procedural generation

Procedural quest: Why there are so few police procedurals in gaming

Wes Fenlon at

Flip through the channels on cable TV for more than a minute, and there's a good chance the weathered face of Detective Lennie Briscoe or the salt-and-pepper shag of Jack McCoy will fill your screen. Law & Order reruns will be around forever; the original series ran for 456 episodes over 20 years. Throw in spin-offs and there are more than 1000 episodes. CSI and NCIS have run for hundreds of episodes. The popularity of procedural shows never wanes: day-in, day-out, the formula never changes, but we keep watching. Procedurals like Law & Order and CSI are the reliable backbone of entertainment: sturdy, consistent, always there to give you what you need without doing anything too new or exciting. We love procedurals. So why, if the genre is so enormously, enduringly popular, on TV and in books and even movies, are there so few police procedural video games?

Predictable-but-entertaining detective stories and courtroom dramas have dominated primetime for 60 years, but you can count the successful, well-known procedural games on a couple hands with fingers to spare. When HBO's True Detective did something bold and new with the formula, it became the most talked-about TV show in years. It also made me realize that police procedural games are practically nonexistent. I couldn't figure out why, so I decided to talk to game writers and designers, from the creator of Police Quest to the writer behind Spec Ops: The Line, to answer that question.


X-COM creator Julian Gollop on "brute force" blockbuster game development and the lost promise of intelligent AI

Dan Griliopoulos at

In a genial interview, strategy-game elder statesman and creator of the original X-COM: UFO Defense Julian Gollop talked to us about his imagined alternate history of gaming, his preference for procedural systems, and how he feels modern games have abandoned the promise of advanced AI in favour of shinier visuals and reward mechanics designed to massage players' egos.

Gollop first came to GDC in 1995, to discuss AI, when turn-based strategy games like UFO / X-COM were the cutting edge, just as RTS was taking over. “In those days, I believed firmly that the future of computer games was all about AI. That in twenty years time we'd be interacting with NPC characters in computer games that actually had real intelligence and could respond to you in really intelligent ways. Boy, I was wrong. So wrong!”


VoxelFarm Realtime is Minecraft in a gorgeously realistic procedurally generated world

Phil Savage at

Miguel Cepero's Procedural World project was already an insanely impressive example of the collision between maths, nature and beauty; creating vast landscapes and detailed structures. Recently his work has taken a familiar, if equally spectacular turn, adding a Minecraft style WYSIWYG landscape editor and building system that lets him shape his random worlds. There is a video. Try not to gawp.


A Valley Without Wind out now, demo available

Tom Senior at

Version 1.0 of procedurally generated 2D explorathon, A Valley Without Wind, is out now on Steam and directly from the developers, Arcen. It casts you as a wandering adventurer on a mission to take down the powerful Overlord of the realm. You can wander into his chambers at any time, but he'll reduce you to a gooey smear in moments if you confront him right away. Exploring the world, saving citizens, building villages and defeating monsters will grant you the equipment, spells and enchantments needed to take him down.