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step3

Creating circular worlds like Democracy

Last Ludum Dare I implemented a circular world for my game. I wanted to do that for some time, but before this LD I had no idea how to implement such a thing. Now I see that is pretty easy to do so. In this post I will explain how to create a circular world like the one I used in Democracy.

The beauty of a circular world is that we can work only with the radius of the planet, ignoring its position at the screen. So, first thing to do is defining our planet to a radius “r” (lets say 150px) and to screen position (0, 0). To center the planet in the window, you move the camera to (-w/2, -h/2) where w is the window width and h is the window height. You should see something like this:

step1

Now that we have an empty world, lets add some objects on it. All objects must have a position in this world, but this position isn’t the same of in screen, it is simpler. Suppose that at the point (0, r), what could be the north of our planet, is the angle 0°, then the east (r, 0) is 90° and so on, until the north point again. See the image below for reference:

step1-2

Now our object can be at positions like 47° or 270°, but we still must draw it into the screen. That’s pretty simple. Let’s say we have a sprite with (s_w, s_h), width and height, respectively. Then we set its screen position to (0, 0) and its anchor to (0, r+s_h). With this we have an sprite at the north point 0°, to relocate it to 306° we simply set its rotation as “sprite.rotation = 306” and done!

step2
White box is at north (0°) and the red box is at 306°.

Additionally you can also set the height of the object in that world (the distance of that object to the ground). To put a cloud at 30px high, you simply add the height to the sprites anchor, such that anchor is (0, r + s_w + height):

step3

Sometimes you may find useful to convert the world position, now (position, height), to the screen position. For example, to add some particles. So, to find the screen coordinates (x, y) of an object at (position, height) you do:

Contrarily, when you want to convert the screen position to world coordinates, for example to find where the mouse is pointing. You can do:

Simple right?

Let me know if you found this article useful, or if you have an alternative way to do that, or yet, if you created some circular world based on this. Cheers!

node_selector

Implementing A Behavior Tree – Part 2

Fast links for other parts and tutorials:

If you’re looking for actual code to use, check it out:


In the previous post (Part 1), I presented the base architecture for our Behavior Tree. In this one, there is not much to talk, but a lot to show. I will present some implementations of basic nodes here, and with this, you will have (hopefully) a pretty good idea of how this all works and how to continue on your own.

We will implement here:

  • Composites: Sequence, Priority, MemSequence, MemPriority;
  • Decorators: Inverter;
  • Actions: Wait, ChangeColor, ChangePosition;
  • Conditions: IsMouseOver.

By the end of this post, we will also put a simple behavior tree into action.

It is important to note that, I’m oversimplifying our implementations due to legibility and better understanding of the core features. For example, I would replace the “children” variable in decorators to a “child” variable in a real scenario, because they can only have a single child. More than that, I would create a class for each node category in order to treat the these differences between them. If you are going to implement a BT from scratch with basis in these tutorials, I trust you are going to make the necessary changes. =)

** Remember: all nodes must inherit from BaseNode.

Composites

A composite node can have one or more children. The node is responsible to propagate the tick signal to its children, respecting some order. A composite node also must decide which and when to return the state values of its children, when the value is SUCCESS or FAILURE. Notice that, when a child returns RUNNING or ERROR, the composite node must return the state immediately.

Sequence

The sequence node ticks its children sequentially until one of them returns FAILURE, RUNNING or ERROR. If all children return the success state, the sequence also returns SUCCESS.

Priority

The priority node (sometimes called selector) ticks its children sequentially until one of them returns SUCCESS, RUNNING or ERROR. If all children return the failure state, the priority also returns FAILURE.

MemSequence

MemSequence is similar to Sequence node, but when a child returns a RUNNING state, its index is recorded and in the next tick the MemPriority call the child recorded directly, without calling previous children again.

Notice that, this is the first time we use the blackboard inside a node. The MemSequence must save the index of the last running child in the blackboard in order to start from it in the tick function. Also notice that, every time the MemSequence is opened (which means that it was closed), the node resets the “runningChild” to zero.

 

MemPriority

MemPriority is similar to Priority node, but when a child returns a  RUNNING state, its index is recorded and in the next tick the, MemPriority  calls the child recorded directly, without calling previous children again.

Decorators

Decorators are special nodes that can have only a single child. The goal of the decorator is to change the behavior of the child by manipulating the returning value or changing its ticking frequency.

