Bathed in sweat, I wake up from a nightmare: every time I walked into my apartment, all the furniture was in a different place. Looking for the toilet, I stumbled over the stove and found the television, which of course wasn't in front of the sofa, but under the shower. Something like it happens to me in every game that its levels are procedurally generated and thus rob me of every point of orientation in the game.
Procedurally generated game worlds only emerge when the player "loads" into them. Objects, buildings and entire landscapes change their locations or are sometimes not even there. Such a level design is practically indispensable in roguelikes, in which you usually start from the beginning more often and a fixed landscape design would only ensure a yawning boredom. Procedurally generated elements in games that focus on gameplay and challenge are also useful. For example, XCOM2 does without a fixed level design so that hardcore gamers don't get into the embarrassment of knowing the cards by heart in the umpteenth run and are thus deprived of any challenge.
Source: Games current
The death of a good story
In fact, procedurally generated content is what makes some games possible in the first place. Tetris wouldn't work if the same blocks kept falling from the sky in the same order. The principle of chance and the challenge of reacting quickly give the classic great success today. Tetris completely dispenses with a story, but this would only damage the simple gameplay.
You have to know that! A plea for remakes and reboots – column
10 years of Kinect: Hardware hope and total failure
Conversely, a successful plot requires a game idea that goes beyond chance. A good story lives from its staging, which requires careful planning and implementation, instead of a computer program that throws up the essential content in a random generator. Yes, huge worlds and an almost inexhaustible number of missions can only be created through procedural structures. Unfortunately, the computer-generated elements almost always lack creative ideas. Uninspired quests that invite you to collect and kill faceless NPCs are in the truest sense of the word preprogrammed.
Source: PC games hardware
No game that fascinated me with its fantastic story and whose atmosphere took my breath away had large, procedurally generated parts. And when No Man's Sky attracted public attention with its innovative concept, it was just that for me: The experimental attempt to develop a video game only with procedurally generated elements. The gameplay, which has now been polished up, may be worth a journey into infinity, but the game doesn't deserve an award for the best script.
Always the same lyre
The new Watch Dogs: Legions hits the same line with its core element and uses "procedurally generated" as an advertising message. With over nine million different playable NPCs, the title should be a unique experience and offer an insanely lively game world. Each character is created by the game the moment I invite you to a district. Ethnicity, appearance, clothing and occupation are generated as the most obvious characteristics of a person. If I scan this, the game also determines an approximate salary and the resulting affordable place of residence of the passerby. If I want to recruit him now, I have to do a mission for him. These are of course also generated procedurally and adapted to the situation of my candidate. The supposedly personal strokes of fate of the NPCs promise countless individual quests – after all, the game varies many small features. In the playful experience, however, it often doesn't matter whether I break into this or that building and in the end I deal with the same scenarios over and over again.
Source: PC Games
In the end, the concept of Watch Dogs only works in the first few hours of the game, when all the skills and archetypes that make up the population of in-game London are still new and unknown. So I initially perceive the world as diverse and immersive before the repetitive patterns catch my eye at some point. Later in the game, I lose both interest and motivation to deal with the population. I never scan NPCs to get a potentially interesting backstory, but only to replenish my ranks of recruits.
Source: PC Games
Enjoy with care
In most games, procedurally generated content is integrated purely as a time saver, because everything that the game creates itself does not have to be designed by developers. Lovingly designed levels, Easter eggs and plot twists cannot arise in such processes or are very error-prone. For example, in Watch Dogs, a gamer stumbled upon a pediatrician who recently broke up with one of her patients – bizarre and inappropriate.
Acclaimed titles by developers Bethesda, Rockstar and CD Project Red are so great because they cast a spell on me and tell stories in which everything is right. And if everything has to be right, it cannot be procedurally generated.
We give all readers daily free news, articles, guides, videos and podcasts on their favorite games. So far we have financed this site through advertising and kept it as free of clickbaits or paid items as possible, but since COVID-19 this has become increasingly difficult. Many companies are cutting or cutting their advertising budgets for 2020. Budgets that we unfortunately have to rely on if we want to continue to offer PC games free of charge as usual in the future.
For this reason we turn to you now. As a PC Games supporter, you can support us so that we can continue to offer our content in the usual form for free without introducing a paywall or publishing clickbait news like "And you won't believe what happened next …" . Every contribution, large or small, is valuable.
(*) We have marked affiliate links with an asterisk. We receive a small commission for a purchase via our link and can thus partially finance the free website with this income. There are no costs for the user.