Neural/Deep Networks

Whether to construct predictive models of user behavior or player affect, to find mappings between game elements and their aesthetics, or to figure out the goals of a human co-creator, machine learning based on neural networks is a powerful tool for realizing artificial intelligence.

Open-Ended Evolution for Minecraft Building Generation

Matthew Barthet, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: This paper proposes a procedural content generator which evolves Minecraft buildings according to an open-ended and intrinsic definition of novelty. To realize this goal we evaluate individuals' novelty in the latent space using a 3D autoencoder, and alternate between phases of exploration and transformation. During exploration the system evolves multiple populations of CPPNs through CPPN-NEAT and constrained novelty search in the latent space (defined by the current autoencoder). We apply a set of repair and constraint functions to ensure candidates adhere to basic structural rules and constraints during evolution. During transformation, we reshape the boundaries of the latent space to identify new interesting areas of the solution space by retraining the autoencoder with novel content. In this study we evaluate five different approaches for training the autoencoder during transformation and its impact on populations' quality and diversity during evolution. Our results show that by retraining the autoencoder we can achieve better open-ended complexity compared to a static model, which is further improved when retraining using larger datasets of individuals with diverse complexities.

in IEEE Transactions on Games, 2022 (accepted). BibTex

Learning Task-Independent Game State Representations from Unlabeled Images

Chintan Trivedi, Konstantinos Makantasis, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: Self-supervised learning (SSL) techniques have been widely used to learn compact and informative representations from high-dimensional complex data. In many computer vision tasks, such as image classification, such methods achieve state-of-the-art results that surpass supervised learning approaches. In this paper, we investigate whether SSL methods can be leveraged for the task of learning accurate state representations of games, and if so, to what extent. For this purpose, we collect game footage frames and corresponding sequences of games' internal state from three different 3D games: VizDoom, the CARLA racing simulator and the Google Research Football Environment. We train an image encoder with three widely used SSL algorithms using solely the raw frames, and then attempt to recover the internal state variables from the learned representations. Our results across all three games showcase significantly higher correlation between SSL representations and the game's internal state compared to pre-trained baseline models such as ImageNet. Such findings suggest that SSL-based visual encoders can yield general--not tailored to a specific task--yet informative game representations solely from game pixel information. Such representations can, in turn, form the basis for boosting the performance of downstream learning tasks in games, including gameplaying, content generation and player modeling.

in Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Games, 2022. BibTex

Seeding Diversity into AI Art

Marvin Zammit, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: This paper argues that generative art driven by conformance to a visual and/or semantic corpus lacks the necessary criteria to be considered creative. Among several issues identified in the literature, we focus on the fact that generative adversarial networks (GANs) that create a single image, in a vacuum, lack a concept of novelty regarding how their product differs from previously created ones. We envision that an algorithm that combines the novelty preservation mechanisms in evolutionary algorithms with the power of GANs can deliberately guide its creative process towards output that is both good and novel. In this paper, we use recent advances in image generation based on semantic prompts using OpenAI's CLIP model, interrupting the GAN's iterative process with short cycles of evolutionary divergent search. The results of evolution are then used to continue the GAN's iterative process; we hypothesise that this intervention will lead to more novel outputs. Testing our hypothesis using novelty search with local competition, a quality-diversity evolutionary algorithm that can increase visual diversity while maintaining quality in the form of adherence to the semantic prompt, we explore how different notions of visual diversity can affect both the process and the product of the algorithm. Results show that even a simplistic measure of visual diversity can help counter a drift towards similar images caused by the GAN. This first experiment opens a new direction for introducing higher intentionality and a more nuanced drive for GANs.

in Proceedings of the International Conference on Computational Creativity, 2022. BibTex

RankNEAT: Outperforming Stochastic Gradient Search in Preference Learning Tasks

Kosmas Pinitas, Konstantinos Makantasis, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) is a premium optimization method for training neural networks, especially for learning objectively defined labels such as image objects and events. When a neural network is instead faced with subjectively defined labels - such as human demonstrations or annotations - SGD may struggle to explore the deceptive and noisy loss landscapes caused by the inherent bias and subjectivity of humans. While neural networks are often trained via preference learning algorithms in an effort to eliminate such data noise, the de facto training methods rely on gradient descent. Motivated by the lack of empirical studies on the impact of evolutionary search to the training of preference learners, we introduce the RankNEAT algorithm which learns to rank through neuroevolution of augmenting topologies. We test the hypothesis that RankNEAT outperforms traditional gradient-based preference learning within the affective computing domain, in particular predicting annotated player arousal from the game footage of three dissimilar games. RankNEAT yields superior performances compared to the gradient-based preference learner (RankNet) in the majority of experiments since its architecture optimization capacity acts as an efficient feature selection mechanism, thereby, eliminating overfitting. Results suggest that RankNEAT is a viable and highly efficient evolutionary alternative to preference learning.

in Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, 2022. BibTex

AffectGAN: Affect-Based Generative Art Driven by Semantics

Theodoros Galanos, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: This paper introduces a novel method for generating artistic images that express particular affective states. Leveraging state-of-the-art deep learning methods for visual generation (through generative adversarial networks), semantic models from OpenAI, and the annotated dataset of the visual art encyclopedia WikiArt, our AffectGAN model is able to generate images based on specific or broad semantic prompts and intended affective outcomes. A small dataset of 32 images generated by AffectGAN is annotated by 50 participants in terms of the particular emotion they elicit, as well as their quality and novelty. Results show that for most instances the intended emotion used as a prompt for image generation matches the participants' responses. This small-scale study brings forth a new vision towards blending affective computing with computational creativity, enabling generative systems with intentionality in terms of the emotions they wish their output to elicit.

in Proceedings of the ACII Workshop on What's Next in Affect Modeling?, 2021. BibTex

Privileged Information for Modeling Affect In The Wild

Konstantinos Makantasis, David Melhart, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: A key challenge of affective computing research is discovering ways to reliably transfer affect models that are built in the laboratory to real world settings, namely in the wild. The existing gap between in vitro} and in vivo affect applications is mainly caused by limitations related to affect sensing including intrusiveness, hardware malfunctions, availability of sensors, but also privacy and security. As a response to these limitations in this paper we are inspired by recent advances in machine learning and introduce the concept of privileged information for operating affect models in the wild. The presence of privileged information enables affect models to be trained across multiple modalities available in a lab setting and ignore modalities that are not available in the wild with no significant drop in their modeling performance. The proposed privileged information framework is tested in a game arousal corpus that contains physiological signals in the form of heart rate and electrodermal activity, game telemetry, and pixels of footage from two dissimilar games that are annotated with arousal traces. By training our arousal models using all modalities (in vitro) and using solely pixels for testing the models (in vivo), we reach levels of accuracy obtained from models that fuse all modalities both for training and testing. The findings of this paper make a decisive step towards realizing affect interaction in the wild.

in Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, 2021. BibTex

Contrastive Learning of Generalized Game Representations

Chintan Trivedi, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: Representing games through their pixels offers a promising approach for building general-purpose and versatile game models. While games are not merely images, neural network models trained on game pixels often capture differences of the visual style of the image rather than the content of the game. As a result, such models cannot generalize well even within similar games of the same genre. In this paper we build on recent advances in contrastive learning and showcase its benefits for representation learning in games. Learning to contrast images of games not only classifies games in a more efficient manner; it also yields models that separate games in a more meaningful fashion by ignoring the visual style and focusing, instead, on their content. Our results in a large dataset of sports video games containing 100k images across 175 games and 10 game genres suggest that contrastive learning is better suited for learning generalized game representations compared to conventional supervised learning. The findings of this study bring us closer to universal visual encoders for games that can be reused across previously unseen games without requiring retraining or fine-tuning.

in Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Games, 2021. BibTex

ARCH-Elites: Quality-Diversity for Urban Design

Theodoros Galanos, Antonios Liapis, Georgios N. Yannakakis and Reinhard Koenig

Abstract: This paper introduces ARCH-Elites, a MAP-Elites implementation that can reconfigure large-scale urban layouts at real-world locations via a pre-trained surrogate model instead of costly simulations. In a series of experiments, we generate novel urban designs for two real-world locations in Boston, Massachusetts. Combining the exploration of a possibility space with real-time performance evaluation creates a powerful new paradigm for architectural generative design that can extract and articulate design intelligence.

in Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, 2021. BibTex

SuSketch: Surrogate Models of Gameplay as a Design Assistant

Panagiotis Migkotzidis and Antonios Liapis

Abstract: This paper introduces SuSketch, a design tool for first person shooter levels. SuSketch provides the designer with gameplay predictions for two competing players of specific character classes. The interface allows the designer to work side-by-side with an artificially intelligent creator and to receive varied types of feedback such as path information, predicted balance between players in a complete playthrough, or a predicted heatmap of the locations of player deaths. The system also proactively designs alternatives to the level and class pairing, and presents them to the designer as suggestions that improve the predicted balance of the game. SuSketch offers a new way of integrating machine learning into mixed-initiative co-creation tools, as a surrogate of human play trained on a large corpus of artificial playtraces. A user study with 16 game developers indicated that the tool was easy to use, but also highlighted a need to make SuSketch more accessible and more explainable.

