13 votes

Starfield sounds way too big

15 comments

  1. [7]
    bub
    Link
    Personally, I don't mind if it's "flat" or "empty-" feeling. That may sound weird, and maybe it is weird, but the reason is this: I want games to continue to reach for the seemingly unattainable...

    Personally, I don't mind if it's "flat" or "empty-" feeling.

    That may sound weird, and maybe it is weird, but the reason is this:

    I want games to continue to reach for the seemingly unattainable goal of both scale and density of content. I want the technology and techniques of procedural generation to mature to the point that nobody rolls their eyes when a game advertises it as a feature.

    Even if huge open world games (and space games in particular) fail to deliver time after time, I'm happy whenever I see that it's still being tried, especially by big trend-setting companies. I think the worst thing that could happen would be for publishers to decide that it's too risky to attempt grand scale anymore, and just stick to safe, dense, cozy little settings where they can get the most out of art direction or something.

    So do I expect Starfield to be everything it promises to be in the promotional material? Not at all. But I'm glad they're making it.

    13 votes
    1. [5]
      nothis
      Link Parent
      I’m currently playing Death Stranding and enjoy it more than I thought I would! You can make the general vastness part of the gameplay. What I’m most skeptical about is the procedural content. IMO...

      I’m currently playing Death Stranding and enjoy it more than I thought I would! You can make the general vastness part of the gameplay.

      What I’m most skeptical about is the procedural content. IMO it’s easy to grow tired of the algorithm that produces vast landscapes. No Man’s Sky didn’t work for me. Infinite content but always the same rules that produced it. That’s why their claims of having a lot of handcrafted content are giving me hope. I’d rather have 50 hours worth of content that’s carefully made to be interesting than a 1000 hours of exploring empty moons out whatever.

      17 votes
      1. [4]
        bub
        Link Parent
        I'd say that's because No Man's Sky's procedural generation is immature. I don't think it fails to satisfy you because procedural generation is fundamentally flawed (after all, our universe is an...

        I'd say that's because No Man's Sky's procedural generation is immature. I don't think it fails to satisfy you because procedural generation is fundamentally flawed (after all, our universe is an example of emergent complexity based on simple laws, probably). "Infinite content but always the same rules that produced it" is what you see when you look out your window.

        Rather, I think it fails to satisfy simply because we haven't advanced the field of procedural generation far enough yet, so every game we've made so far with procedural generation is crude, compared to what we will someday do with procedural generation as long as we keep trying.

        And I don't think we'll have to wait until we can simulate a world on the molecular scale to achieve that. We just need to think up better and better shortcuts, approximations, and cheats, like the ones we use currently, but more clever.

        6 votes
        1. [3]
          nothis
          Link Parent
          Just as you can’t produce infinite static content you can’t produce infinitely complex code for procedural content. There’s no molecular level to story structure or rewarding gameplay loops. It’s...

          Just as you can’t produce infinite static content you can’t produce infinitely complex code for procedural content. There’s no molecular level to story structure or rewarding gameplay loops. It’s just design.

          There are games for which procedural content works perfectly. Minecraft, for example. But here, the challenge is directly tied to exploring the world exactly on the scale it’s created on. With No Man‘s Sky, you have like a kilometer of rock between every point of interest and a lot of interactions are painfully passive.

          On another, extreme end of randomization, you have games like Tetris. The simplest of rules but it works mechanically.

          6 votes
          1. [2]
            bub
            Link Parent
            Here's another way I want to put it: The thought process that an excellent writer goes through when making that story structure isn't some fundamentally human skill, and can almost certainly be...

            Here's another way I want to put it:

            The thought process that an excellent writer goes through when making that story structure isn't some fundamentally human skill, and can almost certainly be described algorithmically or otherwise reproduced artificially.

            I don't believe there is anything special about a human writer, or human artist, or human game designer, that won't eventually be reproduced procedurally at a level we find indistinguishable from, or possibly better than, "the real deal."

            We look at today's procedurally generated content and we see repetitive landscapes and empty fields, but the only thing stopping us from also seeing procedurally generated stories, questlines, characters, dialogue, and more, none of which feels repetitive in the slightest, is iteration.

