Science & Technology

[email protected] – Research Profiles

Jörg Kienzle

The term ‘video game’ means different things to different people. For some, it brings back suppressed high school memories. For others, it’s on the Friday night agenda. For a group of computer science and software engineering professors and students at McGill, however, a video game research project is just another day at work.

The Mammoth project is a video game set on a virtual McGill campus. It’s used by many different professors to conduct research. Unfortunately, the objective-based game aspect of Mammoth hasn’t been maintained, but they’re looking for someone who would be interested in reintroducing the game aspect.

“Currently Mammoth is just a virtual world you can load, and take control of a player and walk around,” Jörg Kienzle, an associate professor in the McGill school of computer science, and one of the professors working on Mammoth, said. “Now it’s basically a big research framework.”

Mammoth is designed in such a way that professors can easily change the game code.By changing the way the game manages certain tasks, they can conduct experiments in different fields of computer science.

Currently there are several projects running on Mammoth. One project involves attempting to balance the computational load required to run the game between several different computers. Another is looking at creating a ‘god client’ where the player would be free to go anywhere and have access to any information about the game, all through a touchscreen interface. Yet another project involves making a system to easily create artifically intelligent beings in the game.

“One of the Mammoth worlds is the McGill campus and on the campus we have squirrels, and these squirrels run around and when a player gets too close, they run away,” Kienzle said. “It reacts to [sensing an object nearby], and if the object discovered is a player, then it is considered a threat, and it signals a threat event to the [squirrel’s] brain.”

Kienzle says the project began in 2005 and was intended to unite the department.

“The idea was, when I arrived here in 2002, there was a group of professors in the computer science department doing systems research, but their students weren’t really working together on anything,” he said. “I thought it would be really cool to have some bigger application where the grad students from different profs could work together.” 

For more information on Mammoth, visit, or e-mail [email protected]

—Iain Macdonald

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