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 final in a four part series examining what generating this kind of social detail can bring to games.
In this series so far we’ve examined the current state of procedural generation (PCG) in game design and outlined what a greater engagement with ‘qualitative’ PCG might bring to games (in Part 1), talked through in detail the process for creating a richly detailed PCG element of social life (in Part 2) and given an overview of my own work in this area (in Part 3). For this final part we will now zoom out somewhat and talk about game design and the games industry as a whole, and where we might want to position qualitative PCG more broadly, both now and in the near future. There are two core propositions I’d like to put forward: firstly, that we should regard qualitative worldbuilding detail as being integral to the future of games, instead of an intriguing aside; and secondly, that the demographics of developers and players of PCG games are going to shape the direction that procedural generation evolves in.