Up For Debate - Are Procedurally Generated Worlds Such As No Man's Sky Good Or Bad?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Aug 13, 2016 4:00 PM
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Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past week, you’ve probably noticed No Man’s Sky arrived on PC and PlayStation 4. A game both incomprehensibly large and strangely obtuse in design. It has carved the gaming community down the middle, with vocal camps on either side arguing for and against this ridiculously ambitious 'indie' title.

Whatever your take on the quality of No Man’s Sky, there’s no doubting it’s a towering achievement. At 18 quintillion planets it’s millions of times larger than just about any gaming world ever created. It would take billions of years for the entirety of humanity to visit every planet. It all works through a so-called ‘superformula’ developed by Hello Games. All it takes is a seed (in this case a developer’s mobile number) thrown into the superformula, which then spits out No Man’s Sky’s universe.

The problem with this is that the process is inherently random. Hello Games fed in the basic building blocks and the formula stitches them together in various ways, some interesting, some not so much. You might visit a planet with huge dinosaurs playing in a lake, or delve into a subterranean cave filled within swimming cow-pineapples. Equally, you could land on a barren wasteland filled with nothing but iron rocks.

Both procedural and random generation are nothing new of course. Minecraft has made this its business for years, as have the countless roguelikes doing the rounds. But is this damaging to the game as whole? Are randomly generated levels inherently bad?

On the flipside there are probably billions and billions of fantastic worlds in No Man’s Sky. More than could ever have possibly been created manually. NMS flies in the face of the old adage ‘quality not quantity’ by deliver both. You just need to know where to look.

So the big questions is, does procedural generation make for a good game? Or does it put you off a title entirely? Get voting and then share your thoughts below!

Do you like procedurally generated level design?

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21:49 Aug-14-2016

If it's filled with content then it's got the potential to be good. If it's just a massive universe with not very much to do it's pretty bad.

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10:41 Aug-14-2016

Played No man's sky for like 1 hour. Got bored. Wish there would be intelligent races and civilizations in planets with deep forests to explore etc..but not like this. Just no. Ran very nicely on my machine, no complaints there

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09:28 Aug-14-2016

To me its about competition. Sort of like a test. But if everyone starts getting different kind of tests then i can never compare myself to another & say, hey i did a better job. Coz i never went through what that other person did & vice versa. It might have been easier or more difficult. Should be equal grounds.

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07:03 Aug-14-2016

i guess the is not stable coz of huge fps drop problem show in many pc. the game story i dont know gave have a story. i have this game but after playing 15 min i dont like it...may be i m not ready for it or its not the type which i play i hate to say this actually .

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06:08 Aug-14-2016

Not when it's the focus of the game. When it's just used for the background generally maps/dungeons for you to hack/shoot your way through, it's usually okay.

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06:09 Aug-14-2016

When it's the only thing though, that's when it fails compared to handcrafted worlds and experiences. They simply have the personal touch and art of the creator that can't being to compare to a computer's algorithm.

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23:54 Aug-13-2016

Well depends. If done right they can be amazing.

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03:45 Aug-14-2016

I agree with you

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23:50 Aug-13-2016

I feel that once you explore a few star systems, it will get boring. It's a good game, but it was hyped up far too much. That's 2 games this year that I had high expectations for but failed on the hype scale. The Division and now NMS.

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21:51 Aug-13-2016

i am loving this this game so far 4 hours in about been to only 2 systems and like 8 planets its just cool to look at the worlds and all the different animals i like it i just need to learn more about the game.

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01:04 Aug-14-2016

that's it, there's nothing else. i'm about 10 hours deep, been to 3 atlas things got a kick ass ship with a huge inventory (all that matters) and it's not revealed anything new.
the trick to enjoying it is to just do whatever the hell you want. be a pirate, a trader or even just go round exploring and selling discoveries.
so far for me, the object of the game has been to get better and better ships. As far as i can tell, there's no 'end game'

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02:58 Aug-14-2016

i think there is a end game but its like go to the center and find somebody i have no idea what or how to get a atlas thing ..lol

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20:03 Aug-13-2016

Personally i love games with massive worlds where i can go and explore so NMS was the basically the perfect game for me

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21:25 Aug-13-2016

but they are all the same just different color schemes.

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22:26 Aug-13-2016

i have yet to find a planet the same just with different colour schemes

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11:03 Aug-14-2016

well they all look identical to me on the videos. Of course there are differences in terrain and vegetation and different animal "shapes" but basically all planets are the same repetitive formula. Great game for 5 - 12 year olds though.

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19:45 Aug-13-2016

Unless we were to have a unified definition of what gaming is, a unified definition that 100% of us agreed on, the determination of procedural generation being good or bad "for gaming" cannot be determined.

