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procedural generation

Procedural Generation – Mass Customization Monday #39

Last week we spoke to you about Generative Design and mass customization. This got us to thinking. Are there alternative trends that could replace generative design to make all the things? One we hit on is procedural generation. 

procedural generation

The board game Settlers of Catan is also in effect procedurally generated. A few simple rules and tiles lead to a wide number of possible worlds Creative Commons Yoppy..

Randomly building worlds

In procedural generation; worlds, dialog, characters, planets, storylines are created more or less randomly through software for games. We are approaching a world where design will become digital, and everything will be subject to the remix. Then surely the game design tools of the present may be the product design tools of the future? If every product is data waiting to become solid, then the most efficient manipulator of that data will become the tool used, regardless of what it was initially intended for?

Building Civilization in Civilization

procedural generationCivilization has infinite procedurally generated worlds.

procedural generation

The 1991 first release of Sid Meier’s Civilization also had procedurally generated worlds. Given the inexorable progress and huge investment in games software, shouldn’t it invariably outpace CAD?

Some of the most popular computer games worldwide use procedural generation. In Civilization, maps are procedurally generated, in Minecraft entire worlds. In many games, items are placed around the game world through procedural generation. Procedural generation tools save game companies time. Rather than have to make each level by hand a game world can be infinitely reconfigured. Rather than have a set number of static levels, games can have potentially infinite levels. When making a procedural generation system, the game designer puts in constraints, rules and in effect determines the limits for the procedural algorithms.

No Man’s Sky

Above you can see just some of the examples of the 18 quintillion planets of No Man’s Sky.

Procedurally generated games are far from a panacea, however. No Man’s Sky was an overhyped game that would give us infinite worlds of unimaginable detail. It ended up being critically lambasted with many users wanting their money back. Star Citizen is a crowdfunded game that is massive in scale and ambition with procedurally generated planets, cities, and universes. Doubts continually have persisted about Star Citizen ever making it to players hands, however. Mainly since the game was meant to be released in 2014. This has left procedurally generated content in games as being an exciting but risky prospect.

procedural generation

Star Citizen will have cities and planets that are completely procedurally generated.

Procedural Generation in products?

Procedural generation

Users can already 3D print their Minecraft creations. Is this a better way to create than CAD software?

Procedural generation Procedural generation

Game inspired jewelry featured on shapeways

The same software tool paths that take CAD, 3D modeling, mass customized and generative software outputs and turn them into manufactured items can be used to do the same for procedurally generated output. The 3D models in games are rougher and need to be repaired to be turned into good manufacturing inputs. 3D scanning software, software such as Magics and Geomagic and tools such as GamePrint already can be used to repair meshes from games and turn them into inputs for digital manufacturing. Mass customization infrastructure can be connected with these tools and procedural output to create a new way to design.


Many millions design inside games such as Minecraft. Characters, maps, and the game environment is customized by people from all over the world. Moreover, games are meant to be played by the vast majority of people. This means that the character design tools or design elements in these games are easy to use. Could in the future a Nintendo console or Microsoft’s Minecraft combined with AR be the default way that people design and mass customize goods? We believe that this is a very compelling and interesting path to a mass customized future.

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