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Ultima Ratio Regum's Procedural People Are Handsome

Ultima Ratio Regum [official site] can be downloaded and played right now, but its appeal for me isn’t in the 4X roguelike’s unfinished alpha release. Much like its inspiration Dwarf Fortress, I enjoy URR because of its grand ambition, its commitment to procedural generation, and its carefully detailed development blog.

This week’s blogged about addition is particularly fine: procedural ANSI faces, as pictured above.

URR will eventually be a semi-roguelike with a world to explore, competing civilizations, permadeath and inspiration from everything from Umberto Eco to Europa Universalis. For now, it’s swathes of procedurally generated worldbuilding you can walk around. The faces are another part of that, designed to reflect the culture of the different factions as you travel and meet their NPCs. Solo developer Mark Johnson lays out his goals with the system in the post:

Firstly, it should be massively varied, and even if you spend a decent length of time just looking at the ordinary people in the street, it should take some time and under you see any two people who are identical. Secondly, it should be demographic – which is to say, each nation can have a set of preferred hairstyles, likely skintones, other signifiers (like turbans, tattoos, jewelry, etc), and these should be distinct in each nation. Thirdly, and following on from the second point above, there should be enough of these that (much like everything else in URR) you should be able to gain visual information: when you meet someone you’ve never met before, you should be able to make a reasonable guess about their nation of birth. Fourthly, any combination should be possible, as a means of undermining the idea that only “primitive” peoples will be found with certain cultural signifiers – in one game perhaps the people in the most technologically and militarily powerful empire all have extensive facial tattoos, for examples.

Unlike most other roguelikes which use ASCII, URR is powered by an ANSI tileset, which is similarly formed by letters and numbers but includes 256 characters instead of ASCII’s 128. This allows it to portray images in much greater detail, and Ultima Ratio Regum can be quite beautiful.

The faces will be able to seen in the next update of the game when you press ‘l’ to look at a character. You’ll also be able to see their other procedurally generated items they’re carrying, tabbing through “attendant images for all of those (clothing, shoes, any holstered weapons, jewelry, etc).”

You can read more about the game in our interview with Johnson from 2013.

And yeah, OK:

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Graham Smith

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