Following Procedure

My mind has been diverted from LovePong momentarily by another little Processing project I’m now enamoured of. Basically, I really like the idea of “procedural content generation” and I’m trying to piece together, in my inept way, a little procedural world you can run around in.

The screenshot to the left shows what I have at the moment. It draws a kind of hilly terrain, shading on the terrain, and a bunch of variable-height trees. And an avatar (the little red thing) which can run around on the terrain – though currently it’s a little glitchy. The landscape and trees are both generated based on Perlin noise and actually come from the same seed or “time”.

My next step is going to hopefully be to integrate some other people into the world and have them be interactive via one or more chatbots like the ELIZA program. So in theory you’ll be able to move through this (infinite) terrain and have conversations with people along the way. That’s what there is so far.

I’d initially intended to make a more urban version of this, but a “natural” terrain is kind of easier from this unnatural generation perspective – fewer hard and face rules of composition, for instance.

Not entirely clear to me where to push this to after the conversation ability is added in, but the whole thing is feeding into my general interest in “realism” in virtual worlds. Worlds that are “just there” (like Minecraft‘s, for instance) are very appealing to me. My question to myself is whether I, with my limited abilities (and imagination), can piece together anything that feels remotely like a world, and which will be different each time you enter it, but consistent (spatially at least) for as long as your there. And, crucially, not reliant on canned responses or storing particular responses/values/etc.

Centrally, I suppose I’m trying to make a world that, as much as possible, is empty of built in rhetoric and value systems. In favour of the “well, here it is” experience I’d like to see more of in contemporary games.

We shall see.

12 March 2011
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