Seeking a game designer for co-design of a tool for game AI

We, a team of researchers at Northeastern University and UC Santa Cruz, are seeking a solo or small-team game developer for a 6-month contract to help us design and test a novel tool for creating game AI.

You will spend approximately 5 hours per week using the tool in a real game project of your design, and meeting with us to discuss the tool design and how it can better meet your needs. There is a fixed stipend of $6000 for this project.

You must use Unreal Engine® 4, and must be at least 18 years old and eligible to work in the United States. Applications are open now, please read on to learn more about the project and how to apply!

Why?

Game designers, especially those working alone or on small teams, may find it difficult to implement robust AI for non-player characters (NPCs) in their game. These designers may lack support from game AI engineers who know techniques for managing complicated interactions between NPCs, players, and the game environment. To help designers overcome these challenges, we are working to create AI-assisted tools for Unreal Engine 4 that can help designers implement practical, flexible NPCs that fit their design vision.

Designers of identities that have been marginalized in the games industry (for example: designers who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, disabled, and/or of a marginalized gender or sexuality) may especially encounter barriers to this access or support. These marginalized designers are creating cutting-edge, artistic, and innovative work, and therefore have specific and unique needs and goals, some of which we particularly hope to explore and directly address through this project [1, 2, 3].

For these reasons, we particularly encourage applications from designers who have one or more identities that have been marginalized in the games industry! We want to learn directly from you about designing tools to meet your NPC design needs and enable you to keep making experimental and artistic work.

What?

We are starting a co-design project, in which a game designer will use and provide input on a prototype tool for game AI design in Unreal Engine 4, in the process of using the tool to create AI for a game of their own design. This could be either an ongoing or new game project. There is a fixed stipend of $6000, and the designer will also retain ownership of the resulting game (they will grant us a license to use the game for further research).

We are particularly looking for a designer who works alone or on a very small team, and who therefore may not have access to AI engineers or specialists to help them create character behavior.

We will consult with the co-designer regularly during a 6-month development period to learn about the designer’s needs and experiences using the game AI tool, helping us to determine how to improve the tool. We expect to publish the results of this project in a peer-reviewed academic venue, so we will ask to record and take notes in these meetings and analyze the results for publication.

Who?

This is a project at Northeastern University’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences, run by researcher Nathan Partlan working with Dr. Stacy Marsella, and in collaboration with Dr. Magy Seif El-Nasr, a researcher at University of California Santa Cruz. Learn more about us.

To be eligible for this project, you must:

  • Be age 18+
  • Be able to collaborate with the English-speaking tool development team
  • Have released at least one project, either personal or professional, using Unreal Engine 4

You cannot be contracted for this co-design project if:

  • You are currently employed as a game designer at a company of larger than 10 people
  • Your contracts or agreements prevent you from working on/owning copyright on a side project
  • You do not have authorization to work in the United States, or cannot receive payment in the United States
  • You are unable to work at a computer for at least 10 hours per week

We particularly encourage applications from designers who have one or more identities that have been marginalized in the games industry (for example: Black, Indigenous, Person of Color, Disabled, or of a marginalized gender or sexuality)!

How?

You can apply to this co-designer contract position by sending us (using the form linked at the end of this page): your portfolio or at least one example of a project you have worked on using Unreal Engine 4; a brief description of a project you plan to create for this contract, using Unreal Engine 4 and requiring computer-controlled AI behavior for at least one character; and a resume or CV if you have one.

Your proposed project may be a project you are already working on, or not yet started. It should be within scope to be released to external players as an early-access or beta release, within the 6 month period of the contract.

Before you commit to this project, we would provide a detailed document with full information about the project, and we would meet with you to answer any questions you have. Then, we would set up a formal contract through Northeastern University. We would also request your consent to take notes, record audio and computer screens in meetings, and analyze and publish results from these data (and all data resulting from the work). You would choose between either anonymous participation or full credit for your work (either acknowledgement or authorship if the work results in a publication, depending on your preferences and level of involvement).

There is a fixed stipend of $6000 for this work, to be paid upon completion of project milestones as determined by the contract. This stipend amount is based on an estimated time commitment of 5 hours per week using the tool and meeting with the tool development team, over approximately 6 months, at $50 per hour. (In practice, these hours may end up being spent unevenly - some weeks, you may use the tool for significantly more than 5 hours, and other weeks you may not use it at all while working on other parts of the game project.)

We would not be able to provide additional funding for contractors or purchase of software or assets for the project - you would be responsible for all work to create the game itself. We would work with you to negotiate a contract with Northeastern in which you would retain ownership of and rights to publish the resulting game.

Where?

The project is open for remote participation - all meetings and work can occur by e-mail, encrypted video chat, and text chat.

If financial, travel, and public health conditions permit, we might be interested in meeting with the co-designer in person on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston, MA, but this is not a requirement nor expectation for participation.

When?

Recruitment is open now, and will be closed as soon as we have selected one co-designer.

Please submit THIS FORM (hosted by Google Forms) to apply for this contract position, or contact us to ask any questions you might have. If you do not feel comfortable submitting the application form through Google Forms, please contact us by e-mail to apply, and include:

  1. Your portfolio or at least one example of a project you have worked on in Unreal Engine 4.
  2. A brief description of a project you plan to create for this contract, using Unreal Engine 4. Please describe why it requires computer-controlled AI behavior for at least one character.
  3. A resume or CV (this is optional, but please include one if you have one).

References

[1] Ruberg, B. (2020). The queer games avant-garde: How LGBTQ game makers are reimagining the medium of video games. Duke University Press.

[2] Compendio, C. (2019). At Game Developers of Color Expo 2019, Creators Showed a Theme of Coping with Anxiety. DualSHOCKERS. https://www.dualshockers.com/game-developers-of-color-expo-2019-feature/

[3] Lawhead, N. (2021, October 15). Talk Transcript: Your uniqueness is your strength (and why that matters to the indiegame space). The Candybox Blog. http://www.nathalielawhead.com/candybox/talk-transcript-your-uniqueness-is-your-strength-and-why-that-matters-to-the-indiegame-space