Introversion Explain Subversion’s Fate

By Jim Rossignol on November 8th, 2011 at 11:11 am.


Earlier this week I had a chance to talk to Introversion lead programmer, Chris Delay. He explained a bit about what was going on with the British indie, talking about how the suspended Subversion project had changed their outlook, and how they’re returning to their original approach of being bedroom programmers.


RPS: Ok, let’s stop rambling about our various secret projects and get to some material that I can actually print on RPS.

Delay: Ok, let’s do that.

RPS: What happened between the Subversion demo that we saw at World Of Love and the announcement of Prison Architect, just a few weeks ago?

Delay: You were there for that?

RPS: Yes.


Delay: Right, well what happened actually started before World Of Love. The demo there was … well, we set ourselves internal objectives and with Subversion we were aiming for a vertical slice, so a fully playable level of the game. And we hadn’t had that, and it had been worrying us. The World Of Love demo was that: a fully playable level, top to bottom. But even as we were doing it we kind of knew that it didn’t measure up. It looked good and it sounded good, and stylistically it was nice. But… it didn’t play. I would never have let anyone play it, because they would just have said “this sucks.” In the case of that level there was only way to beat the bank. If you drew that bank vault it would be “inner door”, “outer door”, “bank vault”. A linear line of doors. There was only one way to complete it! It was quite nice in the sense that it had a bit of time pressure on you, but it had taken us months and months to get to that level. I started to realise that every level in Subversion was going to boil down to this, to breaking a series of locks and stealing the loot.

It’s difficult because game design isn’t really reductionist. Well, most games do break down to something simple like that, but it wasn’t just that which was at fault, there wasn’t enough gameplay possibility from the amount of work that we’d done. We had very little in the way of gameplay, but all this visual style and all these tech demos, and I couldn’t see how the gameplay was going to come into that, either. That was happening at the same time as the World Of Love demo.

We spent some time to solve this problem, to do an alpha build and put it out, whatever. And eventually we hit on the idea of another game. Prison Architect has a lot in common with Subversion, but I could see the route to the game immediately.

RPS: So… you could see, from the work you’d done on Subversion, a different, but incompatible game dynamic? One that was better?

Delay: Yes. There was a level in Subversion where you were supposed to bust your buddy out of a jail, and we spent months on that level, because prisons are complex places with day-night regimes and so on. We’d invested loads of time in simulating a prison with a few gaps – the places where the cunning player could sneak in or whatever. That level was the gestation of Prison Architect. If you take that stuff and flip it on its head then you have a lot of the systems you need in place for the player to build their prison. That lead to the game we ended up doing. There’s a lot in Subversion that is also in Prison Architect, it’s just that your interaction with the world is the other way up.


RPS: So you don’t feel like you wasted an enormous amount of time and resources on Subversion only to end up doing something else?

Delay: Yeah. Yeah, I do feel that way a little bit. It is quite reckless. It isn’t the first instance of this happening at Introversion, it has to be said. We have binned work in the past. The fault here is that Subversion was experimental, right from the very start. Its focus was on procedural generation, and we spent a lot of time developing that. It was always going on the background while we were doing other things. We didn’t mind that there wasn’t a game on the surface, it must be in there somewhere, right? We’ve got all this great technology! But it wasn’t in there. Subversion is now on hold indefinitely, and that is very wasteful. But it’s also fertile ground for other games.

The core idea: hi-tech heist, wasn’t working. Take the prison level: blow a hole through the wall! That’s it. If you can’t make a game out of it, then that’s it. Over.

RPS: Hmm, but lots of games are a very simple act repeated over and over. Or they’re a toolbox with weak parameters for jeopardy and challenge. People are happy enough with numbers going up! So what was it that meant Subversion had to be canned? Why wasn’t the feature you had made enough?

