Posts Tagged ‘Mark Johnson’

Generation Next, Part 2: How To Generate A Religion

Mark Johnson is the developer of Ultima Ratio Regum [official site], an ANSI 4X roguelike in which the use of procedural generation extends beyond the creation of landscapes and dungeons to also dynamically create cultures, practices, social norms, rituals, beliefs, concepts, and myths. This is the second in a four part series examining what generating this kind of social detail can bring to games.

As I enter the city centre, I find myself confronted by the massive edifice of the Cathedral of Urrothek, the Bleak Mouth of the Desert. Its architecture is reminiscent of the religion’s chapels I have seen throughout the land, but on a far grander scale. A detailed garden of plants and stones is laid out in a geometric pattern beyond the many double-doors leading inside, through which pilgrims continually pass. Traversing these doors myself, I see reflecting pools glittering, incense holders etched with unique designs, a number of twisted and unsettling altars dedicated to Urrothek, priests in Urrothek’s religious garments walking about the building, tables and desks with scribes hard at study, and an iron gate, set back into a wall behind the altars, leading to the crypt below in which the most faithful of Urrothek’s holy knights rest.

And all of this, of course, was procedurally generated.

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Ultima Ratio Regum Now Generates Castles & Cathedrals

Ultima Ratio Regum [official site] is like the world generation side of Dwarf Fortress, except zoomed in a little and with more attention paid to the specifics of cultures rather than the verging-on-cosmic legendary events of the past. It’s a game that procedurally generates civilisations, faces, cities, religions, clothes and symbols. Perhaps it’s wrong to describe it as a game at present, actually, as the April 2016 release of version 0.8 will be the first “gameplay release”. At the moment, it’s a tool (or series of tools) that create worlds and the people who inhabit those worlds.

The latest work involves procedural castles and they look amazing.

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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.

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Ultima Ratio Regum v0.6.0 Adds Cities, Fortresses, Coins

Dwarf Fortress‘s development is a joy to follow along with, but its age means that each new update, however large, is designed to add greater complexity and nuance to its simulation, and much of the heavy lifting for its procedural world generation was done long ago.

Ultima Ratio Regum aims to be a roguelike crossed with a 4X, and at this stage it’s not as far advanced as Dwarf Fortress nor even really a game. But that means you get to follow along as the fundamental code underpinning its world is formed. Version 0.6.0 was just released and it takes the overworld map added long ago and drills deeper, so that each city that appears upon it can now be walked around at street level. Or as the patch notes put it, you can now “Explore massive and varied feudal cities (each able to support a population of ~300,000+), each with its own range of districts, architectural styles, and buildings influenced by the political and religious choices of its civilization.”

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YES: Ultima Ratio Regum Dev To Build Worlds Full-Time

We’ve written about Ultima Ratio Regum before. It’s an incredibly exciting project that could end up in the same rarefied sphere as Dwarf Fortress – a complex simulation of ASCII worlds that have history, detail and depth. The current release is capable of generating a world and the basic history of the cultures that have evolved upon it, but there isn’t a huge amount to do beyond the procedural riddle puzzles contained in scattered ziggurats. A typical early feature of many games, eh?

As for the rest, it’s all detailed in the development plan and a new announcement suggests it’ll be on the road to completion sooner than expected. Developer Mark Johnson will be working on the game full-time for a year from September. And there isn’t a Kickstarter in sight.

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Interview: Ultima Ratio Regum, A Generated 4X Roguelike

Even the menu image is generated each time.

Ultima Ratio Regum is a “a semi-roguelike game inspired by Jorge Borges, Umberto Eco, Neal Stephenson, Shadow of the Colossus, Europa Universalis and Civilization.”

Ultima Ratio Regum so far procedurally generates a solar system, a planet and its continents, ziggurats, the riddles and block-pushing puzzles that allow you to explore those ziggurats, and the positions of the vines covering the blocks you’re pushing. It’s beautiful.

Ultima Ratio Regum is one of a few ambitious, long-term projects which I think represent the most exciting things about indie game development, about PC games, and about what technology can do for the games of tomorrow. I emailed Mark Johnson, the game’s solo developer, to talk about all of the above.
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