Oh, the Levels We’ll Make

We’ve started to dig deeper into the possibilities unlocked by the procedural level architecture system that Kris devised to create an endlessly shuffled variety of LIBRARY spaces to explore. LIBRARY draws some inspiration from other games that generate procedural levels every time you start a new game, from roguelike games that build maps of boxy rooms and angular corridors out of a grid of ASCII characters to Derek Yu’s Spelunky, which creates a set of connected chambers that the player can descend through and explore. After less than a day of experimentation with the numerous settings in the system, some interesting variants emerged from Eric’s tinkering:

Am I the only one that kind of wants these patterns on a t-shirt?

As with some earlier diagrams we’ve shown, each little white speck you can make out in these images represents some books in a stack (or possibly a shelf? nothing is certain yet in this library). The rooms of our library are made from thousands and thousands of books that the player can interact with — moving them around, searching through them for valuable meaning, even destroying them or hurling them across the room at a tense moment. The four images above each represent about eight to ten thousand books. What’s fascinating about the four images above is that they each evoke a somewaht different character: some feel much more messy and chaotic, while others have large open spaces, or thick expanses of books separating hard-to-reach areas. We’re thrilled that all of these are produced out of the same lines of code, and hold so many possibilities. Looking at the images above, you can see chambers that you’d have to dig through piles of books to reach, narrow corridors to search down, large chambers that you might get lost in the middle of, and “weak points” where you might choose to break through a wall of texts.

We started this process thinking that we’d find an ideal set of parameters to feed into Kris’s system so that we’d have an endless supply of levels that fit our criteria. Through playing around with our hand-crafted tools, however, we’re starting to feel like we might want multiple types of spaces to explore in succession, so that sometimes you’re pushing your way through a dense, messy cluster of books, and other times you’re exploring wide avenue and corridors. We’re just scratching the surface of possibilities for how these different kinds of spaces might relate to each other, or proceed in succession, or fit into some larger structure, so the best is yet to come!

The shapes and patterns of these level-maps have some of the “digitally organic” feel of Conway’s Game of Life or other cellular automata simulations, as if our stacks of books were bacteria in a petri dish. Eric also likened the endless permutations to John Simon’s Every Icon, a procedural artwork which runs through every possible combination of black/white pixels in a 32×32 grid. Every Icon feels like a performance or recitation of the possibilities of a binary space, and the idea that it contains every possible 32×32 black and white icon is eerily like a pixellated counterpart of Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel, another major inspiration for LIBRARY. I’m just relieved that our system produces interesting, playable spaces in less than 5.85 billion years, which is how long it takes Every Icon to run through the possibilities in only the first 2 lines of its grid! Thank heavens for algorithms.

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