On a bus to FDG 2009.

Mark J. Nelson

mnelson@cc (.gatech.edu)

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 old scholarship.

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 Lurking in the todo pile is some as-yet-unpublished stuff on machine learning.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.

You might also be interested in an index of newsgames I maintain, or some notes on a variety of topics.


For a more up-to-date list, see my Google Scholar profile.

Representing and reasoning about videogame mechanics for automated design support

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 criteria.

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.

MIDI Performance

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 tests.

This information was current as of: October 2010