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Procedural Content Generation

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Procedural content generation is the automatic creation of video game content, where content means anything that is traditionally created by an artist or a designer, such as maps, textures, levels, and objects. Content creation usually requires equal parts creativity and scutwork. The aim of procedural content generation is to relieve the designer of the scutwork in ways that create more opportunities for creativity.

Procedural Texture Generation (2015)

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Ian Parberry, "A Designer Centric Procedural Texture Generator Using Modular Bivariate Quadratic Functions", Technical Report LARC-2015-05, Laboratory for Recreational Computing, Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering, University of North Texas, July 2015. [pdf, BibTeX, more information]

Abstract

Modular bivariate quadratic functions are used to procedurally generate textures that resemble ornamentation, skin, scales, feathers, and textiles. They are easy to implement and particularly suited to parallel execution as a pixel shader. A prototype browser-based procedural texture generator with an interface suitable for use by non-mathematicians such as designers and artists is described.

Everquest Generator (2015)

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Jonathon Doran and Ian Parberry, "A Server-Side Framework for the Execution of Procedurally Generated Quests in an MMORPG", To Appear in the Proceedings of the 16th Annual European Conference on Simulation and AI in Computer Games (GAMEON 2015), pp. 103-110, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Eurosis, December 2015. [pdf, BibTeX]

Abstract

We describe a framework for executing procedurally generated quests implemented in the MMORPG Everquest using the Open Source EQEmu Everquest server. Quests play out at run-time using a collection of triggers, which consist of a testable game state condition and a script that is to be run when the condition is satisfied. We describe the interface between the quest generator and the server which enables the seamless integration of the procedurally generated quests within the existing server architecture. To demonstrate how this process takes place in real time, we analyze a nontrivial procedurally generated quest and describe the key server-controlled actions that derive from it.

Author's Comments

A preliminary version of this paper appeared as Technical Report LARC-2015-01, Laboratory for Recreational Computing, Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering, University of North Texas, February 2015. [pdf, BibTeX]

For more details on the quest generator used in this paper, see Jonathon Doran and Ian Parberry, "A Prototype Quest Generator Based on a Structural Analysis of Quests from Four MMORPGs", Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Procedural Content Generation in Games, pp. 1-8, 2011.

Modeling Real-World Terrain (2015)

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Ian Parberry, "Modeling Real-World Terrain with Exponentially Distributed Noise", Journal of Computer Graphics Techniques, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 1-9, 2015. [Manuscript and BibTex at JCGT, more information]

Abstract

A statistical analysis of elevation data from a 160,000 square kilometer region finds that terrain gradients appear to be exponentially distributed at all horizontal resolutions. Simple modifications to the Perlin noise algorithm and the amortized noise algorithm change the gradient distribution in each octave to an exponential distribution, resulting in varied and interesting procedurally generated terrain.

Amortized Noise (2014)

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Ian Parberry, "Amortized Noise", Journal of Computer Graphics Techniques, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 31-47, 2014. [Manuscript and BibTex at JCGT, more information]

Abstract

Perlin noise is often used to compute a regularly spaced grid of noise values. The amortized noise algorithm takes advantage of this regular call pattern to amortize the computation cost of floating-point computations over interpolated points using dynamic programming techniques. The 2D amortized noise algorithm uses a factor of 17/3 ≈ 5.67 fewer floating-point multiplications than the 2D Perlin noise algorithm, resulting in a speedup by a factor of approximately 3.6-4.8 in practice on available desktop and laptop computing hardware. The 3D amortized noise algorithm uses a factor of 40/7 ≈ 5.71 fewer floating-point multiplications than the 3D Perlin noise algorithm; however, the increasing overhead for the initialization of tables limits the speedup factor achieved in practice to around 2.25. Improvements to both 2D Perlin noise and 2D amortized noise include making them infinite and non-repeating by replacing the permutation table with a perfect hash function, and making them smoother by using quintic splines instead of cubic splines. While these improvements slow down 2D Perlin noise down by a factor of approximately 32-92, they slow 2D amortized noise by a negligible amount.

