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Topic: A Discussion on Procedural Generation

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Oat

I've been seeing a lot of opinions on Roguelikes/lites and procedural generation on this site for the past few months now. i wanted to start a thread so people can discuss their feelings on procedural generated levels.

First few questions:

1. Do you like procedural generation in games?

2. What about procedural generation in games do you like or dislike? Why?

3. Do you think a roguelike needs procedural generation to be good? Why?

4. Do you prefer handcrafted levels, procedural generated levels or a mix of both?

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ReaderRagfish

1. Depends on if it's well made and the game is properly built around it. But when it is, I like it.

2. I like that it is different every time, but I dislike that occasionally they can be boring or too hard (though if well enough designed these aren't much of a problem)

3. I think so, as part of the point of roguelikes is that you have to be constantly careful and can't rely on trial and error.

4. Really depends on the game and my mood. Handcrafted levels have the obvious advantage of being specifically tailored to the players, but generated levels can be more exciting because no one has ever seen your level before, so it feels like you've discovered completely untamed territory and you're the first one to explore it.

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Heavyarms55

1. Only in very specific circumstances. Like Minecraft and Civilization games. I dislike it in platformers and action games.

2. It's hard to explain exactly, but I can usually feel the difference between a lovingly crafted level or world, and something just spit out by a fancy algorithm. A human has life experience, creativity and ingenuity to draw on that can result in a creation far better than any machine could create.

3. I don't really like these kinds of games so no opinion one way or the other.

4. I prefer handcrafted levels almost always, but I think procedural generation has it's place in side modes or "infinite" modes. One example I like is Disgaea and their "Item World" side mode.

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shaneoh

Oat wrote:

3. Do you think a roguelike needs procedural generation to be good? Why?

It's not a question of good, Roguelikes need procedural generation (among other traits) to be Roguelikes. Unlike other genres, such as First Person Shooters, Platformers, Strategy etc. Rougelikes are named for being similar to a particular game (they're like the game Rogue). As an example, if the FPS genre was called Doomlike, then some games, say Portal for instance, wouldn't classify as being Doomlike, because apart from the perspective, they've very little in common. Procedural generation and permadeath don't automatically qualify a game as a Roguelike, they're just a stepping stone towards it, something game devs, and people around here don't seem to understand.

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Oat

Some overall very interesting replies so far.

@shaneoh I definitely think you have a point when you state that procedural generation is only a stepping stone to becoming a roguelike. I asked that part of the question because one of my favorite roguelites in recent years is Risk of Rain. It doesn't have procedural generated levels but rather has randomly selected locations for each stage with the exception of the last 2-3 stages which are always set. In addition the game randomly chooses your spawn point.

I like this approach because I feel like it accomplishes the goal of keeping runs fresh while still using handcrafted levels.

I do think that roguelikes/roguelites need an element of randomness in terms of maps in order to encourage the player to master the mechanics instead of the level design however my problem with lesser roguelikes/lites is when the generation algorithm produces unwinnable levels or just down right terrible levels that are unfun to play. On top of that I feel like the levels eventually start to blend together after a while. If I'd were designing a roguelike I'd rather take a Risk of Rain approach and have set levels that are randomly selected with random spawn points.

@Heavyarms55 I very much like your response to question 4. I think having it as a side mode would probably be the best solution for a lot of games. I had no idea that disgaea even did that. Are the item worlds any good?

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Heavyarms55

@Oat The item worlds are basically endless "randomized" dungeons where progressing in them actually levels up your item, when providing you grinding for your characters too. Disgaea can be insanely grindy if you let it, but in return it lets you do very silly things. Like making godly weapons out of common items.

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Oat

@Heavyarms55 That sounds dope!

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CanisWolfred

I don't like Procedural Generation, because it goes against one of the main reasons I play video games: To explore a world I could never experience in real life. Procedurally generated levels have to care or craft to their levels, making their worlds feel artificial and often temporary - they're not a tangable location the player is supposed to associate their experience with. Therefore, I dislike the very concept of it, at least it terms of level design. That's before we even get into how its excucuted or what types of games its used for - there's plenty of reasons I could try to justify why I think games are better without relying on procedural generation...but it doesn't really matter, since at the end of the day, I dislike the concept itself - there are no good examples of it by my metric. The best uses of it are for small optional portions that I can freely ignore - at least then I can enjoy the rest of the game. I also greatly dislike randomized loot, since in general I prefer having a smaller quantity of weapons that all play differently from eachother instead of constantly chasing the biggest numbers. And yes, I apply that to RPGs as well, even though very few RPG developers are willing to put in the effort to make the weapons truly unique, so at best I just get a metric for how the devs expected the difficulty curve to be. I usually ignore crafting systems in most games so I don't break the game and make it easier than it should be.

Edited on by CanisWolfred

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Heavyarms55

@Oat It can be pretty nifty, no doubt.

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