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What if Game Graphics Never Aged? 398

An anonymous reader writes "If you've heard of Procedural Synthesis, you already think it's amazing. It's been used to create some extraordinary visuals in tiny packages, like .kkrieger, which is less than 96 Kilobytes big but still has graphics that look like like a modern PC title. Beyond that, there's even more that Procedural Synthesis might be able to do; what if your old video games never aged, never looked out-of-date? Imagine putting Halo 2 into your Xbox 360 only to have it automatically upgraded to look like Halo 3 in graphical quality. This article examines the unexpected way that Procedural Synthesis might impact gaming in the generation after the Xbox 360, PS3, and Nintendo Wii."
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What if Game Graphics Never Aged?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:39PM (#15707147) Journal
    When I read this Slashdot article, all the rules of software design came flooding back to me. Low coupling, high cohesion, encapsulated complex structures, all that jazz. Before you even started to program a complex FPS game, you might start by carefully separating the layers and keeping things like two dimensional surfaces rendered to be de-coupled from other things like the AI of the enemies. Separate the garphics from the rest of the gameplay. I completely buy into the possibility that games can be designed well enough to abstract their graphics to a point where the same exact graphics package can be used in even several different types of games.

    When I read this article, it sounded like a classic example of someone going nuts with the design patterns [] that encourage encapsulation and separation of layers to improve modularity. Like someone had actually put in a lot of effort to the game to reduce the amount of effort that will be required later when new platforms and libraries come out for the game. On top of that, the imagery doesn't come from a data file but instead is derived on the fly from a library of procedures--something easily achieved by the strategy pattern []. The funny thing is that if other games have abstracted their graphics packages sufficiently, they should be able to rework the libraries to be procedures instead or maybe even build adapters to .kkrieger's procedures.

    Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. They're built for one console or platform with the intent of only running on the current version of Windows or Mac and with no interest in coming out with new releases that support new hardware or software. They do this because games are construed as novelty software that expire as the user tires of them. Games like WoW or other MMOs might bring about a shift in the way game designers spend their efforts. Maybe games will start to take a longer time to develop but last a hell of a lot longer than they traditionally have?
    • Maybe some of them will even invest in these silly radical concepts called "storyline" and "plot."
      • There's more probability of that if the graphics automatically upgrade on new hardware. It would make the graphics less of a selling point.
      • by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:17PM (#15707495) Homepage
        What a silly progression. Games aren't nessecarily stories. PacMan was no less a classic for it's shallow plot, nor Tetris less addictive. I'd much rather see them focus on innovative gameplay than improving the plotline in "The next epic quest where a lone boy finds some friends and saves the world." It's a lost cause; if you seek a story, read a book, watch a show. Games are not storytelling.
        • by andrewman327 ( 635952 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:23PM (#15707552) Homepage Journal
          You seem to forget that pen and paper games, one of the origens of computer gaming, was all about story telling. There is still substancial room for story and plot in modern video games.
          • Yeah, remember the good old days when we played pong with pencil and paper? =)

            To be fair, I had a friend who actually played artificial life games with a pencil and graph paper because he was too poor to buy a computer. He'd also play space games, drawing vectors for the space ships, etc. It was a matter of extremely smart + extremely creative + extremely too much time on his hands.
          • Ah yes, modern RPGs couldn't be further from their origins. Playing with story, ie roleplaying, is largely missing from modern games. I don't believe that adding "plot" and "storyline" fixes the problem. The goal here should be allow the player to play with plot and storyline, rather than ensuring that certain things "happen" to your "character." In a way, I agree with Ebert. You can't have true authorship from the creator and true roleplaying games at the same time. I suspect experienced DMs understand thi
            • Ah yes, modern RPGs couldn't be further from their origins. Playing with story, ie roleplaying, is largely missing from modern games. I don't believe that adding "plot" and "storyline" fixes the problem.

