Why Randomly Generated Content Sucks

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Why Randomly Generated Content Sucks

How Diablo 3 went off the randomly generated reservation.

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What might be interesting here is that the whole thing with "let a bunch of writers all write a chapter" has already been done - it was a big prank on the whole romantic book genre, and it sold like hot cookies. The prediction of it making zero sense was rather accurate though.

The key lies in a reasonable expectation of what randomly generated levels can do. In a game where many subsequent replays are expected, random generation of levels can make each replay slightly less repetitive than a game where everything is exactly the same. Can it make a completely new game every time you play it? Not even close.

I think where "The Binding of Isaac" does better with its random-map generator versus "Diablo III" is the survival element. I think a random-map generator would work great for a survival/horror based game like "Silent Hill" or "Resident Evil" as these rely heavily on managing resources like health or infection. In fact, a lot of Roguelike games like "Nethack" encourage players to manage these resources while exploring the randomly-generated dungeon, which can lead to some tense moments in deciding on whether you should drink that unidentified potion when you are attacked by mind flayers. Its similar to a player desperate for a positive effect when they take a pill while fighting Satan with one heart left.

Basically "The Binding of Isaac" has a variety of resources for the player to micro-manage, but "Diablo III" removes this. This is one of the reasons why I didn't like "Diablo II" so much compared to "Diablo I" as it removed the spell-system--something that is necessary for survival yet only acquired by exploring a random dungeon--for for the skill-tree, where your "spells" are lined up in order and only acquired after grinding for X hours. Now "Diablo III" removes the ability of distributing points to your ability scores, which means there is less resources for the player to manage. The only thing the player gets in these games is "fancy" or "fancier" pants (as Yahtzee put it), which merely add bonuses to an level 17 Monk avatar that is no different, aside from gear, to another level 17 Monk.

Well, some of the mindless automatic biases people think you have would be against:

AAA Titles
Nintendo
Japanese RPGs
First Person Shooters
Games with a multiplayer focus
Modern games in general
Games with quicktime events
Tolkienesque Fantasy
Long cutscenes

Did i forget anything?

There's definitely a market for a "Lord of the Flies" style survival game, but I doubt it'll ever get made. (Barring an indie dev stumbling on the idea and running with it.)

A word in Diablo's defense, the whole "randomly generated textures and architecture" thing does come into play during the optional dungeons namely that which dungeons with which architecture are available changes from game to game. Also certain lore is randomly generated to give players new insight into the world on other playthroughs. I know that's not enough to excuse everything else, but there it is.

PsychedelicDiamond:
Well, some of the mindless automatic biases people think you have would be against:

AAA Titles
Nintendo
Japanese RPGs
First Person Shooters
Games with a multiplayer focus
Modern games in general
Games with quicktime events
Tolkienesque Fantasy
Long cutscenes

Did i forget anything?

You forgot Motion Controls

TL:DR Because it's random!
Insert dick joke and you're done.

Can someone link me to the article where Yahtzee mentioned/talked about The Binding of Isaac?

Upd:Nevermind found it

It's not the same thing as procedural generation, which is the thing that Spore's character animation ran on. Random levels in this case is taking a collection of pre-built rooms and randomly arranging how they're all slotted together. This does not create an infinite supply of dungeons, it's a constant rearrangement of just the one dungeon, an incredibly monotone dungeon with no intelligent direction whatsoever. And you wouldn't even know you were in a randomly generated dungeon until a second playthrough if maybe, maybe you remembered going down a hallway differently last time. At which point you will most likely think "Well, that explains why it's so samey", rather than "Well, this makes it all worth it."

+1

People need to stop judging procedural generation based on half-assed Diablo-style map generation.

Voltano:
I think where "The Binding of Isaac" does better with its random-map generator versus "Diablo III" is the survival element. I think a random-map generator would work great for a survival/horror based game like "Silent Hill" or "Resident Evil" as these rely heavily on managing resources like health or infection. In fact, a lot of Roguelike games like "Nethack" encourage players to manage these resources while exploring the randomly-generated dungeon, which can lead to some tense moments in deciding on whether you should drink that unidentified potion when you are attacked by mind flayers. Its similar to a player desperate for a positive effect when they take a pill while fighting Satan with one heart left.