in IEEE Transactions on Games 14(2), pp. 273-283. 2021. BibTex

The Pixels and Sounds of Emotion: General-Purpose Representations of Arousal in Games

Konstantinos Makantasis, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: What if emotion could be captured in a general and subject-agnostic fashion? Is it possible, for instance, to design general-purpose representations that detect affect solely from the pixels and audio of a human-computer interaction video? In this paper we address the above questions by evaluating the capacity of deep learned representations to predict affect by relying only on audiovisual information of videos. We assume that the pixels and audio of an interactive session embed the necessary information required to detect affect. We test our hypothesis in the domain of digital games and evaluate the degree to which deep classifiers and deep preference learning algorithms can learn to predict the arousal of players based only on the video footage of their gameplay. Our results from four dissimilar games suggest that general-purpose representations can be built across games as the arousal models obtain average accuracies as high as 85% using the challenging leave-one-video-out cross-validation scheme. The dissimilar audiovisual characteristics of the tested games showcase the strengths and limitations of the proposed method.

in IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, 2021 (accepted). BibTex

Dungeons & Replicants: Automated Game Balancing via Deep Player Behavior Modeling

Johannes Pfau, Antonios Liapis, Georg Volkmar, Georgios N. Yannakakis and Rainer Malaka

Abstract: Balancing the options available to players in a way that ensures rich variety and viability is a vital factor for the success of any video game, and particularly competitive multiplayer games. Traditionally, this balancing act requires extensive periods of expert analysis, play testing and debates. While automated gameplay is able to predict outcomes of parameter changes, current approaches mainly rely on heuristic or optimal strategies to generate agent behavior. In this paper, we demonstrate the use of deep player behavior models to represent a player population (n = 213) of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Aion, which are used, in turn, to generate individual agent behaviors. Results demonstrate significant balance differences in opposing enemy encounters and show how these can be regulated. Moreover, the analytic methods proposed are applied to identify the balance relationships between classes when fighting against each other, reflecting the original developers' design.

in Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Games, 2020. BibTex

Modelling the Quality of Visual Creations in Iconoscope

Antonios Liapis, Daniele Gravina, Emil Kastbjerg and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: This paper presents the current state of the online game Iconoscope and analyzes the data collected from almost 45 months of continuous operation. Iconoscope is a freeform creation game which aims to foster the creativity of its users through diagrammatic lateral thinking, as users are required to depict abstract concepts as icons which may be misinterpreted by other users as different abstract concepts. From users' responses collected from an online gallery of all icons drawn with Iconoscope, we collect a corpus of over 500 icons which contain annotations of visual appeal. Several machine learning algorithms are tested for their ability to predict the appeal of an icon from its visual appearance and other properties. findings show the impact of the representation on the model's accuracy and highlight how such a predictive model of quality can be applied to evaluate new icons (human-authored or generated).

in Proceedings of the 8th International Games and Learning Alliance Conference. Springer, 2019. BibTex

Using Dates as Contextual Information for Personalized Cultural Heritage Experiences

Ahmed Dahroug, Andreas Vlachidis, Antonios Liapis, Antonis Bikakis, Martin Lopez-Nores, Owen Sacco and Jose Juan Pazos-Arias

Abstract: We present semantics-based mechanisms that aim to promote reflection on cultural heritage by means of dates (historical events or annual commemorations), owing to their connections to a collection of items and to the visitors' interests. We argue that links to specific dates can trigger curiosity, increase retention and guide visitors around the venue following new appealing narratives in subsequent visits. The proposal has been evaluated in a pilot study on the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Tripoli (Greece), for which a team of humanities experts wrote a set of diverse narratives about the exhibits. A year-round calendar was crafted so that certain narratives would be more or less relevant on any given day. Expanding on this calendar, personalised recommendations can be made by sorting out those relevant narratives according to personal events and interests recorded in the profiles of the target users. Evaluation of the associations by experts and potential museum visitors shows that the proposed approach can discover meaningful connections, while many others that are more incidental can still contribute to the intended cognitive phenomena.