              I'm not really sure that there's a problem to be fixed. The modern console RPG is a totally ligitimate form of entertainment, IMO, that some of us enjoy even more than tabletop games. Though, I will agree that they are far removed from their origins, they've become something else, entirely. And yes, they p

        • You're right, games aren't storytelling. That's what the poster above you said, that they should work on it.

          By your same argument, graphics have nothing to do with games, and thus shouldn't be worked on either. Pong was 2 lines and a box. When books were first written, I wonder if anyone said "paper isn't for writing on, if you want a story, listen to your father's." When film first came out, I know many people said "it will never take off, no one wants to watch pictures on a screen," but here we are today, with people on the Internet telling others to turn to film for storyline because it doesn't belong anywhere else than the two established mediums.

          It's more than possible for a game to have good graphics, good storyline and plot, and innovative gameplay. Unfortunately, the past few years have been fueled by video card manufacturer's pumping out graphics technology faster than most software producers have been able to keep up with, and so audiences became captivated with "oooh shiny water"...gameplay and storyline dropped by the wayside while pushing eye candy to the limit flourished. Like all things, though, people got tired of all glitz and no substance, and we're seeing that curve level out.

          With mobile devices becoming more and more popular, we're beginning to see gameplay-based games gain some popularity again, and focus will probably shift there for the next few years as portable technology gets smaller and faster. At that point, computers will be what PCs are today, we'll see a shift back to storyline for a few years as RPGs gain popularity on the Nokia Futura in the Japanese market (and some may make it Westward), just in time for the next big graphics push, this time cell phones (if they're still called cell phones at this point) will be included.

          Yes, I play the occassional game on my cell phone while waiting for class to start, or when the power goes out (as it tends to do often this time of year in Tampa, FL).

          My point is, some people play games as digital puzzles, brain-teasers if you will. Some play them for the graphics. Some play them for story. Yeah, you can find brain-teasers in the back of the Sunday paper, you'll never beat the graphics of the real world, and story can be found in books and movies. That doesn't mean those are the only mediums "allowed" to do such things. Games, in the end, are about having fun, and what's fun to you isn't always going to be fun to me. Diversity is king. No, games are not storytelling, they are not graphics, and their not gameplay. They're any of them, and a smart publisher will offer all three, and then some.
          • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @05:25PM (#15708563) Journal
            some people play games as digital puzzles, brain-teasers if you will. Some play them for the graphics. Some play them for story
            Right. But it's worth looking at what many people have to say about story telling and I think you'll find your post's parent, considered in context, is more directed at these comments rather than a general criticism of storytelling.

            Some game companies (including my employer) seem to think that their games are poor quality (oops...better not reveal my employer's name) because the storytelling isn't good enough. These people look to the movie business and see that many big effects movies suck because they have a weak story and assume that the same criticism carries over. It doesn't. Games and movies have a whole lot of different ways in which they can suck that don't relate to each other.

            The game business seems to look to the movie business as a kind of more respectable big brother. So many game developers have now got it into their heads that they must try to develop things like movies. And hence they feel pressured into developing a story even though they may end up wasting resources that might better have been used for gameplay.

            A nice example of the latter is the old adventure game business. Because these game developers felt that somehow what they were doing was lowbrow they renamed the genre to "interactive fiction" denying their games heritage.

            Make games and be proud to make them, whether they have great graphics, great stories or great gameplay. Don't feel that somehow you have to compete with other art forms like literature and cinema on their own turf.

          • by colmore ( 56499 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @08:10PM (#15709482) Journal
            Games aren't and shouldn't be storytelling. Games are more toycrafting with narrative metaphor.

            Story games always have finite possibility. The great games are those that combine fully independant elements so that game possibility is the exponential sum of its parts. Tieing all elements to a linear (or at best, a few linear) stories vastly reduces the number of gameplay possibilities.

            The most extreme example of this is the cutscene. Cutscenes are dead gametime, the equivalent of having static on the radio. Personally I blame anime (which also has long pointless exposition between the parts one generally cares about) If it takes more than 1 minute to get from powering up the game to get from powering on to playing a real (not training) level, then the designers are doing something very wrong. These are games, not movies, or something we should have to *train* for.

