[Seminar] Solving 10×10 Hex

On Wednesday 20th February 2019 the Game AI Group will host a seminar by Ryan Hayward from the University of Alberta.

Title: Solving 10×10 Hex
Speaker: Ryan Hayward, University of Alberta
Time: 4pm to 5pm, Feb 20, 2019
Room: BR 3.02, Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms, QMUL Mile End Campus
Followed by drinks in the Informatics Hub.
All welcome (especially students), no pre-booking required.
In late winter 1949 John Nash bumped into David Gale in Princeton told him about a game — now called Hex — for which (unlike with chess or Go) he could prove that the first player has a winning strategy.  After hearing Nash’s description of the game, Gale built a board that he left in the math department’s common room, where it became popular. Eventually it caught the attention of Claude Shannon, who built 2 Hex-playing machines, and Martin Gardner, who wrote about it in his Mathematical Games column in Scientific American.

Nash’s proof is existential, and gives little information about how to find explicit strategies. You might try this problem for yourself: on nxn boards up to 5×5, finding a first player winning strategy is easy.  6×6 is more challenging, and the problem gets harder as n grows.  (Finding particular winning strategies for arbitrary positions is P-space-complete. Finding arbitrary strategies for the empty-board position might be easier.)

In this talk I will summarize the ideas that went into finding an (almost completely) explicit strategy for the first-player on the 10×10 board, and then say a few words about what it would take to solve 11×11.

This is joint work with Broderick Arneson, Phil Henderson, Aja Huang and Jakub Pawlewicz.
Ryan Hayward received his B.Sc. and M.Sc.  in mathematics from Queen’s University (Kingston) in 1981 and 1982 and his Ph.D.in computer science from McGill University in 1987. His doctoral thesis, Two Classes of Perfect Graphs, was supervised by Vasek Chvatal.  From 1986 through 1989 he was assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Rutgers University, after which he held an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship at the Institute for Discrete Mathematics in Bonn for 1989-90. From 1990 through 1992 he was assistant professor in the Department of Computing Science at Queen’s University. From 1992 he was assistant and then associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Lethbridge, until in 1999 joining the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta, where he was promoted to professor in 2004.

He has supervised 13 graduate and 29 undergraduate students,some of whom later became university professors. His current research interests include algorithms for two-player games. His group (including at times Yngvi Bjornsson, Michael Johanson, Broderick Arneson, Philip Henderson, Jakub Pawlewicz, and Aja Huang — later lead programmer of AlphaGo) has built the world’s strongest computer Hex player, and has solved two 1-move 10×10 Hex openings and all smaller-board openings.

With Bjarne Toft, he wrote “Hex, the full story”, published by Taylor-Francis in 2019.

Ryan lives in Edmonton where he commutes year-round by recumbent bike.

[Seminar] Generalisation of Simulation-Based Search for Autonomous Gameplaying

On Wednesday 6th February 2019 the Game AI Group will host a seminar by Alexander Dockhorn from Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg.

Title: Generalisation of Simulation-Based Search for Autonomous Gameplaying
Speaker: Alexander Dockhorn
Time: 4pm to 5pm, Feb 6, 2019
Room: BR 3.02, Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms, QMUL Mile End Campus
All welcome (especially students), no pre-booking required.

In my talk, I am going to present how various supervised learning mechanisms can lead to an approximation of an unknown game’s forward model, allowing agents to apply simulation-based search algorithms to general game learning tasks. The presentation will include an analysis of game model characteristics and the resulting development of the forward model approximation framework. Various forward model learning systems will be explored to highlight capabilities and limitations of the discussed framework.


I am PhD student at the Otto-von-Guericke University. My current research interests are computational intelligence in games and intelligent data analysis. My focus is on partial information games as well as learning rules, game models and playing strategies from previous experiences.

[Seminar] Agents with internal models

On Wednesday 6th February 2019 the Game AI Group will host a seminar by Theophane Weber from DeepMind.

Title: Agents with internal models
Speaker: Theophane Weber
Time: 4pm to 5pm, Feb 6, 2019
Room: BR 3.02, Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms, QMUL Mile End Campus
Followed by drinks in the Informatics Hub.
All welcome (especially students), no pre-booking required.
I will present recent work that studies agents endowed with an internal model of the world. This will include agents that learn world models by predicting the future, and learn to interpret those predictions in order to act better without suffering from model inaccuracies; agents with neural analogues of search algorithms such as Monte Carlo Tree Search; agents that learn temporally abstract models of the world in order to compute representations of their belief about the state of the world, agents that use their models to evaluate counterfactual scenarios and learn from those synthetic experiences, and agents with only implicit models of the world that still exhibit planning-like behavior.