Also this. Procedural generation works best in very specific game design contexts, and the whole resource/risk management roguelike paradigm is a great example of one of those design contexts. Geography and placement of exploitable resources, a la Minecraft and Alpha Centauri, is another one. Basically random variation in map content only matters if that random variation means something interesting in terms of how the game is played.

Kargathia:
What might be interesting here is that the whole thing with "let a bunch of writers all write a chapter" has already been done - it was a big prank on the whole romantic book genre, and it sold like hot cookies. The prediction of it making zero sense was rather accurate though.

If you mean Atlanta Nights, that was actually done to expose a vanity press scam masquerading as a traditional publisher.

PsychedelicDiamond:
Well, some of the mindless automatic biases people think you have would be against:

AAA Titles
Nintendo
Japanese RPGs
First Person Shooters
Games with a multiplayer focus
Modern games in general
Games with quicktime events
Tolkienesque Fantasy
Long cutscenes

Did i forget anything?

He hates sequels too, written a few extra punctuations just to bash the them but everyone has bias, Yahtzee just likes overstating his and passing it off as fact.

I agree that random generation suck for the most part but it has worked in Disgaea, it had pre-made story levels but randomly generated extra stages that was great to help make the grinding in that game more bearable.

Try Dwarf Fortress. Randomly generated and simulated world. Randomly generated and simulated dwarves living in it. Everything is randomly generated. Its almost just like your hypothetical example.

Another example of where randomly generated content works is the original X-Com. You could play the game several different ways, and each time you landed at a wreck or on a terror mission your experience is going to be different. So it didn't really matter that every city has the same gas station-what mattered was who's side was going to take the most loses when it explodes.

This article made me think of the differences between randomly generated and procedurally generated levels. Yahtzee has the right idea in my opinion, the entire story telling mechanic in games doesn't have to be tied to the methods of traditional story telling, it can be more organic, elevating the bar to a level unseen in ALL media. Games don't need to tell a story anymore, they just need set pieces that can be activated by the actions of the player to trigger events. Now if only the industry would figure out how to do it.

Minecraft + Procedural storytelling = Greatest Game Ever!

Let's see Yahtzee's known biases:
JRPGs
Online Multiplayer (I personally agree with that one)
Quicktime events
Motion Controls
and now Randomly Generated Levels/Dungeons

Am I forgetting anything.

lord.jeff:

PsychedelicDiamond:
Well, some of the mindless automatic biases people think you have would be against:

AAA Titles
Nintendo
Japanese RPGs
First Person Shooters
Games with a multiplayer focus
Modern games in general
Games with quicktime events
Tolkienesque Fantasy
Long cutscenes

Did i forget anything?

He hates sequels too, written a few extra punctuations just to bash the them but everyone has bias, Yahtzee just likes overstating his and passing it off as fact.

I agree that random generation suck for the most part but it has worked in Disgaea, it had pre-made story levels but randomly generated extra stages that was great to help make the grinding in that game more bearable.

Real Time Strategy games. Maybe strategy games in general since he wrote that whole rant about Warhammer 40k. Management sims too. Games that do that X-Ray kill cam thing. Games that are hard.

The novel idea is incredibly fascinating. I'd love to see that happen.

PsychedelicDiamond:
Well, some of the mindless automatic biases people think you have would be against:

AAA Titles
Nintendo
Japanese RPGs
First Person Shooters
Games with a multiplayer focus
Modern games in general
Games with quicktime events
Tolkienesque Fantasy
Long cutscenes

Did i forget anything?

I'll add:

PC Games
Macho games
Gore-fest games
Racing games
Games with Pepsi in them
First person Platforming
Sonic

Mind you, this post is a bit tongue in cheek.

If Diablo 3 allowed mods it would be interesting to see someone do a Binding of Isaac style mod for it where you play a more generic character and somehow acquire randomized skills as you play. Force you to find ways to mix and match talents from the various classes with a cap on how many you eventually discover so you can't just get everything eventually.