            I think geeks are killing gaming. In the early 90s PC gaming was full of countless genres of odd, off-the-wall games. Most dads I knew (I live in a University town) had Civilization, Lemmings, Kings Quest, etc. on their office computers. These days games are increasingly fast paced, increasingly involved, increasingly require dozens or even hundreds of hours of play to uncover content (locking content is a very cheap way of artificially creating interest in otherwise dull aspects of the game), increasingly require the simultaneous use of 12 buttons. Games are increasingly only for hard-core gamers, and as a working adult with very few video game playing friends it pisses me off. I don't want to play a game for ten hours before I get to the meat. I'm not going to slog through 100 hours of repetitive menu based battles to watch some cutscenes. I want simulations, things that are fun to play with the first 15 minutes you're in the game, and won't lose interest once the game runs out of script. Or if it's a scripted game, I want something more like the old adventures and american computer RPGs, where the story was revealed along the sides as a fun *game* progressed, and the reward for getting further was getting to a cool level, not getting some non-interactive cgi cartoon of 13-22 year old's idea of "hot."

            And get the hell offa my lawn ya damn hooligans.
      • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @06:37PM (#15709036)
        "Maybe some of them will even invest in these silly radical concepts called "storyline" and "plot."

        Gameplay, THEN story and plot.
    • Speed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:47PM (#15707221) Journal
      Why don't we see this more often in all games?

      Speed. Running algorithms to generate every damn thing takes a lot more processor time than loading a pre-rendered object file. Disk space is dirt cheap compared to processor cycles, so the appropriate trade study is made....

    • by telbij ( 465356 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:49PM (#15707255)
      Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. [snip] Games like WoW or other MMOs might bring about a shift in the way game designers spend their efforts.

      Bingo. Game developers aren't interested in technology that will extend the life of games (unless people are paying a subscription). This technology is very cool and we'll certainly be seeing more of it in select areas (notably open-source games), but it doesn't really make business sense on a wide scale.
      • In other words, people will need to buy more and more games if their older games don't live long. One only has to hold people's interest long enough for the next title to come out. Still, that doesn't win the hearts and minds of your customers. One of the reasons Blizzard has such a large fanbase is due to their excellent long-term support of their older products. Heck, they're still coming out with patches for Starcraft, and I know people still playing Warcraft II Edition and Diablo I. That fanb
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:58PM (#15707326) Homepage Journal
      I would think the main reason to do this wouldn't be to "future proof" your game. That's the last thing you want to do. If games kept getting better by themselves, you'd undermine your own future revenue, either from upgrades or from new titles.

      But I can think of several reasons to do this, none of which is about doing the consumer a favor in the future at your own expense.

      The first is to cut down on marginal development expenses. I don't know much about game development, but IIRC artwork is a large expense. Perhaps by having the artists work at a more abstract level, setting ranges of values for scenery and character generation, you could reduce the amount of hand detail they deal with. So, if you have the resources to create a world a thousand hectares in area, perhaps you could machine generate a million hectares.

      The second reason I can think for doing this is to have the game automatically expand and adapt to the player. If you liked dungeon crawls, it could make more dungeons for you. If you preferred outdoor play, it would create more terrain for you. You would never finish exploring the world of the game because it would expand as you explored it.

      The third reason I can think of for doing this is that you might want to deliver the game on line.

      In any case, the result would not be, artistically speaking, as good as if a team of talented artists was given the time to do things by hand. The screenshots confirm this: they are cliched and uninteresting. But even Miyazaki uses some computer generated effects these days, although he strictly limits the amount.

