[MUD-Dev] Procedural content (was Re: [Sweng-gamedev] Patent 4, 734, 690) (fwd)

Eric Random e_random at yahoo.com
Sun Apr 3 07:00:21 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

At GDC, I notice that some speeches and discussions are more product
advertisements than meaningul game development discourse. I
understood Will Wright's demo of Spore to be more of a product
advertisement for Maxis.

Spore has two key elements that it offers: player-based content
construction tools and autonomous animation.

Is Will Wright creating a new age of procedural content generation?
No.  That has been a part, large and small, of commercial game
development since, at least, the 80's, and has been increasing with
complexity since then. Does anyone assume that it's -not- going to
play a large role in the future?

Did Will Wright create some new form of player-based content
construction? No. User content construction lies at the very heart
of RPG, when the first player rolled his first character and named
it. All the MMORPG's have sought to explore this area as an
important feature, from character creation to housing. User created
content is, no doubt, a direction of the future, and has been for
many years. There are many pitfalls and limitations (functional,
technical, and legal) with this technology (none of which was

Is Will introducing the game development industry to animation
through simulation of autonomous behavior? Is this new? Most
definately not, as there are many CG studios who have spearheaded
this technology over the years. I remember reading theses on
generating key frames through simulation over 14 years ago, and such
technology has been used in digital and animation effects studios
for many years as evident in some of the most popular CG films, for
example: flocking behavior, physics effects (such as liquid,
lighting, gas, and rigid bodies), and animal locomotion. Perhaps
Will is the first to offer this as a key selling point in a game,

Just as coders have more and more complex graphic development
environments, so do digital artists and animators have their
toolkits.  Studios for digital and animation effects in motion
pictures are a case in point. Since popular technology has reached a
level where a game can be of cinematic quality, and game revenues
have approached that of theatrical blockbusters, game studios and
motion picture studios are blending.

Is this some kind of silver bullet to bloating budgets in game
design?  No. Game and film studios create development tools to cut
repetitive corners. It's always been like that, and it will always
be like that.  Generating key frames and animating the fill is one
of the repetitive corners. Autonomously generating it is another
tool in the toolkit, and was there before Spore was announced.

What Will is doing is taking tools that are already apart of the
development environment, and offering them to the user. Further, he
is offering to the developer that they can have better tools. What
Will is -really- offering though, is his game, because such features
are intrinsically tied to its design.

Just a thought...

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