Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

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evan466
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Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

Saw this mentioned a few places so I wanted to talk about it. Similar to when the game was originally announced, one of the cooler features was the totally destructible environment that the team advertised. Because of the controversy around the game, this addition few under the radar. Even now it's basically impossible to find information about it outside of interviews from Peter Tamte where he mentions how no one talks about it. But for a game originally in development in 2009, this was a very unique addition. The only games that could really compare back then was the first Bad Company game (2008,) which the destruction was mostly limited to blowing the walls off buildings, and the Red Faction game (2009,) which did have a very impressive scope of possible destruction.

While they are no longer advertising the game as having a fully destructible environment, they have created something possibly equally as innovative*. A producorial artchiture system that somehow randomizes the insides of building and restructures the map itself. I struggle to think of another game that can cycle through urban environments like this. Only XCOM 2 comes to mind with it's procedurally generated maps, including city environments, and even then it is a isometric game not requiring the same level of detail as a FPS would. (Stick with me I'll get to my point eventually.)

I've seen some quiet chatter from people looking at this game, attempting to sidestep the larger discussions about the context of the game, and admiring the possibilities of a FPS in an urban landscape that's new every time you play. But with that comes some criticism of the game which I think is misplaced. The thought process, I imagine, is this: The game is attempting to pride itself on accuracy, from the general feel of the Middle East and the city of Fallujah itself, down to the smaller details on a soldier's uniforms. So, why in a game, that is attempting to be this accurate, would the city of Fallujah change like this? To say it plainly, buildings do not move around and the insides do not magically change like that (whether this happens every time a new mission begins or only when you start a new campaign, I do not know.) But, if buildings are not in their correct places, if this isn't the best attempt at a 1x1 scale model of Fallujah (which I believe the original game did attempt to do in some form,) then we're breaking from historical accuracy, right? Well, not really.

I want to introduce you to two different forms of story telling. We have what is called "happening-truth" and what is called "story-truth." I could do my best to explain these two forms myself but I'm going to figuratively pass the baton on to one of my favorite authors, Tim O'Brien, who wrote about the differences between the two in his excellent book The Things They Carried (which I recommend everyone read and is available in full on this government website https://lessonbank.kyae.ky.gov/wp-conte ... l_Text.pdf.) For context, The Things They Carried is about Tim O'Brien's time as a foot soldier in Vietnam. I wanted to shared a short chapter from the middle of the book titled "Good Form" where he discusses these two types of writing:

Good Form
It's time to be blunt.
I'm forty-three years old, true, and I'm a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier.
Almost everything else is invented.
But it's not a game. It's a form. Right here, now, as I invent myself, I'm thinking of all I want to tell you about why this book is written as it is. For instance, I want to tell you this: twenty years ago I watched a man die on a trail near the village of My Khe. I did not kill him. But I was present, you see, and my presence was guilt enough. I remember his face, which was not a pretty face, because his jaw was in his throat, and I remember feeling the burden of responsibility and grief. I blamed myself. And rightly so, because I was present.
But listen. Even that story is made up.
I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth. (emphasis added)
Here is the happening-truth. I was once a soldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I'm left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief.
Here is the story-truth. He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of about twenty. He lay in the center of a red clay trail near the village of My Khe. His jaw was in his throat. His one eye was shut, the other eye was a star-shaped hole. I killed him.
What stories can do, I guess, is make things present.
I can look at things I never looked at. I can attach faces to grief and love and pity and God. I can be brave. I can make myself feel again.
"Daddy, tell the truth," Kathleen can say, "did you ever kill anybody?" And I can say, honestly, "Of course not."
Or I can say, honestly, "Yes."

Finally, we're bringing it all back and getting to the point. Does designing the city using procedural architectural hurt the historical accuracy of the game? The answer is, it depends. If you come into the game hoping to see every building, street, bush whatever in the correct spot, then you'll be disappointed. But, as they've mentioned in their trailers, they want you to feel what soldiers felt as they walked into these building not knowing what is on the inside. Without a randomized city, this might be true for the player their first run through the game, but if they replayed, suddenly they know what's coming and the game strays farther and farther from it's original purpose, which is trying to accurately represent the feelings and emotions the marines faced as they cleared Fallujah house by house and street by street. So, in the sense of happening-truth, the game is not faithful with procedural architecture. In the sense of story-truth, the game is accurate. Which is truer? I think it depends on the creators purpose and here I think the story-truth form helps them better reach their desired end.

*We will have to wait and see as we have not received a lot of information on this. Does a room just cycle through a couple different rooms the devs have created or will the insides' of buildings always be unique and the outlay of Fallujah itself always look different? I can only speculate at this time.
TJ_Spartan
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Re: Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

Maybe the game should give you the option to turn off procedural architecture and generate a historic accurate map. That way, you can experience Fallujah close to how it was seen by actual boots on the ground. And then after the first playthrough, players can turn on the procedural feature back on so they have a reason to replay the game but with a differently arranged enviroment.
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Re: Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

Couldn't they pull something similar to what games with "moral choice" systems like Shadow the Hedgehog and Alpha Protocol did? Where the story points change in order to fit the game's situation?

