Boost Hierarchical Pathfinding with Extended Graphs

Large HPA* Graph

As you may already know if you follow me on Twitter (why not?), I often work with pathfinding. This thing started as a small side quest during my Ph.D. and then grew up to become the main topic of my future Ph.D. thesis. I’m still quite sure that this is not what I chose back in the day but, well, now that I’m on the dancefloor I have to keep dancing.

Returning to the subject, my work is totally focused on pathfinding with cognitive capabilities. This means that I try to embed pathfinding into a more high-level reasoning pattern or, if you prefer, to push high level elements – such as reasoning with keys and equipment – down into the pathfinding level. As a consequence I use hierarchical abstraction of the map space a lot and for “a lot” I mean that in the last year and half I’ve implemented Hierarchical Pathfinding (HPA*) at least 4-5 times in different context and languages.

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Bacon Game Jam 09: Back in Business

Last Fish Swimming - Bacon Game Jam 09

Hi everyone! I’m here to tell you the story of my last game jam: the Bacon Game Jam 09. It was a long time since my last game jam (and my game-dev stuff in general). I was a bit distracted by other part of my life and, in general, I wasn’t in the best mood. Because of this, I’m very happy to partecipate to  this jam, also if the final result is not completely satisfying.

Anyway, let’s start!

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Procedural Contents Generation in Modern Videogames

PCG Platform

Hi guys! In the last month I’ve prepared a presentation on Procedural Contents Generation history and techniques in commercial videogames. I did this presentation for a Game Jam some time ago and for a series of meetings in our university.

I think it is a nice summary of the main elements of PCG in commercial games, so I think it is worth to share this presentation with you!

Download Slides

Enjoy! :)

Weekly Inspirational #1

Inspiration

Stay inspired during the boring working week is the best way to fight procrastination and stay on board of the “do-stuff”  train. There is nothing better than looking at a creative a work to say “Cool! I want to do something similar, too!” (or to lay down crying in depression, but this is another topic I suppose). For this reason I’d like to share with you 5 of the best inspirational and interesting stuff of the week that the web can provide. It is good food for your brain! (PS: Someone could say that I spend too much time reading and looking for these stuff… well… ehm… please, don’t. Let me dream.)

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Javascript is not so bad… after all

Javascript Everywhere

I have to admit it. I was a big Javascript hater. I used to criticize the language on every possible aspect: syntax, maintainability, error prevention and management, and so on. Let me be clear, I still have a lot of concerns on all this things. I wasn’t wrong. Javascript’s syntax can be a nightmare (and this is why there are so many languages that transpile to Javascript), maintainability is a state-of-the-mind more than a language feature and a lot of Javascript design issues are an infinite-bug-spawner. But, after all, it is not so bad and it is going to improve significantly in the future.

In the last months, I get used a lot to the Javascript ecosystem and community and it becomes a language in which I feel quite happy to work with. Let’s see why (and why still is not a perfect language).

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Debug with Git Binary Search

Git!

I don’t think I have to spend too many words on Git. Every programmer who was not on the moon in the last 5 years should already be a proficient Git user. Git is an amazing, flexible and powerful version control system. Sure, as Mercury fans often claim, its command’s syntax is often really unclear ( git reset HEAD <file> anyone?) and some operation are really unintuitive and hard to remember (e.g., remove a remote branch?). But Git is the most popular, successful and probably powerful tools available for VCS. That’s a fact.

Many of you use Git daily, I’m sure of this. You are using it for managing projects, tracking version of your software, personal documents or to collaborate with other colleagues and open source softwares. But I’m pretty sure that many of you don’t know that you can use Git for debug! Yes, Git can be one of your debugging tools too! Let’s see how!

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Never underestimate a smooth workflow

Clockwork

To be productive, you have to be constant. To be constant, you have to be organized. To be organized, you have to be happy about what are you doing. This are three simple rules that I try to apply to my work. The first two are quite straightforward and they don’t really need explanations. The third one, however, is more delicate. What do we mean with “to be happy about what we are doing”? Why this is connected with “to be organized”? Well, the answer is positive feedback. When I’m happy with what I’m doing I’m able to stick to the workflow I’m using. At the same time, a good workflow means less time spent debugging, less trivial bugs committed, less troubles during deployment, in other words: an happier developer!

This positive feedback loop can really increase your productivity. The real problem is, how can we find this magic smooth workflow? I don’t know. I cannot tell you the magic solution to every developer problems. You have to find this by yourselves. The only thing I can do now is telling you my actual workflow. This may be a good starting point for some of you. :)

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Quadarto: a didactic project in Haskell

Quadarto example output

The last week I spent some time build a small tool for abstracting  an image into a mosaic, for fun. To do this I’ve used Haskell, of course. However, this is my first “complete” program I’ve written in Haskell. Before that, I’ve read a lot about Haskell and used it for solving tons of ProjectEulers‘s problems. However writing  program that performs real stuff, such as loading an image, do stuff and write a new image is a completely different things. Using Haskell for the Project Euler problem is almost like cheating, using Haskell for a side-effect-full application can be a pain in the neck if you are not prepared.

So the idea was to do this trying to be as much idiomatic as possible so that this code could be used by new haskellers in order to learn something on the language. It is still not really idiomatic, but I’m working on that.

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The definitive guide to start with ClojureScript

Yesterday, while my working machine was crunching tons of numbers, graphs and maps to produce some (hopefully) meaningful data for a research work, I was looking for a simple guide to build a simple web page with ClojureScript. Unfortunately, I was not able to find something that was at the same time straightforward, simple, minimal and explained! So, I decided to write something by myself to avoid my pain to some future young clojurist.

The main problem with the guides I’ve found online were:

  1. They didn’t use Leiningen or any other build system. Now, this can also be good, but Leiningen is, in practice, a standard for Clojure developer, so I’d like to learn how to setup a project as soon as possible.
  2. They are outdated.
  3. They are not well explained. For sake of simplicity, they assume a lot of things. But I want to know what I’m writing!
  4. They are not simple. I don’t want to write a full featured web application with a lot of dependencies and plugins! I want an hello world!

So, I hope to cover all this points. Let’s start!

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