Update January 2011: I'm now at ITU Copenhagen! I haven't moved everything over yet, though, so this site will stay up for now.
Hi! I'm a PhD student in computer science, working in artificial intelligence.
My interests are in the structure, design, and gameplay of videogames. How do
rules, interfaces, audivisuals, and players interact to produce interesting gameplay?
What are the core elements of games, how are their rules modularly structured, and
how do bundles of rules get recombined in new ways to form innovative games?
And, how can game designers think about all this, sculpting rule systems and
gameplay to produce the kind of experience they have in mind?
To answer those questions, my dissertation is on formally representing and
reasoning about videogame mechanics, in a way that is both declarative and
modifiable. The goal is to provide the AI representation-and-reasoning
groundwork to enable a game-design support system that makes early game-design
prototypes much more informative. I am, of course, also building a prototype of
the system: a game-design workbench that will help designers think about
and improve games in a way that's hopefully better than the sort of inspiration
mixed with trial and error that is most common today.
As far as affiliations: I'm a student in Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing, part of the
larger College of Computing. Since my
advisor, Michael Mateas, now
heads the Expressive Intelligence Studio
at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I work there as well. I've at
various times collaborated with Charles Isbell and his pfunk research group. I
also run the nascent Anadrome, a project
loosely organized around computation, the history of technology, and revisiting
I also do work on interactive narrative, and longer ago did some on the
periphery of computer music. Lurking in the todo pile is some
as-yet-unpublished stuff on machine learning. I'm a Wikipedia sysop/administrator and editor,
which I view as partly a hobby, but also partly something that fits in quite
well with my day job (producing and disseminating knowledge). I try to keep up
on law and philosophy as well, especially insofar as those fields intersect
computing and new media.
Nelson and Michael Mateas. Towards automated game design.
In AI*IA 2007: Artificial Intelligence and Human-Oriented
Computing, pages 626–637. Springer, 2007.
Lecture Notes in Computer Science 4733.
Declarative Optimization-Based Drama Management (DODM)
Drama managers watch a game (or other interactive experience) as it progresses,
and intervene when necessary to keep the experience interesting and in line
with an author's goals. DODM is a particular approach in which an author
declaratively specifies what it would mean for the experience to go well, along
with an abstraction of the story and a set of interventions the system can
make. The system then optimizes its interventions according to the given
The basic approach was proposed by Joe Bates in 1992 and developed by Peter
Weyhrauch in 1997. We've since made a number of modifications, both to the
conceptual formulation and to the technical implementation.
Sherol Chen, Mark J. Nelson, and Michael Mateas. Evaluating the authorial leverage of drama management.
In Proceedings of the 5th Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital
Entertainment Conference (AIIDE 2009), October 2009.
A shorter version appeared in the working notes of the 2009 AAAI Spring
Symposium on Intelligent Narrative Technologies.
David L. Roberts, Mark J. Nelson, Charles L. Isbell, Jr., and Michael
Mateas. A globally optimal algorithm for TTD-MDPs.
In Proceedings of the 6th International Joint Conference on Autonomous
Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS 2007), May 2007.
I evaluated MIDI performance as part of previous work (2003–2004)
with Belinda Thom at Harvey Mudd College. We were trying to
discover interesting things about jazz improvisation, but got
sidetracked into measuring the performance of our MIDI equipment,
since we needed to be able to put error bars on the data. You may
also want to take a look at the project's
site, which has code, circuit diagrams, and everything else you
need to run your own tests, as well as the detailed results of our