What is Android Ashes of the Singularity Escalation Images?
The Fascinating Science of Android Ashes of the Singularity Escalation Images is a real-time strategy video game. As opposed to most games in this genre, Ashes of the Singularity is not turn-based but rather uses a continuous system that models the passage of time in seconds and includes aspects such as resource harvesting and territory control.
It seems to have captured people’s imaginations, because lately there has been an explosion of articles about how it creates image files called Escalation Images. What are these images? And what does their name mean? We’ll explore these questions below!
The creation of these images is done solely and exclusively by the computer, not humans. The game creators were not involved in the creation of these images — they just let their computer program run on its own to create whatever image it sees fit. They do not have any meaning for the game, but rather for people interested in visuals and patterns. I’ve heard some people have even tried to use them as inspiration to create art themselves!
To create one of these images, a large group of enemy AIs (artificial intelligence programs) are told to rush towards one side of a map. The color, size and speed of each enemy vary slightly from one another. They’re then allowed to travel along the map, arriving at their destination in waves. Each of these waves is represented by a separate image file in an Escalation Images set. The images are created by the program itself.
The first image of each Escalation Images set is the simplest, with a small amount of AIs coming from a long distance away. The final image in each set will be the most chaotic, with a large amount of AIs coming from a short distance away. Most Escalation Images sets include six to eight different images.
The exact amount and speed of the enemies is determined by the map and game being run. In some instances, it may have an army of over 100,000 medium-sized units! The game’s frame rate (the number of frames drawn per second) also affects how many units are visible on screen at one time. More units means more images are generated. And as we know, more images means a better visual experience!
What do we see?
As the enemy AIs move towards their destination, we see the path they take. In some cases, they form huge grids of lines. Look at the Escalation Images below. To give you a sense of scale, here’s one image without perspective correction. There’s also an Escalation Image set where the AIs are actually rendered in 3D and you can fly around them: I don’t think I could have done that even with this blog post! :P(And yes, I actually knew such things existed before!).
You’ll notice that the AIs tend to move in waves, creating lines. This makes sense because they’re traveling along the same path and are far enough away from each other that they can’t see one another. If two of these lines collide, you get what is called a moiré effect: Image Credit: Think Geek I also like how there are “islands” where an area is tiny but there are still lots of units per square mile.
These Escalation Images have been a fascinating subject for me because they teach us about computer programs themselves. Because these Escalation Images are generated by computer, we are able to view them and deduce their source code from them! I’ve included a few excerpts of the source code below.
You’ll also note that the images seem to follow a common pattern, with pixel colors being used as unique “fingerprints.” This is an example of a hash function (an algorithm for generating unique ID numbers), but unlike those typically used on computers, it uses colors instead of numbers. Still, by looking at how it works, we can understand its logic.
For some reason, these Escalation Images are quite beautiful. The fact that they’re created by an algorithm makes this fact even more interesting. It’s like a computer-generated Rorschach test for me!
Escalation Image Sets
The exact number of Escalation Image sets depends on the map, the game settings and other factors. There are many types of Escalation Image sets in Ashes of the Singularity: Anno Domini 1602 : A gauntlet from when the game is just starting to a dense wavefront at the end of the map, with several versions in between.
I’ve seen a couple Escalation Image sets that make me think that the AIs in the game somehow know what to do better than the computer program does. Take for example, the image set below, which shows three waves of AIs coming from a different direction. The first wave appears to be coming from the bottom left corner of the map, but then there are two waves following with one coming from another direction.
I guess there is no point in explaining how these images were created if I can’t do it with more attention to detail! Imagine that you’re presented with a video game that generates its own visual patterns.