Delay: Sure. You could say that. You could look at Uplink and say “you run a bypass on all the security systems until you’ve cut them all off”, but I think in any game that’s any good, the core activity is really satisfying. World Of Warcraft is just pushing the first six number keys over and over, but because of the progression and the visuals and the knowledge of where you are, all the feedback, that’s really fun without anything else. The rest of it is theme. In Darwinia you are playing with Cannon Fodder-style controls. You are left and right clicking to control your squaddies, shooting monsters. That would have worked even if it was set in the real world, the core would have been repeatable. Come to Subversion and the core activities weren’t any fun. The systems were overly complex. Even the inventory! Rather than have an inventory bag we had this full head to toe system where you could load up backpacks and armour and stuff. You could slot equipment into every part of your body, put bags inside bags, and so on.

And because we’d set it in the real world, during the day, you didn’t feel like you were doing anything that exciting. There was no feeling of danger. I can see how you could improve all of those problems and fix a lot of those issues. But the amount of effort we were having to invest was astronomical. And we looked at other games with a simple core mechanic and they were fun right away. Monaco, for example, does a lot of the same stuff that Subversion does, but it’s more fun. I looked at that and thought: “he’s nailed it, right there.” It was just fun to do, over and over, in precisely the way Subversion wasn’t. And that happened a number of times with a number of different games, where we saw something that we regarded as core to Subversion, done much better.

Of course if we hadn’t had a really strong idea we’d still be battling with all that now. We’d be doing an interview about the difficulties of making Subversion. But other ideas come forward sometimes, and they’re much better, and you have to pursue them.


RPS: Understood. And to an extent it feels like the difference between developers who are aware of games other than those they directly inspired by, and those who aren’t… I sometimes envy the blinkeredness of some people, because they just get on with what they were doing, no interference, for better or worse…

Delay: Well, that wasn’t the primary reason. It was just another factor. It’s more the sense that the competition highlighted to me that we were lacking in a core game. We used to be really be blinkered actually. Particularly with Darwinia. We just went ahead and made it. And that worked. But then we suffered from it with Multiwinia, because we made a game that was more like a traditional RTS, but we hadn’t accepted many of the standard methods of control, and that gave us quite a lot of trouble.

RPS: Multiwinia was such an ambitious game, because multiplayer RTS is so hard to compete in as a genre… there are only a few contenders.

Delay: We know that now!

RPS: Yes.

Delay: Yes. But you know the history of how we got there. It was all our own decisions that led there, but the decisions were compromised by the fact that we were trying to do a console version of Darwinia for Microsoft. It required multiplayer… But it’s in the past! Introversion, for me, was supposed to be a company that made new games. We are supposed to be fearless, making one game after another. The issue was that we made a bit too much money from Defcon, and the temptation to grow into a microstudio with an office and staff took over. We’ve gone back to the embryonic stage where it’s just a bunch of us at home. What we have to worry about now is just our own salaries and working on the next game. Which is always where I wanted to be, I think.

RPS: That’s really interesting. What’s also interesting is the approach you took with Subversion – procedurally generating a city – and I wonder what you have learned from that?

Delay: I have learned a few things about it! I love procedural generation, and I think I would point at Minecraft as a good example of that. It generates these worlds that are interesting to explore. And that’s useful. You see procedural approaches work well for landscapes and cities, at least from that big, helicopter-view angle. It works wonderfully for say, Darwinia, because all the levels there were procedurally generated. Same for Minecraft, the scale is just right. But it’s really difficult to apply to complex man-made stuff, because they’re designed by someone. Procedural generation can do this stuff, but it’s an order of magnitude harder to make it believable.

RPS: Yes. It’s like… different sets of expectations and affordances. People are designed for landscapes and react to them in a certain way, rooms are designed for people, and so we approach them, read them, in an entirely different way. Hmm, what am I trying to say… basically you don’t walk out into a natural landscape and expect a handrail, but you do at the edge of a building. Something like that. Generating one comes with different interpretations from reading another.

