Published on March 27th, 2014 | by Ben Rueter0
This Gaming Generation Will Be Procedural
attended elementary school. At about 7-years-old in southern Wisconsin, my friends and I would
gather at recess and discuss what shenanigans we took part in the during the prior night while
playing our “Nintendos.”
From these discussions would often come ridiculous stories that would motivate us to either
spends weeks trying to emulate this unique accomplishment or we would deem it a load of crap
from the beginning. Stories such as fighting Sheng Long in Street Fighter II (SNES) or finding
a secret Great Fairy fountain in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64). Whether or not they
were true, it spurred a sense of excitement in me to try and emulate the event.
These memories exist in a time when the Internet was a very different place than it is today.
People can lurch on to Reddit to read any and all video game secrets now. It’s natural people
would use the Internet as resource for this kind of assistance, but I can’t help but feel the lack of
excitement in discovering something no one else has found and sharing it is lost.
Which is why, I see procedurally generated games as a excited endeavour within the gaming
Procedurally generated refers to environments within a game that are create algorithmically
rather than manually. The developer creates the building blocks and the game world, for the
most part, creates itself.
The developers of No Man’s Sky, Hello Games, appear to have a handle on building a game
space that is grown rather than built.
In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Graham Smith interviews Sean Murray, lead
developer on No Man’s Sky said after Hello Games debuted their game during the Spike TV’s
VGX awards “What we wanted to get across was a sort of frontiersmanship, a sense of mystery
and wonder. For me exploration is seeing something no one has seen before, and for your
experience to be unique.”
For me, the idea of “frontiersmanship” comes back to the playground-video-game-rumor-mill at
my elementary school.
I remember my amusement of finding out I can steal the fisherman’s hat in Ocarina of Time.
Partially, for the hilarity of the easter egg, but more because none of my friends had discovered
this moment in the game, yet. I was the first of my friends to do this and I was the one to share
this story first.
or keep them to myself. It’s like sharing my fisherman’s hat moment with my friends on the
playground or I can be more mischievous by perhaps sharing the reward of for snatching the
fisherman’s hat with only a select few of my friends.
Hello Games describes their development of the game as an organic experience pulling from
real life to create planets and ecosystems. The claim that everything will be unique making each
new planet a resource to hide or something to brag about.
They’ve said they will have to go in and fine tune areas to make it is entertaining for people to
explore, but their aim is to create new environments on each planet.
Because everything is most unique and random, even to the developers, people can’t rely on
message boards to know where to find this resource or where this bounty of loot is located.
No Man’s Sky is one of many upcoming games using procedurally generated environments to
build a narrative and a social realm for gamers to explore.
I feel this generation of games will not be defined by the graphics but rather the experiences
that come from exploration or randomizing.
Look at Twitch.tv. Twitch streams are growing incredibly fast due to eSports and the concept of
sharing our experiences.
In a procedural world, theoretically, we won’t have the exact same experience. Watch a
Spelunky stream on Twitch sometime. Twitch has become a virtual bragging or sharing grounds
for people’s gaming achievements.
Spelunky is a tomb raiding adventure platformer. Players play on a 2D plan, jump and battle
their way to the bottom to fight Olmec, the end boss.
An amazing run in Spelunky had player Bananasaurus Rex carrying a rare item, an eggplant, to
the depths of the game and defeat Olmec. It is referred to as a “solo Eggplant run.”
What made this eggplant run in Spelunky special is it hadn’t been done before and it was done
live, in a randomly generated cavern. Rex had to rely on skills and a few tricks to survive since,
unlike most games, he couldn’t rely on memory to know what lay below him.
Douglas Wilson on Polygon has a fantastic write up on the stream that you should read for more
The event is an example of the power of these unique, and often random, experiences
procedural worlds can produce. Spelunky isn’t a game that relies of incredible visuals to build a
must watch or must play experience like games in the past. It’s driven by the experience rather
than the visuals.
Even if you are not the kind to show and tell your experience on Twitch, the idea that every time
you set foot in the game it will offer something new is a compelling reason to replaya game.
Procedural games may be the next great leap for games this generation, but it will need rich
player interaction and environments to keep people playing for years to come.
I’m excited to be a frontiersmen this generation and share my experiences on a new