Generation, evaluation, and optimisation of procedural 2D tile-based maps in turn-based tactical video games
Abstract: In modern times, procedural content generation sees frequent use in video games, producing anything from graphics to maps and quests. This study focuses on how these techniques can be used to produce forest maps for tactical role-playing games, and how this is applied in particular to Starshard, one such game. The main points addressed are how well the forestry growth simulation algorithm previously implemented in Starshard compares to algorithms based on other popular techniques, how to utilise evaluation and optimisation to produce correct and strategically interesting maps without human interference, and whether or not players can easily perceive a difference between procedural maps and maps designed by humans. With high demand for new algorithms to automate content generation in order to help smaller teams of developers and maintain interest in content post release, there is much value in delving further into less frequently explored aspects such as tile-based maps or player perception of procedural content. In order to answer the research problems, a controlled experiment comparing four forestry generation algorithms was performed, in addition to a study of literature to implement evaluation and optimisation algorithms, and a survey to gauge player reactions to the produced maps. Ultimately, the growth simulation proves to be more successful than alternative algorithms in reducing number of errors in maps. In addition, the results of the survey showed that while players are capable of reliably picking out human created maps, their ratings for procedurally generated maps were not much lower than these and they could frequently mistake procedural maps as being produced by humans.
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