Back from PAX East, we discuss isolation in space, handcrafted design, and how abandoned buildings can set the mood.
On our trip to Boston we discussed both the fruits and failings of procedural generation. You might risk sacrificing distinct worlds for the illusion of replayability. But, if successful, you end up with a nuanced environment that makes you want to dive deeper into its world and its mechanics. If you want our opinions in depth, we rant for about 40 minutes on two earlier episodes, however, we did end up talking to a few people about having a world procedurally generated versus handcrafted design and wound up the episode you're hopefully about to hear.
Procedural generation, by the way, is a fancy way of saying that there's a bank of possible design elements that the game places at random. That can be story, levels, enemies, artificial intelligence or animation. The process isn't truly random, otherwise the game would be an incomprehensible mess. Usually there's a sophisticated algorithm behind the scenes that builds the game, providing it with rules for how the game should look. If done well, the randomized element should feel distinct without being too alien.
The most common expression of procedural generation can be seen in the roguelike, which generally randomizes its levels and makes you restart the game each time you play. Though, it's hardly the only kind of game to use that process. In this episode, we'll discuss one or two of those special cases that got the process right, while espousing some of the benefits of handcrafted design.
On episode 56 of Built to Play you'll hear the following segments:
- Tom Jubert, narrative designer of FTL: Faster than Light, talks about writing a world that feel infinite, and how not to break that illusion. (0:25 - 11:20)
- In the news, Game Freak leaves the nest, virtual reality goes wild, the PlayStation 4 lands in China, and the end is nigh, because there are no games coming out in November. (11:20 - 34:00)
- Mark Foster explains the inspirations and design of Titan Souls, and how developers have reacted. (34:00 - 41:35)
- Alex Jansen shows us how to be Loud on Planet X, and why Tegan and Sara want to fight off an alien horde. (41:35 - 47:00)
- James Primate and Joar Jakobsson of Videocult discuss the importance of mood in game design, and how the beauty of decay led to a world of rain. (47:00 - 56:40)