[MUD-Dev] Procedural content generation

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Fri Oct 12 01:26:48 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Brian Hook writes:

> One thing I'm now researching, and which I think is going to be
> the more viable direction, is to use what I call "keyframed
> procedural generation".  Basically, insted of everything being
> randomly generated, the "seed" is reset off of key hand made
> objects.

> For example, say you were designing a mythical kingdom.  You could
> take several approaches, with differing levels of integration:

>   - fully handmade, a la Everquest

>   - define high level aspects of the kingdom, along with "key
>   points of interest".  These "keyframes" are then used to
>   interpolate/generate random data between the points of interest.

>   - define the high level aspects of the kingdom, procedurally
>   fill in the rest

>   - fully procedurally generated content, including all aspects of
>   the kingdom, including its name, terrain, politics, etc.

> I'm now leaning towards option 2, where there are several key
> stellar empires that have their own templates for generation of
> worlds.  In addition, designers place a small amount ( ~100) star
> systems with manually specified higher level attributes.  The
> procedurally generation basically acts as a floodfill between
> landmarks, where landmarks influence the algorithmic generators
> near them.

Perhaps you consider this a trivial case of your third option, but
how about procedurally creating the world and then putting in
exceptions?  The exceptions are either hand-built or
procedurally-generated themselves.  This is the technique that I
used in my 3D planet generator.  The last thing that I was working
on was taking a castle and laying it on the existing contours of the
world's terrain.  The castle was hand-built, but the next generator
was to crank out castles...

As for the rest of the posting, I'm not quite as pessimistic about
players exploring generated worlds.  I don't consider it practical
to generate everything that goes into an entire planet right now.
But it's certainly practical to crank out some basic building blocks
procedurally, and let the designers knit it together so that it can
be explored.  Those broad brush tools are needed not only for
original construction, but for continuous change and update.
Buildings in town need to be burned down, rebuilt, refurbished,
extended and so on.  These are things that a gamemaster should be
able to do in his sleep, using the tools that embody the knowledge
of capable designers.

I see no reason why procedural creation of entire worlds wouldn't
work just fine once we have enough experience with the technique.  I
mean, before fractal terrain who would have thought that such a
thing was possible.  Now we have wave systems and other techniques
on top of that.


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