The gaming myth of GADA (Go Anywhere and Do Anything)

GADA (Go Anywhere and Do Anything) has long since been a dream for me.

The idea, is simple. With computers being able to generate and simulate, via seeding, random number generation, fractals home computers have played host in their tiny kilobyte sized memories to entire star-systems, planetary landscapes, entire galaxies.

This is not to say these games “sucked” but they sucked in different ways, their heartfelt over ambition sucked us in and won us over.

HOWEVER

As graphic fidelity increased, so did the demands of these procedurally generated landscapes to be less barren.
Once we could get away with dotted lines to represent a mountain, or a shift in the 2 colour palette. (blood and escape from fractulus)
Once we could have space stations, and cities drawn in vector graphics (elite and mercenary).
Needless do I have to mention the never ending tile-based, with first person view, dungeon crawlers.
They gave way to Solid polygons.
Ha Entire galaxies in Elite:Frontier and a star system with planets/moons/island/cities/building/basements with Damocles.
yes yes,
but what about DOOOOOOM.
Yeah Scalable bitmaps baby. What say ye’ then!
With every generation of “new” 3d engines, the environments took a step up in visual fidelity, our simulated world got smaller.
For every room that had posters, cups, donoughts, tv’s, we lost entire city blocks.

Now this is a little unfair as lets face it, artists need to create all the props, set the lighting, and that takes WAY more time and effort than a random number generator spitting out pixels and polygons and we had to imagine what they represented.

But it feels with every DX level, every new level of hardware, or games console, the sales splurge is the same, never before has this level of photo-realism been realised in gaming of characters and environments. Mountains chains that never end. Cities that never end. Perfectly rendered celestial bodies that go on to infinity.

With this new set of hardware can we truly go anywhere and do anything.
But can we? Should we? do we really want to? Well of course we do!
But let us investigate.

Let us say, we develop a game that fits nicely onto a small disk. It’s contents are seeded. So it unpacks into a database of planets/cities/rooms/people. or better yet, that information could be on the internet.
However it is stored, it unpacks.
Art assets are designed to scale and to be interjected with each other, following the personality of the NPC who lived there,
Generating a world based on people needing to get to pretend jobs. Sitting in traffic jams. The whole works. It doesn’t have to render brilliantly don’t worry.
Let’s mirror Mercenary III, we start in our apartment we can take the public transport system to go to the space port. We take a spaceship to another planet. Take the public transport system to another building to receive our exposition.

but in the case of mercenary. once you dropped of the path of exposition. you were left with nothing to do.
But in the case of our modern mercenary as per the latest Nvidia endless city via tessellation.
We’ll have beautifull rendered scenary to look at, and look at these NPC’s doing their jobs in building that aren’t relevant to us.
And in fact….we STILL won’t have anything to do. It will just be a different set of nothing to do.
So now we are down to Go Anywhere and Do NOTHING.

Ah but let’s throw in Grand theft auto and saint row mentality.
Let’s start a fire, lets grab a gun and start shooting.
Yeah let’s watch this people run around in panic, before the police come down on us.
And so we get embroiled in a high-rooftop chase, leaping down to the street, a car chase, oh a helicopter is now involved.
This is amazing right, it’s a like the whole of gaming has come up to this ultimate vision of Go Anywhere DO anything.

However the case of elite / rpg dungeon crawler fatigue slips in.
Irrespective if you were in the first or last galaxy in elite,
irrespective if you were armed to the teeth, lightly armoured, in a hostile/anarchy/or peaceful policed system as they were just variable to increase/decrease combat and your survival in combat. Once you figured out, rear mounted guns and full speed ahead was the best tactic in the whole game, everything fell apart combat wise.
After exploring for so long you start to see the pattern in the seeding, the joins of where one random number calls one art asset in over the other.
Who really cares if the mountains are blue on this planet and the next ones are red. It doesn’t matter HOW beautifully they are rendered.

And with this exploration, what can we do?
In Elite the only thing you could do in the last galaxy was the exact same thing you did in the first.
Go from station to station, read the system bio’s which blurged into you not caring after a while.
Maybe swing by the sun.
maybe destroy an asteriod, or kill ships to collect money and/or stuff, to barter with to get money/stuff and after a while the gigantic scope fell apart. as you could only do the same things that you’ve always done.

So it becomes Go Anywhere and Do The same 5 things you did at the start of the game.

And so the hand of the developer is needed.
Story is needed. Emotions are needed.
Handcrafted environments to tell the story are needed.
We need to explore -yes, but we need to FEEL at the same time.
And that takes “craft” hand craft, not procedurally generating textures, triangles that can squeeze into the frame to generate infinite details.
We need to generate game worlds to sell the illusion, but at the end of the day if our hearts aren’t into it, the worlds are for nothing.

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