    • Quote:

      "Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. They're built for one console or platform with the intent of only running on the current version of Windows or Mac and with no interest in coming out with new releases that support new hardware or software. They do this because games are construed as novelty software that expire as the user tires of them. Games like WoW or other MMOs might bring about a shift in the way game designers spend their efforts.
      • Step 4: Game DOESN'T become obsolete due to graphics, etc, company stops profiting ANYWAY, because everyone would already own a copy, go to step 1

        I don't think so, in fact, I think the opposite is the case. Old books and movies continue to be revenue generators for their respective publishers years after they have been released. Furthermore they don't seem to affect the sales of new books and movies. Considering that the primary cost of games (like other forms of IP), is in the creation, with the duplicatio
    • Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. They're built for one console or platform with the intent of only running on the current version of Windows or Mac and with no interest in coming out with new releases that support new hardware or software. They do this because games are construed as novelty software that expire as the user tires of them. Games like WoW or other MMOs might bring about a shift in the way game designers spend their efforts. Maybe

    • Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. They're built for one console or platform with the intent of only running on the current version of Windows or Mac and with no interest in coming out with new releases that support new hardware or software. They do this because games are construed as novelty software that expire as the user tires of them.

      It's kind of sad when you think about it-- this idea of games "expiring". Other art forms, including movies

    • by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:08PM (#15707927)

      Before you even started to program a complex FPS game, you might start by carefully separating the layers and keeping things like two dimensional surfaces rendered to be de-coupled from other things like the AI of the enemies.

      This is ludicrous - cloud cuckoo land. My texture mapping code is intimately bound up in the AI of the enemies.

      It's simply not possible to separate these two deeply entwined concepts.

  • this would eliminate much of the need for new versions of games. Unless game developers intend to move entirely to the subscription model, this will never happen.
    • Re:Never (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrEldarion ( 114072 )
      This would be AMAZING, though, as an open-source project. Get an amazing, constantly-updating engine down, and let people release all the content they want for it. It would be like Doom WADs on steroids.

    • #### this would eliminate much of the need for new versions of games

      When somebody comes up with a way to generate good dialog, story and gameplay via procedural algorithms, then maybe, but I wouldn't hold my breath. For today I am very happy with good old hand crafted storylines, dialogs and well designed gameplay, graphics, while important, really are secondary to the rest of the game. That said, there is a lot of benefit in these algorithms, Elite was a perfect example of this in offering a whole universe
  • by suggsjc ( 726146 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:39PM (#15707153) Homepage
    Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt and Rad Racer still look just as awesome as the day I first got them!
  • by OctoberSky ( 888619 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:39PM (#15707157)
    Screw Halo 2 in your XBOX 360, I want to put Duke Nukem in my 360 and have it play with Duke Nukem Forever graphics.
  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:42PM (#15707183) Homepage

    There's all this hype on graphics and technology, but the heart of any game is still (and always will be) gameplay. Sure the games of old look "crappy", but in many cases they provided a great gaming experience. I for one hope that we just get to the point where graphics are real-life quality and we can focus on gameplay. Just my $.02 []
    • Betrayal at Krondor

      Some of the best RPG fun that can be had on a computer. Graphics are good enough, gameplay is just well... AWESOME!

      Where did I put that spider... I want to poison my blade again!
      • I agree. I read the books and by accident stumbled on the game in 2003. Best two weeks of my life evers spent. The game is so good that after a while you don't notice you're playing a game made for DOS. Just more proof that glitzy graphics a game make do not.
  • Nintendo Wii (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
    It would be nice if they incorporated some of this technology into the Wii. The old games are great but they would be even better with the graphics turned up to today's standards. I've played with a few emulators that added Anti-aliasing to old SNES games and such. The games looked a lot better. I recently bought a new computer, and hooked up my old copy of Descent 3. It still looks amazing. This is because I was able to turn up all the effects to the max. Whereas before, I was stuck with everything
    • Disagree. WHen I play SMB1, I want it to be the same SMB1 I played as a kid. Yes, down to the annoying you can't scroll left thing. I don't want the graphics changed. It wouldn't improve the game, and it would diminish the nostalgia value.
  • scalable? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kyouteki ( 835576 ) <> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:46PM (#15707216) Homepage
    .kkrieger is certainly a feat of software engineering (pretty much anything .theprodukkt puts out is) but procedural synthesis can only go so far. When you get to elements of the game that should be static (such as specific characters) then a static model would probably be more efficient than an algorithm to generate the same. Of course, I could be (and probably am) wrong.
    • Procedural graphics also have a finite amount of "flair" they can depict. We see patterns in every day life, from carpet to concrete, and it seems like a decent idea that all that stuff can be realized on a computer with an algorithm.

