art - Simon Colton, Michael Cook, Azalea Raad - Applications of Evolutionary Computation 2011
I write at Games By ANGELINA about the theory and construction of videogames and ANGELINA itself.
I've also written a smattering of articles for The Escapist. I'm always looking for engaging, interesting games-related research stories - if you've got something you want to talk to me about, please get in touch!
In order to motivate our undergraduates about careers in the videogames industry, as well as to foster relationships between research groups and developers, we hold an annual day of talks and presentations by both academics and industry leaders.
If you think you'd like to give a talk, either about some research you've been doing that might be of interest to the industry, or about some cool tech problem that your development team solved when creating your latest game, then please get in touch with me about talking at GaME! Imperial has a good reputation for working with industry on research projects, and our students go on to do placements at games developers, which often lead to careers post-degree.
More on the event's website.