This is the first in a short series of posts about No Man’s Sky and the future of procedural generation.
Procedural generation has been around for a long, long time now. We are approaching the 40th anniversary of Rogue, Elite has already had its 30th birthday, and even sprightly young Spelunky is coming up to double digits. We’ve seen old ideas refined and polished over those decades, and new ideas experimented with and tested out. But throughout this evolution and growth one area has remained largely the same, swept under the rug every time it caused problems, hoping that we could forget about it for a little longer. With the release of No Man’s Sky this month, I feel like it simply can’t be ignored any longer. We need to talk about how we talk about procedural generation.
I like it when great games research (and researchers) get seen by more people, and one of my favourite groups to show this stuff to are indie developers. I’ve poked and prodded at a variety of ways of doing this over the years, but one thing remains hard to organise: getting indie developers involved and recognised at academic events. It’s hard to explain to indies why they’d want to submit anything, and hard to get work potentially seen as ‘not academic’ accepted and taken seriously at some events. But I think it’s worth pushing for more, and I thought it was time to put into words why I think this is. So this is a short post about why you might like to submit something to EXAG 2016 as an indie, and why academic events should do their best to accept it.
Last weekend I attended Bot Summit where I saw an incredible array of talks (watch them all here!) Every talk is affecting in its own way, but today I want to mention Martin O’Leary‘s talk which called for Epic Botmaking. Martin talked about theatre, and Brecht, and lots of things I’d never learned about before. One of his suggestions was that bots lay out their entire process sometimes, so that there’s no mystery or wondering. While I wouldn’t recommend it for every bot or botmaker, I also thought it sounded like a neat opportunity for tech communication. So here’s how my latest bot, @botsburgers, works. Oh, and the source is online here!
As game developers, we’re tempted (if not outright encouraged) to code first and think later. There’s lots of good reasons for this – games are big projects, and feeling out a game’s mechanics through play is much easier than imagining them. What can we gain from planning, modelling and thinking out systems ahead of time, though? Maybe there are different ways of thinking about games that have their own power and usefulness. This week on The Saturday Paper we look at a language for modelling systems in games, and think about why it might come in handy.
Procedural generation is getting broader and deeper in games every passing month. While more and more genres are finding ways to generate parts of their play space, familiar faces are finding innovative applications for generative techniques – from universe-scale vastness to the intricate details of a single lost culture. In the midst of this rapid growth, we desperately need new and better ways to talk and think about generative design. This week on the Saturday Papers I want to show you one particular paper with an idea that’s really resonated with me lately, but that’s simple enough to use in games of all shapes and sizes, right now. Let’s jump in!
Over the last few years I’ve talked to a lot of people about procedural generation. Researchers who are interested in pushing boundaries. Developers who just wish the damn thing would work. Newcomers who wish there were better ways to get started. There are a lot of complicated problems, barriers and frustrations surrounding procedural generation (or generative software in general) and there are no easy solutions to any of them, but hopefully projects like Tracery, Cheap Bots Done Quick, PROCJAM and The PCG Book are helping towards some of them. Today I’d like to tell you about something I hope will also help solve some of these problems – a tool to help people understand, poke, tweak, improve and explore procedural generators, called Danesh.
As promised, The Saturday Papers are back, in a new format with shorter ‘seasons’ of six articles apiece. More info on the series’ future later – for now let’s get into some new research!
A lot of great storytelling relies on the intricacies and weaknesses of human character – a villain lies to further their own ends, an eyewitness misremembers a crucial detail, a fairytale hero forgets the one thing they were told not to do. Of course, all of these weaknesses are exactly the things software is designed to avoid – computers are reliable, accurate, and always follow orders. It makes for great word processing software, but it doesn’t always make for interesting games – so why don’t we try and model these weird human idiosyncracies and see where it leads?
Hello everyone! I’ve been so busy having fun with PROCJAM this week that I hardly had time to let you know that all the talks from last Saturday are online for you to watch. We had a great day launching the jam, and people are making incredible, varied, beautiful things for their jam entries. Check them out on Twitter!
If last weekend’s talks weren’t enough games-related brain thinks for you, though, this coming weekend is the second Experimental AI In Games workshop – a followup to both AIGA and EXAG of years past at the annual AIIDE conference. This year it’s a two-day workshop, packed full of cool papers and fun stuff. I thought I’d give you a brief rundown of what’s happening when, and how you can tune in online.
I saw an article today about the future of AI in games and suchlike and I was tempted to start tweeting about it but that inevitably leads to boring arguments and isn’t very constructive. Instead, what I’m going to do is give you a list (in no particular order) of some researchers who I think are really interesting, who are important to the future of game AI, and who have interesting things to say, and most importantly who I don’t see interviewed or talked about enough. They’d all make great people to talk to for articles, features and interviews, and each one has a research portfolio that paints a cool future for games. Go check them out!