I am a staff research scientist at DeepMind. My research interests span deep reinforcement learning, model-based RL and planning, probabilistic modeling and modeling of uncertainty. Prior to DeepMind, I worked at Lyric Labs, a skunkworks team of Analog Devices, working on applications of machine learning to the physical world. I hold an M.S. and Ph.D from MIT in Operations Research and an M.S. from Ecole Centrale Paris in Applied Mathematics.

Theophane’s Google Scholar profile.

[Seminar] Advancing Video Game AI With Intrinsically Motivated Reinforcement Learning

On Friday 7th December the Game AI Group will host a seminar by Christian Guckelsberger from QMUL.

Title: Advancing Video Game AI With Intrinsically Motivated Reinforcement Learning
Speaker:Christian Guckelsberger
Time: 2pm-3pm (GMT), Dec 6, 2018
Room: BR 3.02, Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms, QMUL Mile End Campus
Modern video games come with increasingly large and complex worlds to satisfy players’ demands for a rich and long-lasting playing experience. This development brings new challenges: designing robust believable characters that players can engage with in an open-ended way, and also with respect to evaluating content, especially when procedurally generated. In this talk, I will motivate the use of intrinsically motivated reinforcement learning to address the challenges of next-generation video games, a technique which currently gains strong momentum in the search for artificial general intelligence. I will give a comprehensive, interdisciplinary introduction to the concept of intrinsic motivation. I will motivate the development of computational models of intrinsic motivation, point out the opportunities they hold for game AI, and discuss the new challenges such models come with. My research on coupled empowerment maximisation for more believable non-player characters will illustrate the potential of such models, and motivate their combination with reinforcement learning. The use of intrinsically motivated reinforcement learning for video game AI is still in its infancy, and I will consequently finish with a set of open questions and interesting research projects.

[Seminar] The Blurring of Video Games and Gambling: Daily Fantasy, Esports, Live Streaming, and Loot Boxes

On Tuesday 27th November the Game AI Group will host a seminar by Mark R Johnson from the University of Alberta.

Title: The Blurring of Video Games and Gambling: Daily Fantasy, Esports, Live Streaming, and Loot Boxes
Speaker: Dr Mark R Johnson
Time: 1pm-2pm (GMT), Nov 27, 2018
Room: BR 3.02, Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms, QMUL
This talk will examine the growing importance of gambling in modern video game design, the growing importance of video game design to contemporary gambling forms, and the overall wider interweaving of the two within the past five to ten years and their implications for the future of digital play. Firstly, the rapid rise and newfound near-ubiquity of Esports gambling, both “within” games (e.g. skin betting) and “outside” through third-parties (e.g. sports betting), poses new questions about the increasing extent to which Esports are coming to resemble traditional physical sports, and how consumption of Esports competition is shifting as corporate interests and “professionalisation” increase. Secondly, the paper will examine the expanding ongoing controversies surrounding “loot boxes”, the question of whether or not these are gambling, and how anti-“gambling” discourses are being mobilised in opposition, despite the primary issue players report being a question of paying to win. Thirdly, I will consider daily fantasy sports platforms, their commonalities with “sports management” video games, and their status as ambiguous gambling-gaming artefacts which subvert the clear boundaries between the two. Fourthly, the talk will examine online poker broadcasts on the live-streaming platform Twitch.tv, viewed by millions, and also how numerous live streamers are “gamblifying” methods by which their viewers can give them monetary support, using a suite of psychological techniques to encourage donations. The talk will conclude by emphasising the importance of these four phenomena for the future relationship between games and money, and how we might understand the growing role of gambling, and gambling-style systems, in many different kinds of digital play.
Mark R Johnson is a Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta in Canada. His work focuses on the intersections between play and money, such as professionalised video game competition (E-sports), the live broadcast and spectating of video games on personalised online “channels”, and the blurring of video games and gambling in numerous contexts.

Outside academia, he is also an independent game developer, a regular games writer, blogger and podcaster, and a former professional poker player.

[Seminar] Perfect, Immortal Machines: The Future Of Automated Game Design

The Game AI Group at Queen Mary University of London has the pleasure to receive Dr. Micheal Cook for a seminar talk at 4pm on March 14th.
Get a ticket to secure your spot at the event!


