I love talking No Man’s Sky so to see that there was an interview this week featuring Sean from Hello Games saying how the game was going to be all but infinite had me once again itching to get my hands on the game and play it. And what’s really got me more excited is playing CounterSpy, a free indie game from PlayStation Plus this month that also uses procedurally generated levels.
The game may have lovers and haters but I was certainly in the lovers category and could happily play random levels all day and found that the procedural idea kept my interest beyond the main campaign and while I’ve been reviewing a number of games this week, I really enjoyed this one on a personal level.
Then we have Bloodborne releasing in a few weeks and that uses procedural mechanics for dungeons in order to make trips into the same area have different layouts, enemies and loot and I’m certainly excited… and a little scared at the thought of that.
Dying Light used procedural generation rules as confirmed to us by Techland In an Interview on February’s launch Podcast in order to create a more realistic zombie population with numerous rules to create variety and all I can say is it works really, really well and it was mentioned as part of the Official Dying Light Review that the overall population of zombies was one many impressive features of the game.
While the technology has been used for some time as a sort of cheat when making content manually would have taken too much time, with modern gaming engines this really could be taken on by major games and create a big future for gaming going forward.
[section label=”A Quintillion..?”]
What the hell is a Quintillion?
Well, Sean from Hello games never actually said that in his interview about how many planets there would be in No Man’s Sky. He actually worded it at 2 to the 64th power having upped it in the game from 2 to the 32nd power. If you are thinking: GCSE/High School Maths classes never got quite that advanced then you’ll be like me and have immediately Googled it… or maybe I’m just really sad, I’ll let you decide that.
Regardless of my exciting life I thought I’d give anyone curious some perspective on the number’s he’s talking about. Below is this is 2 to the 64th power rounded down to the nearest Quintillion looks like this:
18, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000,000
That number also shaves off an incomprehensible amount too and to put the numbers in some perspective below is the combined wealth of the world which is 241 Trillion (USD) and that looks like nothing in comparison:
241, 000, 000, 000
But maths lesson aside, what does all this mean? One of the descriptions in Sean’s interview was that if one planet was discovered in No Man’s Sky every second then it would still take 584 Billion Years to find all of them! What?? That is just huge and something I never thought I’d be hearing about in a video game, especially when each planet is fully explorable and may or may not have life on it.
[section label=”Game Changing”]
Game Changing Rules!
So the whole universe within No Man’s Sky, the levels of CounterSpy and the upcoming Dungeons of Bloodborne and many other games including the behaviour of the Alien, in Alien Isolation and the interesting Deep Down that has unfortunately gone quiet on us, all work on a series of programmed rules that create things at almost random.
With CounterSpy the levels build as you load them so the path is never the same and items are in various locations as are enemies. I loved this element and thought it was clever, sparking my interest in this type of level design. There were some locations that felt very similar after a few hours but overall it really made the game more interesting to play in my view.
Bloodborne’s Chalice Dungeon’s are also created by these rules and enemy locations will vary within them along with the overall layout of the level too. Now given Bloodborne’s Gothic style and brutal combat this is really going to change the game for many gamers who progress by learning a level in order to beat it. There are so many time’s I’ve played a hard game, learned what to expect and when, so I’m prepared and know what to do, it’s part of being a gamer and something most of us will do.
But what do you do when your character dies and everything is different? When each play of the dungeon is the first time you play it and the enemy that killed you is something else? It really makes you think how you handle the game and adds a level of continuous uncertainty that, if done right will add to player experience and challenge. Think about it, how many times have you started a game like Resident Evil or Silent Hill with a feeling of anxiousness and fear that fades after a few hours as enemies that should be scary become predictable and lose their impact.
Take away the ability to predict what’s coming and how it will behave and gaming becomes richer as a result.
As someone who thinks that games are a bit too easy in this generation with a lot of questionable AI, this really does take away some of that familiarity that sets into gameplay and keeps the challenge level up as you explore. Think about how scary something like Silent Hill could be using a procedural level design of twisted demons that all behave in completely different ways and creates different creepy experiences each time you play! That would be intense. Now we don’t know right now if this is happening but if it was, it would really add to what is already a terrifying game series.
Caution! Rules are Made to be Broken
There was another interview I read with No Man’s Sky Developer Sean Murray that was discussing the game and what you could do but he expressed his worry that the planet he landed on would be nothing special, basically a dull rock. This indeed happened and it wasn’t an inspired location for the demo. Now in terms of realism that is very true of actual planets but for a game it’s not the most inspired and it is something they are working on as the game develops apparently.
Rules really need to be well thought out to not be too far removed from a gaming experience and this balance between creating set pieces through high quality design and “random” creations with procedural technology is key. Bloodborne is using this as a template in fact as certain areas are set and certain areas are procedural. It even includes the ability to create your own dungeon and share it with others which is a nice touch.
So far it’s mainly Indie Games Studios using these procedural level designs, of course with less staff and resources having the computer create the content for you is a nice helping hand. But what’s more interesting to see is people like From Software picking up this technology and you have to wonder if a number of developers might now start using it to create more often.
Personally speaking I hope so and I can think of a number of titles that would really benefit from it… but I’ll let you tell me yours first! Register and Join the MGL Gamers and Drop Us a comment below or Tweet us With the button bellow what game you’d like to see use procedural technology.
[section label=”What do you think…?”]
What game(s) do you think should use Procedural Technology?
Simply add the game you think would benefit from procedural design into the body of the tweet!
Developers & Publishers: From Software, Hello Games, Konami, Sony Computer Entertainment, Techland
Gaming Platform: PC Games, PS4, PS4 Exclusives, Xbox One
Genre: Action Adventure, Indie Games, MMO, Open World, RPG, Survival Horror