A team at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering is hoping to see how well AI can do at free-form creativity since it does so well with Chess and Go. Thus, NYU Tandon is hosting the first AI Minecraft competition. The competition will challenge game developers, computer scientists, and hobbyists to design algorithms that can create adaptive settlements, such as villages and cities in Minecraft.
Because Minecraft is a sandbox game with minimal limitations placed on gamers, it provides an ideal environment for testing AI creativity.
The Generative Design in Minecraft Competition (GMDC) will allow anyone – from hobbyists to computer scientists – to write an AI program that can produce a functional, aesthetically adapted settlement comparable to those designed by hand for any Minecraft map. The competition was designed at NYU’s Game Innovation lab by a team including Christoph Salge, a NYU Tandon visiting professor and the Marie Curie Global Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire, and Julian Togelius, a professor of computer science and engineering at NYU Tandon and co-director of the Game Innovation Lab.
To compete, participants must submit code that generates a settlement on several unseen Minecraft maps. The resulting settlements will be judged by a panel of experts, including game designers, urbanists, and architects, who will evaluate them based on how well they are adapted to the environment and terrain, their functionality, narrative integration, and aesthetics. Which is a tough task for anyone to do on their own. To code an AI to do it, well, thats an even taller order.
Winners will be announced during the Foundations of Digital Games Conference August 7th-10th, 2018, in Malmo, Sweden. At that time they will also publish the results for each algorithm, along with competition maps, the settlements, and the participants’ descriptions of their algorithms. The submission deadline is June 30th, 2018. So, get coding.
“Much of my own academic career has focused on posing procedural content generation in games as a research problem,” Togelius said. “Using AI methods to create game content initially wasn’t taken seriously as a research problem. Now it is. It is also closely tied to the related field of computational creativity, which is about AI solutions to creating things, not just winning games or solving problems. This is a new, much less explored, and, I think, a lot more exciting area of AI research.”
“Humans can do this. Children can create a world very easily, and a lot of their behavior is self-driven: a child puts together Legos and likes or doesn’t like how they look,” Salge said. “The challenge for an AI system that isn’t designed on a ‘win’ or ‘lose’ paradigm is in modeling the motivation, which is an area of inquiry that has been overlooked in AI.” He continued, “I want to get people to see it’s not a competition with numeral valuation, but one in which you have to figure out how to get the agent to want to do it in the first place.”
Michael Green, the NYU Tandon doctoral student who is leading the development of the competition framework, aimed to make it comparatively easy to participate by providing a downloadable software framework that can be started with just three lines of code.
“All you need to supply is the code,” said Green. “And the software is pretty easy to get started with.” He explained that this is possible because of the open and active environment around Minecraft, in which even a hobbyist can use a range of free and easily accessible tools to modify the game. This includes MCEdit, an open source software used to modify Minecraft maps, which provides the basis for the GDMC framework.
You can find more information and the sign up sheet here.