Author's Comments

What has this to do with procedural content generation you may ask? Well, Perlin noise is usually the go-to algorithm for generating smooth random noise for procedural content such as textures.

Designer Worlds (2014)

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Ian Parberry, "Designer Worlds: Procedural Generation of Infinite Terrain from Real-World Elevation Data", Journal of Computer Graphics Techniques, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 74-85, 2014. [pdf, BibTeX, more information]

Abstract

The standard way to procedurally generate random terrain for video games and other applications is to post-process the output of a fast noise generator such as Perlin Noise. Tuning the post-processing to achieve particular types of terrain requires game designers to be reasonably well-trained in mathematics. We describe how a well-known variant of Perlin Noise called Value Noise can be used by a designer trained in geography to generate geotypical terrain based on elevation statistics drawn from widely available sources such as the United States Geographical Service.

Fire 4 (2013)

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Dhanyu Amarasinghe and Ian Parberry, "Real-time Rendering of Melting Objects in Video Games", Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Computer Games, pp. 154-158, Louisville, KY, 2013. [pdf, more information, BibTex]

Abstract

We present a method for simulating the melting and flowing of material in burning objects fast enough to be of use in video games where most of the graphical and computational resources are needed elsewhere. The standard practice of using particle engines or fluid dynamics for melting are far too costly for use in this environment. We demonstrate that our method, which is based on systematic polygonal expanding and folding, uses only a fraction of the computational power available by implementing the computation on a very modest GPU using CUDA.

Author's Comment

A preliminary version of this paper appeared in Technical Report LARC-2013-01, Laboratory for Recreational Computing, Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering, Univ. of North Texas, 2013. [pdf]

Fire 3 (2013)

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Dhanyu Amarasinghe and Ian Parberry, "Real-time Rendering of Burning Solid Objects in Video Games", Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Computer Games, pp. 139-143, Louisville, KY, 2013. [pdf, more information, BibTex]

Abstract

Objects in 3D games are typically shell models, a polygon mesh representing the shell or skin of the object. While emulation of the behaviour of shell models under combustion is sufficient for many game applications and is fairly well studied, solid objects do in fact burn rather differently than shell objects. We show how to manipulate shell models so that they appear to burn as solid models. Since our burning objects will be only a small part of a video game, computation speed is of the essence. We demonstrate that our method uses only a fraction of the computational power available by implementing the computation on a modest GPU using CUDA.

Author's Comment

A preliminary version of this paper appeared in Technical Report LARC-2012-01, Laboratory for Recreational Computing, Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering, Univ. of North Texas, 2012. [pdf]

RPG Economics (2012)

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Jonathon Doran and Ian Parberry, "Emergent Economies for Role Playing Games", International Journal of Intelligent Games and Simulation, Vol. 7. No. 1, pp. 35-47, 2012. [pdf from IJIGS, BibTeX]

Abstract

Computer role playing games, particularly those with persistent worlds, often allow players to buy and sell goods and services with computer controlled non-player characters (NPCs). The prices for these goods and services are often determined a priori, and remain fixed for the game's duration. As a result, prices do not respond to changes in supply and demand, nor does supply and demand respond to changes in prices. We present an economic model suitable for use with role playing games that will automatically determine prices for multiple goods, supply and demand for each character, and an allocation of agents to roles that is sustainable given the state of the game.

Author's Comments

Lars Doucet has created BazaarBot, an Open Source Economics Engine based on the algorithm described in this paper. Read his Gamasutra blog post for more information.

A preliminary version of this paper appeared as Technical Report LARC-2010-03, Laboratory for Recreational Computing, Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering, University of North Texas, June 2010.

Sokoban Level Generation (2011)

Sokoban levels

Joshua Taylor and Ian Parberry, "Procedural Generation of Sokoban Levels", Proceedings of the 6th International North American Conference on Intelligent Games and Simulation (GAMEON-NA), pp. 5-12, EUROSIS, 2011. [pdf, BibTeX, more information]

Abstract

We describe an algorithm for the procedural generation of levels for the popular Japanese puzzle game Sokoban. The algorithm takes a few parameters and builds a random instance of the puzzle that is guaranteed to be solvable. Although our algorithm and its implementation runs in exponential time, we present experimental evidence that it is sufficiently fast for offline use on a current generation PC when used to generate levels of size and complexity similar to those human-designed levels currently available online.

