Hands of Creation: Procedural vs Intentional

In games, there are two major modes of world creation. The first is procedual, and while it’s not used all that often, is gaining in popularity. Basically, procedural generation means that the world is created randomly, within parameters set by the creator. Proteus is a good example of this. It’s only partly procedural since all the assets themselves are predetermined and created beforehand, but the shape and terrain of the island and the placement of all those assets–trees, crab-creatures, frogs–are determined anew each time you open the game. This has a very natural appeal. In a sense, it recreates nature: a somewhat simple set of rules giving birth to a complex and unpredictable world that is unique every time. Every time I play Proteus, it’s a unique island that will never exist again once I exit the game. It gives a nice sense of birth, death, and uniqueness in an otherwise immortal and ubiquitous world.

The opposite of this is what I’m calling “intentional creation”. Rather than the world being generated randomly within a set of parameters, the creator must hand-place everything. Although most games have the seeds of procedural generation in various areas (especially when it comes to terrain and flora), intentional generation is much more common. The environments are all predetermined: everything will be exactly the same every time for every player. All the objects in a fully intentionally created game world are put just so directly by a creator. The angle of a tree, the scale of a rock, even if it’s done mindlessly and with absolutely no reason, everything must be done deliberately (although trees and such are usually bit of an exception, most game engines have sort of guided procedurality tools to make the process much faster). If done with thought, intentional creation can be just as compelling as procedural’s natural appeal. To me, it’s more poetic and musical.

For The Theatre, I’m taking a fully intentional approach. I think there’s a beauty in laying the seeds and sitting back and letting the creation take over as procedural generation forces the creator to do, but personally I find intentional creation much more appealing. Perhaps I’m arrogant: I like the control that hand-making every area gives me. And importantly, intentional creation is much more consonant with the concepts. Camillo’s theatre is an extremely deliberate and purposeful creation.

The amount of time this approach takes will force me to keep things simple. I cannot place hundreds of trees with a simple click and drag. I have to go through a more complex sequence of actions for every single tree. Therefore, I will not place a tree unless I need to. I am forced to keep it simple. The environment will be precisely as robust as it needs to be, and no more. That, at least, is the ideal.

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