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Wavinator

How Much Does a Picture Add to the Experience?

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I'm thinking about doing animated, procedurally generated skylines that might look a little like these images... Futuristic city skylines But I'm having trouble figuring out if it would be worth it given that interacting with the city itself would involve moving around randomly generated, zoomed out Sim City 3000 style maps (with either pop up screens for shopping or trade or segmented maps for exploration and combat). Is there really any point? Can a minimally interactive view establish a sense of place or even mood? Compare this view of a minimalist city mixed with nature to this sprawling, seemingly crowded urban metropolis. As a first impression a view might set the player's expectation. Is the former as clean and safe as it looks, and are the people somehow in tune and respectful of nature? Is the latter a sprawl filled with bio-engineered gangsters and cyborg cops? Who knows? Yet ultimately a pic would amount to eye candy. In terms of gameplay I could reserve it for special points within the city, such as a observation deck you pay money to get to or even a compilation of postcards you "unlock" based on your travels. With different sky, cloud and moon / planet backdrops the scenes might end up very atmospheric, though they'd inevitably have to repeat. In terms of work, I'm already having to model and texture the buildings, although level of detail will be an issue and I suspect there will be artifacts from scaling and compositing. It may take a lot of work to get the look right, especially in dealing with distance haze and artistic layout. But most of the real work should be in the simple math of placement and arrangement. So do you think a static pic would add all that much, especially if the game is abstract?

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Since this is tangental to the gameplay (i.e. adding only to atmosphere), I am of the opinion that a nicely worded description would be equally engaging. Then again, I may be in the minority - prose isn't as 'consumable' as pictures.

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Haha, normally I'd agree with you but I actually think a text description would wear out faster than graphics. Assuming dozens of cities you'd have to come up with descriptions for each, and the sentence structure wouldn't even be amenable to a Mad Libs "fill the the blank" approach. How many times could you see "the <stunning, beautiful, marvelous> sunlight of <StarName> glints off the spires of <CityName>" before you skipped it entirely?

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
How many times could you see "the <stunning, beautiful, marvelous> sunlight of <StarName> glints off the spires of <CityName>" before you skipped it entirely?
The question then is how much more variety you can create in the generated images? After all, the N'th "<blue, green, yellow, red> <sunset, moonrise, cloudscape> over <hills, forests, dunes, spires>" doesn't sound a whole lot more appealing...

If you want to keep players interested in the pictures/descriptions, my inclination would be to include plot elements, or allow the player to affect the content. For instance, if the description changes procedurally based on the changing world conditions, the player can gain valuable information about disasters/miracles/etc. which then affect their interactions with the world.

Similarly, if I nuke a city, it would be pretty rad to see a mushroom cloud, or read about the "dazed survivours clinging to existence..."

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I think procedurally generated pictures would be a good idea. Maybe some elements could hint towards what one might expect/encounter in the city/landscape, at least that way I'd give each picture a quick scan just to check for clues.

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I think in this situation the question of a picture painting a thousand words is irrelevant. When playing a game, no one wants to read a thousand words [wink]

A picture allows the player to take in the atmosphere of your game within a matter of a few seconds of looking at your images.

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