No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky and the trickiness of advertising a procedurally generated game

No Man’s Sky has been knocked by players since its release for false promises—advertisements featuring fighting factions, developer interviews that discuss rare occasions where players can meet on distant planets (which has seemingly been disproven), and more. As a result, Sean Murray—the public face of Hello Games—has become a Molyneux-esque icon, a figurehead for what some perceive as the perpetuation of misleading advertising in videogames. These grievances were realized in a series of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) over the past couple of months. But nothing came of them until now. Last week, those complaints were answered by the UK-based organization,…


The Crusader Kings II mod capble of generating huge, alternate histories

Like the procedural culture experiments currently going on in Ultima Ratio Regum, a recent mod for the grand strategy game Crusader Kings II (2012) is trying its hand at procedurally generating a whole world. The mod, created by user Yemmlie, manufactures history “from its first exodus from Africa” onward, creating religion, language, legal systems, and more, all from scratch. Nothing from the base game remains except for the map, which can be randomized if desired, while new factions and cultures struggle for control of land and resources. entire dynasties are developed Even though the simulation isn’t as detailed as the vanilla game,…

ultima ratio regum

Thank you, Ultima Ratio Regum, for making RPG dialogue less boring

Ultima Ratio Regum, Mark Johnson’s epic 10-year roguelike project, aims to do a lot of things, but first and foremost it aims to reinvent how we approach procedural generation in lore-heavy games. The traditional view of algorithm-based writing is that it hits roadblocks between expansive possibilities and convincing humanity. Though you can program a game to offer hundreds of different choices, many will inevitably end up sounding similar. It leads to criticisms of procedural generation as “soulless,” and many doubt that computers will ever be able to create realistic humanity in such a significant manner. differ speech without ignoring the…


Every creature in No Man’s Sky is a dog

You drift slowly into the unnamed planet’s atmosphere, eager to set your spacecraft down and explore the endless possibilities put forward by the procedurally generated landscape. The ship begins to shake gently as you make your descent, the view outside reduced to a motion blur of saturated colors as the stars and sky blend seamlessly together. After breaking through the clouds and surveying the area, you pick a safe patch of ground to steer your ship toward. Perhaps this planet is full of water or giant rock formations. Is the fauna abundant here, or nonexistent? The ship has landed safely—it’s…

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky is a theater of processes

I remember making a mental note when I read that Sean Murray’s “favorite thing” in No Man’s Sky were the space station windows. On two separate occasions, he even went so far as to take people directly to the same window, as if it was one of the prime features of the game. “I’m going to show you the stupidest thing,” explained Murray to IGN, “A videogame window,” quickly adding “but it’s super-cool.” It seemed like a particularly odd thing for him to say. Here was Murray, the face of a game with 18 quintillion planets, a game whose selling…

these monsters

A new videogame art gallery will consume you

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. These Monsters (PC, Mac, Linux) BY STRANGETHINK Monsters with a psychedelic Rorschach test for a face. There are loads of them, sitting in framed portraits all around the walls of Strangethink’s latest procedurally generated galleries. Though motionless, these faces seem inescapable. Each black door you see generates another island of maze-like architecture (all ramps and stacks of oblong rooms), offering a chance—you might think—to warp you to a place with different scenery. But the only end here is happening upon a badly generated world…

Future Unfolding

Future Unfolding’s team wants to randomly generate hand-designed puzzles

In his recent book Spelunky, Derek Yu writes about the process of designing his 2008 (and 2012 remake) game of the same name, and often refers to the difficulties introduced by the decision to generate levels randomly. He describes trying to make sure that every time a level is generated, it is new, challenging, and solvable: “The game’s first priority,” he says, “is to make sure that there is a path from the entrance to the exit that is traversable without the use of bombs, rope, or other special equipment.” Spelunky generates its levels with templates for rooms and patterns for smaller…

Call of Dudley

Pick up the strangest call of your life in this videogame labyrinth

You come to, upright, in the middle of a room swirling with color. Quickly, you realize the stripped wallpaper isn’t actually moving. It’s you, swiveling your head around, trying to figure out where and who you are—how you got to this ugly room in the first place. The neon walls overwhelm, but not nearly as much as the number of doors surrounding you. Uncertain but too afraid to stand still in this ugly room, you walk through a door. But in this place, you will discover, only ugly rooms lie beyond the doors that lead into even more ugly rooms. In…

Forest of Sleep

Turning Narrative Into A Play Space With Forest Of Sleep

Proteus creator Ed Key and artist Nicolai Troshinsky of Twisted Tree Games have only talked abstractly about their upcoming experimental narrative game Forest of Sleep before. But now, a few months after its initial announcement, the pair have cut into the specifics of what they mean when citing “emergent associations” and “cinematic language.” Speaking to Gamasutra, Key revealed the process behind his effort to use procedural generation to create stories that had both drama and pacing, using only hand-made art pieces and wordless animated scenes. Crucial to this aim is the choice of influence found in late-20th century Eastern European illustration…