Online ZX spectrum games

As a coda to the personal history of personal computers article I published last week, I’d like to present some playable online ZX Spectrum games for your delectation.

These games are all running within emulators, either written in Java, or amazingly, Javascript. The Javascript efforts are incredible in this ex-programmers estimation: ported from the open source Fuse Z80 emulator that is written in c, Spectrum snapshots (snapshots are a standard emulator format for ZX spectrum games based on the original tape recordings) are converted into javascript libraries. It’s brilliant, and it works.

Here is an online version of Knight Lore:
http://www.twinbee.org/hob/play.php?snap=knightlore

And Sabre Wulf, also from the same studio:
http://www.twinbee.org/hob/play.php?snap=sabrewulf

Lords of Midnight:
http://www.dharssi.org.uk/games/ZXspectrum/lom_java.html

Brilliantly, there’s also a multi user version of this early RPG. I haven’t tried this out yet so I have no idea if it actually works.

I didn’t talk about adventure gaming on the Spectrum, but I was a big fan of Melbourne House text based adventures such as The Hobbit, Sherlock and more. Telling Gandalf to kill Thorin and Gandalf actually doing it was pretty good (if a bit weird and inconsistent from the books!). Here’s an online version of the Hobbit.

And lastly, I couldn’t find online versions of any of Mel Croucher’s games, but here’s a snapshot of PiMania that can be downloaded for the emulator of your choice:
http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0003714

Computer program learns language by playing Civilisation

This is an amazing piece of research, at UCL in London:

“In 2009, at the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), researchers in the lab of Regina Barzilay, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering, took the best-paper award for a system that generated scripts for installing a piece of software on a Windows computer by reviewing instructions posted on Microsoft’s help site. At this year’s ACL meeting, Barzilay, her graduate student S. R. K. Branavan and David Silver of University College London applied a similar approach to a more complicated problem: learning to play “Civilization,” a computer game in which the player guides the development of a city into an empire across centuries of human history. When the researchers augmented a machine-learning system so that it could use a player’s manual to guide the development of a game-playing strategy, its rate of victory jumped from 46 percent to 79 percent.

Every action that you take in the game doesn’t have a predetermined outcome, because the game or the opponent can randomly react to what you do. So you need a technique that can handle very complex scenarios that react in potentially random ways.” Moreover, Barzilay says, game manuals have “very open text. They don’t tell you how to win. They just give you very general advice and suggestions, and you have to figure out a lot of other things on your own.” Relative to an application like the software-installing program, Branavan explains, games are “another step closer to the real world.”

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/language-from-games-0712.html

Skynet, anyone?