I learnt about this game from this site, but I don't know how widely known it is; Cult: Awakening of the Old Ones.
The game is a (currently pre-alpha) text based roguelike that aims to procedurally generate a world, it's history, it's creatures, gods, the civilizations, their nations, their languages, their religions... and other things. I don't know if there is an overarching plotline, but still the amount of stuff that's just created from scratch to create a single playthrough sounds amazing and it's... sort of like what Yahtzee is suggesting, but not really but sort of, in some ways. You can download an early version of it's world generator from the site if anyone is interested.

The idea of procedural actors would work well in a game context as well. Say, set up a village of fifty random individuals. Each has a personality, possessions, memories (of people, places, things, and events - the last of which is essential in bringing drama to life)), and opinions of all other actors.

Then you let the world run wild.
Say Tom is hungry. Being dishonest, he steals from his neighbor, George, who he's not all that fond of. George notices the theft when he returns, and starts asking around. Mary saw Tom leave George's house, but she likes Tom, so she tells George she saw Bob instead. George doesn't know better, so he kills Bob in a fit of violent revenge. Sue, Bob's wife, is heartbroken and angry. So she assembles a posse, including Tom, to go kill George.

Now for why this fits perfectly in a game context: Quests. Three interesting, automatically-generated quests: Find out who stole from George, get revenge on Bob (or Tom, if you find out the truth), and join the feud against George.

All of this sprang from deterministic data - the kind of thing computers are great at. Given these inputs, choose an output. And the best part? With everything having 4+ cores nowadays, finding processing power to run it is no longer a fool's errand.

So why not? Why shouldn't Elder Scrolls 6 feature things like this - the ultimate realization of the Radiant AI system?
If there's a good reason, I do not know it.

I can think of one game where randomness was introduced and abandoned, but the playerbase still has support for it. Left 4 Dead 2. There's no point in randomizing characters so this is slightly off-topic, but randomizing the survivor's paths through the environments is considered to be a good thing by play-for-fun players and a bad thing by l33t rush-record players. Valve experimented with it and stopped after what I consider to be a failed testing environment (a park where the hedges blocked sight of landmarks and of course, hedges all look the same too).

The "random novel" concept almost perfectly describes the Japanese "game" known as the visual novel. Some are more firmly on rails than Final Fantasy 13 and have a great story (Fate/Stay Night), whereas others are extremely free-form and do indeed have huge amounts of replay ability based on character interactions, dynamic stats and relationships, etc. I'm not sure if they have any that have randomly generated characters - but given the enormous variety in that genre I wouldn't be surprised.

Some of those novels deserve the title - the English translation of Fate/Stay Night was longer than The Lord of the Rings - and there's still ungodly amounts of side material that's not in the game proper.

ok, then what about Minecraft? Doesn't it have the same problem as Diablo, but worse. The game and the level starts over every time you make a new world or when you start walking for an hour in a given direction, but you have the same exact objective with the same enemies(and I want you to forget about the mods for a minute), this means that the game has not that much of a value since it's a repeat of what you were trying to do, but with no direction, and as far as I know you love the game!...

:P

Very well written Mr.Croshaw *claps*

But on to the more pressing matter on my mind now-

YAY NEW BOOK :D can someone fill me in on whether its related to MOGWORLD or not?

RPGxMadness:
ok, then what about Minecraft? Doesn't it have the same problem as Diablo, but worse. The game and the level starts over every time you make a new world or when you start walking for an hour in a given direction, but you have the same exact objective with the same enemies(and I want you to forget about the mods for a minute), this means that the game has not that much of a value since it's a repeat of what you were trying to do, but with no direction, and as far as I know you love the game!...

:P

Sorry for the double post here but this man ^ had a good point that ild like to agree with and rebut at the same time. ^^'

I love that point becuase its exactly what i think minecraft is. I cant play through the game at all without thinking "done this, done this, repeititveness," and yes that aspect of the game holds little value. But that isnt the point of the game is it? Anyone including yourself will tell you the point of minecraft is to build your ideas into the world. And THAT is what makes it fun. The randomly generated world is just a slight change in setting each time.
In essence, that is why diablo falls short because your just running and killing through the same random areas.

