The Kingsport Cases procedurally generates horror mysteries, demo on the way

Tyler Wilde at

The Kingsport Cases' drab port town manor may not dazzle, but a fascinating story machine churns beneath its pixels. It starts like many mysteries—you're a detective who arrives at a late-night party—but the layout of the manor, who you'll meet, their motivations, and the mystery itself are, according to developer Machines in Motion, proceduarlly generated for each new game. The novel idea is headed to Kickstarter on May 1, with a demo to follow shortly after, according to PC Gamer's e-mail correspondence with programmer and producer Andrew Stanek.

The developer blog features human-generated posts with surface-level explanations of how character, plot, and world generation work. "When a character—personality and all—is included in the story, they are given a role within the story," reads the latest post on character generation.

"Perhaps they're the journalist looking for scoop on the recent crime, or maybe they're the murderer come back to cover their tracks. Combining together their personality and role, the story tool creates an ambition for that character. What do they want? How far are they willing to go to get what they want? NPCs are given stake and drive (something all good characters have), and a personality which reflects what those goals are. And when all NPCs have ambitions, some intertwining and some clashing, an intricate story—and mystery—is born."

The goal is to create a horror game that's "all about, well, horror," weaving a story about the player's interactions which can be played again and again, always different. Such ambitious claims are hard to accept at face value, so I'm glad Machines in Motion is planning to release an alpha demo. We should be playing it "within the first week of the Kickstarter," according to Stanek.

You can read more about The Kingsport Cases' world and story generation, with its "thousands of nodal instances," on the official website and its Steam Greenlight concept page.