Humans are very creative, and technology assists us in the creative process in so many ways — computers are extremely powerful, and make for great companions when exploring creative possibilities. One way in which they do this is known as procedural generation, which is when an algorithm is used to generate content, instead of a person having to create all of the content manually. This is especially useful when you have some general ideas, and would like to explore the possibility space around it, or would like to generate content which is similar in nature to content you already have. It also feels great to pass some of the laborious work to a computer to do, and it doesn’t mind in the least! ;p
At Sozo Labs we sometimes make use of procedural generation. Here is an example of landscapes generated by a basic generator we built in the Unity game engine, to both explore the landscape possibility space, and to instantly create many interesting landscapes without us having to do a lot of manual work. It can generate an almost infinite amount of landscapes by varying particular characteristics we have given those landscapes, such as height above sea level, water distribution, hilliness, plateau heights, and more, leading to many kinds of biomes or ecosystems.
Procedural generation is a powerful tool in a game developer’s toolbox, not only for the resulting creative pay-off, but also because it allows you to create and explore a much greater number of possibilities in a shorter amount of time, which makes a big difference in terms of time and budget constraints.
Just imagine the worlds that are still going to be created and explored as humans and computers get better and better at collaboratively creating content!