Almost two weeks ago there was SIGBOVIK 2014, the 8th annual April Fool's academic conference at CMU. When I say April Fool's conference, it's not that it's a conference about April Fool's Day or something, rather, it takes place on A.F.D. and contains "research" that may or may not be real, and is usually whimsical.
This year I emceed, labcoat and all, and begin with a one-day-hack "SIGBOVIK Plays Twitch Plays Pokémon Plays SIGBOVIK", where I rigged up a website with a controller that looks like this:
(told you I did it on the morning of SIGBOVIK!) and internet people could click the buttons to vote in real time on what a Nintendo emulator running this weird Chinese pirate NES version of Pokémon would do:
although it was delayed 10 seconds due to streaming to twitch.tv, just like the real Twitch Plays Pokémon. But the "twist" here is that the software then reads some bytes out of Pokémon's RAM, and uses those to pose the line drawing of a person, the idea being that the current SIGBOVIK presenter must take on the pose indicated, thus completing the Circle of Life and "playing" SIGBOVIK. Even though my prerogative as emcee is technically limitless, almost nobody followed this decree. It might have had something to do with the fact that the pose changed three times a second, due to bad planning/tuning. Still, it was there projected on the wall, always haunting you:
Connoisseurs of weird pirate versions of Pokémon will notice that we made it into Professor Oak's laboratory to select our beast, which took hours of trying to time the ten-second delay correctly. We accidentally exited the lab before selecting a Poké-egg.
There were many fine ideas at the conference, some of which are collected in the SIGBOVIK 2014 proceedings. My papers this year are even more abstruse than usual. The first was "New results in k/n Power-Hours", a ten-page hangover that revisits the incorrect or nonsensical theories in our paper from 2012, "Algorithms for k/n Power-Hours". Both are about a generalized version of the popular drinking game, but only the latter was written while sober. The results here are completely accurate, studied at length with real software. The "joke" in this case may be a little edgy for SIGBOVIK, the idea being to oversolve some pointless problem and then not even present it in a way that's humorous. It has some cool-looking figures, though. That one won the "Most Deserving of Being Real Research" award. Second I contributed "What, if anything, is epsilon?", a more or less serious descriptive account of how programmers set the value of epsilon in their software (spoiler alert: they range over 300 orders of magnitude!), whose results are obscured by absurd choices in data visualization. Third was "It still seems black has hope in these extremely unfair variants of chess", wherein I combine chess with populist board games, ruining it, and then study strategies for avoiding domination as player 2, using computer game tree search.
I think I started 7 other SIGBOVIK papers that I didn't finish on time, obviously, but I'm keeping the dream alive.
Up next: I have an idea for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and if I simply apply myself to something useful for once, I should be able to put together the apparatus in time (three weeks). In two weeks, another trip to Zurich with a stop in Lugano. Also: Barn-based board games.
Tomorrow is the prestigious academic conference SIGBOVIK, which I will be emceeing this year. It's at 5pm in Rashid auditorium on CMU's campus. There will be cake, "papers", "presentations", and awards. And mirth! I have 3 papers this year and will likely prepare a presentation as well, though as usual I have saved that to the very last minute.
Recently I have been doing some 3D printing, mostly for fun, but also for fixing things and optimizing my life a little. It's really pretty awesome to be able to go from an idea to a physical object in an hour or two, and to make stuff that's completely customized to its use. Here's my page on Thingiverse, the social networking site for 3D printing models. I have a few other things I've made that aren't uploaded there. I started with CAD software, which is super good for precise parts (and really fun; if you have never used modern CAD software and think you might like it, you should try it. It's almost as fun as learning to program was, for me), but recently I've been learning Blender, which is an excellent open source 3D modeling tool. It's much better than I expected (usually open source software for media, like drawing or music or video, is pretty disappointing). Last weekend I made this toy:
It's the Golden Idol from Spelunky, printed here at miniature size. While I'm gushing about software I like, Spelunky is so good. If you like hard platformers, you should play it. Even though it's a roguelike, the adage that "Spelunky has a robust leveling system -- it's just inside your heart" is really true, and I've been playing for months and still haven't beaten it the hardest way. Anyway, I can just make my own treasure so no big deal. Here's a timelapse video of it 3D-printing.
This one doesn't have too much technical materials, as it's the exact same program playing a bunch more games: Color A Dinosaur, Cliffhanger, Pro Wrestling, Pinball, Mega Man 2, Gradius, Double Dare, Arkanoid. There are also some new results for Super Mario Bros. It's a bit lengthy, but I tried hard to keep it dense and filled with entertainment.
I'm currently working on different projects for SIGBOVIK this year, but I also have some more ideas for the NES AI stuff. All we need is more time!
Ludum Dare 28: Single Dragon: You Owe N. Lee $1
(17 Dec 2013 at 09:10)
For this weekend's Ludum Dare, I made another video game in 48 hours. The theme was "You Only Get One", and my lexicographic pun convention has reached the level of self parody, as my game is called You Owe N. Lee $1. It's a beat(?)-em-up game in the style of Double Dragon or River City Ransom.
I am trying to give up Flash, which is what most of my other web games are made in. Flash is great, but I got stuck on ActionScript 2.0 (old, slow), it's hard to customize the editor, it's expensive for-pay software, and most importantly, it's dying. This game is made with whizzo HTML5 technology, which appears to be the future. (At least, unless you are using Internet Explorer, in which case it may never work.) Chrome seems the best, and the newest FireFox also works OK.
I wrote my own AudioContext music player for this, so I don't have any MP3s of the soundtrack yet, but I will try to put it to tape.