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Source Of Madness uses machine learning to generate eldritch horrors

One problem with unfathomable and unspeakable horrors in video games, right, is that they’re designed by people. Oh the human brain can do weird and awful, no doubt, but it’s bad at things it can’t itself grasp. So I’m quite into how newly-announced roguelikelike action-platformer Source Of Madness uses machine learning and procedural generation to spit out its “Lovecraftian” levels and monsters, which do have a pleasing weirdness to them. A bit like if you let Google DeepDream munch up a load of dogs and landscapes then spit them back out into a game.

When I first saw the trailer today, I did think it had that telltale garbling of images put through a neural network – and not just the eyes blinking all over the bodies of some critters. Checking the monitoring devices placed around the RPS treehouse, what I actually said was “I quite like that it looks like it’s got fucked up by Google Deepmind?” Turns out, basically yes.

Source Of Madness is an action-platformer travelling through procedurally-generated levels and using magic to zap procedurally-generated baddies. The game draws from H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, with bits like the lost city of R’lyeh. But also, y’know, it’s overrun by things which actually are unspeakable, terrible jumbles of limbs and heads that flail and stumble. They are not lifeforms built for this world. That’s what I want from cosmic horror rather than yet another monster with tentacles on its face. Dunno about how it plays but I’ve wished before for more games to use hallucinating computers for weird art, and here this is.

Source Of Madness is coming via Steam in 2021. It will be on switch too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still well up for hand-designed weirdlife. The surreal critters in the new Eternal Cylinder trailer today fully flip my lid.

Whatever you call it, hit our E3 2020 tag for more from this summer's blast of gaming announcements, trailers, and miscellaneous marketing. Check out the PC games at the PlayStation 5 show, everything at the PC Gaming Show, and all the trailers from the Xbox showcase, for starters.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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