Inverter

Like the NOT operator, the inverter decorator negates the result of its child node, i.e., SUCCESS state becomes FAILURE, and FAILURE becomes SUCCESS. Notice that, inverter does not change RUNNING or ERROR states, as described in algorithm below.

Actions

Action nodes perform computations to change the agent state. The actions implementation depends on the agent type, e.g., the actions of a robot may involve sending motor signals, sending sounds through speakers or turning on lights, while the actions of a NPC may involve executing animations, performing spacial transformations, playing a sound, etc.

Wait

Wait a few seconds. Notice that, in this node, we need to define a parameter in the initialization!

ChangeColor

Change the color of the target object.

Note here: this is the first time we use the target object. Thus, this node, different of the previous ones, is very coupled to our application. Here, this node will be used in our example below and the target object is a shape of CreateJS.

ChangePosition

Choose a random position for our target object.

Conditions

A condition node checks whether a certain condition has been met or not. In order to accomplish this, the node must have a target variable (e.g.: a perception information such as “obstacle distance’” or “other agent visibility”; or an internal variable such as “battery level” or “hungry level”; etc.) and a criteria to base the decision (e.g.: “obstacle distance > 100m?” or “battery power < 10%?”). These nodes return SUCCESS if the condition has been met and FAILURE otherwise. Notice that, conditions do not return RUNNING nor change values of system. Graphically, condition nodes are presented by gray ellipsis, as shown in the image below.

IsMouseOver

Verifies if the mouse is over our target object.

Example: Jumping Box

So, we have all our nodes. Now put it all together in a file called behaviors.js and copy the code below into a html file:

This example presents a blue rect in the screen. When will move the mouse over this rect, it will change to red; then it will wait a half second to change its position, resetting its color to blue again. Check it out:

.

This ends the series of tutorials about Behavior Trees. I hope to hear some feedback from you guys!

bt_architecture

Implementing A Behavior Tree – Part 1

Fast links for other parts and tutorials:

If you’re looking for actual code to use, check it out:


In these days, I’ve being developing a Behavior Tree (BT) library in JavaScript, including the core structures of BTs, a visual editor and a visual debugger. In this post, the first part of two, I will explain my implementation choices of the core structure, which is almost finished in my library, and by the end of this series you will have an example code of fully functional behavior tree with some basic nodes.

*Notice that, you can translate the code here from JavaScript to any language.

Before any code, I’ve defined some objectives (the must-have) of the implementation:

  • Must be easy to connect the tree to a visual debugger (during the tick signal, the debug must know which node is executing);
  • The tree must know the open nodes from last tick (so it can close previous open nodes that weren’t called in the current tick);
  • Must be easy to load and save the tree in a JSON format (this is important because the visual editor will also save and load the tree as a JSON);
  • Nodes must have, at least, a function for events: open, tick, and close. The open function is only called before the tick function and only if the node is closed (if it returned RUNNING the last tick, the node is still open). In the tick function, a node will perform some computation. The close function will be called after the tick function and only if the node returned SUCCESS, FAILURE or ERROR (or if the tree force it);

After several implementations with different design choices, I came up with a fairly decent architecture for BTs, which can be seem in the figure below. This architecture will be explained in detail during this post, so don’t worry to understand it all right now.

bt_architecture

I’ve decided that, the tree and the nodes will not store a reference to a target object (e.g., an NPC instance or a monster instance) nor variables related to the execution of the tree or of the node (e.g., a list of opened nodes or the last child to return a RUNNING state), they will only store structural information (e.g, reference to the children) – Suppose you have 1000 NPCs in a game that share the same behaviors (e.g., villagers or pack of evil goblins), with this design choice, a single instance of the tree will control all the thousand agents.

Now, the execution information must be stored somewhere else. For this, we will create a Blackboard structure, which will serve to us as individual memory to our agents, thus, each one of the 1000 NPCs in the example above will have a different Blackboard instance.

In this architecture, I don’t see the needed to have multiparenting (explained here). The multiparenting implementation seems too complex and the outcome seems too low (not sure, but I think large trees will not consume that much memory with this architecture; later I will test if this is true and benchmark the multiparenting feature).

Constants and Helpers

Starting the code. First of all, we have to define some constants to represent the state values. I’m using the states SUCCESS, FAILURE, RUNNING, and ERROR, as described here.

Notice that I also included the function createUUID . This function will be used to create unique IDs for our objects (consult this if you want to know more about how UUID works).

