Reset Button: The Biggest Game Ever

By Shamus
on Jan 4, 2010
Filed under:
Movies

I took my thoughts on FUEL and distilled them into a short video. Most of this was stuff I’d covered before, but it was nice to be able to go over it with the help of visuals.


Link (YouTube)

I use Windows Movie Maker once a year, and every time I have to re-learn the whole thing. The goofy way it organizes media. The little interface quirks that will crash it. The flukes that create little clicks and pops when going from one muted soundtrack to another. I finally have it figured out now, but I’m sure I’ll have forgotten it all again next time I sit down to make a video.

Ah well. Hope you find it interesting. Please spread it around if you do.

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is a programmer, an author, and nearly a composer. He works on this site full time. If you’d like to support him, you can do so via Patreon or PayPal.

20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

From the Archives:

  1. Gavin says:

    … but the world looks incredibly monotonous and artificial.

    Just like Fuel then!

    Here’s hoping Fuel 2 has Guns, Anybody Else besides random trucks and More Guns. Also take a leaf out of Bethesda’s book and make it moddable: Fuel 1 could still have worked if they’d let the fans fill in the blanks.

  2. Peter H. Coffin says:

    And some races that actually take advantage of the size of the thing. Like you pick a size and a number of sides for a polygon, and the game sets up 5-8 random (but accessable) checkpoints. Pass all of them and then touch the first one you did a second time to finish. Or drive through checkpoint that last square km in each corner, no breaks, no pause, no transport, just drive. Stuff that’ll be like an interesting version of Desert Bus.

  3. Pierre says:

    Gah Windows Movie Maker is awful *barf*

    Good video though!

  4. Frank says:

    So I don’t particularly like racing games either. But it looks soo pretty in the video, and once I saw that was the PC version I decided to hit it up on Steam. £2.99 – yeah, baby!

    It would be interesting to see if there was a sales spike following your posts, Shamus.

  5. seanf says:

    Good timing, Shamus! I nearly missed the fact that Fuel, er FUEL, is on cheap in the Steam sale. Can’t argue with a tech demo for 5 bucks. Your video prompted me to check, just in time…

  6. Patrick says:

    I had a similar idea about doing a Shadowrun RPG (see link for a dry description). Missions and quests would be (mostly) randomly generated. Challenges, locations, threats, clues and even hints could be created automatically for players who need them. Plus, it’s a lot cooler to have one huge world you can really do stuff in, as Shamus points out.

  7. Henebry says:

    Very cool work, Shamus. I’d read your earlier posts, but it was great to see your earlier points illustrated not with stills but with full-screen moving video. Really brought the whole thing to life.

    I found it strange to hear your voice after all these years reading your column. It took me a while to get used to your face, when that started showing up as the banner from ExP, as I’d somehow constructed a mental image of your face that was different from the reality. Now I get the same strangeness from hearing your real voice.

    One question: you inserted a qualifying asterisk when you reported Fuel as the largest gameworld ever (on a console). What bigger gameworld is there on PC?

    • Shamus says:

      Henebry: Well, the world record explicitly states that it’s for consoles, so I thought I should include that.

      The only larger (unbroken) world I know of is the one run by my company. :)

      It’s about 655360 meters on a side, so it’s 429,496,729,6002m in total. It’s been running since 1995 (and it shows, sadly) and that space is open build-able space. You can see an overhead map of it here:

      http://www.activeworlds.com/community/maps.asp

  8. Brendan says:

    Shamus, I’ve been reading your blog since shortly after DMotR, but this is the first time I’ve posted.

    This video is incredible, both as a demonstration of the game – what with the scenic flybys that underly your narration – and on it’s own merits; a great improvement on your last gaming video. If you’re not careful, The Escapist will have you doing these as well.

    Oh, and the largest game for PC is Elder Scrolls Daggerfall, at twice the size of Great Britain. Similar to Fuel in that it’s procedurally generated; different in that its just the same town over and over and with landscape monotony unmatched by any other mortal achievement before or since.