Delay: It’s also something to do with the amount of information in a setting, I think. In a heavily designed environment, like a building interior, it’s tough to design it reliably, procedurally. You end up with bathrooms in staircases and stuff like that. Human beings look at it and can say “that’s totally wrong”, but procedural generation can’t guarantee that stuff won’t happen. Despite all the work we did with Subversion’s city generation you’d still end up with a skyscraper in the middle of a roundabout. We struggle to rule it.

RPS: Yes! And that’s the thing with doing anything algorithmically. People are happy to assume that the complexity somehow equals intelligence, but it doesn’t. It’s totally blind. It’s still just a machine.

Delay: A machine with a percentage success rate. And in a Subversion city that would be 95% correct, or plausible. And there will be a error here and there. The same is true of Minecraft, but no one cares. The landscapes are error tolerant, because the floating islands look brilliant, and who cares if there’s a random magma pit bubbling in the middle of nowhere?


RPS: Haha, well one of the biggest battles we’ve had internally in my landscape generation project is over the floating islands. One side says that they show the errors, show the process breaking down, show the workings, while the other side says “it’s Syd Mead!”

Delay: It’s virtually impossible to eliminate. It’s bordering on an unsolvable computer science problem, I’m sure it is.

RPS: Yes, I am sure it is. But I think that shows where procedural generation will go. It either ends up being error-tolerant, as in Minecraft, or it becomes a first pass content tool. CCP created the Eve universe by generating it once and then going into prune out the madness and etch in the detail. But you keep the beautiful, natural randomness.

Delay: We did consider that approach for Subversion. We had considered generating loads of banks, throwing away the ones that were broken, and then including the working ones in the shipped game. We could have hundreds in there, and it would be procedural, but human directed.

RPS: Yes, that’s really telling. I think that’s an insight into game design there. It’s almost never down to what is possible, it’s down to what is more work and where do you limit the more work.

Delay: Subversion was far too ambitious. Far too ambitious. It was too ambitious to try and generate a full city. The generation task becomes a nightmare. Generating sensible buildings is so hard to do. You end up fiddling with a slider between realistic and tedious. You want game-level layouts, which are virtually impossible to achieve. I think we thought if we could do that stuff, we’d have a great game. But I am no longer sure it would be that interesting. Even if you could create that city, what do you do with it after the first few hours? You need Minecraft’s capacity to construct and edit.

RPS: Right, the only way to keep it interesting, probably, is to curate it. And the only way you can get that manpower is probably to crowd-source it? Let the players decide?

Delay: Yes, we had a lot of plans in that area. But then you are into user-generated content and that’s also ambitious beyond belief. Even the best companies haven’t managed to take full advantage of that. And it’s hard work. The game world has to be rich enough for the players to want to spend all this time making stuff, and then you also have to put up with all the giant penises and law-breaking copyright stuff they are going to make.

But yes, all this stuff is indicative of how beyond our reach Subversion was. Now, almost a year after it went on hold, I can see the big picture. And I think there was a really good game in there, in that technology. It’s just not like the one we were making.

RPS: So you see a future where you come back to all this?

Delay: I do see a future, but I am not going to promise anything, because I just don’t know. But I’d like to come back. I’d like to come back and do stuff with some of the technology that we developed along the way.

I still think a hi-tech heist hasn’t been done well yet. But the theme isn’t enough. It needs a core game mechanic, and that’s not in the theme. And we’d need to find that.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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47 Comments »

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  1. Magnetude says:

    His surname gives the transcription a Pinter-esque feel.

    • atticus says:

      It does.

      Looking forward to the next interview with his colleagues, Jimmy Pause and Fred Shouts.

  2. MrCraigL says:

    Incredibly sad reading this. It’s almost an eulogy to a game that I was looking forward do hugely. Really hope they revisit it and deliver somehow.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Play Frozen Synapse. Bang!

    • Dozer says:

      Frozen Synapse is only similar in that it’s blue on black ‘programmer art’ visually, and you’re commanding a squad.