Blackboard

So, the Blackboard will be the memory structure for our agents, which will be used by the tree to access the execution variables. The Blackboard must differentiate global information, accessed by any node in the tree, by the agent, or even other trees (yeah, with this implementation, you may use different trees to control the same agent using the same memory); per tree information, accessed only by the nodes in the same tree or the tree instance itself (e.g, a list of open nodes from last tick); and per node per tree information, accessed only by the node that wrote the information (e.g., a flag telling if the node is open or not).

The Blackboard class only defines two public methods:  set  and get . Notice that, both receive the parameters treeScope and nodeScope, these parameters will be used to define the memory context (global if both aren’t provided, per tree if only treeScope is provided, or per node per tree is both are provided).

Both,   set  and get , are pretty simple, only get the contextual memory object and store/retrieve values to/from it. The  _getMemory  will decide which memory will be used, depending on parameters.

Also notice that, the  _getTreeMemory  and  _getNodeMemory  methods will create a new object inside the tree memory if it doesn’t exist. The object used as memory is a common Object in JavaScript, but in other languages you can use dictionaries (also called hash tables or hash maps).

Tick

Nodes do not need to have a reference to their parents, only to their immediate children, in the same way, the tree will only know the root node. In order to tell nodes in which tree their are, and make references of the target and the blackboard visible to them, We will use a Tick object. This object will be created by the tree, will store the references, and will be propagated to the nodes during the tick.

The Tick is also used to:

  • Store the list of current open nodes and count the number of nodes ticked during the traversal;
  • Send the activation signals to debug (as commented in the code);

The tick have some methods that will be called by the node objects. See below the  BaseNode  definition, to know more.

BehaviorTree

The tree must keep a list of open nodes of the last tick, in order to close them if another branch breaks the execution (e.g., when a priority branch returns RUNNING.). After each tick, the tree must close all open nodes that weren’t executed.

The tree definition is also pretty simple, it only have one method, called tick. The tick method receives a reference to the target object and another to the target blackboard as parameter. With these references, it creates a Tick object and propagate it to the root node, and just waits for the root to return the status. After propagating the tick signal, the tree closes all open nodes from the last tick that weren’t called in the current one (the last open nodes list is stored in the blackboard while the current open node list is created by Tick during the propagation). Finally, the tree saves the list of open nodes in the blackboard.

BaseNode

All nodes will inherit from a BaseNode . This class will implement a execution method that will call all “interface” methods:

  • Enter: called every time a node is executed;
  • Open: called only when the node is opened (when a node returns RUNNING, it will keep opened until it returns other value or the tree forces the closing);
  • Tick: the real implementation of the node (e.g., the composite nodes will call their children in this method);
  • Close: called when a node return SUCCESS, FAILURE or ERROR, or when the tree forces the node to close;
  • Exit: called every time at the end of the node execution.

The user can create new nodes by inheriting the BaseNode and overriding the interface methods.

Notice that, there is a wrapper method for all interface methods, they are used to update the  isOpen  flag in the blackboard and call the Tick methods.

To be continued…

In the next post, I will show the implementation of some basic nodes and examples of use of this tree.

problem_memory

An Introduction to Behavior Trees – Part 3

This post is the third and last part of the Introduction to Behavior Trees series. This part explains some implementation details of BTs.

Fast links for other parts and tutorials:

If you’re looking for actual code to use, check it out:


Decorator Examples

Inverter

Like the NOT operator, the inverter decorator negates the result of its child node, i.e., SUCCESS state becomes FAILURE, and FAILURE becomes SUCCESS. Notice that, inverter does not change RUNNING or ERROR states, as described in algorithm below.

 Succeeder

Succeeder is a decorator that returns SUCCESS always, no matter what its child returns. This is specially useful for debug and test purposes. The algorithm below shows the pseudo-code for this node.

 Failer

Inverse of suceeder, this decorator return FAILURE for any child result, as shown below.

 Repeater

Repeater decorator sends the tick signal to its child every time that its child returns a SUCCESS or FAILURE value, or when this decorator receives the tick. Additionally, a maximum number of repetition can be provided.

 Repeat Until Fail

This decorator keeps calling its child until the child returns a FAILURE value. When this happen, the decorator return a SUCCESS state.

Repeat Until Succeed

Similar to the previous one, this decorator calls the child until it returns a SUCCESS.

Limiter

This decorator imposes a maximum number of calls its child can have within the whole execution of the Behavior Tree, i.e., after a certain number of calls, its child will never be called again. The limiter pseudo-code is described in algorithm below.

