thoughts on predictably-autogenerated content

I opened this separate WordPress blog on in order to explore some more technical aspects of the building process. I hope to publish my findings as I go along, with the lofty goal of making a complete Megastructure experience freely available. The stepping-stones along the way consist of modeling separate aspects of the Megastructure, while getting feedback and improving existing models, and eventually weaving it all together into a whole.

This is an ambitious project, one that I started years ago, with still very little progress achieved. However, by opening up the discussion and exposing the material I have gathered, I believe this deeply-founded subconscious realm can be expressed. Especially since now I am committed to blogging about it.

I’d like to begin by mentioning a few words about autogenerative-content, especially in how it differs from pre-generated and randomly-generated schemes.

Pre-generation implies that the objects or scenery was crafted and designed by a human artist, perhaps even down to the last detail. This method gives the artist quite a lot of freedom, but can hamper the potential world-size, because everything must be hand-made. Pre-generation is ideal for large companies with huge artistic and creative budgets.

On the other end of the spectrum, random-generation provides a surprising variety of content, as it relies on random numbers to generate events, characters, and even landscapes and scenery. However, depending on purely random occurences can be difficult to control and tune correctly. This method is widely used across the board, but rarely in creation of environments.

Procedural content bridges these two gaps by defining systems of random values that affect a pre-built framework. There is extensive work in this field, some of which has been aggregated here, at the Procedural Content Generation wiki. These higher-level functions can bring seemingly-natural content into a simulated world, while freeing artists from having to define every little detail.

Another benefit of using procedural methods is the repeatability factor. Given a certain seed, the random functions (actually pseudo-random) will generate the same values every time. If care is taken, an entire world may be predictably autogenerated, like a fractal that always is drawn the same way despite the countless layers of chaos within.

I believe that the Megastructure can be modeled, at least in parts, by using different blends of these techniques. Furthermore, an experience can be built that may span time and space, and link multiple users inside the endless corridors.

Posted on July 6, 2009 at 1:13 am by eli · Permalink
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