When I talk about “Grey Goo” or “Gray goo” however you want to spell it i’m not talking about the hypothetical apocalyptic scenario, when nanobots eat the world, like in this image:

Or this image:

(Who knew the end of the world could be so……………… cool looking)

Im talking about this forum post:

http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=155414.msg6724808#msg6724808

 

Or this image:

 

 

The grey goo problem i’m referring to, is what happens when there is so much meaningless, (eg no game-play effect) procedural generation in a game that the player simply stops caring.

This is a problem that people have reported in No Mans Sky (the creatures are just copy pasted versions of each other with parts swapped and have little to no meaningful game-play attached to them) , all planets have life, and all planets have weird random colours that don’t tend to work with each other (and may be part of the reason that game hasn’t been as popular as first expected)  and numerous other titles, spore (to a lesser extent) all the creatures are basically the same with different stats , In some cases dwarf fortress (to an even lesser extent), I love dwarf fortress by the way, so i’m not trying to bash it. And many other games that I am not mentioning.

In a recent version of my roguelike  (which I gave to a couple people), I also had this problem.

(For those of you who don’t know, my roguelike procedurally generates pretty much everything using a special kind of  AI I cooked up so this is a real potential problem for me!)

What happened was that in this previous version of my game, I had just finished adding a “procedural item generator” that names items, assigns stats etc, with the help of my AI balance bot (as I like to call it), which prevents super OP things or super underpowered things from spawning. What happened in this version is that players stopped caring about the names of items, and just looked at them as stat boosters, and ignored most of them as-well, because they assumed they would be average since everything had its own name, and stats, and those names really meant nothing.

I realized this was a problem, and it caused more confusion then it got rid of (which was the entire point of procedurally naming them, so players could tell them apart!)

So I had to figure out a way to fix it.

 

Well how do you fix “random mush”? or “gray goo”?

I had to ask myself that, and the answer is obviously, to make it NOT mush, and to make it more memorable.

This has now been fixed and this is how I did it.

So now, each section of the dungeon has a list of 14 items named and generated for them, and rare , MUCH higher quality items that do receive their own names, (what used to happen is that there was  1 in 20 chance an item would be rare, and the only real difference was the color in your inventory and the name) They have now been buffed.

The dungeon section will be populated with items from this list (every 3 levels is a new section) and much rarer (though more common then  they used to be) special much more powerful items that will be useful even for the next section that do in fact have there own names.

So now when you see an items name, you know it will have the same stats the rest of those same items you encountered in the current section (and you are more likely to remember the names of the items)) so you will KNOW how powerful it is from the name, and so you will know how useful they will be, this also results in items that are much more memorable because it only generates 7 procedural armor and 7 procedural weapons for each section.(not counting rares) One section may not have the type of staff you want, so you can seek it out in the next section.

This mimics how most roguelike devs usually pre-make these items, except in this case an AI is doing it for each section. Which should result in more memorable gameplay.

Also rare items are finally useful and all the items are much more memorable and meaningful.

I plan to improve on this new system even more with items that are strong against specific creatures (who could potentially be a couple sections ahead in the dungeon, to make them even more interesting and memorable in the long run)

Thats all for today.

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