Do NOT mistake this to state that they should add in a "moral choice" system itself, but integrate a similar concept into the game's flow. What I mean is have it where, in order to work around the limitations with procedural generation and attempting to tell a consistent story, you have it where the order of the "documentary clips" also change order to best fit the player's situation. For example, the gameplay trailer dislayed the player's squad clearing the house. With said trailer also talking about how they were surprised to find a machine gun behind the door, civilians in the basement, and/or the house being empty. Well, the level start with the doc clip of the soldier talking about them clearing a building, with the player entering in to an entirely empty build, and then queue up the clip talking about the soldiers relief; then, later in the game, have a similar situation occur (With a similar opening clip), but the building has insurgents armed to the teeth, and then queue up clip of the soldier talking about how they found a gun right behind the door. Then, the next time the player plays the game, with the procdural generation randomization, the result is that the earlier part could have insurgents in the building, resulting in said repective clip queueing up in responce to that, the following situation having the building with civilians inside, and placing the emtpy building clip later on.

However, despite how viable that idea may be, that could bring about the problem of that game's "story flow" may end up being all over the place. Typically, from when I've watched documentaries, there's a beginning, middle, and end all designed from the start. If they implament this idea, after they've already setup a "flow" for the story, that could result in players playing the game in the order of (For example) ending, beginning, middle. A solution to that could be to break the randomization down into only select parts of the game containing this level of randomization, with others being less randomized, but I have no idea if they have already talked about this being an issue (Much more, if they've found a possible solution to this).
evan466
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Re: Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

TJ_Spartan wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:23 pm Maybe the game should give you the option to turn off procedural architecture and generate a historic accurate map. That way, you can experience Fallujah close to how it was seen by actual boots on the ground. And then after the first playthrough, players can turn on the procedural feature back on so they have a reason to replay the game but with a differently arranged enviroment.
That sounds like a good idea to me.
evan466
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Re: Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

Temp account wrote: Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:40 pm Couldn't they pull something similar to what games with "moral choice" systems like Shadow the Hedgehog and Alpha Protocol did? Where the story points change in order to fit the game's situation?

Do NOT mistake this to state that they should add in a "moral choice" system itself, but integrate a similar concept into the game's flow. What I mean is have it where, in order to work around the limitations with procedural generation and attempting to tell a consistent story, you have it where the order of the "documentary clips" also change order to best fit the player's situation. For example, the gameplay trailer dislayed the player's squad clearing the house. With said trailer also talking about how they were surprised to find a machine gun behind the door, civilians in the basement, and/or the house being empty. Well, the level start with the doc clip of the soldier talking about them clearing a building, with the player entering in to an entirely empty build, and then queue up the clip talking about the soldiers relief; then, later in the game, have a similar situation occur (With a similar opening clip), but the building has insurgents armed to the teeth, and then queue up clip of the soldier talking about how they found a gun right behind the door. Then, the next time the player plays the game, with the procdural generation randomization, the result is that the earlier part could have insurgents in the building, resulting in said repective clip queueing up in responce to that, the following situation having the building with civilians inside, and placing the emtpy building clip later on.

However, despite how viable that idea may be, that could bring about the problem of that game's "story flow" may end up being all over the place. Typically, from when I've watched documentaries, there's a beginning, middle, and end all designed from the start. If they implament this idea, after they've already setup a "flow" for the story, that could result in players playing the game in the order of (For example) ending, beginning, middle. A solution to that could be to break the randomization down into only select parts of the game containing this level of randomization, with others being less randomized, but I have no idea if they have already talked about this being an issue (Much more, if they've found a possible solution to this).
Yeah, that sounds like it could be pretty disruptive to the flow. Not that it's not an interesting idea. But you'd be taking bits and piece from different interviews and splicing them together. I think it might be a little too disruptive of the stories that each interviewee was trying to tell, but we will see. Of course until we get more information or play the game we won't know how exactly they will implement the doc bits and interviews into the story.
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Don't Panic
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Re: Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

Just a thought for your argument/suggestion.... the narrative campaign could have a set world and the co-op could be procedurally generated for the replayability. I personally do not mind having it in both narrative and co-op though as I intend to play the campaign much more than once and having that procedural generation would make it extremely interesting every single time.

With all this being said those are just suggestions and I fully support what they're doing at the moment and what their plans are moving forward.
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Lavish4u
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Re: Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

It's also about the time to create both. I assume the Procedural Architecture is already a lot of work by itself and it being more accurate would be a lot more times. Guess the studio will need to see if its worth the time investment and if they're even interested in going that route. I do worry about procedural architecture however I have faith in the development team.
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Re: Procedural Architecture vs Historical Accuracy

Thanks for your discussions on this.

While maps are generated procedurally, there are cases where the specific architecture of a building, layout of the streets, or presence of objects is vital to the recreation of a story. For these "Signature Buildings and Environments," we only randomize aspects that aren't necessary for a realistic recreation of the encounter.
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