            One game that forshadows this eventuality, I think, is Dwarf Fortress. You can still usually detect that the characters, stories, histories, and legends of the worlds generated by Dwarf Fortress aren't yet at the same level as hand-crafted content. But they're also a lot closer than you'd expect, having experienced the comparatively bland procedural generation in Minecraft or No Man's Sky.

            There’s no molecular level to story structure or rewarding gameplay loops. It’s just design.

            This is the part where I have to disagree. In my opinion, there is micro-structure, or procedure, even when a human is doing it by hand. We're just not aware of that micro-structured procedure because it happens subconsciously. Or sometimes we are aware of it, like when it's classified and laid out step-by-step in game design coursework, or in a creative writing class. "Design" isn't elemental, in other words.

            5 votes
            1. fional
              Link Parent
              I guess, as a counterpoint, I think when you strip away all the mechanisms of communication—be it game design or storytelling or music or photography—I think there’s a qualitative difference...

              I guess, as a counterpoint, I think when you strip away all the mechanisms of communication—be it game design or storytelling or music or photography—I think there’s a qualitative difference between something that was created by an author to convey some message or experience, and something that is pure mechanism, no message.

              For example, I think modern AI experiments like GPT-3 and DALL-E are converging on mastery of their respective mediums, but it’s a real fear that a GPT-4 or GPT-5 could drown the internet in philosophical “p-zombies” that can say everything while saying nothing. Think like the Elsagate/Spiderman youtube videos that were autogenerated, yet occupied children for countless hours.

              I see a few possible routes: you can have a human author that uses procedural generation as a force multiplier to do more with less, but you will ultimately run into the limits of their necessarily finite vision on what they want to convey. Alternatively, AI can become so good to effectively attain the level of personhood necessary to convey messages, in which case “procedurally generated” becomes “hand-authored by a sentient being coerced into doing so” which is a bit tragic. Or the p-zombie AI can get good enough that we’re all watching the adult version of Elsa/Spiderman, which is also kinda scary.

              The future is weird. :)

              2 votes
    2. knocklessmonster
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I like your perspective. The goal matters. I'm persnallly not expecting much out of Starfield so I can be impressed by what is in the game. I'm also not really intending to follow how it's going...

      I like your perspective. The goal matters.

      I'm persnallly not expecting much out of Starfield so I can be impressed by what is in the game. I'm also not really intending to follow how it's going beyond release dates after this trailer, tbh, so I cant be hyped and disappointed (I do this for any media I think I'll like, tbh).

      6 votes
  2. [4]
    Autoxidation
    Link
    I'm looking forward to it. At the very least, it's an enormous canvas for mods. Hopefully it'll be another entertaining space game to sink some hours into.

    I'm looking forward to it. At the very least, it's an enormous canvas for mods. Hopefully it'll be another entertaining space game to sink some hours into.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      hungariantoast
      Link Parent
      Yeah it seems like the game has huge potential for mods. Hopefully it'll be possible for modders to create their own planets. I'm sure we'll also get a Sim Settlements-like mod at some point too.

      Yeah it seems like the game has huge potential for mods. Hopefully it'll be possible for modders to create their own planets. I'm sure we'll also get a Sim Settlements-like mod at some point too.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        Hopefully they've learned from Sim Settlements to add more potential automation. Given that any settlement in space IRL is going to be the tip of the spear for a very expansive supply chain, I'd...

        Hopefully they've learned from Sim Settlements to add more potential automation. Given that any settlement in space IRL is going to be the tip of the spear for a very expansive supply chain, I'd be deeply disappointed if those settlements are eight space scavengers in tin shacks.

        3 votes
        1. mat
          Link Parent
          I'll take that bet! That's exactly what they're going to be. I have zero hopes for Starfield being anything even close to as good as it promises - mods notwithstanding but I'm a console peasant so...

          I'd be deeply disappointed if those settlements are eight space scavengers in tin shacks.