      What excited me about Subversion was the idea of a world where everything is simulated in detail, including the logic in the controller of the lifts in the building’s liftshafts and the power to the doors in the lobby. Where you could manipulate the systems by hacking into them and, say, wait for your target to get into a lift and then redirect it to the floor where your friends are waiting to ambush the target. Something like a freeform Hitman combined with the role of the Operator from the Matrix.

      In most games, buildings are just textured boxes. With elaborate procedural generation, there’s the possibility (albeit limited by the unavoidable absurd output) of a game-world where the layout of the walls and stairs and offices and doors and liftshafts have an existence independent of the player. They weren’t put there deliberately by the level designer solely to allow you some locations to progress through while accomplishing a preset goal along a preset path (or series of paths). I admire that idea.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    So it’s going to be a subversion of Subversion?

  4. pantognost says:

    It is really sad to read the disillusionment in the words of one of the most innovative (former?) indie studios. It is my opinion that introversion’s main strength is its almost research-like adherence to innovative boundary breaking. To see now that they are forced (by financial reasons too?) to move to conventional game design grounds is a bit disappointing.

    Furthermore, it is my totally uneducated opinion that subversion’s concept is one of those “holy grails” of game design that both introversion and Will Wright (with spore) tried to achieve and for the time failed: A fully procedural game world with the minimum correct set of rules which would create many gameplay permutations to engage many types of players. It is a very difficult concept to make it happen, but you also have to wonder:
    “When someone does it how much will it hurt that i tried and failed?”

    I think that this is also in the minds of the lads in introversion but they probably have to fight for survival at this triying times.

    TLDR: You should try to fix subversion.
    Oh, and make a new uplink. ;)

    • Thomas says:

      Yeah i agree with you.

      For me the core gameplay was always there, that is a freedom to manipulate anything to pull off the biggest heist without anyone knowing, or simply hitting the bankteller in the face, taking all the money in the register and run away.

      That’s basically kinda similar to how i viewed Uplink, the game didn’t really have a strong sense of a campaign, you could basically just connect to any of the hundreds of servers and hack into them and get money, get information, etc.

    • Nemrod says:

      UPLIIIIIINK!

    • Wunce says:

      I think the key to making a good procedurally generated game is to make very general laws that rule the game. This way players can understand the laws and then use their own creativity to put them to use.

      I guess the best example I can think of is when I read something about dwarf fortress, how they said a certain type of fish was about the same size as a dwarf and was carnivorous. To their surprise the fish started eating dwarfs due to a law they programmed which stated “carnivorous animals eat anything their size or smaller”.

      If Subversion used a bunch of things like this (which by the sounds of it, it did) then it would make for some incredibly creative gameplay.

    • terry says:

      While I agree with you, it sounds like they’ve taken lessons from the over-ambitiousness of Subversion and instead forged their ideas into a more focused game than could be achieved otherwise. I loved the tech demos of the procedural city, and it reminded me of how SimTower came out of Yoot Saito’s fascination with the butterfly effects of elevators, or The Sims began as an architectural tool. It may take a larger bankroll, a bigger team, many years or all three for the work on Subversion to bear fruit but meantime I have faith that Prison Architect will at the very least be interesting =)

    • PleasingFungus says:

      That’s not quite right, actually – the main issue with carp was a tiny one-line bug in the file describing them, which left them with the default bite attack instead of one appropriate to an animal their size. The result was carnage.

      God, I love Dwarf Fortress.

  5. cafe says:

    but… putting bags inside bags is so old school….

  6. Wilson says:

    Fascinating interview, good stuff.

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    Lambchops says:

    Reading the headline on this made me sad as I didn’t know Subversion had been canned.

    Still if it ain’t going to work it ain’t going to work and sometimes there comes a time where it’s better to let the project go than keep plugging away at something that’s too ambitious.

    Plus it’s good to hear that the work on the tech for Subversion isn’t going to waste. While Prison Architect is for me a less interesting concept on the face of it than Subversion was I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it. If the mechanics are as solid as those in Uplink and Darwinia it could be a great game.

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      JB says:

      Made me sad too m8, and I knew about it already.

      On another topic, how goes Movember?

