Fang Talks

work hard, urb hard

It’s been a while, but there was this huge discussion in a community I frequent a while back.

Well, discussion, it was more like people missing the point over and over again. Someone proposed the ideas that there’s two distinct ways to use procedural generation in games. Then someone came along and insisted one of those was the correct way, and the other was cheap garbage. Cue dramatic outburst of all kinds of besides-the-point arguments.
While I do agree those two ways that were mentioned are the two big things, there’s definitely a lot of middle ground where both are incorporated, but neither capitalized on like you would if it was the only thing you offered. Let’s make that a bit more abstract.

The first use of procedural generation in games is one we’re all too familiar with by now, using such generated content as the main focus of the game, the larger chunk of it. Think Minecraft, with its endlessly expanding, always different world. Or think bigger, games where not only the world, but also all the characters, weapons and event and randomly generated from very intricate recipes.

The other use is quite different from that, laying on the whole “wow, such random!” much less thickly, using it only for small subtleties like names, looks, and other non-gameplay related things. Key here is that it isn’t a huge part of your gameplay, much less the focal point or driving force behind it.

You can see how the latter one would attract a lot of “hand-designed content and gameplay” elitists. While I won’t deny a well-designed static level stands much stronger than even the most clever procedurally generated level, both definitely have their pros and cons. In the end, it isn’t what you use, but rather what you do with it. If it can fit well within your game, go for it! Just keep in mind generating content can be a lot harder than it may seem. Trust me, I tried.

Note, by the way, that when I say “procedural generation” it really has no true meaning anymore, due to its widespread use as a buzzword for anything even remotely random.
~ Fang

Comments

  • 10/09/2014 (4:07 AM)

    It’s the only way horror games can have any lasting value if you ask me.

    Once you know where all the scares are, it just doesn’t work anymore.

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