Map Generation - Food for Thought

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Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby Moogie » 20 Dec 2010 17:36

(Inspired by this thread)


Is there any possibility at all that the engine could support randomly generated maps? I'd like to encourage you to consider it. It would be a big attraction for many people who enjoy simulations and 4X type games.


This is My Planet!

As a direct response to Kubluu's reply in the above thread: There is only so much replayability to be had from predesigned areas; even if it will evolve differently according to player actions, more often than not, players themselves fall into a pattern of behaviour that they are likely to repeat between games if their starting conditions are always the same.

The Ouroboros Problem
Speaking strictly from personal experience, and as someone who enjoys playing citybuilders and various RTS genres in general, I tend to find "what works" and employ the same strategy each time I play in that map. It may be the most efficient, or make the most sense from my perspective, but if I'm familiar with the level being presented, the goals I need to achieve, and the layout of the rest of the world, then I already know exactly how I'm going to plan my settlement, right down to which order I build, research, and create units (and even where to position them). I could force myself to play differently, but this wouldn't be natural behaviour. I know that the "best location" will never change; if I come back and play the same map tomorrow, I already know where to build, what order to build, where threats are going to emerge and thus how my colony is going to be constructed/laid out, etc. Even if the game naturally evolves from what I'm doing, if what I do is the same each time, that game is always going to evolve in a predictable fashion.

No Patterns Match the Unknown
Consider this, though. In randomly generated maps, I'm forced to rediscover the "best location" every time -- I can't simply remember it from last time I played. I don't know where the threats are anymore, so my buildings will be scattered differently each time. I may focus on different research trees if I feel I have more (or less) time to goof around before I come under fire. I'm much less likely to fall into the same routine, and as a result, your game world is going to evolve much differently each time I play. In short, replayability comes from the requirement to adapt to the unknown. Pregenerated maps, even if you supply 1000's of them at launch, can and will eventually be "learned" and gameplay is in danger of becoming stale and predictable.

Your Start Locations vs. Infinite Start Locations
Obviously I have no idea yet how the lore of Conlan's Claim is going to affect the gameplay, so I hope what I'm about to argue will make sense. :) But, again referring to Kubluu's post, you mention there being several "alternate outcomes of planetfall"? Presumably, this means alternate locations that the initial settlers landed on the planet and built the first colonies, is that correct? If so, this lends itself perfectly to randomly generated scenarios. Why must these several outcomes be the only possible outcomes? Unless you plan to tie them very strictly into a story, it's not necessary to use a set of fixed locations. If not, what's to stop you implementing a "purely sandbox" mode where this pre-existing history is not required at all? :) Regardless, map generation would need to accomodate these first colonies of course, but it should still be possible to do that.

Replayability in a Nutshell
I want to be enjoying this game a year, two years, five years or more later and still have a fresh new challenge awaiting me. I don't want to load Level 1 and already know what to build, where to build it, and how many units I need to stock up on to counter the wave of enemies that the game hasn't even told me about yet. I want to be suprised by new and interesting terrain and I want to feel the thrill of exploring the unknown... not simply uncovering the Fog of War over an all-too-familiar landscape that has no more suprises to offer.

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this!
Last edited by Moogie on 20 Dec 2010 18:27, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby forsaken1111 » 20 Dec 2010 18:15

I really agree, and I think random generation should be an option alongside pregenerated maps.
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby kubluu » 20 Dec 2010 20:10

Hi, it's nice to see people getting interested in the game.

Currently the game maps are created via an in-game editor where you place the assets like rocks, stones etc. In addition, a set of bitmaps stored in each map folder contain the information about terrain height, water, vegetation, minerals etc.
So they are pretty easy to make with a paint program and you can get as sophisticated as you want. We hope that people will share maps so the game stays fresh.

Regarding random, (procedurally generated) maps, we have already given it some thought. While they would be nice, there is a problem:
Our game engine really needs assets like rocks, stones, etc. to be handplaced to look the best. A program probably couldn't achieve the same quality.

The auxiliary bitmaps could be generated more easily. I think it would be ideal for a third party to make a map generator that spat out bitmaps in png format. No interfacing with the game would be needed, just click a button to generate the files. After that, you would need to place the terrain assets by hand (or perhaps create a program to generate the needed xml file).
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby kulik » 21 Dec 2010 00:51

For me, while i would go for randomly generated maps, its not the main concern i have regarding replayability. Its the fixed ecosystems. I mean it will be great to explore it for the first time. The plants, animals and way it all works together the food-chain and stuff, it may be actually the best part. But what on my second run...and what on my 2159nd run?
I really daub something like that could be procedurally generated or easily modable due to the pretty but hardly imitable art (We love our ASCII for a reason :) ).
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby Moogie » 21 Dec 2010 07:54

kulik wrote:For me, while i would go for randomly generated maps, its not the main concern i have regarding replayability. Its the fixed ecosystems. I mean it will be great to explore it for the first time. The plants, animals and way it all works together the food-chain and stuff, it may be actually the best part. But what on my second run...and what on my 2159nd run?
I really daub something like that could be procedurally generated or easily modable due to the pretty but hardly imitable art (We love our ASCII for a reason :) ).


They could have some variety using pallette swaps and scale adjustment, even with a fixed set of sprites. I'd even go as far as to suggest we don't even need different sprites to describe a totally new creature, as long as the flavour text does most of the describing for us.

I see these two issues in tandem; jointly, they will greatly reduce replayability.

A map editor is a decent compromise regarding random maps, but the simulation lover/explorer in me is disappointed that I'll never really be discovering a totally unique world, it will always have been crafted beforehand by someone else, made artificial by their manual placement of the scenery. I would argue that any seeding that can be done by a third party, as suggested, could be done far better by the company that made the game. Surely rules can be hardcoded to make sure no objects get placed in "bad" locations, and that's pretty much all you'd need.

(Of course, I have no insight into the engine, so the issue may be far more complex than it appears.)

Regardless, I will withhold my own judgement until we actually get to play it. :) There's no limit to what can change between now and then, and we know so little about how the game will work at the moment. I'll hold out hope, but it's not a dealbreaker if it doesn't happen.
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby kubluu » 21 Dec 2010 11:44

I agree with you that for the game to realize its full potential, features such as random maps and support for user made art assets are needed.
It is something we will have in mind.
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby forsaken1111 » 24 Dec 2010 13:26

kubluu wrote:I agree with you that for the game to realize its full potential, features such as random maps and support for user made art assets are needed.
It is something we will have in mind.


Keep it in mind for the expansion.

Conlan's Claim: New Horizons
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby Moogie » 26 Dec 2010 14:24

forsaken1111 wrote:
kubluu wrote:I agree with you that for the game to realize its full potential, features such as random maps and support for user made art assets are needed.
It is something we will have in mind.


Keep it in mind for the expansion.

Conlan's Claim: New Horizons



You should work in Marketing! ;)
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby Seamas » 11 Jan 2011 06:42

For a game of this nature, random maps are essential, in my opinion. How can it be the frontier you're settling if you've seen it before?

I know it's probably troublesome to code, but...it adds a whole galaxy for the exploring.
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Re: Map Generation - Food for Thought

Postby Terrabyte535 » 21 Dec 2012 22:37

In my opinion it is a requirement to have randomly generated maps, it'll be more work, BUT it'll add replayability wich is very good because people will tell their freinds: "You can't get bored of that game, it's completely different each time!", wich would spread popularity real fast. Of course it's your call but i'd RECOMMEND it.
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