  8. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Aaaargh! The screenshots are driving me crazy!

  9. sneetch says:

    Fantastic article, although I’m sad to hear about Subversion’s uncertain fate it is fascinating to read the reasons for it and about their issues with procedural generation. Great stuff, Jim.

  10. Frosty840 says:

    Not an entirely insoluble computer science problem, city generation, but cities are very, very strange beasts.

    Take London. It was some shitty dungheap on a river. Then the Romans built a fort on it. Then a town built up around it. Then the Romans built a stone wall around it. Then that filled up with Roman architecture. Then the Romans left. Then the religion changed. Then the damned thing burned down and restarted with “modern” architecture. Then it all joined up into the Greater London metropolis and inner London stopped being a city as such and turned into something else. Then the Nazis bombed it to shit. Then there were twenty new architectural styles a year for sixty years, during which time the economy boomed and bust five times.

    And that’s just scratching the surface of a single city in a single country in one part of the world. Move a thousand miles away and you’ve got a completely different history to deal with…

    • Quine says:

      it would be interesting to see a generation system that runs multiple passes of city generation simulating different time periods, with passes of Major Event style ‘weathering’ to simulate fires, plagues, bombings, floods, Godzilla rampages, etc before another round of higher-tech rebuilding takes place, where conservation and zoning rules allow.

    • BAshment says:

      “Take London. It was some shitty dungheap on a river. Then the Romans built a fort on it.”

      ‘I’m afraid I have to disagree with you on that one.

      http://www.johnchaple.co.uk/preromlondon.html

      Quite like the idea of a skyscraper on a roundabout. shame Introvesion is on hiatus hope it will reappear at some point.

    • JuJuCam says:

      Procedural generation of the time shift in the first episode of Futurama would be pretty awesome…

  11. YourMessageHere says:

    Dear Introversion people,

    Please PLEASE use your procedural city generator for something that will let players just jump in and explore. A racing game, a mech fighting game, or even just something like a wireframe Google Street View without the jerky movement.

    I saw a video of the city generator donkey’s years ago, and the moment I saw it changing the city in real time, it was just about the most exciting game creation tool I’ve ever seen. The raw potential of that thing seems to my totally ignorant eye utterly unmatched. Don’t worry about illogical things too much; I live in a city with a skyscraper on a roundabout! Cities don’t make much sense in reality, so having them make sense in fiction isn’t really super-vital. Finding this stuff and sharing it is all part of the fun, in my view.

    Love your work, anyway, and I wish you luck in whatever.

    • Mirqy says:

      Citycraft?

    • Kollega says:

      I second this. I thought that Subversion’s procedural generation techniques would make for a great foundation to build a city sim upon.

    • Magnetude says:

      Take a look at the work this guy’s doing on procedural countries: http://procworld.blogspot.com/

      Pretty neato. There’s even some logic to dictate how likely two nations or settlements would be to exist next to each other based on cultural differences, so if two are unfriendly and one is much larger there’s a chance they’ll be merged, effectively simulating the influence of war in the generation of territories. You’ll have to scroll back a while to find that stuff, but the stuff about architectural grammar is worth a gander on the way.

  12. Quine says:

    Interestingly I just read an article on Ars Technica about how they’re getting the playerbase of the protein-folding game Foldit to build and share their own scripts to feed back into a machine learning system trying to replicate human levels of optimisation. The most successful scripts involved lots of ‘wiggling’ and general bodging subsets of the folding process until the shape reaches an optimal pattern.

    Which sounds very similar to the problem space procedural generation faces- in reverse.

  13. King Toko says:

    I want to see some sequels to their original games.

  14. Merus says:

    Amusingly, Uplink is set in the far-flung future of last April.

  15. hjd_uk says:

    Just stick some darwinian civillans and a “Darzilla” monster in that top map and make a Disaster-Management game, i just want to see procedural ctites grow and come to life.

