It’s a great shame to hear that Introversion Software, a London based indie game developer, have decided to put on hold Subversion, a game of great interest to anyone involved in PCG.  The company has decided to take some of the technology they built for the project and focus on another game called Prison Architect, which should be good news as they’ll undoubtedly be making sensible commercial decisions.

There is a full interview here, and has many topics worth considering for an indie developer, or anyone involved in PCG.

  1. Worlds and Levels created by PCG techniques are, more often than not, really boring to play.  This is a biggie – you can make a computer generate the most beautiful landscapes, plants and water features, but this stuff has a tendency to repeat itself to infinity, which is no fun at all.  Even the makers (well publishers) of Elite limited the number of galaxies from the possible 256 million to only 8, on the basis that the player would lose all interest in the ridiculous scale.  Successful PCG games like Minecraft ensure that the players can design their own unique architecture over the world of mathematics, this generates interest for other players.
  2. Making something more realistic does not make it more fun.  Everyone knows that the KISS (keep it simple stupid) mantra is the most important in UI, UX, product, game, or pretty much any other design, however it’s very difficult for an artist to follow this simple rule, even more so when there is an elegance to making the environment fully integrated to the point otherwise designed laws naturally emerge.  I’ve been following Introversion for a long time and I can see the quandary they would have been in: as proponents of PCG as a necessity to make up for lack of human level designers, it became more tempting to generate everything well past the position of utility.
  3. It’s a highly complex (possible unsolvable) problem to simulate architecture that would otherwsie been created by a human (or even animal) builder.  The most immediate uses of PCG may be as a tool to generate ideas that human (or crowd of) designers then curates by selecting and modifying into something useful.

The direction of my research is in creating software agents that can assist human designers (or crowds of them) generate more interesting levels, either by evaluating the raw creations of PCG, or perhaps by simulating human behavior in shaping their environment, or even learning how designers create content and replicating these fuzzy techniques.  Introversion software have been pioneering these techniques for many years, and so I wish them the best in commercial success with Prison Architect so they have more time to play with creating virtual worlds.