      The part this misses is the randomness, such as stains or scratches. Procedural textures are pretty bad at generating non random features. Blending between two textures, say a shiny metal surface with rusty bits, is also hard to convincingly create.

      In theory it's possible to pr
      • Instead of manually pushing pixels in photoshop, the artist is now writing custom functions.. and it probably takes an equal amount of time to finalize.
        True, but the point is you only have to do that once and you can use it in a bunch of different games (and even on several generations of platforms, if your future games are written in the same language). Hand-drawn environments tend to be less reusable.
  • The Good? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MiceHead ( 723398 ) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:48PM (#15707237) Homepage
    That's an interesting thought. The article makes it out to be a bit like a magical cure, but some aspects of it sound good to me. You can often improve the "wow" factor by tossing in "more" of something. Denser foliage; more of the tiny rocks that make up the detail; and so forth. Procedural generation would mean that these wouldn't have to be placed by hand, so this could make it easier to scale the visuals with system power. Similarly, particle sprays are often done procedurally, so being able to tweak those "up" to create more complex fireworks for mysterious future hardware could also work.

    Some games are still played for years after they've fallen behind the curve on graphics; this might mitigate the future ugliness, adding longevity to a popular title. Keeping gamers interested in (and talking about) your game makes sense, whether you'll be producing different titles in the future or will be focusing on sequels.

    Ultimately, though, my hope is that algorithmic content generation will bring game development costs down for indies. Maybe I'm dreaming. :)

    Indie Superstar - A video webcast for gamers who play indie games []
    Dejobaan Games - Indie games for people who watch video webcasts []
    • Re:The Good? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Das Modell ( 969371 )
      Still, you can't retrofit certain things afterwards, like better architechture and more polygons. Take a look at Black Mesa: Source [] and compare it to the original Half-Life... the improved level design makes a gigantic difference. You could add improved textures and effects into Half-life, but it would still show it's age.
  • There's no way that video game companies are going to take the time to do this for every game, especially considering the fact that only some parts will be upgraded while some will look like the shitty blocks they were originally. You will definately see some of the classics re-released with this technology because it will be a way to actual increase revenue and profits without being too much work. People want to play classic games like Zelda with modern graphics, I doubt there will be the same interest in
  • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:48PM (#15707241) Homepage
    Despite what the article says, everyone sees the same trees in Oblivion. The trees were generated using procedural synthesis (SpeedTree) *once*, and then the whole shebang was saved as a huge map and put on the disk. It's an example of the opposite of something like kkrieger, which puts the math on the disk and lets the end-user's machine to the generation, rather than the developers' machines.

    The grass, on the other hand, is randomly placed and might qualify. About all that could happen on better hardware in the future is "more grass," though.
    • Really? I thought that they would only have saved a couple of parameters on disk for a tree and then the software would procedurally create the tree based on those numbers... If this is the real way SpeedTree works, it's kinda disappointing.
      • I'm pretty sure SpeedTree generates the LoD models up front, already set up for proper animation. The piece of their software that runs during the game is just an engine for efficient rendering of tree models.

