Essex at night

Welcome to the Games Intelligence Group at the University of Essex.


GDCuffs interview: Richard Bartle

Most of you know him by his famous categorization of psycho-types of players. A British writer, professor and game explorer, known as the creator of MUD and author of Designing Virtual Worlds, the pioneer of MMORPG – Richard Bartle visiting GDCuffs.

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Taught Courses

BSc Computer Games

This is a degree in world-making. You craft stories, characters and plot in order to build imaginary worlds that a player can journey through. Our work is driven by creativity and imagination as well as technical excellence; at Essex you master both game design and computer programming, giving you total control over the worlds you want to create.

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MSc Computer Games

At Essex we specialise in virtual worlds, machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-level games design and development. On our course, you develop both theoretical and practical knowledge of computer games. Our flexible approach allows you to fill gaps in your knowledge and brush up on a variety of languages, making sure you’re ready to bring your designs to life.


Research Areas

Game AI

General Video Game AI

Creation of AI that plays multiple different games without domain specific knowledge

Deep Learning

Machine learning with cascade of multiple layers for feature extraction and transformation

Genetic Algorithms

Nature inspired algorithm that continually improves solutions over time

Reinforcement Learning and Adaptive Dynamic Programming

Psychology inspired algorithm that uses rewards and punishments to entice AI to achieve a task

