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shmerl

Procedurally generated environments and storytelling

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You mentioned before, that We Happy Few will use procedurally generated environments. How do you envision combining it with storytelling in the game? Do you already have some design approach, or you are still working it out?

 

The obviously challenging part here is to avoid generic feeling. Procedural generation is easier to envision for some platformers, but it's harder to fit into story driven game. There was some interview with CD Projekt Red, where they said that they considered procedural generation for some parts of the Witcher 3, but opted to manually creating all their maps and quests to avoid lowering the depth and feeling of the story in the game. So I'm really interested in how you plan to tackle this issue.

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I talked to them at PAX about this a bit, as well as played their build which I think I can talk about? But in general the solution seems to have an objective focus where the world will generate a couple instances of the objective area, and then that area is kind of a self-contained puzzle (for the most part). Seems like there is definitely some interaction with the larger world which gives you more generic tools, but some of them you may need/want in the objective area. We talked a little bit about whether they plan on expanding that to include more complex interactions and it sounded like they are looking into that. My 2cents was what they had actually worked quite nicely, although more elaborate designs never hurts :P.

 

@Naila let me know if we are allowed to talk about the PAX build openly on here? And correct anything I'm messing up :)

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Sounds interesting, but it's also not clear whether the gameplay will be linear or like in the open world, interactions will depend on player's choice. Combining serious storytelling with an open world game is difficult already, and with procedurally generated one is probably even harder.

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So, this is a pretty fair question to ask, and yes, we've put a fair amount of thought/design work into it already. However, as narrative is the one thing I can't be super open about yet, please bear with me if I can't answer everything.

 

To me, dealing with story in a procedurally generated world has two extremes: completely procedurally generated story (ala Dwarf Fortress) or a custom narrative that slots in on top of the world. For us, we wanted to tell a specific crafted narrative, so option 2 is where we're going.

 

The way we're doing this, as @lucigen said, is to layer the narrative on top of the generated world using custom set pieces. The PAX build contains a number of tests for that; areas or buildings that are uniquely crafted and scripted for gameplay, but are randomly placed throughout the world.

 

An example from the PAX build was the "An Odd End" scenario. Right now, there are a bunch of "Odds & Ends" shops in the world, scattered throughout the map. However, one of these shops is unique - it looks a lot like the other shops, but something has gone horribly wrong, and you need to figure out how to break in to get the juicy loot inside. This was an initial test for the narrative systems, and it's likely we'll create additional scenarios in the main build over time to test out what we want to do on the narrative.

 

But, we're still working on all of this. I want to try and write a few in-depth posts about how we're creating things, but we're focusing on preparing the Kickstarter campaign first, then will work on the more regular updates. I'm happy to keep answering questions though :)

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