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22Oct/093

He Could Not Stop For Death

Many of us played some iteration of Super Mario as a kid. Growing up with a utilitarian single mother, I was usually a console or two behind the curve; I got my Atari 2600 when the first commercials for the SNES were airing. I used to go to friends' places to play the NES games before before my eighth birthday, when I received a Nintendo and a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 of my own. Later, my mom's boyfriend's son would occasionally bring by his SNES and I'd get my dose of Super Mario World (along with, be still my quivering thumbs, Street Fighter II.) By the time I got a hand-me-down Sega Genesis, my cousins received a Nintendo 64 as a birthday present, and my visits (they lived in the Baltimore suburbs) became marathon sessions of Super Mario 64. I had the honor of being the first one to catch that godforsaken yellow bunny in the dungeon.

This isn't about me, though. This is about some crazy son-of-a-bitch who made an AI bot that plays Super Mario World by itself. Well, not Super Mario World exactly, but Markus Persson's Infinite Mario. Using Super Mario World sprites, it randomly builds a level to play through. A competition was held using a modified version of this engine. Using the A* search algorithm (link contains math I do not even pretend to understand) Robin Baumgarten created the following piece of work:

Did you see that at 0:45? Yes. Incredible. The functioning is simple: the AI either goes left or right, with an option to increase or decrease speed. Mario can either shoot a fireball or jump. And, yet, from those few instructions, we get a ...work of art. Well, I'm overstating it a bit, but it is beautiful. Especially if you spent your childhood years watching Mario die, having a fit of rage, turning the console off, realizing there's nothing on TV except a rerun Charles in Charge, and deciding to give that godforsaken plumber another go.

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Dude, that is so rad. I love how there’s a procedural SMW map generator AND an AI designed to beat it. AI vs AI in a no-holds-barred steel cage match to decide the future of the Singularity.

  2. Geek trash talk aside – knowing the algorithm, how the fuck did he construct that AI and can I give him my old Super Mario Bros 3 to beat cause I have never gotten passed some later levels in the game.
    I am holding a lifetime long personal grudge against that game and with this new tool, its like seeing your junior high school bully cry!

  3. No, that wouldn’t work. It isn’t actually SMW, but an open-source program made to resemble the behavior SMW using sprites from the original game. Unless you can get your hands on the source code to SMB3, doing something like this would be a whole lot harder. That goddamn game kicked my ass all the time as a kid, too. You might like this, though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQlGM6gcBeE It’s a tool-assisted speedrun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_assisted_speedrun) of SMB3.


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