Author's Comments

For a human study comparing procedurally generated Sokoban levels to levels hand-crafted by a human designer, see Joshua Taylor, Thomas D. Parsons, and Ian Parberry, "Comparing Player Attention on Procedurally Generated vs. Hand Crafted Sokoban Levels with an Auditory Stroop Test", 2015.

RPG Quests (2011)

Quest generator

Jonathon Doran and Ian Parberry, "A Prototype Quest Generator Based on a Structural Analysis of Quests from Four MMORPGs", Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Procedural Content Generation in Games, pp. 1-8, Bordeaux, France, 2011. [pdf, BibTeX, more information]

Abstract

An analysis of 3000 quests from four popular RPGs (Eve Online, World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes) reveals that RPG quests appear to share a common structure. We propose a classification of RPG quests based on this structure, and describe a prototype quest generator based on that classification. Our aim is to procedurally generate quests that are complex, multi-leveled, and plausible to players of RPGs. We analyze a nontrivial quest from Everquest and one from our prototype quest generator for comparison.

Author's Comments

For more details on how this quest generator can be implemented in an MMORPG server, see Jonathon Doran and Ian Parberry, "A Server-Side Framework for the Execution of Procedurally Generated Quests in an MMORPG", 2015.

Clutter (2011)

Clutter

Joshua Taylor and Ian Parberry, "Randomness + Structure = Clutter: A Procedural Object Placement Generator Using Petri Nets", Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Entertainment Computing, pp. 424-427, Vancouver, Canada, October 2011. [more information, pdf, BibTeX]

Abstract

Clutter is the random yet structured placement of objects in a room. We describe a procedural clutter generator that achieves believable, varied, and controllable object placement using a hierarchical colored Petri net capable of expressing any computable set of object placement constraints.

Sea Foam (2011)

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Mary Yingst, Jennifer R. Alford, and Ian Parberry, "Very Fast Real-Time Ocean Wave Foam Rendering Using Halftoning", Proceedings of the 6th International North American Conference on Intelligent Games and Simulation (GAMEON-NA), pp. 27-34, EUROSIS, Troy, NY, 2011. [pdf, more information, BibTeX]

Abstract

We introduce an efficient method for emulating sea foam dissipation suitable for use in real-time interactive environments such as video games. By using a precomputed dither array with controlled spectral characteristics adopted from halftone research as a control mechanism in the pixel shader, we can animate the appearance of foam bubbles popping in a random manner while allowing it to clump naturally.

Fire 2 (2011)

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Dhanyu Amarasinghe and Ian Parberry, "Fast, Believable Real-time Rendering of Burning Low-Polygon Objects in Video Games", Proceedings of the 6th International North American Conference on Intelligent Games and Simulation (GAMEON-NA), pp. 21-26, EUROSIS, Troy, NY, 2011. (Recipient of Best Paper Award) [pdf, more information, BibTeX]

Abstract

Deformation of the low-polygon models used in in video games is challenging since it is hard to maintain realism. We show how real-time mesh refinement can be used for modeling the deformation and consumption of low-polygon models under combustion while generating procedural fire. Our focus is on trading realism for computation speed so that processing power is still available for other computational tasks. Our method also allows for quick and easy LOD (level-of-detail) rendering of burning objects. We have implemented and tested our method on a relatively modest GPU using CUDA. Our experiments suggest that our method gives a believable rendering of the effects of fire while using only a small fraction of CPU and GPU resources.

Fire 1 (2011)

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Dhanyu Amarasinghe and Ian Parberry, "Towards Fast, Believable Real-time Rendering of Burning Objects in Video Games", Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, pp. 256-258, Bordeaux, France, July 2011. [pdf, more information, BibTeX]

Abstract

We present a framework for emulating the deformation and consumption of polygonal models under combustion while generating procedural fire. Our focus is on achieving the best visual effects possible while maximizing computation speed so that the processing power is available for other tasks in video games. We have implemented and tested our method on a relatively modest GPU using CUDA. Our experiments suggest that our method gives a believable rendering of the effects of fire while using only a small fraction of CPU and GPU resources.

