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PostPosted: 2015/10/24, 16:37 
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Apparently, I have a liking for letting algorithms do the work I'm supposed to do. This thread is something like an open thought process and discussion platform at the same time. Feel free to add your own thought or pick up where I left off.

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But first, let me tell you a bit about Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games. It's basically an excuse for nerds to get together and do social stuff while still keeping up their regular I'm-living-in-a-cellar-reputation. I occasionally happen to be part of such events and organized one myself. Here are the basics, if you don't know them already:

  • 4-5 people get together and decide to play a Pen&Paper RPG over the course of a few tightly packed days or in a long-running session (once a week or so) that spans months or even years.
  • One of those people will be the game master, the others will be players.
  • Each player plays a character in the game world, with actual stats and inventory and stuff, written on a piece of paper, the character sheet.
  • The game master designs, "simulates", represents, plays and describes the world, including all NPCs, challenges, storyline, setting, etc.
  • Players describe what they attempt to do and how they do it.
  • The game master describes what happens - both in the world, and what happens as a response to non-trivial player actions (do they work? how well? what happens?)

And here we go. That's basically it, the rest depends on the ruleset and mostly, on the playstyle of game master and players. As far as rulesets go, there are a lot of them: Dungeons and Dragons, The Dark Eye, Vampire: The Masquerade, various Warhammer 40k systems, and many more that I probably forgot here. Now, what does pen & paper rpgs have to do with Procedural Generation?

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As a game master, you're in the position to not only come up with a general storyline and setting, as well as applying the rules, but you also need to react dynamically to what players do. If they decide to visit that mining village you just mentioned at some point, well, you better come up with something soon. Essentially, you're building the world around them, and it's always a challenge to do so fast and consistent enough, so they don't notice the seams, or those spots where you didn't think of something yet. And this is where Procedural Generation comes in handy.

So, the core thought of this was relevant when I needed to come up with a big city, looked for city map generators and didn't really find a good one. Wouldn't it be awesome if you could just generate the city in a consistent way, with different quarters, a reasonable layout, from way up to a general overview to way down to individual buildings? This would certainly be useful not only to pen & paper roleplay, but also for digital roleplaying games.

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However, as I discovered during my master thesis, a key ingredient to consistency is context. You can't just generate a building without knowing where it stands, what purpose it has, or why it is there in the first place. And you can't generate a city without knowing what's around it, why it was founded at that specific spot, what Resources it has access to, what needs to be imported and what can be exported. As you'll notice, we're slowly approaching "Dwarf Fortess" terrain here.

Okay, so.. suppose I wanted to create some serious ProcGen backup for my pen & paper stuff - or, a digital rpg game - I should probably start at the world level, right? Generate a reasonable world first, and then proceed with.. say.. countries or "political regions". Next in line would be.. cities and settlements? Then city quarters, local demographics, then... buildings? Next in line would be NPCs?

To actually generate all of this from way up to way down is probably not viable, or too much work for a small side project, but it's kind of an interesting thought. Do you know any existing projects in that direction? Where did it fail when it was tried before?

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PostPosted: 2015/10/24, 18:20 
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Dwarf Fortress does indeed offer some of the best procedural world generation to date.
However, I have heard of another project, called Ultima Ratio Regum (http://www.ultimaratioregum.co.uk) which has even broader scope than Dwarf Fortress (from what I see). It looks very promising, it even has a playable version with an apparently substantial update coming this year or early next year.

If you're looking for more procedurally generated RPGs, look around for the ASCII ones first; they've got the most impressive lineups.

Role-playing games cannot usually get away with the usual kind of procedural generation; like you said, "a key ingredient to consistency is context". These kind of games are expected to be more in-depth than your usual game, since role-playing requires a... what do you call it... "foundation" (I hope that's the right word).

Take the Elder Scrolls series (it's not pen and paper, but I think it counts). It has some of the best developed background lore in all of games (maybe even non-digitally). You can read about all of the whys and hows, the whos and whats in-game through NPC dialogue and through books and scrolls. The lore gives the series it's life and it's allure. And the best part about it is that it is subtle and not shoved in your face; it's up to you to find out, if you're so determined. But I digress. This is not procedurally generated.

I... forgot what I was going to say next.


