Strategic Procedural Content Generation

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Strategic Procedural Content Generation

Postby Flatfingers » Wed Apr 05, 2017 4:20 pm

Sebastien Benard has a blog entry on Gamasutra today that discusses procedural generation of levels for a Metroidvania rogue-lite game.

The details aren't closely related to Limit Theory, but there's an idea buried about halfway down that might be. Benard mentions that one of his inspirations was the AI Director in Left 4 Dead. While they didn't actually implement that in their game, they did retain its philosophy:

building the level's generation system around dramatic peaks and relaxing "breaks" to ensure an interesting game pacing and keep the player enthralled.

That got me thinking about LT -- specifically, about whether there will be, or should be, a strategy guiding the procedural generation of star systems (and even sectors?) beyond the initial/starter star system, which would support a particular pacing for the early-to-mid game.

Should there be rules that condition the kinds of star systems into which a player may explore beyond the starting system? Or should individual systems just be generated in an almost standalone way? (I qualify "almost" standalone since there may be factions at game start-up time whose influence spans multiple star systems.)

If there should be some strategic PCG rules affecting the content of newly-generated star systems, what are some examples of such rules, and what is the purpose for those rules? For example (and this is just one example!), maybe multi-system groups near the starting system should be relatively easy to exploit (this is what I mean by a "strategic purpose"). So some rules to achieve that strategic design purpose might be:

  • No one faction controls multiple systems.
  • At least one neighbor system is empty of factions.
  • At least one faction has ships in multiple systems.
  • At least one neighbor system has high-yield asteroids.
  • One or two systems contain a mildly dangerous threat -- space monster, radiation zone, etc.
So: are there other strategic purposes that should guide the content generated for the first star systems the player can encounter outside the starting system?

What are some appropriate PCG rules to accomplish those purposes?

How far should this philosophy extend? Does LT need something like an AI Director, operating to guide PCG, as the player's ships explore far enough that new star systems must be generated dynamically? If so, are there high-level strategic rules that PCG should follow?

Should it be possible to choose from among several possible strategic purposes (SLIDERS. :D ), so that the overall shape of the game universe satisfies each player's particular playstyle preferences?
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