For the last ten months or so, I’ve been watching from afar the development of ground forms and landscapes for a game called Sir, You Are Being Hunted, from Big Robot. Big Robot, of course, is a small game design firm founded by Jim Rossignol, who has guest-posted here on BLDGBLOG a few times over the years and who I interviewed back in 2009 about his book This Gaming Life.
What I’ve been captivated by is the so-called British Countryside Generator, a “procedural world engine” using “spatial division maths” that allowed Big Robot to generate aesthetically recognizable rural British landscapes.
“I’ve worked on a number of procedural world generation tools before,” coder Tom Betts explains on the Big Robot blog, “but this particular engine is unique in that the intention was to generate a vision of ‘British countryside,’ or an approximation thereof.”
To approach this we identified a number of features in the countryside that typify the aesthetic we wanted, and seem to be quintessential in British rural environments. Possibly the most important element is the ‘patchwork quilt’ arrangement of agricultural land, where polygonal fields are divided by drystone walls and hedgerows. These form recognizable patterns that gently rise and fall across the rolling open countryside, enclosing crops, meadows, livestock and woodlands. This patchwork of different environmental textures is something that is very stereotypically part of the British landscape. I looked for a mathematical equivalent we could use to simulate this effect and quite quickly decided upon using Voronoi diagrams.
The basic topology is thus established, one that, despite its mathematical abstraction, “looks remarkably like… the British countryside.”