Max Time

Max Time limits the maximum time its child can be running. If the child does not complete its execution before the maximum time, the child task is terminated and a failure is returned, as shown algorithm below.

Prioritizing Behaviors

Considering the composite nodes described in the previous post, the Behavior Tree traversal is performed with a dynamic depth-first algorithm (notice that, except by Parallel node, all composite nodes run a child at a time and run orderly from left to right). This procedure allows a definition of priority among behaviors in the tree: the left branch of the tree (starting from the root) contains the high-priority behaviors while the right branch contains the low-priority behaviors.

In order to exploit this, the designer must put important behaviors such as auto-preservation and collision avoidance at the left branches and low-priority behaviors such as idle or rest at the right branches. Notice that, depending on the agent, may be necessary to add an unconditional behavior as the lowest-priority in order to keep the tree executing at least this behavior.

Treating Running States

One common question when implementing a Behavior Tree is that: what to do in the next tick after a node returned a running state? There are two answer to it: starting the graph traversal from the running node or starting it over from the first node.

The major drawback of starting the tick at the node that returned the running state is that this node can take too much time running an action and, thus, avoiding the execution of most important behaviors. For instance, suppose a robot performing an action to follow a certain path; in the half way the robot finds a hole, but it cannot avoid it because the tree is running the action of path following.

Therefore, the best option is always start over the tree, and if a most-important behavior wants to run, the previous node stops.

Composite Node Extensions

Node*: Remembering Running Nodes

When we start the tree traversal at the root every tick, even after some node returned a running state, we can fall at the following situation. Suppose an agent performing a patrol behavior, which is illustrated by the figure below. Now suppose that the agent completed the first action (“go to point A”) at the tick 1 and then, the second action (“go to point B”) is started, returning a running state. At tick 2, the traversal starts from the top and reach the first action again, which will send the robot again to point A, thus, never completing the second action and never even calling the third one.

problem_running

The * extension over the Priority and Sequence nodes overcome this problem by recording the last child that returned RUNNING. The figure below shows the same example above but now using a sequence with * extension. After completed the first action (“go to point A”), the second action (“go to point B”) is executed and returned RUNNING state. In the next tick, the sequence node do not execute the first action, but jumps directly to the second one.

problem_running_2

This extension is only valid for the Sequence and Priority nodes. Parallel node does not suffer from the problem cited here, because it don’t execute its children sequentially but concurrently.

Node~: Probabilistic Choice

When an agent performs exactly the same sequence of actions given a particular situation, the agent may become predictable. The simplest way to avoid the predictability is to using random choices on some nodes. For example, an agent with a grasp behavior can randomly choose left or right hand to grasp some object.

The ~ extension allows Sequence and Priority nodes to randomly choose its children, instead of sequentially select them. The ~ nodes randomly choose one of its children to execute, then ignore the selected ones and choose other until all children were selected.

problem_random

A common use of this extension is to choose children with equiprobable distribution, but it can use other distributions by weighting the choices.

 Multi-Parenting

Behavior Trees provide the advantage of allowing reuse of conditions, actions or even subtrees. The reuse of subtrees can be done in two ways: creating a new instance of the branch or using the same branch but with multiple parents. Duplicating subtrees have a major drawback in the memory usage, because it consumes more memory than necessary to represent the same thing, specially when duplicating large subtrees. On the other hand, multiple parents save memory but prejudice the visualization of the tree, decreasing readability.

The solution to this problem is to use a hybrid approach: the duplication of the subtrees happens only in the level of control and visualization while multi-parenting is used in the level of implementation and execution. Notice that, the duplication of the subtrees is only virtual and does not apply to the real structure of the tree.

Handling Persistent Data

Autonomous intelligent agents, whether virtual or real, need an internal state to store its belief about the world. These beliefs may include information from its perception system (e.g., last known position of the enemy; last known position of the allies; etc.) and other computed information (e.g., world position).

Similarly, some actions in Behavior Tree may need to store information (e.g., total time running the child node; time since last action; total failures; etc.), but we do not want to add this inside the node because it would be attached to a specific agent, therefore, obligating the use of a different tree for all agents. Running a different tree for each agent is a waste of resources and may be impractical.

problem_memory

A common approach to fulfill the requirement for persistent data is using memory pools, which can be used to store information about the world and allow behaviors to read and write new information on it. Notice that, this memory pools are individually maintained for each agent, thus allowing to share a single Behavior Tree for hundreds of agents.