Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sexy Cities

Introversion have made a very pretty procedural city generator that churns out fairly realistic results. I can see the lure of procedural content, especially for smaller studios, I'm just not convinced that it's going to create the kind of results that people expect for certain genres.

Although real world big cities are just as cut-n-pasted as the landscapes in the link, game cities suffer for it.

It's the difference between Saints Row's Stillwater and the LA of True Crime. Stillwater had interesting road layouts, landmark buildings all over the place, and neighbourhoods with individual character. LA had miles and miles of characterless roads.

As well as making for a play area that looks interesting, it makes it much easier to navigate, and allows the missions to utilise the varying landscape to make repetative tasks feel fresher (which in turn means you actually need less unique gameplay content).

A street race around the affluent housing neighbourhood (winding roads, lawns and picket fences) is a different experience, both visually and in gameplay, to the exact same mission placed in the slums area (90 degree corners, tall buildings right on the pavement, narrow alleyways), or the docks (very wide roads with poor quality surfaces, water with no barriers, cargo being moved around).

And that's what I think a procedural city will miss, unless a lot of work is subsequently done by the artists to tart it up. But if you're going to do that, why not have someone spend a week blocking out the layout in the first place?

Of course, knowing Introversion's style, this is probably for a larger scale RTS or something, in which case individual character is less important. Make sure you watch the video, it's great!

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