          I'll take that bet! That's exactly what they're going to be. I have zero hopes for Starfield being anything even close to as good as it promises - mods notwithstanding but I'm a console peasant so generally don't get to play with mods. At least with No Man's Sky Hello Games were an unknown quantity so the disappointment was a bit of a surprise, especially after how well they talked it up pre-release. But Bethesda have a solid track record of being deeply disappointing (2009-onwards at least).

          I'll probably wait and play Starfield on the Playstation 8 because you know it's getting re-released every three years for the next two decades.

          4 votes
  3. [2]
    weystrom
    Link
    I mean, it's a space game. From what I've seen it looks like an AAA version of No Man's Sky without any procedural generation, so I can't help but be excited to play Starfield.

    I mean, it's a space game. From what I've seen it looks like an AAA version of No Man's Sky without any procedural generation, so I can't help but be excited to play Starfield.

    1 vote
    1. cfabbro
      Link Parent
      From IGN:

      like an AAA version of No Man's Sky without any procedural generation

      From IGN:

      "We do a lot of procedural generation [in Starfield], but I would keep in mind that we’ve always done that," Howard explained. "It’s a big part of Skyrim in terms of questing and some other things we do. We generate landscape using procedural systems, so we’ve always kind of worked on it. [The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall is] one we look at a lot in terms of game flow. And we had been developing some procedural technology and doing some prototypes, and it really started coming to a head with Starfield, in that we think we can do this."

      While he didn't go into details, Howard stressed that Starfield's procedural generation is robust enough to handle the sheer scale of variety required to build 100 solar systems' worth of planets:

      "So it starts with: Can you even pull it off, visually? You know, a planet. And a planet by itself, if you think about it in a game concept, just one planet is infinitely big if you’re going to do it in some realistic fashion. So once you’re dealing with scale like that, and procedural systems, the difference between, say, one planet that has some variation on it, and a hundred planets, or a thousand planets, it’s actually not that big of a leap, if that makes sense – once you have good systems working for that."

      But what Howard seems especially clear about is that there is a 'golden path' (or perhaps 'golden freeway' might be more appropriate) through Starfield, which represents the full, handcrafted Bethesda RPG fans would expect, and he stresses that the team has created more handmade content than ever before, set within its giant procedural galaxy:

      "I should also add that we have done more handcrafting in this game, content-wise, than any game we’ve done. We’re [at] over 200,000 lines of dialogue, so we still do a lot of handcrafting and if people just want to do what they’re used to in our games, and follow a main quest, and do the questlines, you’re gonna see what you’d kind of expect from us. But then you have this whole other part of, ‘Well I’m just going to wander this planet, and it’s going to provide some gameplay, and some random content, and those kinds of things.’ Kind of like a Daggerfall would, if you go way back."

      Again, the philosophy here is about saying yes to the player, allowing them to make detours into areas the designers wouldn't ever have been able to fill out, and providing something to do there, even if it's not a part of the main game.

      "We’re also careful to let you know that’s what [that procedural content] is. So if you look at space, you know there are a lot of ice balls in space, so that was one of our big design considerations on this game is, ‘What’s fun about an ice ball?’ And it’s OK sometimes if ice balls aren’t- it is what it is. We’d rather have them and say yes to you, ‘Hey, you can land on this.’ Here are the resources, you can survey it, and then you can land and spend ten minutes there and be like, ‘OK, now I’m going to leave and go back to the other planet that has all this other content on it, and I’m going to follow this questline.’

      "So we’re pretty careful about saying, ‘Here’s where the fun is, here’s this kind of content,’ but still say yes to the player and, ‘You want to go land on that weird planet, check it out, and build an outpost, and live your life there, and watch the sunset because you like the view of the moons there? Go for it.’ We love that stuff."

      6 votes
  4. vegai
    Link
    At some point in the not so far future (I assume this would be technically possible already, just not done yet), we're gonna have AIs write actual good content for games like these. So procedural...

    At some point in the not so far future (I assume this would be technically possible already, just not done yet), we're gonna have AIs write actual good content for games like these. So procedural hand-crafted stories. That'll be an interesting time, but certainly will have some of its own problems.

    1 vote