Procedural Content – An Invisible Service

A friend of mine recently found Jukedeck – a service that will randomly generate music for you.  Depending on your membership you get to download randomly made music and have assorted rights to it.

It’s fairly obvious from my work at Seventh Sanctum that I love randomized stuff.  Also as I’m a big proponent of Roguelike games and procedural content in things like Borderlands, I’m really biased.

But looking at Jukedeck I began thinking that they (and me to an extent) have explored procedural content as a service.  I mean yes assorted generator-makers like myself have done that before.  But I don’t think people have thought about it as deeply as could be.

Procedural generation, at its best, involves researching data, parameters, and patterns.  It involves finding ways to make them into code that delivers something recognizable.  It is work, it is art, and it is critical to certain artistic forms.

(Hell, it’s pretty much core to No Man’s Sky).

However, procedural generation rarely gets appreciated.  We’re used to it, having seen it make dungeons and weapons in our games from decades, or simply create stuff for pen and paper RPGs with dice rolls.  We take it for granted because it doesn’t stand out, it’s integrated into some media – or we are used to seeing it treated in a funny way, from randomizing errors to brain-shaking numbers of game possibilities being touted.

Jukedeck, by making procedural content a service, made me “see” procedural generation a bit clearer.  It is a service in some cases (I know, I provide it).  It is core to some media.  We’re just so used to it we don’t see it – or see what goes into it.

Step back for a bit and ask just what role it’s played in your life . . .

  • Steven Savage