The Galactic Arms Race
July 16, 2009 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Galactic Arms Race is a new game developed by the Evolutionary Complexity Research Group (EPlex) at the University of Central Florida. The game is a fairly basic 3D space shooter with an interesting angle: all weapons are genetically evolved, not designed by the game's creators. (Windows only, requires XNA installation before play)
posted by mkb (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I watched the video. It's pretty neat, but it's clear that the game's creators put a lot of inherent constraints on the weapons. For example, the weapons almost all have three main kinds of movement: linear, sinus, and seeking. There is a variation where the shots first move out to the side and then begin moving forward in one of the three ways described.

Not to downplay what they've done, just that there seems to be quite a lot of pre-existing structure imposed on the weapons, so naturally they'll tend to all look more or less like shmup guns. This is all to the good, though, as a really free form game wouldn't be very fun: there would be lots of false starts that shot at weird angles or blew up the player's own ship.
posted by jedicus at 1:57 PM on July 16, 2009

I sort of like the idea of false starts - you could always discard these poor weapons (according to how the game works), and having such severe constraints as the game does might lead to local maximums in weapons design... perhaps the great breakthrough would be from a combination of a seemingly useless weapon and a player with the genius to use it in a new way effectively, becoming an unexpected dominant strategy. With these constraints that probably won't happen.
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:08 PM on July 16, 2009

Perhaps every other weapon that drops has the constraints, so that players will at least get some weapons that they know will "work right"... that would be a good compromise.
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:09 PM on July 16, 2009

I wonder what the fitness test is.
posted by GuyZero at 2:21 PM on July 16, 2009

There are already enough crappy ones that it bothers me.
Sure you get 3 slots to tinker around with, but as soon as I found a linear one with a bit of a spread, I found myself just wanting to stick to that; the ones I've found after that either seemed equivalent or worse. Maybe I need to get farther in the mission progression before better stuff starts dropping?
posted by juv3nal at 2:38 PM on July 16, 2009

The fitness test is pretty simple; your ship has a finite number of fitness points. Every time you fire a weapon, it takes a fitness point from one of the others. You can see this on the weapons screen (click the little fallout icon while playing)

I have found so far that if I stick to a spread shot and destroy enemy stations, I will get variations on the spread shot.
posted by mkb at 2:55 PM on July 16, 2009

I guess the other thing I would have liked to have seen would have been some variation in stuff other than the hit pattern. So you could have tradeoffs like say you could pick up one of those pieces of junk that fires x degrees off axis (making aiming a nightmare), but it would do monstrous damage. As far as I can tell damage is based entirely on level + mods, right?
posted by juv3nal at 3:05 PM on July 16, 2009

Isn't this what the whole idea behind Spore was/is?
posted by Midnight Rambler at 3:09 PM on July 16, 2009

Spore uses procedural generation of content, but I don't think any of that content is evolved using genetic algorithms.
posted by mkb at 3:23 PM on July 16, 2009

the weapons almost all have three main kinds of movement: linear, sinus, and seeking.

I'm OK with the first and last kind, but that middle kind gets right up my nose.
posted by DU at 4:44 PM on July 16, 2009

They should have just accepted the hit to gameplay and leave the system completely unconstrained.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:54 PM on July 16, 2009

Wow! Not that I'm anything but an amateur but it seems this kind of content generation could well be where the future's at for gaming. I've always wondered how difficult it would be to boil down the topological essence of, say, a standard 2-up 2-down house (for instance), and use this kind of content generation to generate an arbitrary number of believable configurations of that, automatically.
posted by teresci at 5:24 AM on July 17, 2009

Can't be any fun if it's Windows only!
posted by Alles at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2009

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