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Published on March 27th, 2014 | by Ben Rueter


This Gaming Generation Will Be Procedural

Some of my earliest video game memories take place on the playground in the mid-90s while I

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.

In No Man’s Sky, apparently, I will have the option to share my discoveries with the world

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


About the Author

Ben Rueter has been writing for a number of years ranging from video game pieces online to traditional journalism articles as well. Every since he got his hands on an Atari 2600 and learned his way around DOS, he’s been keeping up with all kinds of video games. Ben is also an avid movie fan from classic Sergio Leone to Charlie Kaufman movies.

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