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Emergent properties: game testers are “stuffed”

Illustration: Alexis Demetriades

Chris Lewis, a member of the Software Introspection Lab at UC Santa Cruz has his game testing work profiled in Science Notes 2011, in the article “Fixing Glitchy Games” by Donna Hesterman.

Games increasingly have emergent properties brought about by the complex interactions between the player, AI-driven non-player characters, level geometry and items in the game world. Except for the player, all of these have become more complex in the latest generation of AAA titles, leading to an exponential increase in potential interactions. Lewis states it well:

Games have emergent properties baked into them. That’s what makes them exciting. But when they don’t work, “you’re stuffed!”

Chris’ project Zenet allows game testers to model the desired behavior of a game, then monitor it at runtime. If the game starts acting wonky, this will be detected, and steps can be taken to correct the faulty game state.


About the author:  Jim is Professor and Chair of Computer Science at UC Santa Cruz. He has research interests in procedural level generation for computer games, as well as automatic bug prediction. His favorite games are Radiant Silvergun and Civilization IV. Read more from this author


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