  16. merc-ai says:

    It’s really sad, as Subversion was the one indie project I had so much faith in. I loved the visual style, loved the core concept and the tech behind it. And I trusted in Introversion guys. Can’t say I’m looking forward to Prison Architect in the same way.

    Also I have to disagree with Chris, because high-tech heist games can (and have been) done well and fun.
    -It was interesting to play repeatedly in Covert Ops (I forgot the real name of the game – it’s a a spy/infiltration game from 80s or early 90s).
    -It was fun, though too simplified, in Shadowrun on NES (or SNES?). You know, that top-down game.
    -It might be fun in upcoming Shadowrun browser game. Hopefully.
    -Although core mechanics are very different, Tom Francis’ upcoming take on this is worth mentioning.

    And probably a bunch of other games I never heard about.

    That being said, it’s understandable why Chris put Subversion on hold, and the rest of his reasons are clear and cannot be argued.

  17. Dave L. says:

    It sounds like they weren’t properly planning on where to put their development resources. Of course the actual game level interiors were going to have to be either manually generated or heavily curated within the procedural generation, so complaining about how that was turning in to too much work seems odd. And the heist mechanic looked nothing less than solid. I think where Monaco beats it is with the addition of co-op, not that they somehow hit an elusive ‘fun’ element that Subversion missed.

    I think the way to make Subversion really work and leverage the procedural generation as mechanically satisfying would be to make the core of the game the getaway after the heist or the breakout or whathaveyou, instead of the heist itself. Don’t change anything about how the heists themselves work, but add in an element of planning and chase afterwards. Think along the lines of The Town, with burner cars and disguise changes strategically placed throughout the city, and planning a route from the target location back to the hideout through a city that is different every time you play. If police checkpoints and patrolling cops could be procedurally generated as well, all the better.

    • Dozer says:

      I thought Subversion was going to feature procedurally generated cities, buildings, security systems, power supplies, elevators etc, all generated by the user’s PC, not curated by the devs in advance.

      To use the “x with y” cliche, I wanted Subversion to be Hitman with deeper environments to infiltrate. As in a functioning little world, whether it’s a bank or the criminal records office or the design offices of a car company or an embassy, with a richness of systems to interfere with to aid whichever approach you’d prefer to use to break in and out with. And like Hitman ideally with the scope to enter and leave, not just without being caught, or without being identified, but without anyone being aware that anything unusual had happened. Basically a more fleshed out version of Uplink.

    • Josh W says:

      That’s exactly what I was hoping for too, I was expecting a continuum between deception/system subversion and brute force, with the same tradeoff in terms of “do it as fast as you can but make sure other people find out as slowly as possible” as in uplink.

      To do that means you have to have working systems you can use, overlayed on top of the physical procedural world. You have to be able to do a jason bourne and time the public transport interchanges with protests or whatever. The equivalent of assasin’s creed’s “moving in crowds” but going with the grain of people’s routines and communication procedures instead.

    • Josh W says:

      Thinking back, I should have probably had alarm bells ringing when they said that they were going to have procedural cities but crafted levels. If all your gameplay is based on crafted elements, and you put all your time into procedural ones, then that does sound like a problem.

      In minecraft the landscape is part of the game, because you try to travel it, and you mine through it.

      In dwarf fortress the same is true, with trade soon to appear and make the “world” stuff more relevant too. The procedural/AI stuff with the dwarfs and invaders is another example.

      For procedural stuff to matter, it has make you react to it, take advantage of it, etc.

  18. Cooper says:

    Whilst it’s good to hear -something- from Introversion, it was really sad to see the announcement of Subversion being canned, even if it did come with an announcement of a new game.

    It’s obviously a narrow view, having only seen the video. But I could see a good game there. I certainly saw something I wanted to play.

    It looked a lot like Commandos in its setup. But with a high-tech heist setting. How could that not be amazing!? I’ll remain convinced there’s an excellent game in subversions tech, even if they don’t.

    (and since when is detailed inventory selection a bad thing!)

  19. Zarunil says:

    While I am very sadfaced about the end of Subversion, I’m always looking foward to Introversion’s games. I hope they stick with procedural generation.

