Over six months have passed since The Project began, and it was long before that the ideas were seeded. Pariahpism published his version of The Project origins right away. While this was an accurate description, I feel it is time to post my view on where it all started, what the past six months have involved, and where we might be going with The Project.
It began with an article published in 2007 by Alan Bellows on DamnInteresting.com about hardware evolution, “On the Origin of Circuits”. A comment in this article led me to Kevin Kelly’s book, Out of Control which is fully readable online. Now normally in my internet browsing I am not going to follow a link to a book and end up reading it in its entirety, but that is exactly what happened with Out of Control. The book starts out in Biosphere 2 in Arizona, and I thought, “Hey, I’ve been there!” And it only got more interesting as it went. Who would have thought ecology, philosophy, technology, economies and evolution had so many things in common.
Turns out Kevin Kelly is no scientist or engineer, but he is a hub of information, finding new meaning and understanding in many subjects, especially technology, with direct access to the top thinkers of our time. His blog The Technium continues to amaze and inspire me, while helping me think outside the box.
Out of Control covered a broad range of subjects, but some information seemed to stick out from the rest. I distinctly recall being impressed by the following, from Chapter 2:
In the film Batman Returns a horde of large black bats swarmed through flooded tunnels into downtown Gotham. The bats were computer generated. A single bat was created and given leeway to automatically flap its wings. The one bat was copied by the dozens until the animators had a mob. Then each bat was instructed to move about on its own on the screen following only a few simple rules encoded into an algorithm: don’t bump into another bat, keep up with your neighbors, and don’t stray too far away. When the algorithmic bats were run, they flocked like real bats.
It all came down to simple mathematical algorithms. Throw enough math into the software and, TADA! Biology plays out on your computer screen! Then, Chapter 15 dealt specifically with Artificial Evolution, while Chapter 17 “An Open Universe” expounded on that. Tom Ray and his game Tierra were highlighted, as was the GP master John R. Koza. These would soon become household names to The Project.
Fast-forward to July 2009. Pariahpism had taken to game journaling, and while not being interested in gaming I was surprisingly enthralled by his stories. My experience with software engineering combined with the memories of Origin of the Circuits and Out of Control prompted a sudden want to try to develop something of the same substance, but on a different scale. Imagine gaming journals about a self-evolving, unpredictable game! Immediately ideas started to take hold. We could provide the goals and the necessary environments, but let the games do the work!
After brief but furious discussions on the matter, Pariahpism proceeded to write about a number of game ideas brewing in our heads:
And then the serious research began to see how to go about bringing such ideas to fruition. Little did we know everything that was already out there. Computational Intelligence is a huge realm under AI which includes, among others, Genetic Programming, Genetic Algorithms, A-life, Neural Networks, and so on. Books, websites and whole development environments are relegated to these subjects, prompting us to back up a step and begin collecting information at a rapid pace.
And here we are—still collecting. I have decided to completely overhaul the old website and devote it to The Project, and video gaming in general. Why dailyvillain.com? It started in 2004 as an inside joke, turned nickname, turned URL. It even stood as an acronym on the website for a while—something like Vagabond Interpreting Life’s Lessons and Idiosyncratic Nuances—but that was way too long. Anyway, the web space was already there and now it exists and persists as The Project’s home.
So where is The Project headed? Our original goals still stand. Early versions of Alphabet Soup and various programming languages are the focus of most of our attention for the moment, but concerning the future, anything is fair game at this point. The nice thing is that the interwebs allows the unprecedented vast sharing of information, letting us build on what others have already created. The beauty of Open Source is that it is more than just convenient, it also allows for the acceleration of information sharing, and of course, innovation. That’s what The Project is all about.
For a tad more organization… This blog will help to track our thoughts and progress, while this blog has become the home for the aforementioned gaming journals, other game reviews and pretty much anything game-related.
(originally written by Pariahpism, July 10, 2009)
Well it started with a conversation about the recent phenomena of videogame journals. I tried my hand at it with a couple freeware games that are more based on random level generation and consistently random experiences rather than story. I find these have a better potential to tell their own story rather than the one already given, if one even existed; which in these it didn’t.
The dark tale about a merchant murdered got The Villain pondering how to make a video game. This was something he’d never thought of and something I’d never expect him to say. He will soon be finishing his software engineering degree which taught him to expertly create a mortgage calculator in some common programming languages.
Other than the mortgage calculating game he was so familiar with, he was a total novice to the videogame world. It’s something that never held his interest. If he was serious, which he is, it was to be a trial to ease him into our culture. We videogame folk are a serious and bitter sort. Angst and resentment go with or morning cereal and mocking humor with tuna are our lunch. An unlearned couldn’t walk in and understand us any better than the large corporations who make most of our games; basic trends of what sells better over what is actually better. He would be sniffed out and quickly excommunicated by our purists. I wouldn’t let my friend walk alone in our prison yard. His ass would not be sold for pruno.
Basic instructions ensued of the basic types, what’s good, what’s bad, what’s out there now, what’s out there no longer and the trends and history of it all. In my mind I saw this gaming venture working, but only very basically. I was hoping to do some artwork while he did the coding and we’d both contribute to the story and while I kept a stalwart presence that we’d break no unwritten covenant. I foresaw a couple awesome stories made playable with some visceral visuals and maybe we’d win some Indie Game Awards. Maybe.
Then this brilliant bastard his me with something I didn’t consider: Something new. Being an avid studier in the origins and designs of evolution, he hits me with Thomas Ray’s virtual evolution project where he created virtual viruses. In 1989! The Villain’s idea was to use the engines of evolution to program elements in games. After mild discussion, I told him that this is something that has never before been done. It would be singular in design and in competition. And only knowing that this website is never visited that I feel comfortable posting these ideas freely.