Monte-Carlo Tree Search

Assymetric tree search with random rollouts for state evaluation

Game Design

Game Tuning

The use of AI to tune game parameters that are well balanced

Story Generation

The generation of coherent and interesting stories by AI

AI Assisted Game Design

The use of AI to design games that are interesting and fun to play


Professor Richard Bartle

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Dr Luca Citi

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Professor Edward Codling

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Dr Michael Fairbank

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Andrei Iacob

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Professor Udo Kruschwitz

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Emily Marriott

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Mihail Morosan

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Dr Dimitri Ognibene

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Dr Spyros Samothrakis

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Stefan Stoican

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Joseph Walton-Rivers

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Piers Williams

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What we do


Vodopivec, T., Samothrakis, S., & Branko, S. On monte carlo tree search and reinforcement learning JAIR N/A, paper just accepted
2017 Walton-Rivers, J., Williams, P. R., Bartle, R., Perez-Liebana, D., & Lucas, S. M. (2017, June). Evaluating and modelling Hanabi-playing agents. In Evolutionary Computation (CEC), 2017 IEEE Congress on (pp. 1382-1389). IEEE.
2017 Morosan, M., & Poli, R. (2017, September). Evolving a designer-balanced neural network for Ms PacMan. In Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CEEC), 2017 (pp. 100-105). IEEE.
2017 Morosan, M., & Poli, R. (2017, July). Speeding up genetic algorithm-based game balancing using fitness predictors. In Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference Companion (pp. 91-92). ACM.
2017 Morosan, M., & Poli, R. (2017, April). Automated Game Balancing in Ms PacMan and StarCraft Using Evolutionary Algorithms. In European Conference on the Applications of Evolutionary Computation (pp. 377-392). Springer, Cham.
2017 Samothrakis, S., Vodopivec, T., Fairbank, M., & Fasli, M. (2017). Convolutional-match networks for question answering. IJCAI
2016 Williams, Piers R., Diego Perez-Liebana, and Simon M. Lucas. “Ms. pac-man versus ghost team CIG 2016 competition.” Computational Intelligence and Games (CIG), 2016 IEEE Conference on. IEEE, 2016.
2015 Williams, P. R., Walton-Rivers, J., Perez-Liebana, D., & Lucas, S. M. (2015, September). Monte Carlo Tree Search applied to co-operative problems. In Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Conference (CEEC), 2015 7th (pp. 219-224). IEEE.
2015 Lee, K., Ognibene, D., Chang, H.J., Kim, T.K., Demiris, Y. “Spatio-Temporal Attention Relocation for Multiple Structured Activities Detection” “IEEE Transactions on Image Processing” 10.1109/TIP.2015.2487837
2015 Ognibene,D. and Giglia, G. Use of hierarchical Bayesian framework in MTS studies to model different causes and novel possible forms of acquired MTS Cognitive Neuroscience
2015 Friston, K., Rigoli, F., Ognibene, D., Mathys, C., Fitzgerald, T., Pezzulo, G. Active inference and epistemic value Cognitive Neuroscience 10.1080/17588928.2015.1020053
2015 A. Greco, G. Valenza, A. Lanata, E. P. Scilingo, and L. Citi cvxEDA: a convex optimization approach to electrodermal activity processing IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering 10.1109/TBME.2015.2474131
2014 Samothrakis, S., Perez, D., Lucas, S. M., & Rohlfshagen, P. ” Predicting dominance rankings for score-based games” IEEE TCAIG
2014 Perez-Liebana, Diego, Spyridon Samothrakis, Julian Togelius, Tom Schaul, Simon M. Lucas, Adrien Couëtoux, Jerry Lee, Chong-U. Lim, and Tommy Thompson. “The 2014 general video game playing competition.” IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games 8, no. 3 (2016): 229-243.
2014 Perez, Diego, Spyridon Samothrakis, and Simon Lucas. “Knowledge-based fast evolutionary MCTS for general video game playing.” In Computational Intelligence and Games (CIG), 2014 IEEE Conference on, pp. 1-8. IEEE, 2014.
2014 Michael Fairbank, Danil Prokhorov and Eduardo Alonso. Clipping in Neurocontrol by Adaptive Dynamic Programming, in IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems, Volume 25, Issue 10, October 2014, pp. 1909-1920.
2014 Michael Fairbank, Shuhui Li, Xingang Fu, Eduardo Alonso, and Donald Wunsch. An adaptive recurrent neural-network controller using a stabilization matrix and predictive inputs to solve a tracking problem under disturbances, in Neural Networks, Volume 49, January 2014, pp. 74-86.
2014 Ognibene, D., Baldassarre, G. Ecological Active Vision: Four Bio-Inspired Principles to Integrate Bottom-Up and Adaptive Top-Down Attention Tested With a Simple Camera-Arm Robot IEEE Transactions in Autonomous Mental Development 10.1109/TAMD.2014.2341351
2013 Michael Fairbank, Eduardo Alonso and Danil Prokhorov, An Equivalence between Adaptive Dynamic Programming with a Critic and Backpropagation Through Time, in IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems. Vol.24, Issue 12, December 2013, pp. 2088-2100.
2012 Browne, Cameron B., Edward Powley, Daniel Whitehouse, Simon M. Lucas, Peter I. Cowling, Philipp Rohlfshagen, Stephen Tavener, Diego Perez, Spyridon Samothrakis, and Simon Colton. “A survey of monte carlo tree search methods.” IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in games 4, no. 1 (2012): 1-43.
2012 Michael Fairbank and Eduardo Alonso, Efficient Calculation of the Gauss-Newton Approximation of the Hessian Matrix in Neural Networks, Neural Computation, March 2012, Vol. 24, No. 3: pp. 607-610.
2012 Michael Fairbank, Eduardo Alonso and Danil Prokhorov, Simple and Fast Calculation of the Second-Order Gradients for Globalized Dual Heuristic Dynamic Programming in Neural Networks, IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems, October 2012, Vol. 23, Issue 10: pp. 1671 – 1676.
2012 Michael Fairbank and Eduardo Alonso, Value-Gradient Learning, in the Proceedings of the IEEE International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IEEE IJCNN 2012), pp. 3062-3069. Brisbane, Australia, 10-15 June, 2012. Received a nomination for the Best Paper Award. Slides from conference.
2012 Michael Fairbank and Eduardo Alonso, A Comparison of Learning Speed and Ability to Cope Without Exploration between DHP and TD(0), in the Proceedings of the IEEE International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IEEE IJCNN 2012),
2012 Michael Fairbank and Eduardo Alonso, The Divergence of Reinforcement Learning Algorithms with Value-Iteration and Function Approximation, in the Proceedings of the IEEE International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IEEE IJCNN 2012), pp. 3070-3077. Brisbane, Australia, 10-15 June, 2012. Slides from conference.
Samothrakis, S., & Fasli, M. ” Emotional sentence annotation helps predict fiction genre” PloS One
Alhindi, A., U.Kruschwitz and C. Fox Profile-Based Summarisation for Web Site Navigation ACM Transactions on Information Systems DOI: 10.1145/2699661
Althobaiti, M., U. Kruschwitz & M. Poesio Combining Minimally-supervised Methods for Arabic Named Entity Recognition Transactions of the ACL (TACL)
Song, D., Y. Shi, P. Zhang, Q. Huang, U. Kruschwitz, Y. Hou and B. Wang Incorporating Intra-query Term Dependencies in An Aspect Query Language Model Computational Intelligence DOI: 10.1111/coin.12058
El-Haj, M., U. Kruschwitz and C. Fox Creating Language Resources for Under-resourced Languages: methodologies and experiments on Arabic Language Resources and Evaluation DOI: 10.1007/s10579-014-9274-3
Thórisson, K. R.; Nivel, N.; Steunebrink, B. R.; Helgason, H. P.; Pezzulo, G.; Sanz Bravo, R.; Schmidhuber, J.; Dindo, H.; Rodriguez Hernandez, M.; Chella, A.; Jonsson, G. K.; Ognibene, D. & Hernandez, C Autonomous Acquisition of Natural Situated Communication IADIS International Journal on Computer Science and Information Systems ISSN: 1646-3692
G. Valenza, L. Citi, A. Lanatá, E. P. Scilingo, and R. Barbieri Revealing real-time emotional responses: a personalized assessment based on heartbeat dynamics Scientific Reports 10.1038/srep04998
S. Raspopovic, M. Capogrosso, F. M. Petrini, M. Bonizzato, J. Rigosa, G. Di Pino, J. Carpaneto, M. Controzzi, T. Boretius, E. Fernandez, G. Granata, C. M. Oddo, L. Citi, A. L. Ciancio, C. Cipriani, M. C. Carrozza, W. Jensen, E. Guglielmelli, T. Stieglitz, P. M. Rossini, and S. Micera Restoring Natural Sensory Feedback in Real-Time Bidirectional Hand Prostheses Science Translational Medicine 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006820