  9. Abnaxis says:

    I would like to officially complain about the text pop-ups. I got maybe a third through the longer ones before they went away, and had to rewind and pause.

    Other than that, it’s a good video. Seven minutes to go through all thouse thousands of words you already posted about the game is pretty impressive :)

  10. Mari says:

    I don’t care for racing games either but since the price is right I’m picking it up to look at the pretty procedural world.

    For the record how is it that you write/rant like you’re 80, look like you’re mid-30’s, and sound like you’re 16? Have you managed to conquer the space-time continuum and didn’t tell anybody?

  11. Nyaz says:

    Eeeewwww, Windows Movie Maker! Shamus, there are so many much more not-stupid video editing applications out there…!

    …Well, most of them aren’t free, but… I’m just saying. Windows Movie Maker is beyond horrific.

    And why do you always make me interested in stuff I don’t think about? Damn it! Now I’m going to be thinking about how much data terrain takes the next time I play a game. Hm. Well I guess that isn’t a bad thing, really. Uhm. Where was I? Was I complaining about something? I don’t remember.

  12. Jeremiah says:

    Great video, but I’ve gotta agree with Abnaxis. Some of the text comments were a bit too short (I’m no speed-reader, but I’m also not terribly slow). Also at times you talked right over the comments and it can be difficult to focus on hearing what you’re saying as well as reading the text that pops up and be able to process both.

    I did really enjoy it, though. I enjoyed it in text when you first put some of those thoughts on your blog and I enjoyed seeing those thoughts visualized this way.

  13. Frank says:

    Serves me right not the read the full product page – Fuel on Steam comes with Securom! *Delete*Delete*Delete*

  14. Mik says:

    Seriously – a Mad Max licensed game with procedural location and terrain placement, quick-paced and frantic vehicle combat, and some good team/enemy AI? Oh, and a sense of *V A S T desolation* and destruction punctuated by interesting things to see and do? I’d go for that.

  15. illiterate says:

    The content on this is great, the visuals are edited really well, but something in the audio is bugging me. Maybe too much pop? Too much breathing? Not fast enough delivery?

    Believe me I’m not trying to troll or be insulting, but perhaps you should talk to the LRR folks on audio recording technique?

    Seriously I get the feeling this has the potential to be a good regular feature, but I think the audio is going to be hard to get past.

  16. bbot says:

    Windows Movie Maker

    Well there’s your problem.

  17. LintMan says:

    I think the reason we don’t see this more often is because a bigger world doesn’t necessarily mean a more interesting game.

    As you said, Oblivion’s world is relatively small – almost ridiculously small if you coonsider how many cities and villages are crammed into that 4 sq km, but it is jam-packed with “content” (ie – stuff to do). You could head off in any diredction and quickly encounter an interesting/notable location of some type, but even given that, I was grateful for the fast-travel mode, because after a while trotting back and forth between places you’ve already traveled between got to be a slog.

    If they were to put Oblivion (or Fallout) in a giant world like Fuel’s, the likely result would be having the same number of interesting/notable locations, but they would just be (much, much) further apart. That would add a lot to the realism, but I’m not sure it would make a better game. The slogging around in Oblivion and Fallout 3 already got boring at times, even with the small worlds.

    Now, of course the developers could place more content in the game, so the “intersting location” density remained the same, but that would probably be cost-prohibitive for the developer. If the developer used procedurally-created content to cheaply fill the big world, it would likely result in a 1000-hour game with tons of random arbitrary quests instead of a 100-hour game with interesting ones.

    I haven’t played any of the GTA-style games. Would they be enhanced if the city was made much larger?

  18. illiterate says:

    @Lintman — I’ve been really wondering what is possible for that with procedurally generated content. DF with graphics!

  19. SiliconScout says:

    Go procedural on the world with say 75% of the quests (maybe even all the side quests) also being procedural.

    The only “placed” quests would be those that advance the story arc.

    All those annoying FedEx type quests that are filler in most games could be procedurally generated.

