From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
Procedural generation is a system whereby new game experiences are generated by algorithms rather than scripted in advance by programmers.
Translated this means the computer is given the parameters and creates the game world for you through the parameters it has been given. The outcomes are literally infinite. Game worlds can be generated that would take more than a lifetime for any player to explore.
I have long been a fan of what is termed emergent narrative, that is, the stories that emerge organically from game play simply through the process of playing the game. This differs from the pre-scripted narrative that games otherwise have – many games give players a mix, or allow them to control somewhat the narrative that emerges.
When I play a game such as Skyrim, the experiences I have are determined somewhat by my previous behaviour and actions in the game. This is not new – the same applied to games of Elite I was playing in the 1980s.
Procedural generation combined with behavioural consequences allows for some truly unique experiences to occur.
The game No Man’s Sky promises one set of experiences. This is a space exploration game that uses procedural generation to keep the game world expansive and unique for each player. Also, what you do in the game can have consequences later, good or bad. Media so far have focused on the expansive play area offered by the procedural generation. There are more interesting stories yet to emerge.
In the fantasy realm Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox offers a similarly infinite experience using procedural generation to create a fantasy role reminiscent of the old dungeon crawler games such as The Bard’s Tale III.
Whether fantasy, science fiction, or any other genre procedural generation offers up some interesting possibilities. I’ll be watching this space with interest. Also, I can’t help but wonder how procedural generation could be made to work for a dungeon-style board game…