The procedural revolution will arrive
The new generation came to blow fanfare at E3 last year and during the 2014 edition of the dust cloud raised by the companies has been settled in more focused and better proposals to public demands. Of course, we saw some pretty cool things in the big soiree in Los Angeles, but in the end one is not without the feeling that, with few exceptions, these gleaming new consoles just seem to bring the same as before but nicer and more defined.
Luckily, as I say, there are exceptions willing to try a new batch of more powerful and capable hardware can also be used to expand playable barriers, leading to new ideas that computing capabilities of years ago they defied. Yes, more polygons and more graphic effects like us all, the flesh is weak, but as players we can and should demand more than simple visual debugging.
Improved artificial intelligence, new forms of narrative immersion or progressive blurring of the line between online and offline play are some of the steps we can expect in the coming years exploiting the potential of the machines that are already in stores, but today I stop at a particular aspect being cast slowly in gamer language and can make a very strong trend during the times to come: the procedural generation. Okay, it would be appropriate to mention generation procedures, but as almost always happens in technical language, the neologism is imposed with an iron fist.
What is that of procedural generation and why should I care?
Basically, we understand that generation procedural where contents are not designed in advance and are stored in the game itself, but randomly created based on a series of algorithms defined by developers. Thus, what we witness on screen at all times be unique, virtually unlimited and expiry date, thus opening up the range of possibilities to unthinkable levels in games where all predefined come, but sacrificing for this precision in the design and taste for maximum detail.
In the introduction to the article, it could give the impression that we are talking about a new concept and yet to explode, but the truth is that the procedural content generation has been used in video games for more than three decades ago. Titles like ‘Rogue’ (1980), father of the roguelike genre called everything because this technology, ‘Elite’ (1984), ‘The Sentinel’ (1986), ‘ToeJam & Earl’ (1991) and ‘The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall ‘ (1996) are good examples of that this is not something particularly new, although with much room to grow and improve.
Although not a recent implementation methodology, the fact is that its use has never become something truly widespread and in many cases has remained an almost anecdotal aspect. But we are in 2014 and the current technology and we allow the generation procedures go beyond a crude feedstock recycling whose impact on the experience a little more than a footnote to the analysis of turn.
Undoubtedly, the recent success case represents ‘Minecraft’, Cubist Notch madness that has swept across all platforms where it has been adapted to reach 35 million units sold and as many players seeing how, step by step open to them within a boundless world where so much freedom can reach be stifling. The technical tricks that are necessary for all this is not destroyed before our eyes at the first hurdle are truly amazing.
We have another close example of good practice in the fun procedural ‘Borderlands’, where the benefits of the randomness used to create weapons and objects of all kinds that we ourselves can use during the game, as enemies of variables based on our level of play. Although initial estimates promised over 17 million different weapons, the reality remained at just over 3 million possible combinations, which are not bad, is not it?.
Universes (almost) infinite within reach
In practice, the generation procedures do have limits, of course, but achieving them is can be almost impossible in many cases. For example, the engine supporting the aforementioned ‘Minecraft’ will suffer more errors as the amount of land that is required to keep active as we approach its limits, although it is necessary to reach a distance of about a quarter of the way that between the Earth and the Sun so that the game really starts to break. Do not know about you, but I seem enough.
However, the challenge will be able to see how far reaching developments as ‘No Man’s Sky’ seems infinitely more attractive than 90% of the games presented hipervitaminados during this E3. Something inside me tells me to be careful with everything surrounding this project, maybe what we’ve seen so far is too good to be true, but a man has the right to dream. A whole universe to explore, each player will live an entirely unique experience at the same time be part of an epic Discovery globally.