Title: Perfect, Immortal Machines: The Future Of Automated Game Design
Speaker: Dr Michael Cook (http://www.gamesbyangelina.org/)
Time: 4pm-5pm (GMT), Mar 14, 2018
Room: Graduate Center 201, EECS, QMUL
Coffee/tea/cakes will be served at 3:30pm in the hub, wine and nibbles will be served in the hub after the seminar.

It’s a golden age for AI in games – they can play them, they can generate content for them, they can even design them. But what does this really mean for games culture? Is AI doomed to live in a dark room and only come out when we ask it to play Go?
In this talk, computational creativity researcher Michael Cook talks about the history of the future of automated game design; his latest work on his game designing AI ANGELINA; and explains how the future of AI isn’t a captive algorithm in a box, but an independent digital creative, with its own agenda, its own dreams, and its own Twitch channel.

Slides: http://www.gamesbyangelina.org/talks/qmul.pdf

[Seminar] “Combining Evolution and Learning” by Chrisantha Fernando (Google DeepMind)

The Game AI Group at Queen Mary University of London has the pleasure to receive Chrisantha Fernando for a seminar talk at 4pm on March 20th.
Get a ticket to secure your spot at the event!

Title: Combining Evolution and Learning
Speaker: Dr Chrisantha Fernando, Google DeepMind
Time: 4pm-5pm (GMT), Mar 20, 2018
Room: David Sizer Lecture Theater, Bancroft Building, EECS, QMUL
Drinks/reception: 5pm – 6pm – Informatics Hub, Computer Science Building

Chrisantha Fernando is currently a senior research scientist at Google DeepMind. He has previously been a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, after having worked on models of the origin of life and Darwinian neurodynamics. He started his career as a medical doctor.


To find more information about the aspects presented in this talk, have a look at the links below:

General Video Game AI tutorial at QMULGRADFEST

This tutorial is aimed to introduce the concept of general game Artificial Intelligence through the General Video Game AI (GVGAI) framework. The event will begin with a talk describing the higher-level concepts and give an idea about the research carried out in the field, then narrowing down to the specific challenge at hand.

Refreshments, lunch and networking opportunities will be provided as part of the event.

This event is organised by PhD student, Raluca Gaina within the context of QMUL GrasFest.

Slides can be found at here.

Other useful links:

[Seminar] “Computational Creativity and Videogame Design ” by Prof. Simon Colton

Title: Computational Creativity and Videogame Design 

Speaker: Prof. Simon Colton, Digital Games Technologies (Falmouth) and Computational Creativity (Goldsmiths), EPSRC Leadership Fellow Metamakers Institute, Games Academy, Falmouth University Computational Creativity Group, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Time: 5pm-6pm (GMT), Jan 23, 2018
Room: BR3.02, Bancroft Road, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, QMUL


In Computational Creativity research, we try to hand over creative responsibilities to software in arts and science projects, so that our systems can become trusted co-creators or autonomous creatives. After describing some recent advances and issues in Computational Creativity, I’ll move on to what is a killer application for the field, namely videogame design. I’ll describe recent work I’ve been involved with that aims to use AI techniques to democratise game design, so that anyone and everyone can make digital games as easily as they can write stories or make videos. I’ll also cover projects in procedural content generation and whole game design, and the idea that we can communicate our lives through play. At the end of the talk, I’ll come back to Computational Creativity research in general and look at high-level issues such as software showing intentionality, which we’ve addressed through The Painting Fool project. I’ll then describe what I believe is the biggest issue facing the field, namely authenticity, and I’ll provide some suggestions for how we can start to address this issue.



Simon Colton is a Professor of Digital Games Technology, holding an ERA Chair at Falmouth University, and a part-time Professor of Computational Creativity at Goldsmiths, University of London. He was previously a reader in Computational Creativity at Imperial College, London, and held an EPSRC Leadership Fellowship until mid-2017. An AI researcher for 20 years, he is one of the founding members of the Computational Creativity movement, with nearly 200 publications and national and international awards for his research. At Falmouth, he co-leads the MetaMakers Institute (www.metamakersinstitute.com) applying Computational Creativity techniques to the democratisation of game design and the cultural appreciation of videogames. At Goldsmiths, he co-leads the Computational Creativity group (ccg.doc.gold.ac.uk), addressing issues of creative behaviour in various application domains. He is also involved in the EPSRC IGGI doctoral training centre and the DC Labs Next Step Digital Economy centre. He is best known for his work on software such as the HR mathematical discovery system, The Painting Fool (www.thepaintingfool.com), the What-If Machine (http://ccg.doc.gold.ac.uk/research/whim) and the Wevva iOS game design system (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/wevva/id1322519841 and www.wevvagame.com). He has recently co-founded up a company called Imaginative AI Ltd., to pursue commercial applications of Computational Creativity.

