Reality Check - You Can Play XCOM 2 ForeverGameSpot's Lucy James speaks to the guys from Firaxis to find out how they've implemented procedural generation into XCOM 2 to make it never ending.
[MUSIC] Hey guys I'm Lucy Ann welcome to Reality Check. Now the term procedural generation is being thrown a lot lately and for good reason. It's basically game development magic. Well, it's actually very [INAUDIBLE] programming, but let's face it, that's its own kind of magic. Usually with games, the levels we play are handcrafted, so everything from the map's layout, enemy spawn point, and decoration are deliberately placed in specific areas in the environment and they Take the citadel in mass effect, no matter how many times I visit it or how many times I replay the game, the Citadel will always look the same. And when games have an element of procedural generation, it means that a multitude of things like terrain, buildings, and art textures All created according to the parameters set by an algorithm so they'll be different everytime you play. Now back in the day, memory limitations on gaming systems meant that quite a few titles had procedurally generated levels. Like, for example, X-COM: UFO Defense from the early 90's. X-COM got rebooted with Enemy Unknown back in 2012 and it shipped with about 18 That is a lot but it's a finite amount that the fans soon exhausted. Well ExCon two the team at Thoraxus have implemented a procedural generation system that can basically create an infinite number of maps so theoretically you can play ExCon Two forever without ever seeing the same map twice. But how does it all work? I have done Skype to the guys at Firaxis to find out. So we learn a ton of lessons from [INAUDIBLE] with what makes up on map with respect to cover distribution and, and, and again the sort of the subconscious element of oh we need this much color, cover. Or this much deco in this building to sort of sell the building. All of that is inherited knowledge that we're bringing to [UNKNOWN] two. But the team did have to build a pipeline from ground up for multiple reasons, because of the procedural map set that we're talking about. They're not building a hololistic giant map that might be a bar. With of all of the external elements completely hand placed and static and never moving. Now they sot of thinking of thinking about everything in these smaller submaps. So rather than building 85 maps for Enemy Unknown. They're really working on hundreds and hundreds of maps. But smaller maps that all have to work together in these countless for XCOM 2. So we have these things called parcels. And if you have parcels those are sort of like levels. In Ex-Comm 1. They could be a building, they could be a park, they could be anything that you want it to be. And they work on this thing that they call a plot system. That is sort of the transition matrix that, kind of, the parcels pop into little empty holes. The roads are essentially empty. And whether it's cars that drop down trees, telephone booths, whatever, all those kinds of objects now they come in procedural chunks as well. But what happens to the parcels when you've got more than one setting or plot type? I mean, it would be really weird if there was a convenience store in the middle of a forest, for example. We chose parcels systematically. They chose in biomes. So if you're going to a city center map, it'll call only city center parcels. If you're going to a wilderness map it will call just wilderness pieces. So that's the way we kinda keep it grouped. So with the algorithm in place the game knows how and where to place parcels so that the level makes logical sense to the player, but why is that important? Well, Firaxis had to find out the hard way while tinkering with procedural generation in Enemy Unknown, and in the end that feature didn't make it into the final version of the game. Randomness can be good if it fits the vision of the game and it doesn't have to marry with aesthetic and logic. if it's more of abstract game. But in our world there is this narrative core and this platform that you're on Earth. You have to have an emotional connection with Earth. You have to recognize the convenience store that you see on the corner. Things were just too random with our original system where. That, that emotional connection was completely getting broken because there wasn't enough logic behind it. So you didn't feel like you were saving Earth you sort of felt like you were saving this hodgepodge of, of Earth-like components arranged in a random way. So we, we, we had to unify the two of, of mechanics and aesthetics and narrative and that's where we feel like we're done with XCOM Two. So with so many different variables like time of day, setting, enemy spawns and general stuff in the environment, how do make sure it all works? Oh my gosh yeah, I remember one of our development directors said to me when I talked to him about what the design is going to be of X-Com 2 and when we're working out How are we going to QA all of this? It adds some complexity to it, but in some ways I think it makes it a little easier because you know what part you're looking at that is swapping or having the problem. So once you adjust it in one place, it usually systemically will fix it in others. So it does make it a little bit easier in some cases since It is a bit more systemic and a little less hands on like it was in ExCon one. Enemy Unknown didn't really ship with mod support, but that's not the case with ExCon two. So you can fiddle around and make your own procedural levels if you want to. You could take our existing, again, hundreds and hundreds of maps we've created, that are parcels And you can either modify those, change them. Just the materials, just change the textures, or if you know how to model you can create a whole new tile set if you want, yourself. If you have the skills to do that. It should be great, it's super flexible. If a modder wanted, they could make 70% of the level be fixed and 30% of it be procedural, or vice versa. It's a really robust system and I think it'll be great for modders. So there's all these different components that sort of lead to this feeling of "I may have seen this before but not quite in this way." And then when you layer on top, you don't know what's going to be inside and where the enemies and is there going to be an objective inside this time because we have procedural objectives So you really get this feeling of I can play forever and not seeing the same exact thing twice. And we are very very excited about that. So your going to be playing XCom2 until the end of time let me know in the comments or on @lucyjamesgames. Thanks for watching guys and I'll see you again next time for some more Reality Check. [SOUND]