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21:23 Aug-13-2016

are you a super computer? because you talk like one lol

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22:26 Aug-13-2016

Yes.

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18:54 Aug-13-2016

The bad thing in No Man's Sky, is it seems like "everything" is on every planet already. Other than discovering new species, there doesn't seem to be any reason to explore. So far the gameplay loop is warp, get materials to warp again, warp, etc. I'm not really far into it yet (just got the Atlas pass). The game in my opinion, is mediocre. Which to be honest, is amazing considering it came from a 25-man team. The game really is amazing, but there are a lot of issues with it. Mod support can save this game. All this being said, I'll still be finishing it. I've enjoyed myself a lot.

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21:59 Aug-13-2016

Please let me know your fps settings and resolution because i am planning on buying also let me know what you think about my specs and resolution.. I like tomber raider is no mans sky similar let me know what you think.

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22:07 Aug-13-2016

with your resolution you should be able to run the game fine. I dont own the game but a 960 should handle it fairly well. Youd be best asking another person with a 960 rather than a person with a overkill rig like his lol.

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23:27 Aug-13-2016

i know but i am planning on getting a gtx 1080 zotac amp extreme or titan xp and i am keeping my processor but changing motherboard to get 4.0ghz overclock so i know what i am planning but now i made it clear. But at 1080p ultrawide

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23:13 Aug-13-2016

The game should run fine on your hardware as long as it actually runs. Read through this. https://www.reddit.com/r/NoMansSkyTheGame/comments/4xkj1w/pc_version_list_of_common_fixes_and_suggestions/

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17:37 Aug-13-2016

Procedurally generated isnt a problem unless like in no mans sky there isnt much to do after 1 hour. Sure there is exploring but it isnt very interesting. Someone put it in great words when they said that its a space flight simulator and nothing more.

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17:01 Aug-13-2016

I would actually play NMS, I do like this kind of games, if it weren't for the 10 FPS issues...

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18:11 Aug-13-2016

It runs just fine for me. You could try it out and refund if it doesn't work.

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18:55 Aug-13-2016

It runs perfect for as well. I will occasionally get frame dips, but not often enough to care. From a 25-man indie team, it's rather well done.

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21:54 Aug-13-2016

i have had dips but only when landing on a planet then it goes away its perfect 60fps all the way besides the 2% of what i just said..lol

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16:56 Aug-13-2016

I'd rather have a game with a much smaller world, but a world hand build stone by stone with care and love. A world with a story to live, a world that actually makes sense. I must admit that games like NMS were never my cup of tea, they tend to bore me really quick. And judging from the steam reviews I have read so far, NWS tends to get boring really really fast.

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16:59 Aug-13-2016

I'm on the same boat as you.

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17:12 Aug-13-2016

Yeah Quality over Quantity ;)

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19:23 Aug-13-2016

I completely agree. If they had just one world with a few moons you could travel to, with a great story line, and player interaction with other players (optional co op missions not necessarily PvP) then it would have been much better.


I mean look at Mass Effect, it does explore many worlds, but only parts of them, but they are all very different and each one has a story (Maybe not ME1).

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09:40 Aug-14-2016

Well, the steam reviews are mainly this low, because off really bad frame rate on good cards.. But i get what you mean :)

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16:46 Aug-13-2016

Procedurally generated is math and science.
Hand-crafted is love and passion.

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16:57 Aug-13-2016

Awesome..Hats Off

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20:01 Aug-13-2016

In reality, the game is both. The game itself is hand crafted, only the universe is random, which is by design. To focus on the universe is to miss the point.
The game is the journey, not the destination. You make your own journey, your own story, you define your own purpose, much as in real life.
It's not my cup of tea either and I'm not going to play it, but I do applaud the concept.

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16:18 Aug-13-2016

GD, aren't you going to say anything regarding the worst console port in history?

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16:35 Aug-13-2016

The worst console port by far is Batman Arkham Knight

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16:40 Aug-13-2016

hahaha batman arkham knight on console is perfect, I think it's in pc version not console. @Andrej

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17:18 Aug-13-2016

yeah i ment it was ported from console to pc

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16:55 Aug-13-2016

Andrej, check again.

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18:56 Aug-13-2016

It plays decent on my PS4. Nothing like Pc obviously, but no noticeable issues that aren't normal to console games. It's a big game, obviously it's going to run at 30fps.

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16:02 Aug-13-2016

I love the idea of procedurally generated worlds, it helps ensure that no two worlds are exactly the same due to the sheer number of factors.

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100% Yes [1 votes]
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Ryzen 7 3750H 4-Core 2.3 GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
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Ryzen 3 2300X 4-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 6500 XT 4GB 16GB
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100% Yes [1 votes]
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Core i3-4170 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 750 EVGA 2GB Edition 8GB
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Core i5-11400 6-Core 2.7GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Mobile 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]