        Of course, I've been wrong before. Anybody know for sure?
  • Call it (Score:3, Funny)

    by Marko DeBeeste ( 761376 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:49PM (#15707248)
    The portrait of Dorian Duke Nuke'm
  • One major reason (Score:5, Informative)

    by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:53PM (#15707280) Homepage
    From talking to artists I'm acquainted with, one major reason procedural rendering is moving so slowly is that it's difficult to exercise real creative control over it. All you have to work with are the inputs, and their linkage to aspects of the output may not be clear. It's very hard to tweak a procedural generator with any kind of strategy; all you can do is poke around at random values until the result looks pretty close to what you originally had in mind. Compared to the precise pixel/texel/vertex-level controls artists are used to, it's a step backwards and won't make game development easier or faster.
    • by Sax Maniac ( 88550 )
      This sounds just like when artists go from print to the web. The first thing they want is for the entire site to be one huge JPG so this foofah can be 32 pixels from the gajooble and "it HAS to be 3pt comic sans otherwise it just won't work!!". It took some time for web designers to come out as a distinct subgroup that can take advantage of the uncertainty.
  • by WWWWolf ( 2428 ) <> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:53PM (#15707281) Homepage

    Exult [] was a good example of "procedural" "growth" of a game.

    Ultima VII was a 2D RPG. Yet, all objects in the game world have height. One guy at Exult hacked up a version of Exult that runs Ultima VII in 3D mode - basically, mapping all 2D tiles around cubes as described by their dimensions and height data.

    The results were quite interesting [] (buildings looked kind of good, creatures and many plants and natural formations not so good, so they are being replaced by 3D models).

    But it is a good example and exercise in extracting more detail from the game than the original developers intended or envisioned.

  • A bit OT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by trianglecat ( 318478 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:54PM (#15707296)
    I've often wondered if the bloat in modern games is somewhat intentional as a deterent to piracy. If a game is 96k (or 300 megs for that matter) it is easily moved, stored, downloaded etc. whereas a game that is 4Gb takes much more effort, bandwidth and energy.
  • .kkrieger download (Score:5, Informative)

    by in2mind ( 988476 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:58PM (#15707324) Homepage
    For those who want to try the 96 k game kkrieger :
    Download here (beta version) : []
  • We'd still be playing Half Life modds..
  • by aix tom ( 902140 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:00PM (#15707342)
    Nethack still looks as fresh and crisp as it did 20 years ago.
  • Procedural Paradigm (Score:2, Informative)

    by GreggBz ( 777373 )
    The whole concept of procedural creation in games has not been fleshed out as I would have hoped. Procedural methods can do much more then make great FPS graphics fit on 800K. Way back in 1986, I played a game called Starflight. Starflight used fractal algorithms to create a pretty diverse universe with about 200 star systems and 800 planets. You could land on and explore each planet. Close up. Let me say that again, you could land on each planet, collect it's life, find unique artifacts and rove your litt
  • by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:06PM (#15707409) Homepage
    "Console companies have gone ot such great lengths to make sure their API is so specific that we have to spend a year porting from one console to another, that we'll just come up with a way to make it all never change."

    At least half the design time of a console these days is making sure it's HARD to port games to another console, so that it will be an exclusive title, and they can make more money.

    I fyou think Microsoft hates things like OpenGL, you've never seen the fires of hell hatered that people like Sony, Nintendo etc have for anything that makes game development easier.
    • Great theory but no.

      If you want an exclusive title then you have your lawers draw up a contact with their lawers. The fact that two APIs are different might just be due to the fact that they were *gasp* designed by two different design teams.

      If someone wants to port a game then they will figure out how to port the API. Figuring out how to get around a legal contract is another story.
  • I know this will be marked off topic, but where can I tell people that there are errors in the RSS feed. It worked great till a few days and No I get to a wrong page with several articles.

  • Total Annihilation (Score:3, Informative)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:12PM (#15707453)
    This game... created in the 1990's looks as good as ever. And in fact, recently went to a true 3d environment ("Spring"). All those tiny 1/2" objects were 3d objects from the beginning. As the 3d cards got better, the game got better.

    Likewise, the AI engine and other aspects were forward thinking- table based, programmable and over the years the AI for the game and units and maps have all only improved with age.