In other words- Diablo is minecraft without the building....while searching for better pants and at the end you kill the big creeper.

sorry wow triple post ._. i feel bad now

I think rearrangement works provided you're not playing the same rearranged level for five levels in a row. The most classic example of this is... Zelda. Wait, what?

Ok, so it wasn't random, but due to design limitations, the Master Quest mode of Ocarina of Time used the same basic rooms and simply rearranged them and their contents. Yes, the dungeon themes were the same, but the second playthrough felt like a second playthrough that kept the game fresh, rather than the second of two dull playthroughs. Mostly, the room contents (monsters, and more importantly, keys) forced a different order of the rooms (with verticality often making those played through in reverse very different) which drastically changed the flow of the dungeon, and even modified some puzzles.

I think this is the problem:

Content should only be permitted to repeat after the final boss is defeated.

In other words, actually make enough content for one full length 40 hour (is that the current norm?) game, and then and only then consider how to use random generation to expand it into optional replayability. So up until that point, room tiles can be shuffled around and still feel fresh, because each tile is still fresh. However, if you replay the game, it'll remain fresh (throw in a handful of alternate tiles to surprise players), especially if tiles are designed to play differently depending on their placement relative to others. So say, you have a tile with a bridge on it, a tile with a platform on it, and a tile with a tall gate and battlement on it. A playthrough where you a) clear the battlement b) clear the bridge and c) clear the platform will feel very different to a playthrough where you a) clear the bridge, b) clear the platform whilst enemies fire down from the battlements and c) finally nail those little bastards. Three tiles, two arrangments, two distinct gameplay styles.

Boatmurdered is the funniest story I have ever read and that is mostly randomly generated.

Kargathia:
What might be interesting here is that the whole thing with "let a bunch of writers all write a chapter" has already been done - it was a big prank on the whole romantic book genre, and it sold like hot cookies. The prediction of it making zero sense was rather accurate though.

image

Ah, yes, Naked Came the Stranger (image NSFW). An interesting spiritual sequel, of sorts, is Atlanta Nights (working title Naked Came the Badfic). I've read some of it, it's bad. Not Eye of Argon bad, mostly, but still bad.

Though both of those were deliberate attempts to make inconsistent and lame drivel. For a better example, some of the better round-robin fanfics are pretty good. And you can sense the glee of a writer putting the characters in a cliffhanger another writer has to resolve.:)

Unrelated: Best article preview icon ever.

Yeah, Dwarf Fortress is the best example I can think of of what's being described here. The dwarves have lots of innate traits and interact with eachother based on those traits. Now, there's also a semi-omniscient Expedition Leader (player) directing large-scale orders, but the day-to-day interactions are still defined entirely by the dwarves, leading to... Fun.

It sucks... unless it's in Dwarf Fortress of course. :)

You should check out If on a winter's night a traveller, Yahtzee. Every other chapter starts telling a different story, and the inbetween chapters involve the reader making directed choices, taking the reader of the book as a character in the book. It's about as close to a procedurally generated book as you can get without looking at fanfics.

Falseprophet:

Kargathia:
What might be interesting here is that the whole thing with "let a bunch of writers all write a chapter" has already been done - it was a big prank on the whole romantic book genre, and it sold like hot cookies. The prediction of it making zero sense was rather accurate though.

If you mean Atlanta Nights, that was actually done to expose a vanity press scam masquerading as a traditional publisher.

Actually I was referring to Naked Came the Stranger.

EDIT:

Formica Archonis:

Ah, yes, Naked Came the Stranger (image NSFW). An interesting spiritual sequel, of sorts, is Atlanta Nights (working title Naked Came the Badfic). I've read some of it, it's bad. Not Eye of Argon bad, mostly, but still bad.

Though both of those were deliberate attempts to make inconsistent and lame drivel. For a better example, some of the better round-robin fanfics are pretty good. And you can sense the glee of a writer putting the characters in a cliffhanger another writer has to resolve.:)

Unrelated: Best article preview icon ever.

Derp. I could've saved myself all of 15 minutes on Google trying to remember the name by waiting a few minutes.

FIFTEEN MINUTES!

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