Terrain (2010)

Terrain

Jonathon Doran and Ian Parberry, "Controlled Procedural Terrain Generation Using Software Agents", IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 111-119, June 2010. [pdf, BibTeX, more information]

Abstract

Procedural terrain generation is used to create landforms for applications such as computer games and flight simulators. While most of the existing work has concentrated on algorithms that generate terrain without input from the user, we explore a more controllable system that uses intelligent agents to generate terrain elevation heightmaps according to designer-defined constraints. This allows the designer to create procedural terrain that has specific properties.

Wind and Snow (2006)

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Criss Martin and Ian Parberry, "Real Time Dynamic Wind Calculation for a Pressure Driven Wind System", Proceedings of the 2006 ACM SIGGRAPH Video Game Symposium, pp. 151-154, Boston, MA, July 2006. (Acceptance rate 20/102, 20%) [pdf, more information, BibTeX ]

Abstract

We describe real time dynamic wind calculation for a pressure driven wind system. This simple and elegant approach allows us to perform visual effects in real time using a minute fraction of the CPU's processing power over and above what is required for static wind. Experiments were performed with a real-time application to render wind-driven snow over a 3D terrain to verify these claims.

Author's Comments

Criss did an excellent job here while still an undergraduate.

Clouds and Stars (2005)

Clouds

Timothy Roden and Ian Parberry, Efficient Real-Time Procedural Sky Rendering Using 3D Hardware", Proceedings of the 2005 ACM SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, Valencia, Spain, pp. 434-437, June 15-17, 2005. [pdf, BibTeX]

Abstract

Real-time virtual reality applications, including games, increasingly use outdoor environments. A common task in an earth-type environment is to render a sky that is realistic both in terms of imagery and physics. Programmable graphics hardware offers the opportunity to procedurally generate and render a highly realistic sky at a minimal cost. We propose an integrated set of efficient algorithms that run in graphics hardware for interactive sky rendering that is fully parameterized for real-time control. Features of our method include multi-layered dynamic clouds and stars that individually flicker at varying intensity and rate

Level Generation (2005)

Level construction

Timothy Roden and Ian Parberry, "Procedural Level Generation", Game Programming Gems 5, pp. 579-588, Charles River Media, 2005. [BibTeX]

Abstract

Traditionally, a typical 3D game development project proceeds concurrently on two fronts. Programmers design, code and test a game engine at the same time that artists create content for the game. There are compelling reasons to suggest that this paradigm may no longer be desirable or even feasible for some projects. Technical advances in hardware have enabled the use of art assets that are much more detailed than ever before. Increased storage and available RAM translates into larger game worlds. Some games require an enormous amount of content such as online multiplayer games and games that aim to provide a high level of replay. Still another factor is the increased availability of licensed engines and other high quality middleware which can cut engine development time significantly. What this means is high definition art assets, which take artists longer to create, will likely be needed sooner rather than later in the development cycle. One obvious solution to this problem is to create art assets procedurally. This gem presents the ideas and techniques behind a procedural level generator. We illustrate its use to create a simple 3D dungeon.

Methodology (2004)

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Timothy Roden and Ian Parberry, "From Artistry to Automation: A Structured Methodology for Procedural Content Creation", Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Entertainment Computing, pp. 151-156, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, September 1-3, 2004. [pdf, BiBTeX]

Abstract

Procedural techniques will soon automate many aspects of content creation for computer games. We describe an efficient, deterministic, methodology for procedurally generating 3D game content of arbitrary size and complexity. The technique progressively amplifies simple dynamically generated data structures into complex geometry. We use a procedural pipeline with a minimum set of controls at each stage to facilitate authoring. We show two examples from our research. Our terrain generator can synthesize massive 3D terrains in real-time while our level generator can be used to create indoor environments offline or in real-time.

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