Useful links: metamakers.falmouth.ac.ukccg.doc.gold.ac.ukmetamakersinstitute.comwevvagame.com

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI)

12 fully-funded PhD studentships to start September 2018

Covers fees at Home/EU rate and a stipend for four years

IGGI is an exciting opportunity for you to undertake a four-year PhD in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence, working with top games companies and world-leading academics in games research. We currently have 46 students conducting interdisciplinary research in areas such as:
•Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create interesting, fun, believable game agents,
•emotion and immersion in games,
•interaction design for games,
•Machine Learning (ML) to understand player psychology
•using games for learning and wellbeing,
•game audio, graphics and animation
•game design, citizen science and gamification,
•procedural content generation,
•AI-assisted game design and testing.
IGGI is a collaboration between the University of York, the University of London (Goldsmiths and Queen Mary) and the University of Essex. The programme trains PhD researchers who will become the next generation of leaders in research, design, development and entrepreneurship in digital games.
We have 12 studentships available for 2018/19 entry, which will fund full fees (at a Home/EU rate) plus a tax-free living stipend, for a 4-year PhD programme. Could you join our large and growing group of games researchers in the world’s largest games research programme?
IGGI gives you the opportunity to work with our industry partners, allowing you the possibility to contribute directly to the future of games. You will have the opportunity to undertake industrial placements during the IGGI programme, giving you first-hand experience of the games industry. These placements will contribute to your research, ensuring its relevance, as well as giving you the skills needed to succeed in a career in the games industry or games research.
Our students have completed, or are currently on, placements with partner companies such as Sony Interactive Entertainment, Bossa Studios, Google, Bloomberg, Prowler.io, MediaMolecule, BT, SplashDamage, and MindArk. Other partners include organisations such as Electronic Arts, Creative Assembly, Rebellion, Revolution, AI Factory and over 50 games companies and organisations which use games in creative ways (see http://www.iggi.org.uk/industry-partners/).
Your research work with partners like these will advance the creation of more fun and profitable games that exploit research advances, and help to increase the use of games as tools for research in behavioural science and for societal benefit.
You’ll also learn through teamwork and inspiring events such as:
•the IGGI Game Jam, a 48 hour game development challenge as part of the Global
Game Jam, enhancing your skills in game design, development, and teamwork;
•the IGGI Conference, showcasing student research alongside industry and academic speakers;
•student-led events such as the IGGI Game Creator’s Club, research seminars, games evenings.
You’ll receive focused skills training from a range of academic research leaders, covering topics including Games Development, Games Design and Research Skills as well as a range of optional topics in areas such as AI, HCI, graphics, audio and design.

Apply for IGGI

We have 12 fully-funded studentships to award to outstanding students which cover fees and an annual tax-free stipend of £14,553 (or £16,000 with London weighting if studying at Goldsmiths or Queen Mary) for four years (at 2017/18 rates – this is likely to increase slightly for September 2018 starters).

An IGGI application should consist of a CV, a covering letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the IGGI programme, and a statement of your planned research and proposed supervisor(s). You will also be asked for evidence of your programming skills during the application process, either through your qualifications, previous employment or examples of games you have developed.
You can contact potential supervisors directly (see http://www.iggi.org.uk/supervisors/ for a list), or contact us at the email address below and we can help you to choose a principal supervisor from York, Essex, Goldsmiths, or Queen Mary based on your interests and background. We expect substantial competition for IGGI studentships and we encourage good students
to submit applications as early as possible. The deadline for applications is 23:59 (GMT) on Wednesday 31st January 2018. Interviews will take place at University of York on Friday 16th March 2018.
Your CV, covering letter, supervisor information and statement of planned research should be emailed to apply@iggi.org.uk. Please send enquiries to the same email address.

IGGI students are a diverse group, and admission judgements are made exclusively on the basis of experience and potential to do excellent research and contribute to IGGI’s goals. We especially welcome applications from female and minority ethnic candidates as well as other groups that are under-represented in areas related to IGGI.