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PostPosted: 2015/10/25, 10:51 
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Ah, procedural generation.. the love of my life.

I agree with hsnabn about looking for ASCII based roguelikes for world-to-dungeon-scale generators; regarding the context, I believe it could be possible to have a procedural lore generator as well.. the only problem is that it would take a massive amount of time to generate something that could be considered good enough and enough in quantity for a game such as TES.
On the other hand, if it's something you would like to use as a basis for a P&P session, it wouldn't require the amount of detail or consistency that you expect for a fully self-contained lore, since you as the GM are more than capable to fill in the gaps or fix the inconsistencies (and even if it were to take 24 hours to run, you don't need it in real time.. do you? :D).

So the main question is: are you looking for procedural generation for descriptions ("the inn has 2 floors, made of wood, ..."), or the more complex task of actually generating maps based on those descriptions?

For the broader scope of procedural generation, some names out the top of my head.
Minecraft: world generation, biomes.. need I say more?
Cube World: a cross between Minecraft and a fully fledged RPG. Development is slow and not updated that often (last post is over 1 year ago), but seems it's still going on and working on a dynamic quest system.
The Seventh Sanctum: generators.. lots and lots of generators (names, planets, ideas for stories, ...)

@hsnabn: Thanks for the Ultima Ratio Regum link.. really really interesting

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PostPosted: 2015/10/25, 11:11 
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SirePi wrote:
I believe it could be possible to have a procedural lore generator as well.. the only problem is that it would take a massive amount of time to generate something that could be considered good enough and enough in quantity for a game such as TES.
I agree with that, too. You don't need TES levels of lore, just enough to... fit in, or make sense.

SirePi wrote:
@hsnabn: Thanks for the Ultima Ratio Regum link.. really really interesting
You're welcome. It's quite an interesting project, the articles are really something. I haven't actually played it myself yet. Maybe when the next version is released.


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PostPosted: 2015/10/25, 11:26 
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SirePi wrote:
So the main question is: are you looking for procedural generation for descriptions ("the inn has 2 floors, made of wood, ..."), or the more complex task of actually generating maps based on those descriptions?


Actually, descriptions, lore and story are the things I can do myself without a big problem - they're what players usually progress slowest and I have plenty of time figuring them out, even if players twist around what was planned originally. Generating details within that context - like the building interior in that one street in the bad areas of town they just decided to stumble into - this is more what I could use, because things like this can happen suddenly and can neither be improvised easily, nor prepared in advance.

What I could benefit most of wouldn't be a generator for all my stuff, but a small little helper that can quickly come up with things. I can work out the last bits of consistency myself, if need be.

Of course, when venturing into the digital sphere, all of this is different, because the algorithm is itself the "game master".

SirePi wrote:
The Seventh Sanctum: generators.. lots and lots of generators (names, planets, ideas for stories, ...)


Whoa. Neat! Thanks :)

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PostPosted: 2015/10/25, 15:37 
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Right now, whenever I hear procedural generation, all I can think of is the game developed by Hello Games, No Man's Sky.

The game looks promising, as Hello Games claims the universe is infinite, and the galaxy is procedurally generated.

Well, I don't have much to say, because I'm hyped about the game. Can't wait for it to release :)

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PostPosted: 2015/10/25, 16:18 
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RockyTV wrote:
Right now, whenever I hear procedural generation, all I can think of is the game developed by Hello Games, No Man's Sky.
That game is getting people who don't really follow or play games hyped. It will be interesting to see how it turns out when it finally releases.

One thing I could never get clear on was whether it was an online game or not. I saw a video where they said that it was possible to go to planets that were generated by others and some other stuff. I don't really like always online...

It generates stuff procedurally, like planets and animals, but I don't think it does history or lore generation? Or does it? I frankly don't know, that's how little I know of the game...

Nevertheless, as I said, it will be interesting to see how it turns out when it releases.


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PostPosted: 2015/10/25, 16:32 
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hsnabn wrote:
It generates stuff procedurally, like planets and animals, but I don't think it does history or lore generation? Or does it? I frankly don't know, that's how little I know of the game...


There's the fun part of it. You write your own story. You can decide whether you're an explorer, a peace maker, a criminal.

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