Sunday, April 26, 2009

Daily Life


Puzzle Games

Since my post about physics-based puzzle games, I have played a few other puzzle games which deserve mention. Right as exam period was starting I decided to buy a new PS3 game (which seemed like a good idea at the time). It is a physics-based puzzle platformer called LittleBigPlanet. The gameplay itself isn't revolutionary, but I found the multiplayer mode and online user-generated content to be extremely fun. The game has a level creator so anyone can publish their own content. I designed a puzzle which I consider to be fairly challenging. It involves constructing a staircase to get over a wall. There are a few tricks to constructing the staircase such as how to move/rotate blocks and how to make the staircase stable. So far only six people have played the level and only one person has solved it (me). It has a rating of 2 out of 5 :(.

Yesterday I got an amazing game called Braid. The puzzles in this game are brilliant. They are based on controlling the flow of time. I had a hard time following the story though, and the ending didn't make any sense to me. I think it was intentionally ambiguous.

Two other puzzle games I played recently I downloaded from the PlayStation Store on my PS3. The first is called Echochrome. It is based on the artwork of M. C. Escher and involves tricks of perspective. The second is a game called Flower. You control the movement of flower petals by tilting the PS3 controller to change the direction of the wind. The graphics in the game are beautiful.

All four of these games have incredible music that really enhance the gameplay experience. In general I am usually disappointed with the quality of music in video games. Two series in which the music made a lasting impression on me are Final Fantasy and Myst.

I am still planning on making my own puzzle game this summer. I have been keeping track of what aspects of the various puzzle games I have been playing work well. I will post updates on the game's development on this blog.

This semester I only have four exams (which is the fewest I have ever had). I think my first three exams went really well. My last exam is on Monday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


After I got back from an exam this morning I got a call from the residence front desk informing me that somebody broke into my jeep. Luckily there wasn't anything valuable inside. On the driver side door there are large dents near the locking mechanism. Apparently the thief couldn't get in through this door, so went to the passenger side door and completely removed the locking mechanism. I'm glad that the entire jeep wasn't stolen. The battery is dead, so any attempt at hotwiring would have failed. The damage should be completely covered by insurance. The theft attempt might have been due to the boxes I keep in the back of my jeep. Although they are empty, I'm sure the thief was motivated by the hope of getting computer+monitor+PS3+printer. In the future I will be more cautious on where I put empty boxes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ACM World Finals

The results for the ACM-ICPC contest have just been released. UBC came in 34th, solving four problems. MIT did the best out of North America, coming in 7th (solving seven problems). Waterloo did really well, coming in 10th. Last year UBC came in 30th.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grad School

I have finally decided where I will be going for grad school. I will be staying at UBC for my master's degree. I was accepted at four out of the nine places I applied. I was hoping to be able to try a new university for my master's degree, but UBC is one of the best out of the places I have been accepted for AI/machine learning. My first choice in Canada was Toronto, but unfortunately I got rejected there. Hopefully during my master's degree I will be able to strengthen my application so that I can get accepted into a good school in the US for my PhD.

The entire process of applying to grad school took a lot of time (and money). It involved taking the GRE, researching schools, applying for scholarships, getting references, etc. The process should be much easier when I apply for my PhD two years from now since I have already done the majority of the work. The application process was cheaper than I was expecting because luckily I didn't have to pay any application fee for Alberta (scholarship) and Berkeley (unknown reason). For my PhD applications I'll probably apply to fewer universities to reduce the time/cost requirement.

Monday, April 13, 2009

BattleCode Tournament Results

A few minutes ago the results from the BattleCode Open Tournament were released:

Top Teams

* 1st place: I for one welcome our new Team 207 overlords
* 2nd place: We'll do it live
* 3rd place: gtg ice skating lessons
* 4th place: My other language is english
* 5th place: Little
* 6th place: JIT In My Pants
* 7th place: When you wish upon Astar
* 8th place: Yellow Submarine

Non-MIT Teams

* 1st place: Bad Meme
* 2nd place: KeepItSimple
* 3rd place: Villanova

Notable Non-MIT Universities

* 1st place: University of British Columbia
* 2nd place: Villanova
* 3rd place: University of North Carolina (Wilmington)

I was a member of KeepItSimple. As expected, MIT teams completely dominated the contest. Bad Meme and KeepItSimple are both UBC teams, so I am proud that UBC is the next best university. I know that our team could have done much better if we had more time to work on it. I am planning on competing again next year, so hopefully next time we can challenge some of the top MIT teams!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Math Teacher


Physics Puzzle Games

For the last couple of weeks I have been obsessed with physics-based puzzle games. Physics simulators allow the creation of complex puzzles which can involve the interaction of many simple components. There are often a variety of ways to solve a given puzzle. I have tried out a large number of games in this genre (both good and bad). Some of my favorites include:

- Crayon Physics
- Zany Doodle
- Gish
- Armadillo Run
- Fantastic Contraption
- World of Goo
- Switchball

Another great thing about this genre is that it doesn't require a large development team to make a successful game. Most of the games that I listed above were made by a single developer. I have decided that this summer I will try making my own physics-based puzzle game. There are already a variety of open source projects I can use to help development. For the physics engine, I can use Box2D or Chipmunk. For the graphics I can use OpenGL or Cairo. The game will use 2D vector graphics. One idea that I had for the gameplay is the creation of elaborate deathtraps to kill superheroes. "Deathtrap" seems like an appropriate title for the game. I plan on making it open source.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Storm the Wall

UBC has an intramural sports event called "Storm the Wall". It is a five person team relay which includes a swim, sprint, cycle, and run. At the end of the event the entire team climbs over a 12 foot wall. I joined a team of Computer Science students doing the event. I did the cycling portion of the race. Due to a mistake in our team registration, we competed in the "CoRec" category which requires two females in order to compete. On Tuesday we had our first race and came in fourth with a time of 17:16. Despite the fact that we competed with five males, nobody disqualified us and we advanced to the semi-finals. Today we finished the race in third place with a time of 16:36. In today's race we had one female, but this time they noticed and we were disqualified.