Procedural generation is fascinating. Essentially, it’s the idea that instead of making something, you create the rules to make that thing – a recipe instead of a meal. Games like Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft are only possible because of procedural generation; it would take an incredible amount of time to handcraft each world, but only a few minutes (once the rules have been made) to procedurally generate them.
The most interesting kind of procedural generation, to me, is language. I like words, and I love the idea that you can create intelligible sentences and text just by applying sufficiently precise and comprehensive rules. I must admit that I also find it alarming, but mostly I think it’s awesome. It raises all sorts of questions about what meaning actually is, and is often very entertaining.
They Fight Crime! is a beautifully simple example of what I mean. It’s a procedural generator that produces two new sentences each time you load the page. Essentially, it gives you the set-up to a “buddy cop” movie – two radically different people who have to team up for justice.
He’s a one-legged guerilla senator with nothing left to lose. She’s an artistic out-of-work research scientist who believes she is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian queen. They fight crime!
It’s a very simple idea, but a fun one. Two sentences, only indirectly designed, suggesting bizarre and original premises for films. Each mouse click brings a totally new idea, some of which would even be watchable.
Sparks Fly generates premises for romantic fiction – it gives you two main characters and a situation. The possible names, places, attributes, and actions are all randomised, selected from lists of words. You can generate standard, mainstream romance, or you can focus on a subgenre, such as “western” or “adult”. You can even combine all the different subgenres, in case you have a hankering for a paranormal regency romance in a professional setting. With raunchy scenes.
When psychic journalist Charlotte finds herself managing a multinational corporation with suave gun-slinger Dominic Patterson, sparks fly!
It took me a while. I learnt quite a lot. I actually finished something (though now I want to go back and add and extent and expand). Hopefully, as above, it resulted in something entertaining.
Throughout this project, Mister Keefe was unfailingly patient and helpful whenever I got hopelessly stuck. In fact, he did all of the presentation for me, which is why it doesn’t look sombre and depressing. I am not a natural designer.
It’s small and basic, but I made it, and I’m proud of it. Feedback, positive or otherwise, would be extremely welcome (and probably immediately acted upon). Please do check it out.
Let me know what you think.