Mar 18, 2014

Random Power

Babbling at the Counter #33 – Video Games

Random Power

I remember the moment I had one of the insights that led to the Warehouse. I was playing an old NES game, Spy Vs. Spy, an thinking: “This is awesome!”. After playing through most of the difficulties, I went back to the lower ones, just because they made the games shorter, not actually easier. Sadly, the level design was exactly the same every time you choose that difficulty.

Obviously, I shouldn’t have been surprised. NES games didn’t have randomly generated content. But I was sitting there, thinking: “If only the item placement on this was random, even without changing the level’s layout, you could replay to your heart’s content”.

Then, it hit me. With today’s technology, an amateur designer could make exactly this same game on his home computer AND add this nifty “item hiding” feature. Somewhere along the line, the graphical aspects of games where prioritized, so whenever processing power increased, only graphics improved, not gameplay.

Nowadays, some stuff started showing up to correct that. First, it was online gaming. While nice, it never actually worked for me. But then, indie developers started making games with low quality graphics and great features, mostly “procedural” or “randomly” generated content.

I like where this is going, and even though I won’t talk about exclusively commercial games in this blog, it’s worth saying that there are a few great gems out there. I see myself included in the target market for video games for the first time in years.

So, you ask yourself, what about free games?

Free games can benefit a lot from procedural generated content, and a lot more than you may think. Low quality graphics and high replayability are the staples of a lot of free gaming.

Aspiring game designers, whatever your goals are commercial or non-commercial, just remember. It’s not about graphics anymore. With the help of our handy internet, spreading your work is easier. Thankfully, that means the game environment is more rich and varied, so both designers can defend their vision, and we players get a lot more to choose from. Good times indeed!

- The Storeman

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