University of Oulu

The application of procedural content generation in video game design

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Author: Bomström, Henri
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Information Processing Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Oulu : H. Bomström, 2016
Publish Date: 2016-09-19
Physical Description: 37 p.
Thesis type: Bachelor's thesis
Tutor: Lappalainen, Jouni
Reviewer: Lappalainen, Jouni
Video games have started to become a daily part of our lives. In 2015 the Entertainment Software Association reported that 155 million Americans play video games and 42 percent of those play video games regularly, spending at least three hours per week playing. In 2015 the American video game industry generated $22.41 billion in revenue. (Entertainment Software Association [ESA], 2015.) As the demand of content in video games continues to rise, the amount of resources used by game studios is increasing to meet the demand. The scaling of manual content creation in video games is becoming a problem and automatic content creation has been suggested to increase scalability (Iosup, 2011.) Procedural content generation tries to solve this problem by programmatically creating varying and personalised content on demand. Procedural content generation is intended to create content automatically in video games, or help in the creation process of content. The applications of procedural content generation in game design and development ranges from integrated solutions that automatically generate content, to pure inspiration and tool applications. (Togelius, Yannakakis, Stanley, & Browne, 2011.) Smith, Gan, Othenin-Girard and Whitehead (2011) have also proposed that video games can be procedural content generation-based, which creates new playable experiences through extensive usage of procedural content generation. This means that a completely new type of games is possible, with game mechanics built around content generation. Traditionally procedural content generation has been used in single sub-categories of game design, such as map generation to increase replayability. The problem with procedural content generation is that the content might not always be desirable or enjoyable. If the content generated is not for example playable at all, it is considered as a catastrophic failure. Catastrophic failures are one of the reasons why procedural content generation isn't more widely used in commercial game development, as it may render the game impossible to complete. (Zafar & Mujtaba, 2012.) The usage of procedural content generation in video games is still not a very well researched subject, even though it has been used for a long time. This means that potential applications of PCG in the gaming industry might not have been all realized yet. (Togelius et al., 2011.) Hendrikx, Meijer, Van Der Velden, & Iosup (2013) released a comprehensive survey on procedural content generation and found that the related literature is distributed over multiple disciplines and co-evolves with multiple different areas in science. According to Yannakakis and Togelius (2014) PCG is an active research area and is heavily influenced by other AI research areas. Besides player modelling, PCG was found to be research area that affected the player's gameplay experience the most. Even though procedural content generation has raised significant research interest in recent years, it has not been yet fully adopted to the practise of game design and should be contextualized to a more design centric perspective. (Khaled, Nelson, & Barr, 2013.) According to Smith (2014) it is essential that both the AI researchers and game designers have a common vocabulary when discussing procedural content generation systems. The focus of this thesis is to study PCG and its relation to game design. This thesis tries to answer the questions what is Procedural Content Generation and how Procedural Content Generation is used in game design. The research method selected is a literature review, where no new empiric knowledge is created. When referring to PCG and its related methods, the context is limited to video games. The in-depth study of different procedural methods, such as Perlin noise and L-systems, is left out of this study. The structure of this thesis is built on studying PCG and then exploring its application on video game design. The second chapter defines procedural content generation, search based procedural content generation, experience driven procedural content generation and the terminology related to them. The third chapter continues on the second chapter and explains why and how procedural content generation is used in game design. Finally discussion about the topic is presented with the conclusions.
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