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The Random Element: Scenario Generator

The joy of limitations

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Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. Scenario Generator is a tool that creates random restrictions, goals and startup settings for a variety of games, and it’s the reason I’ve become happily lost in Crusader Kings II [official site] and Civ V [official site] again. Reinvent an old favourite with the click of a button, as you find out precisely how often you can commit Unprovoked Murder.

I’m always very happy to find a game that allows me to randomise my experience to a certain extent. Whether it’s the extremes of Dwarf Fortress, which procedurally creates an entire world each time I play, myths and history included, or an RPG that lets me roll a die to pick stats or the pointiness of my elven ears.

When it comes to open world environments, or strategic sandboxes, I often set my own arbitrary rules to create games within the game. Most recently, I’ve been inventing challenges for myself in Dying Light, restricting myself to use of a specific safe house as night sets in, selected randomly from all those I’ve found, or leaving a safe area in the morning and only allowing myself to turn in for the night once I’ve managed to complete one or more random encounters.

I’ve also fallen back into old habits. Crusader Kings II and Civ V are back in regular rotation on my playlist and that’s all thanks to Scenario Generator, a website that rolls up random goals and restrictions for certain games. For CK II, it just gave me this:

Starting Duchy: Adrianopolis.
Restrictions: Always kill yourself when you become depressed.
Goals: Have all 7 deadly sins, become friends with your liege, successfully defend from a holy way.

Sure. Why not? The restriction is harsh but also lends itself superbly to a spot of extra roleplaying, which is just as important as the actual challenge. Give me a list of things that I can or cannot do in a game, and it doesn’t take me long to build suitable stories around the limits of what’s possible.

Civ V has eleven columns. With the result from my most recent attempt in brackets, some of those columns are:

Civilization (Babylon), Victory Type (Cultural), Ideology (Autocracy), Expansion Policy (Balanced), Map Size (Duel), Map Type (Arborea).

As well as adding new life to old games, these scenarios could also be used for competitive play, or at least comparative play. Roll up a Civ V scenario, pass it to a few friends, and see who makes the best of a bad situation.

Currently, Scenario Generator supports eight games. Along with CK II and Civ V, they are Kerbal Space Program, The Witcher 2, Skyrim, Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress and Fallout: New Vegas. The Skyrim generator is great, telling you not only what race your character was born as and what skills must be developed, but where your home should be and how often you should commit ‘Unprovoked Murder’ and ‘Freelance Theft’.

I already love Scenario Generator but can’t help but think of the games that I hope will be added. There are obvious choices, such as Europa Universalis IV to go along with CKII, and I’d like to see GTA V included when it finally arrives on PC. Perhaps there could be columns directing players to steal a certain type of car, in a certain colour, and then to deliver it to a specific city block. Throw in an ‘Unprovoked Murder’ and ‘Vehicular Manslaughter’ column and you have a game.

How about Euro Truck Simulator 2 and its upcoming American cousin? Build a business that only operates in four countries or refuse to transport anything inedible. If you receive more than 10% damage, you have to stop at the next service station and cry yourself to sleep. When the sun goes down there are zombies and you can never come to a complete stop because they’ll eat you.

I suggest everyone who enjoys at least one of the eight games supported by Scenario Generator takes some time to revisit those games with these restrictions plugged in. And if you can think of a game that’d benefit from This Sort Of Thing, cook up some columns and share your thoughts below, or maybe even poke at the freely available source code for the site.

Just imagine the depths of Football Manager madness this could lead to? Random team, anywhere in the world, with an edict to place the most valuable player onto the market at the beginning of every window. Or never playing the same starting eleven in two consecutive games. Endless possibilities.

This article was originally published earlier this month as part of, and thanks to, the RPS Supporter Program.

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