in SAGE Journal of Information Science 47(1), pp. 82-100, 2021. BibTex

A Multi-Faceted Surrogate Model for Search-based Procedural Content Generation

Daniel Karavolos, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: This paper proposes a framework for the procedural generation of level and ruleset components of games via a surrogate model that assesses their quality and complementarity. The surrogate model combines level and ruleset elements as input and gameplay outcomes as output, thus constructing a mapping between three different facets of games. Using this model as a surrogate for expensive gameplay simulations, a search-based generator can adapt content towards a target gameplay outcome. Using a shooter game as the target domain, this paper explores how parameters of the players' character classes can be mapped to both the level's representation and the gameplay outcomes of balance and match duration. The surrogate model is built on a deep learning architecture, trained on a large corpus of randomly generated sets of levels, classes and simulations from gameplaying agents. Results show that a search-based generative approach can adapt character classes, levels, or both towards designer-specified targets. The model can thus act as a design assistant or be integrated in a mixed-initiative tool. Most importantly, the combination of three game facets into the model allows it to identify the synergies between levels, rules and gameplay and orchestrate the generation of the former two towards desired outcomes.

in Transactions on Games, vol. 13, no 1, pp. 11-22, 2021. BibTex

From Pixels to Affect: A Study on Games and Player Experience

Konstantinos Makantasis, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: Is it possible to predict the affect of a user just by observing her behavioral interaction through a video? How can we, for instance, predict a user's arousal in games by merely looking at the screen during play? In this paper we address these questions by employing three dissimilar deep convolutional neural network architectures in our attempt to learn the underlying mapping between video streams of gameplay and the player's arousal. We test the algorithms in an annotated dataset of 50 gameplay videos of a survival shooter game and evaluate the deep learned models' capacity to classify high vs low arousal levels. Our key findings with the demanding leave-one- video-out validation method reveal accuracies of over 78% on average and 98% at best. While this study focuses on games and player experience as a test domain, the findings and methodology are directly relevant to any affective computing area, introducing a general and user-agnostic approach for modeling affect.

in Proceedings of the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, 2019. BibTex

PyPLT: Python Preference Learning Toolbox

Elizabeth Camilleri, Georgios N. Yannakakis, David Melhart and Antonios Liapis

Abstract: There is growing evidence suggesting that subjective values such as emotions are intrinsically relative and that an ordinal approach is beneficial to their annotation and analysis. Ordinal data processing yields more reliable, valid and general predictive models, and preference learning algorithms have shown a strong advantage in deriving computational models from such data. To enable the extensive use of ordinal data processing and preference learning, this paper introduces the Python Preference Learning Toolbox. The toolbox is open source, features popular preference learning algorithms and methods, and is designed to be accessible to a wide audience of researchers and practitioners. The toolbox is evaluated with regards to both the accuracy of its predictive models across two affective datasets and its usability via a user study. Our key findings suggest that the implemented algorithms yield accurate models of affect while its graphical user interface is suitable for both novice and experienced users.

in Proceedings of the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, 2019. BibTex

Pairing Character Classes in a Deathmatch Shooter Game via a Deep-Learning Surrogate Model

Daniel Karavolos, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: This paper introduces a surrogate model of gameplay that learns the mapping between different game facets, and applies it to a generative system which designs new content in one of these facets. Focusing on the shooter game genre, the paper explores how deep learning can help build a model which combines the game level structure and the game's character class parameters as input and the gameplay outcomes as output. The model is trained on a large corpus of game data from simulations with artificial agents in random sets of levels and class parameters. The model is then used to generate classes for specific levels and for a desired game outcome, such as balanced matches of short duration. findings in this paper show that the system can be expressive and can generate classes for both computer generated and human authored levels.

in Proceedings of the FDG Workshop on Procedural Content Generation, 2018. BibTex

Explainable AI for Designers: A Human-Centered Perspective on Mixed-Initiative Co-Creation

Jichen Zhu, Antonios Liapis, Sebastian Risi, Rafael Bidarra and G. Michael Youngblood

Abstract: Growing interest in eXplainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) aims to make AI and machine learning more understandable to human users. However, most existing work focuses on new algorithms, and not on usability, practical interpretability and efficacy on real users. In this vision paper, we propose a new research area of eXplainable AI for Designers (XAID), specifically for game designers. By focusing on a specific user group, their needs and tasks, we propose a human-centered approach for facilitating game designers to co-create with AI/ML techniques through XAID. We illustrate our initial XAID framework through three use cases, which require an understanding both of the innate properties of the AI techniques and users' needs, and we identify key open challenges.

in Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games, 2018. BibTex

Using a Surrogate Model of Gameplay for Automated Level Design

Daniel Karavolos, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: This paper describes how a surrogate model of the interrelations between different types of content in the same game can be used for level generation. Specifically, the model associates level structure and game rules with gameplay outcomes in a shooter game. We use a deep learning approach to train a model on simulated playthroughs of two-player deathmatch games, in diverse levels and with different character classes per player. findings in this paper show that the model can predict the duration and winner of the match given a top-down map of the level and the parameters of the two players' character classes. With this surrogate model in place, we investigate which level structures would result in a balanced match of short, medium or long duration for a given set of character classes. Using evolutionary computation, we are able to discover levels which improve the balance between different classes. This opens up potential applications for a designer tool which can adapt a human authored map to fit the designer's desired gameplay outcomes, taking account of the game's rules.

in Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Computational Intelligence and Games, 2018. BibTex

Towards General Models of Player Affect

Elizabeth Camilleri, Georgios N. Yannakakis and Antonios Liapis

Abstract: While the primary focus of affective computing has been on constructing efficient and reliable models of affect, the vast majority of such models are limited to a specific task and domain. This paper, instead, investigates how computational models of affect can be general across dissimilar tasks; in particular, in modeling the experience of playing very different video games. We use three dissimilar games whose players annotated their arousal levels on video recordings of their own playthroughs. We construct models mapping ranks of arousal to skin conductance and gameplay logs via preference learning and we use a form of cross-game validation to test the generality of the obtained models on unseen games. Our initial results comparing between absolute and relative measures of the arousal annotation values indicate that we can obtain more general models of player affect if we process the model output in an ordinal fashion.

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, 2017. BibTex

Learning the Patterns of Balance in a Multi-Player Shooter Game

Daniel Karavolos, Antonios Liapis and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: A particular challenge of the game design process is when the designer is requested to orchestrate dissimilar elements of games such as visuals, audio, narrative and rules to achieve a specific play experience. Within the domain of adversarial first person shooter games, for instance, a designer must be able to comprehend the differences between the weapons available in the game, and appropriately craft a game level to take advantage of strengths and weaknesses of those weapons. As an initial study towards computationally orchestrating dissimilar content generators in games, this paper presents a computational model which can classify a matchup of a team-based shooter game as balanced or as favoring one or the other team. The computational model uses convolutional neural networks to learn how game balance is affected by the level, represented as an image, and each team's weapon parameters. The model was trained on a corpus of over 50,000 simulated games with artificial agents on a diverse set of levels created by 39 different generators. The results show that the fusion of levels, when processed by a convolutional neural network, and weapon parameters yields an accuracy far above the baseline but also improves accuracy compared to artificial neural networks or models which use partial information, such as only the weapon or only the level as input.

In Proceedings of the FDG workshop on Procedural Content Generation in Games, 2017. BibTex

Transforming Exploratory Creativity with DeLeNoX

Antonios Liapis, Hector P. Martinez, Julian Togelius and Georgios N. Yannakakis

Abstract: We introduce DeLeNoX (Deep Learning Novelty Explorer), a system that autonomously creates artifacts in constrained spaces according to its own evolving interestingness criterion. DeLeNoX proceeds in alternating phases of exploration and transformation. In the exploration phases, a version of novelty search augmented with constraint handling searches for maximally diverse artifacts using a given distance function. In the transformation phases, a deep learning autoencoder learns to compress the variation between the found artifacts into a lower-dimensional space. The newly trained encoder is then used as the basis for a new distance function, transforming the criteria for the next exploration phase. In the current paper, we apply DeLeNoX to the creation of spaceships suitable for use in two-dimensional arcade-style computer games, a representative problem in procedural content generation in games. We also situate DeLeNoX in relation to the distinction between exploratory and transformational creativity, and in relation to Schmidhuber's theory of creativity through the drive for compression progress.

in Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Computational Creativity, 2013, pp. 56-63. BibTex

Sentient World: Human-Based Procedural Cartography

Antonios Liapis, Georgios N. Yannakakis and Julian Togelius

Abstract: This paper presents a first step towards a mixed-initiative tool for the creation of game maps. The tool, named Sentient World, allows the designer to draw a rough terrain sketch, adding extra levels of detail through stochastic and gradient search. Novelty search generates a number of dissimilar artificial neural networks that are trained to approximate a designer's sketch and provide maps of higher resolution back to the designer. As the procedurally generated maps are presented to the designer (to accept, reject, or edit) the terrain sketches are iteratively refined into complete high resolution maps which may diverge from initial designer concepts. The tool supports designer creativity while conforming to designer intentions, and maintains constant designer control through the map selection and map editing options. Results obtained on a number of test maps show that novelty search is beneficial for introducing divergent content to the designer without reducing the speed of iterative map refinement.

in Proceedings of Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design (EvoMusArt), vol. 7834, LNCS. Springer, 2013, pp. 180-191. BibTex