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Student Profiles

Marc Lanctot


Hello from Edmonton, home of the Oilers and largest mall on this half of the globe, located at the heart of Alberta: the "land of opportunity"!

I am a native Montrealer who attended Vanier College before starting at McGill where I completed both a BSc Honours in Computer Science (with a minor in mathematics and an internship option) and a MSc in Computer Science.

I am currently in my first year of my Ph.D. program here at the University of Alberta.

My general goal is to improve AI (artifical intelligence) in computer games. In particular, I am interested in computer players (NPCs) and settings (virtual environments) that can learn through the course of game-playing by observing how the players act, either to adapt to the player(s) or to evolve in some meaningful way. With the help of my supervisor and other enthusiastic games research students and faculty, we founded the Games Research at McGill group and started GameOn'NA: a conference devoted to research in computer games.

At McGill, myself and Clark Verbrugge studied what I called Adaptive Virtual Environments. I proposed a way for the environments within ongoing game settings, such as the virtual setting in World of Warcraft, to evolve over time based on how the players were acting. I also worked on a way to have NPCs move more realistically, ie. like humans would, by collecting data from human players using Mammoth: Massively Multi-Player Prototype, a home-grown gaming research framework. I am now applying similar techniques in the Counter-Strike AI project; we have collected player data from a Counter-Strike tournament and would now like to analyze it to extract meaningful patterns and/or strategies. Our ultimate goal is to create more human-like AI by learning how experienced human players play this game.

My experience as a student at McGill allowed me to participate in a number of exciting extra-curricular, volunteer, and employment activities. First and best of all, I helped form the CS Games, an inter-university competitive event which has now become a yearly tradition for undergraduate Computer Science students. Involvement in the ACM McGill Chapter's programming contests was also an amazing experience because it allowed me to realize my full potential as a programmer and compete against other experienced programmers from other parts North America. The volunteer work I did for the Computer Task Force, a group dedicated to providing campus-wide computer services for the students in the faculty of Science, allowed me to get real work experience in administering systems, solving problems, and technical support. This experience helped me later get hired as a consultant and then systems programmer by the Network and Communication Services: the main support group of computer services for the entire McGill campus. By participating in the IYES (Internship Year for Engineering and Science) program, I was able to apply the knowledge I learned and skills I developed at McGill while working as a programmer for a software development company. In that time, I wrote some of the core parts of a real corporate calendaring software application.

Lastly, McGill also provided free recreational activies. As a full-time student, I enjoyed having full access to an exercise gym, a swimming pool and being able to play ball-hockey intramurals, Another selling point for sports fans is the exciting Montreal Alouttes football games, which are affordable and take place in the gym's stadium, a 5-minute walk from the main campus.