A World as big as the World

One of the things I’ve always dreamed of in an MMO was playing in a truly enormous world.  For example, if I were to play (or make) an MMO for a zombie apocalypse setting, I would want the world to be so large that even if I had millions of players, it could be as sparsely populated as you might expect a horror themed zombie game to be.  Of course, players could choose to cluster, for safety and companionship, but the possibility to walk for miles and miles and find no one else needs to exist.

The problem is that taking the time to build that world would be too much.  And that is why this has me very excited.

The CityEngine by the people over at Procedural just floors me.  Lots of people will tell you that hand crafted games will always be better than a procedurally generated one, and in one aspect they are right.  If your goal as a game maker is to tell a story, a narrative, like a Halo game, or Dead Rising, or any other traditional PC or console game, then yes, hand crafted content is the way to go.  Your story demands it.  But in an MMO or other Virtual World type game, where the players and their interactions are the real story, and your setting and lore are just a sandbox for them to play in, procedurally generated content done well is, in my opinion, the far better choice.

Thanks to Critical Distance for the link.


  1. The Video is very cool! But I’m not entirely sure. I’m reminded of the Chinatown Call of Duty level. A small Urban environment where almost every house has an interior. Even after playing the game for a while now, I find that particular level very difficult to play. Strategies in such games are often centered around impenetrable barriers. There are only very few pathways with simple choices. If every door can be opened, it becomes difficult to map a territory and to develop strategies. The number of variables you need to consider becomes overwhelming.

    I don’t have too much experience with MMOs but aren’t they usually based on open areas?

  2. Well, like I said, for games with a more directed story or very clear objectives, being able to go everywhere doesn’t improve the game and hand crafted content is better. An FPS with a level designed as capture the flag or control points, as you suggest, would just be harder to play.

    As for MMOs being based on open areas, that depends on what you are doing… EVE Online is nothing but open space, most fantasy MMOs mix open area with dungeons. Then take a game like City of Heroes, where much of the game is does inside instanced buildings, but all your travel is outside largely surrounded by buildings that are nothing but giant blocks without windows or doors. When you travel outside, all along the street, on rooftops, and occasionally in mid air are groups of “thugs” to fight… imagine if you could be flying up the side of a building and “hear” a scream for help, break through the glass and find a crime to fight on the 37th floor? Plus, giving interiors to all those buildings would give players more places to hang out and roleplay, instead of the “stand around in the park” type they are stuck with since you can’t go inside the buildings.

    Like everything, procedural content has a place AND it must be part of the design from the beginning. You can’t just slap it into any existing game and expect it to be magic.

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