    It is the *only* game that I purchased back then that I still play and enjoy.
  • More than likely, the money for creating the newest, coolest thing would drop off and you'd get fewer players in the field, and far fewer games. Technology is good, standards that allow technology to expand is better. But money drives it.
  • The games are disposable today. I don't know how many I own or have rented and played, but never finished - or just never picked up again. Yet again and again I go out and get these asinine games which I will not remember in the future, but merely use to burn up time. I think i'm going to start going to the library to get books more often, at least I will gain something from there, rather than wasting my time on pointless games. It's cheaper and healthier that way.

    The gaming industry is like medicine
  • ...but let's say that it does. Why on earth would a company want to sell you a game that will never start to look dated? If Morrowind looked like Oblivion, a lot of people probably wouldn't have bought Oblivion. This goes double for games that lack any sort of story or plot, like basically any cookie-cutter sports title ever made.

    So, in short, don't expect this to happen. As long as graphics continue to improve, game companies will use that to sell you new games, not improve the old ones for free (or ev
    • I'm going to have to disagree. Lets take a look at something like Grand Theft Auto..
      Grand Theft Auto III graphically looks the same as Vice City graphically looks the same as San Andreas. Those games sell incredibly well when new "versions" come out regardless of the fact that there arn't any graphical improvements.


      ...because people are interested in the story or the characters involved. They're interested in new scenarios. If you created a version of those games who's graphics were procedurally
  • Demoscene, anyone? (Score:2, Informative)

    by seadoo2006 ( 679028 )
    Procedural synthesis has been around for quite awhile in the demoscene. These demos are computer programs that have been specifically engineeered to impress in both sound and graphics quality?

    Check out FR-08, circa 2000, by Farbrausch...this demo goes on for nearly 15 minutes at 1024x768 graphics that certainly blew away anything of that time, and its 64KB.....64KB!!
    Download Here [][]

    Also, see FR-025, circa 2003, this "popular" demo absolutely blew my mind when I first watched it.
    Download He []
  • How would EA sell you the same game again next year if they couldn't at least point to the better graphics?
    • I thought that was part of what they did. I haven't played Madden since the 16 bit days, but in my experience they just updated the graphics, roster and some of the playbook.... Oh... also, I forgot... they updated the title with this formula: Title = "Title of Game " && Year++
  • I'm too dumb to capitalize on this idea so go ahead and rake in my would-be millions, fellow Slashdotters.

    3D games look great as-is, but they look even better with antialiasing, right? But AA is a huge tax on the GPU, slowing frame rate considerably.

    So why have the GPU do AA at all? Why not put a dedicated antialiasing CPU into monitors? GPUs would push polygons and shaders which is what they do best, and the monitor could use some kind of algorithm to pretty-up textures, reduce jaggy edges, and sm
  • Didn't Diablo [] (released in 1996) dynamically generate dungeons? Was that "procedural"?
  • A couple of points (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ocbwilg ( 259828 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:00PM (#15707870)
    Firstly, there is the question to how much effort a company would want to put into making a version of their game that gets better with age. Using current models of "create a game, sell a couple hundred thousand copies, then make another game" it doesn't really make sense. The key is that the graphics can improve as hardware improves, and the only sorts of games that really come close to fitting that sort of lifecycle today are the MMOGs. Like I wish Ultima Online had graphics that had improved over time. The game is almost 10 years old and is largely unchanged. Other games (like the soon to be serialized Half-Life 2 and SIN series) might also benefit from improvements, though HL2 is already incorporating improved graphics with each new episode (according to the developers commentary). Secondly, the procedural systhesis method is much more compute intensive. They use as a prime example the forest scenery in Oblivion. As we all know, Oblivion is a performance-killing game on the PC, and the Great Forest part of it is the slowest part by far. So if you go too far with procedureal synthesis today, your game can turn out to be a real pig. So there's a definite balance that you have to strike between performance today and upgraded visuals tomorrow.
  • by Captain Rotundo ( 165816 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:27PM (#15708094) Homepage
    It is available at (previous months lectures). Its not the same topic, but it is a talk with brian eno entirely about 'generative content'.
  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:28PM (#15708098)
    This generation or next.

