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While some of the Group's projects may have been greeted by ambivalence from the respective industries though, one provocative point that has been seized on is the potentially unethical long-term implications. If five years from now, ANGELINA were capable of creating high-quality games automatically, wouldn't that put game developers everywhere out of a job?
"I don't think people will ever stop paying for human-created or artistic games," Michael says after a moments thought. He mentions a painting on the wall in the Group's office; a rendition of dancers in motion painted with a single line on a black background and something I admired on my way in. It was created by another of the Group's projects -- The Painting Fool AI created by Simon Coulton.
"I'm very surprised when people think The Painting Fool will replace all artists, because I don't think even us researchers think that... People really underestimate the value of knowing a human has produced something."
In a way, the situation is analogous to the issue of mass produced versus hand-made goods in that one has more implied value than the other. Suits made on Saville Row are held to have more worth and be better than generic, mass produced competitors, for example - and that's something borne out of more than just the quality of the final product. There's a whole host of underlying assumptions and emotions that support that impression.
"I was reading about The Binding of Issac the other day, and Ed McMillen talked about his rationale behind the design decisions." says Michael. "As someone who plays games, that discussion really meant a lot to me... even if an AI could create such a thing then it still wouldn't have the same level of meaning to me."
An on-going problem for ANGELINA is being able to integrate assets into finished games...
In the short term meanwhile, Michael doesn't see ANGELINA's function as being to even try and compete with human designers. Instead, he sees it as more of an assistant that could help developers source new ideas or discover new mechanics. It's the latter which excites him most; ANGELINA's latest advance was to discover a way to make players bounce through levels using an elasticity function in Flixel's game library -- a function he hadn't previously known about.
Though crude, ANGELINA is currently making games inspired by articles from The Guardian newspaper.
Michael admits it was a poor mechanic overall, mainly because players had to stand still while they gathered enough momentum to bounce anywhere -- but he says that was an understandable fault given ANGELINA's current limitations.
"It was designed that way because ANGELINA has no concept of boredom. So, yes, it was a bad mechanic -- but it still showed me a thing in the code that I didn't know existed and it showed me how to use it in a game. And that was a very good moment. It felt like something I might have done - like something a human would design."
"We just would design it a lot better, is all."