There's plenty of interest when it comes to middleware that use procedural techniques to either reduce the size of downloadable games and/or maximise precious bandwidth when it comes to streaming textures from a disc or hard-drive. There's not been too much focus on how they can accelerate workflow or improve the quality of gameplay prototyping though.
That's one of the angles that French middleware company Gamr7 is pushing however. It's working on its Creative Ürban Suite, which consists of three tools that will enable you to procedurally create everything from huge cities to individual buildings.
The first version, covering cities and smaller areas, is due for release sometime in late 2008, while the entire suite is pencilled in for a GDC 09 unveiling. But in the meantime, working with select partners, Gamr7 has been pointing out how the technology could help out when it comes to the more prosaic problems that can arise at the end of a project.
One of the most amusing examples described in its literature at the Leipzig Games Convention 08 concerned a WWII game where late in the project it was found the tanks had been made bigger than they were supposed to be, which unfortunately meant they wouldn't fit down some of the streets. The advantage of using such a procedural technology in such a situation is it's easy to tweak the basic underlying definitions of the city to make the roads wider. The only other alternative would be to be time-intensive process of redoing the streets (or tanks) by hand.
"We provide a smooth curve from prototyping to full production," says Gamr7 technical director Lionel Barret. "We can make a city more complex very easily. If you suddenly want to add lamp posts, we can add 50,000 in the correct position immediately."
Look out for a full interview with Gamr7 in the next issue of Develop, out next week.