  20. JoeX111 says:

    I guess my question is: Does the game really NEED a procedurally generated city? He’s right that the idea of the gameplay seems to have escaped them while they pursued the tech, but my question is, why does the tech even matter?

    The appeal of a heist has nothing to do with the city. A heist is a group of people working together to subvert a building’s security systems for financial gain. It’s fascinating because it invites us to look at everyday structures as puzzle boxes to be unlocked by crafty men and women. Monaco seems to understand this. So does Thief and Trilby: The Art of Theft.

    It wouldn’t take much to make Subversion similar. Delay said you could easily generate hundreds of banks procedurally and just tweak out the errors to make them logical. Well, then do that, and let the gameplay be real-time strategy stealth with multiple routes to completion. Like Rainbow Six, then, but entirely from the tactical screen. The theme, the visuals, even some of the basic systems seem to be there. Why not scale back the ambition and still make something totally unique and interesting, rather than drop it and hope that one day the tech will mesh with the concept?

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      I think it’s a time and manpower issue like he already mentioned, and Prison Architect gets much done faster so it makes sense to pursue that sooner

      However, I imagine doing rooms that way would be the how they’d probably take Subversion if they continued it.

      I mean, I don’t think it’s much of a loss if you are unable to procedurally generate building interiors. As was mentioned, building interiors are supposed very designed anyway. It might seem terrible to just make a bunch of pre-made rooms and layouts and just cobble them together over and over, but the way most buildings have their rooms laid out really does have the same stuff happening over and over again.

  21. westyfield says:

    Re: floating islands – can’t you just set one block (we’ll roll with the Minecraft example) that every other block is generated relative to, and then tell it to make sure every subsequent block touches the first block, or a block that touches the first block, or a block that touches a block that touches the first block, etc.?

    (I know nothing about this, so this is probably a dumb question.)

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Short answer: not really.

      Longer answer: The way Minecraft levels is by generating a fuzzy greyscale 3D image, and then taking everything that’s at least, say, 50% brightness as solid ground, and the rest as air.

      Then there’s a lot of tweaking, but that’s the basic idea – and the problem is that it operates over an entire area (‘chunk’) at once, rather than generating block-by-block.

      It would be possible to eliminate the sort of floating-island problems Rossignol talks about by running a second pass over the generated map, identifying connected segments, and destroying everything that’s in too small a segment (that is, that’s floating in midair rather than being connected to the main landmass)… but as he mentions, there are aesthetic reasons they don’t want to take that step. (Same reason Minecraft still has floating islands, fyi.)

    • Squishpoke says:

      Your method will be a little too inefficient to work at an appropriate speed. And as someOne already mentioned, Minecraft is based on “chunk” architecture.

    • westyfield says:

      Ok, thanks. I love the floating islands by the way, I was just curious.

  22. MythArcana says:

    I’m not sure what to think of this whole thing really. I can understand the pitfalls of micro-design and technical features that keep stringing you along over time, but it’s clear they have something really amazing here and it needs to be utilized somehow. Now that the people have been following Subversion for quite some time now, it’s also clear that there is a lot of interest in the procedural elements and now…nothing. It happens all the time in game development, but I feel they really had something big brewing but just missed some fundamental steps in development is all.

    I say, take some time away from ALL projects and incubate. The ideas will come faster than you ever could imagine and things will start to fall into place.

  23. TACD says:

    I can’t remember if it got a mention on here, but there was a 2D indie title in development where you play a guy who can take control of electrical systems in buildings and re-wire them, e.g. so that a security guard pressing the light switch will actually open a locked door next to you and let you. Can’t for the life of me remember the name of it, it looked a little bit similar to Trilby: The Art of Theft. If somebody could remind me it would be fab.

    In any case, my (minor) point was that while it’s definitely a shame that Subversion is on hold, there are at least a few other games available that deal in some way with hacking into and subverting electronic systems to dramatic and comedic effect.