Family Tree Solitaire

Now (May 19, 2016) I’ve also posted quick/short rules for the game on my website in text format for printing.  There is also a pdf version of the intro video that you can print.

If you enjoy solitaire, poker, genealogy, and/or memory skills games, I think you’ll enjoy “Family Tree Solitaire”.  Unlike most solitaire games, the main goal is to produce a high score and beat the computer — or your own previous high score.

I have posted detailed rules on my website for “Family Tree Solitaire” in html and pdf format.   I am excited to announce that “Family Tree Solitaire” is available on the Google Play Store.  I hope you will enjoy my new game.

About a year or so ago, I decided to work on a game using Unity3d.  As a classic games developer who has made games for many devices that have come and gone, I like that it has a cross-platform engine.  I enjoy card games, and I wanted to experiment with a different kind of foundation for solitaire: a tree structure — very familiar to genealogists, programmers, and others.  The result is “Family Tree Solitaire”.

Family Tree Solitaire

 I will also be working on putting this game on the Windows Store and possibly a WebGL version.  If I get enough interest, I will also consider a version for Apple devices.

About studying game AI and physics

Recently Gamasutra — The Art & Business of Making Games — featured a couple of useful articles on “7 examples of game AI that every developer should study ” and “7 examples of great game physics that every developer should study.”  Both articles by Richard Moss.

As for the article on physics, the examples are good.  I’m surprised that “Angry Birds” was not in the list.  Perhaps this has already been talked about many times, but it has become a classic that all game designers and developers should understand.

While AI-driven path finding is always useful in games, and playtesting via genetic algorithm is an interesting technique, I did not find an example among the 7 selected which talked about AI in board game opponents?  Perhaps the author doesn’t consider this category to rank high on the list of AI in video games.  I do.

AI in checkers and chess drove my early interest in video games and game AI.  AI in the game of Go recently became a hot topic.  Games like Risk and Stratego continue to challenge AI programmers to produce top players and top video game versions of the board games.  I’m sure there will continue to be AI in board game challenges, as well as card games like Poker and other games that provide incomplete information.

And what about video games that produce new concepts in board and card games?  I will soon release a new kind of solitaire game that I don’t think has been designed before.  Whether it becomes popular or not, I don’t know.  I enjoy playing it.  But at the least I hope it will inspire others to want to make video card games — or board games — that don’t just mimic games we’ve already played many times or seen on toy store and retail shelves.  While my new card game can actually be played with a deck of cards, I do think it is much easier and more fun to play electronically.  More to come on this soon.

Finally, I might also add that serious games like protein folding have something to offer video game designers and developers about intelligence too.  Sometimes the intelligence in the game comes from the users, not the computer AI.  Take a look at what’s out there in serious games.  You might find some very good ideas.

Jewish genealogy research tips

JewishGen posted a list of Mythbusters, which is essentially tips in doing Jewish genealogy research.  I have found these to be useful in my endeavors to learn more about my family history.

One suggestion I might add.  New York arrivals before 1890 would not be to Ellis Island.  Arrivals to New York between 1855 and 1890 would likely be to Castle Garden, but not definitely.

Family Tree clip art

Is square root day political?

Since tomorrow is square root day 4/4/16 (month and day numbers 4 are both the square root of the last 2 digits of the year 16), I decided to propose a (sort of) math problem today. Everyone learns that the square root of 2 is IRRATIONAL (can’t be expressed as a fraction). But the square root of 4 is 2 (or 2/1 as a fraction), not IRRATIONAL.

So what is the square root of a politician? Perhaps it depends on the politician.

I used an online app to quickly figure the dates of the next 15 square root days starting with 4/4/2016, which falls on a Monday.  Using a couple of  online day of the week calculators, I got the following days for the next 19 square root days: 3 Mondays, 1 Tuesday, 3 Wednesdays, 3 Thursdays, 3 Fridays, 4 Saturdays, and 2 Sundays.  Saturday has the most square root days over the next 200 years.

When you look at election days around the world, this would seem to favor Australia, New Zealand, and some other countries where general elections tend to be held on Saturdays.  Also, perhaps interestingly, the next Thursday square root day isn’t until January 1, 2201.  General elections are generally held on Thursday in the U.K.

So is square root day political?  Maybe not over the next million or billion years — I haven’t looked at the distribution of days of the week for that long yet, though it might be fun to do so.  But for the next 200 years, the square root days of the week do seem to favor general election days in some parts of the world.

By the way, the next cube root day is 3/3/27, next fourth root day is 3/3/81, next fifth root day is 2/2/32, and next sixth root day is 2/2/64. And we won’t see another seventh root day until 1/1/01 (which is the year 2101).


Not all AI is having success

AlphaGo’s AI recently had a huge success in beating a world expert opponent in several games of Go.  The main programmer of AlphaGo is now researching using Google’s Deep Mind AI to conquer the game of Poker.

As AI scientists get more involved in teaching the technology to learn how to work with — or compete with — humans, the science fictional aspects of AI will become more of a real concern.  As with games like Chess and Go, some of today’s geniuses are already looking many moves ahead, realizing that AI is on its way to capabilities that we should already be considering today in the making of laws regarding bots and robots.

On the other hand, perhaps society has a built-in way of slowing things down until we’re ready to deal with technology.  Obviously, this didn’t happen with the use of the nuclear bomb, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t forces trying to stop its use or at least slow down its introduction.  An example today might be related in the MIT Technology Review article “Automated Anesthesiologist Suffers a Painful Defeat.”

Did the automated anesthesiologist fail to please doctors and nurses because it wasn’t adequate for their needs?  Or did it fail because they weren’t ready to trust that it was adequate for their needs?  This is a distinction that I don’t have the answer to, but the article clearly states “It’s not clear how much impact the history of animosity with some anesthesiologists had on the disappointing sales, but it probably didn’t help.”

Like the issues with automated cars and automated robot weapons, there are many legal and ethical implications to consider with automated anesthesiologists too.  If one or more humans die because of a mistake made by an AI, the cost and impediment to technological progress — not to mention the outrage — will be huge.

So while industry seems ready to use robots and AI more and more these days to reduce costs and assist human workers, perhaps professional workers are now pushing back the way industry use to.  Is it only a matter of a little time before that wall breaks down too, or will robots and AI be unable to break into many professional jobs — especially those that are related to human life and death — for many decades to come?

Ekg Signal clip art

PC gaming making a comeback

Though the mobile games market is huge, and games on PlayStation and Xbox have done well, much of that success has has taken a toll on PC gaming…until now.  Computerworld reports on “The triumphant, magnificent, and unexpected return of PC gaming.

As a long time video games developer, it saddens me to think of the many game platforms that have come and gone.  It’s nice to know that the PC is still hanging in there, possibly even making a comeback.

If you, like me, are interested in the history of video games, you might also like to stop by the National Video Games Museum in Texas near Dallas.  It just opened!

Tower Desktop Pc clip art