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  • Procedural Quest Generation: An Industry Outlook

    [07.09.20]
    - Goran de Ruiter
  • As part of a university study on procedural quest generation, in-depth interviews were conducted on a group of industry experts who had past experience at more than 35 indie and AAA companies. Their backgrounds included companies such as Ubisoft, Guerrilla Games, Bioware, Rockstar Games and YAGER. Alongside this a tool was developed, which was finally tested and judged in a qualitative survey by a second group of experts, The article below describes some of the insights gained.

    Introduction

    In today's age of ever advancing technology, rising game scope and complexity, as well as a complimentary surge in player expectations, procedural quest generation is becoming an increasingly interesting topic to think about. Recent game titles have shown that a lot is possible with current day tools and knowledge, but also that some problems have yet to be figured out completely. This has sparked a wealth of research into aspects such as generating rich narrative and dialogue, hiding and preventing system-generated patterns, or adding meaning by ensuring that a legitimate impact is being made on a game world and its characters, each time an automatically generated quest is created, undergone and completed. 

    A thorough and well thought-out automated quest generation system could bring a lot of benefits to some game titles, such as generating an (in theory) endless amount of interesting content, helping bring to life largely underutilized open world gameplay spaces, or saving precious development resources, so they may be used to benefit other aspects of the game. However, despite these potential benefits, the vast majority of larger game companies currently lays a clear focus on hand-crafted quests. Implementations of procedural content seem to remain mostly limited to smaller and experimental games, or to the less significant and repeatable side-quests in larger titles, where complexity is not as important. 

    A small number of AAA studios can be seen openly taking on the procedural challenge, with some noticeable examples being Bethesda's Radiant Quests in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, as well as the Nemesis system used by Monolith in the Middle-Earth games. This only seems to be limited to a handful of examples though, and the question remains why we're not seeing a rise in similar technologies yet. Are there still too many prominent problems to overcome, or are there other reasons? 


    Image: Fallout 4, one of the games to use Bethesda's Radiant Quests

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