Songbringer uses letters to generate RPG worlds


Oh! Songbringer [official site] – a procedurally-generated RPG which was first announced/spoken of back in the mists of 2015 – is now almost finished and is due for release in this, the Year of the Mammoth. I wanted to flag it up primarily because I don’t tend to like pixel art and this has some lovely-looking pixel art/pixel art adjacent places!

As per the current press release:

“Songbringer presents a gorgeous procedurally-generated overworld with ten dungeons in 3/4 perspective. Players enter a six-letter world seed code when starting a new adventure, granting them the possibility to explore 308 million unique environment combinations – no adventure is ever the same, unless you share your code with friends: The seed codes generate the world dynamically and deterministically, so entering the same seed will always generate the same world.”

Obviously it would be a bit of extra work but I’d have been tempted to do something special (either as a reward or a trap) for particular swearwords or similar so I can’t help wondering if solo developer Nathanael Weiss went down that route too. Given he’s the game’s lone coder, artist and musician it might have been rather a tall order to add special nonsense like that in, though!

It continues with a smidge about the gameplay:

“As Roq, learn to utilize the powers of the rare cacti you will find in the world to see things that aren’t there (or are they?): doors, items and other loot that can help you on your journey.”

Looking at the trailer, I think the white-bladed weapon is probably the nanosword which is maybe a riff on a lightsaber, and the thing he throws out is the boomerang top hat, and there are bombs and other bits. If you’re in the mood for some local co-op there’s also the capacity for a friend to join in and take on the role of your robo-pal, Jib.

Songbringer, by the way, is the name of Roq’s party ship.


  1. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Aw, I thought we might be talking “letters” as in those things you write with an inked quill and then send via the Pony Express. That’s how it worked before email, right?

    This is just encoding a (64-bit?) seed in some fashion other than the raw number, which almost every procgen game does in one form or another.

    • ScrapCupcake says:

      Of course essentially you’re right about the technique being quite common, but its not the only way to do procgen, and you’re dismissing the design cleverness of exposing this to the player as both an active choice, and something to be shared with friends.

      Things this enables:
      Online communities to built up around finding particularly weird or finding and beating particularly hard worlds. This includes both newbie friendly lists and hardcore speedrunners.

      Special events locked within certain words. The article mentions this being a one dude show so he couldn’t do this, but I counter, sure, he may not have had time to do the work yet, before launch, but why not lock certain words and plan to release them as special events/free DLC to spur interest coinciding with sales or just having new content to share?

      The pure ‘around the water cooler’ chatting about different worlds and being able to swap favorites with people. Honestly the power of enabling sharing of gaming experiences isn’t to be underestimated.

      I will say the idea’s at least inspired me a bit.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Minecraft has had exactly this happen (iirc RPS even did an article sharing Minecraft seeds at some point) and it has indeed been a great community builder.

    • cheesysmell says:

      The code space represents all six-character strings on the English case insensitive alphabet, so the size is 26^6, which corresponds to the 308 million combinations figure above. So the seed could be optimally encoded in log2(26^6) ~ 28.2 bits, which fits inside a standard 4 byte integer value.

      I remember Worms did the same thing for generating levels. We’d try out all kinds of dirty words and write down the ones that gave cool results. So, yeah, it’s not an original idea, but it’s a fun and engaging gimmick.

      • ScrapCupcake says:

        Reviewers and fans like you are what make new developers cry. “Oh I suppose that’s a nice feature, but it’s hardly ORIGINAL”.

        Attitudes like that are why first mover’s advantage is so strong in economics, which has the effect of drowning out diversity as new people play with ‘old’ ideas.

        And its an entirely vapid criticism, its the gaming version of ‘Simpsons did it’.

        I, for one, am excited to see the return of this feature as a user-facing feature, rather than being an obscure menu feature as it is in most games, including worms and more recently and famously Minecraft, but its hardly a feature that grabbed the community’s attention. I’ve surely seen people sharing MC seeds, but its a niche because only a small group of users even dive into that menu.

        It’ll all be down to how interesting this game’s user experience works. Right now it feels very hyper-light drifter meets rogue, with no major full loop to the procgen passwords on offer in the trailer, which seems like a missed opportunity, so this may not be that exciting a feature after all.

        But at least with it being such a user-facing and marketing facing feature, I can hope that between the developer’s desire to innovate and the community’s draw to that feature, we’ll see some depth that isn’t yet apparent appear.

        • April March says:

          I think there is a great distance between ‘hmm, what this game advertises as its new and remarkable feature is actually quite common amongst its genre’ and ‘THIS FEATURE ALREADY EXISTS IN SOME FORM, THEREFORE I DECLARE THE DEVS TO BE INCOMPETENT LAZY LARDASSES AND I WILL REFUSE TO BUY THIS GAME AS WELL AS SET FIRE TO THEIR PROPERTY’.

          That said, a game that 1) looks that good and 2) sells itself as ‘procedural Zelda’ is immediately in my radar. I just hope there’s an option to play as blaxplotation robot friend in single player.

          • Sagiri says:

            Personally, I was just sort of disappointed. I also assumed letter as in text, and was disappointed when it was “just” procedural generation.

            From the headline, I thought it was going to be something like you write text and it tries to interpret what you say (sort of like a chat bot does), and tries to implement that in the word it’s generating. Like, you write about an apple and an octopus, and you get a world with an apple and an octopus.

            Obviously, something like that wouldn’t work very well, but it would still be really cool, and I’ve never seen anything even vaguely similar, whereas just seeding a RNG is pretty mundane.

      • geldonyetich says:

        It’s not the size of your seed that matters, but how you use it.