I often mention that my primary interest is procedural generation, particularly generating stories. While most of my time lately is spent trying to make small, reasonably scoped games, I really want to dive into ambitious procgen projects. So when this year’s November procedural generation jams rolled around, I decided to take the month off from finishing Automata Empire and generate stuff!

First off was PROCJAM, a week-long challenge to generate something — anything — whether it’s a game or art or music or just random noise. There aren’t really any formal rules so it’s extremely accessible. Recently I’d been thinking about an old game idea from 2012 for a corporate management sim, except the employees you manage are demons selling humans consumer goods in exchange for souls. Originally I’d shelved the idea since animating an isometric office of monsters was too much work but then I reimagined it through the lens of a collectible card game with your workers represented as employee files with randomly generated polaroid photos stapled to them.  That seemed like something I could complete in just a few days (since I had to travel for the last half of the week of procjam).

The first step was establishing the head shapes. I decided I could add variety by layering two different head shapes to create the overall silhouette and drew eleven of them. I was pleased to discover that flipping the heads I’d drawn vertically added even more variation.

Collaborating with my fiancee to draw dozens of eyes, mouths, and horns was the fun part.

I found the method to derive commonly used RGB color from HSB color values, which enabled me to select random hues for the monster’s skin, suit, and features with specific saturation levels and vary the brightness so that the face layers and neck were slightly different skin tones.

With all the components drawn and ready to color, the last step was placing them all intelligently. This was a step-by-step process. Suit shoulders of a random width and height are positioned at the bottom of the frame. The neck of course must be as wide as the collar of the suit, but with its own random height. And so on with the background and foreground heads. The last challenge is knowing where to place the facial features relative to the center of the head. Since I had made some of the heads radically different shapes, there needed to be a safe zone specified for each head type so that eyes weren’t floating outside faces. For lack of an easy way to derive this due to the vertical asymmetry of the heads, I decided to just define a rectangular region for each head that defined the limits for placing features. The mouths and eyes could be scaled down in size so that they’d fit the dimensions of that rectangle multiplied by the head’s scaling factor. A little vector math got the demon generator pumping out polaroids.

The fun part after all that work was populating arrays of silly text to fill out the employee files. Degrees in Creative Accounting and Middle Management from Poison Ivy League schools such as Hellmouth and Harmward and Yael. Appropriately demonic skills such as Faustian Bargains and Extremely Graphic Design. With the simple generator finished, I achieved my goal and submitted to itch.io just in time to catch my flight.

I’d like to pick this concept back up after Automata Empire is released in 2016 and add the corporate management logic and UI over the existing employee generator. I’d also like to improve the color generation to give some of the monsters slightly better fashion sense. Hopefully I can finish the full Souls & Accounting game by October in time for Halloween and the US presidential election.

For now, you can download the simple employee generator on itch.io. I recommend checking out all 100 procjam submissions too!

Procedural November 2015: Part 1, #procjam

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