Thursday, December 3, 2009

Star Trek Online info -- Genesis System

So Star Trek Online is going to have a new system of content generation called the Genesis system. (Alla Wrath of Khan) It will constantly generate "stuff" i.e. planets, missions, encounters, etc.. as you fly through space, so that you will genuinely be going some place that "no man has gone before". They also have used this same genesis system to build all their content but for their special "seasons" and "episodes" the artists and designers have hand tweaked the content and storyline some more of course.

Here it is from the interview:

"One thing I would say is truly Star Trek is the sense of exploration. Is that something you wanted to bring across?

Yeah, with exploration we knew "to boldly go where no man has gone before" is huge for Trek. We named our system the Genesis system, which is a set of software technology that allows us to create planets and systems, ground maps, interiors so that players will be able to continously explore and generate new content for themselves that no one else has seen before. This is a tool set that we use internally as we develop the game to expedite the process. You loose weeks of development time if you were just white boxing environments, just making sure that this is generally what we want to do and then you have a designer coming in and place the content and then an artist goes in and hand touches that.

By the time you have an end product a huge chunk of that was just initial set up. With the genesis system we can have a designer loosely describe a mission "I want a snow planet with a bunch of Klingons here and you have to go defeat this first group and then you'll go find five bombs that you have to disarm. Then the Genesis system will automatically put that together and then we can go in and hand craft that and do things that only humans can do. But since we've been working on our technology for so long we've kind of refined it and are making it better we are going to expose that to players so that they can just fly and that system will generate something new that you'll do and you'll have that limitless exploration. "

This strikes me as brilliant if it works well. City of Heroes already pioneered this with its randomized dungeons and bosses and stuff, and of course Diablo 2 as well. I can see it getting old fast though if it feels too generic or doesn't have enough variability or some such problem. Hopefully they make this a shining feature.

8 comments:

Anton said...

I'm wary of this randomly generated Universe thing. I was hoping for diplomatic missions and such, but how do you randomly generate a characterized dialogue with the head of a random alien race? I'm starting to think this will just turn out to be a bunch of fighting. And you'll probably end up stuck in some other explorer's wake, fighting respawns of an explorer's previous adventure.

Spore I think does something like this, too. Brings in civilizations designed by other players. But I haven't really experienced that.

Icetrek said...

I can't wait for it to come out =)

Anton said...

...Me neither...

It looks amazing. Even if I am concerned about the implementation of a randomly-generated universe. And even though I never got into it, I've always been fond of Star Trek.

Silverwings said...

Shamus over at Twenty Sided has a great series up on procedural content generation. (Using the game FUEL as an example.) I suspect Dust 514 from the EVE CCP guys will have a heavy procedural bent to it (don't the wormholes have a strong procedural presence?). It's really the only way to stay ahead of the content locusts that populate modern MMOs.

Whether it's done well or not remains to be seen, but I do think that an increasing percentage of procedural content generation is inevitable.

Bri said...

The biggest question in mind is one of shared content .. if it's procedural content created for each player then how do you tell your friends, "Hey, I just found this cool planet at coordinates x.y.z with a civilization willing to trade with the Federation"? How will the Genesis system handle it? Or will space be more like Guild Wars' world, instanced outside hubs? Can someone just flying past help you with the Borg Cube that just dropped out of warp in your lap? Or do they have to switch to your instance like Aion?

Thallian said...

I have no idea how they will do that for sure Bri, but those are all good questions. If I were to design such a system, I'd make it so you could invite your friends and the randomly generated universe was shared for everyone but the parts no one was "in" could cease to exist, and be "regenerated" if anyone flew in that space again. Either that or you have personal instance 'bubbles' that fly with your ship, or you do it totally instanced like Guild Wars with joint hubs but I think that's about as Anti-social, explorer-happy as you can get in the spectrum.

Tesh said...

Space time bubbles? Parallel universes? That's *totally* Star Trek. If they don't play that up at least a little, I'll be sad. Sure, it's a little "meta", but it's just so appealing to me...

Thallian said...

Another option is to have a "static" universe like EVE (as far as planets go) but make it dynamic in regards to changing plots in areas and political movements and wars and yadda yadda along with giving players more ability to conquer areas and build trade conglomerates and stuff.