    The problem with the idea is instead of creating larger high quality unique images, or large quanity of images, the idea is to generate your images on the fly through code.

    Ok that would work. And it does. However it doesn't work in large scale games. First off if you look at Procedural generation you have to code the way the system works very carefully. It's like explaining to an alien what my DDR pad is. "it's a large pad with four buttons on it, It has lights." oops forgot it's metal, forgot this and that. And what's worse, every single time you use it you'll have to create a new way to describe the texture, or you'll get the same texture for everything.

    But do you realize how long it would take to design the ENTIRE world of Halo with that tool? How about Prey? how about GTA? It wouldn't take 3 years between games, it'd take 10 years, or it would cost vastly more.

    Xbox 360 fanboys (not that I hate the system) tout this as the reason they don't need blu-ray. The theory is sound. (It does work, it will work, it will always work) But at the same time, the developed a small game for it. Did they have trees, multiple people with tons of different clothes, flowing textures. Did their game sell a couple million copies?

    Some companies do use procedural generation, for stuff that's inconsiquencial. Trees is the big one currently, Speed tree save tons of time, but that's the only widespread use of the technology so far.

    It boils down to this. If procedural generation is the solution to all our problems why haven't we used it in everything? Why wasn't it discovered earlier? It's not because of the power of computers, it's because it's not going to save the world. We arn't going to see well made games using procedural generation for graphics because it just bogs down the processor, and it doesn't give any noticable improvement in graphic quality. If we had 10 processors, then yeah we can waste 4-5 working on generating the world, but even with 6 processors, 1 is for graphics, 1 or 2 is for physics (a must have in most games now), and the rest is for your gameplay components, we don't have the extra power no matter what ivory tower scientists want use to believe.

    This is all "what if" the answer though is "it can't"
    • no it wouldn't take 10 years to deveop a game, in fact each game would get quicker becasue you would have already created a foundatation of basic elements, parts and things.

      If I create armor in one game, I could use that same armor in each game, or use it as a template for the next set of armor.

      This doesn't work to well today because of the very issues this would solve.

      "If procedural generation is the solution to all our problems why haven't we sed it in everything? Why wasn't it discovered earlier?"

      Thats y
  • by Adeptus_Luminati ( 634274 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:39PM (#15708178)
    I can't see this working for long...

    Eventually when memory (RAM & HD) are nearly free and nearly infinite, visuals in games may come close to paralelling reality (i.e. a tree in a game may look more like a real tree than it does today). A game that is developed today even with the most advanced mathematical algorythms applied in a graphics platform to be expandable to future, will not be imediately upgradable (from an end-users's perspective) to benefit from an instant graphics upgrade. I.e. you can't just shove the game in the latest new console and expect it to have graphics magically upgraded to the latest high standards. Somebody will still have to go through the entire game and add granularity to each wall, floor, and animated characters in the game which mathematics can not auto-magically generate with accuracy enough to come close to paralleling the randomness & beautify of reality. So the only alternative, I can see is to have the games of today allow future artists to ADD new graphic content into the old game with some newer gaming technology... but somebody still has to put in the effort to create & import all the new graphics.

    So I think perhaps the article is misleading. Again, from an end-users's perspective, the game can't just magically upgrade all its graphics and have it equal in looks to whatever the latest high benchmark of impressiveness might be. At best, the end-user plugs in the CD/DVD into the new console (assuming it even accepts older formats) and over the internet, for a fee, newer graphics are downloadable... will users pay a small fee for this service? And more importantly, will gaming companies bother to re-create nicer graphics for old games? Is this a sustainable business model? I would venture to guess that only the most popular addictive games of all times might justify this kind of effort in a gaming company's project list.

    Having said all that, I'm all for

  • by ThinkFr33ly ( 902481 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @06:21PM (#15708937)
    I don't know if developers are taking advantage of it, or to what extent it supports it, but I'm fairly sure the Xbox 360 already has [] Procedural Synthesis capabilities.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.