Procedural generation’s appeal is obvious. A technique that enables developers to offload labour-intensive processes to an algorithm, which randomly throws together objects, characters and even entire worlds from a set of component parts, seems to benefit creator and player in equal measure, offering bigger, more varied games. Yet these days we sense that players are hankering after some traditional, hand-crafted magic. To developers, however, the allure of the procedural algorithm remains. That’s certainly evident in this month’s Hype line-up. Leading the charge is
Middle-earth: Shadow Of War (p50), which reprises the delightful Nemesis system of its predecessor Shadow Of Mordor, one of the few games to truly sell paying customers on the idea of procedural generation. Nemesis felt like an idea that would be copied far and wide; that may not have come to pass, but there’s a good whiff of it in Extinction (p52). Iron Galaxy’s brawler pits you against a series of colossal ogres, whose procedurally generated looks change the flow and feel of every fight. And it’s a fundamental building block of Fortnite (p42), Epic Games’ long-in-development game of block-building and headshotting.
Those for whom the very phrase is a turnoff, however, need not worry. Ever since the launch of Destiny in 2014, Bungie has been working to make its game less random and more predictable, and while expansions to the base game have steadily improved the whole,
Destiny 2 (p36) is a fresh start for both the game and its maker. It’ll still have RNG loot drops, admittedly – those of you hankering after something purely hand-made would be better off heading straight to p56 for
Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night. Castlevania legend Koji Igarashi would, you’d expect, hold little truck for the notion of letting an algorithm help him design another of his maddeningly crafty castle adventures. His legions of fans wouldn’t have it any other way.