    Basically the story arc quests would be there and you take them on when you think you are ready. Keep the story quests wide open, don’t limit them by Level per say.

    If you want to make it a little more friendly have a “buddy” the PC can bounce the story idea off to get a measure if you are ready for it or not.

    Something like
    “The Crags of Peril!! Seriously <> you are a tough guy and all but Grognak the Crusher didn’t make it out of the Crags and he would have taken you easy!”

    Few levels later
    “I dunno <>, I mean we have been through some serious stuff. But the Crags, are you sure we can make that run man?”

    Few levels later
    “You remember asking me about the Crags, I keep wondering with everything we have seen and done by now we haven’t gone in there and sorted that out.”

  20. Mom says:

    @abnaxis ditto
    @ illiterate asthma

  21. Lex Icon says:

    I would love to have seen this kind of terrain generation in Borderlands. The early trailers promised a vast desert to drive in and fight bandits from a car. In the actual product this happens roughly twice, both times in a smallish area.

    I want to drive for ten minutes at a time, and come across wandering gangs of raiders in crazy vehicles, not drive in a circle around a pillar pressing the *Shoot Rockets* button ad nauseam.

    /rant

  22. Pickly says:

    You voice sounded different here than I remember it sounding in Team Fortress 2 a few months ago (Though maybe my memory’s just fuzzy.)

    Overall, I liked the video, though you speaking did have some “saliva crackle” that sometimes pops up in other radio shows, presentations, and such.

    It forget of the terrain layers demonstration was in an earlier post, but it was useful to see (again?) how something like that would work.

  23. ngthagg says:

    I wonder how they pick the scale for that world record. Games set in space obviously have a larger gameworld, but only in absolute terms.

  24. MintSkittle says:

    The Genesis version of Shadowrun kinda had procedurally created side-quests. They usually consisted of “go to location and kill X number of baddies” or “go to point A, get package B, deliver to point C.” Though there were a few interesting bits where you would be wandering about, and a random scene would happen, like “a disheveled looking person stumbles out of a crowd, and is tackled by guys in white coats, what do you do?” Sometimes the guy was being kidnapped, sometimes he was an escaped mental patient, and the white coats were taking him back to the asylum.

    Because the side quests are all created on the fly, there will never be an end, there will always be something to do.

  25. LintMan says:

    @illiterate – I was thinking of something along the same lines myself – a DF or NetHack -style “every play-through is unique” game.

    @SiliconScout – That might work, if they could make the procedural quests interesting, complex, and varied enough that players don’t immediately recognize (and get bored with) the quest “formulas” used for the procedural stuff. That might be pretty hard to do. Most of the random-type stuff in Oblivion (like most dungeons and demon gates) was really boring – the best stuff was all hand-crafted (ie: guild quests, shrine quests).

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    Left 4 Dead series: static levels that are the same each time (with some variance in the actual path taken in L4D2), but with a director A.I. that choerographs a unique experience each time according to consistent rules. Also, fantastic basic gameplay ingredients focused on teamwork and survival.

    FUEL: Huge, beautiful, algorithmically generated world (that is the same for every player) that lacks gameplay. But if you like exploring, it’s the best game ever.

    The Entire Roguelike Genre: unique algorithmically generated worlds that look like corrupted text files until you learn the vocabulary for each one (d might be dog, dragon, demon, etc.). Extremely detailed mechanics and each playthrough is utterly unique, but tough learning curves and presentation restrict them to niche genres.

    jRPGs & Bioware games: Quirky/Lovable/Hate-able characters: an ensemble cast that, with the best ones, you remember as fondly as your favorite Sci Fi ensemble casts. Involved storylines and dialogue. Epic plots. But no procedural content at all. See Mass Effect for how to properly do Nice/Jerk dialogue/character branches (as opposed to the sillyness of Fable) as well as storylines and choices that have effects not just on the current game world but into the sequels.

    What we really need is a game that has an algorithmically generated cast and plot. “But, Mad Tinkerer!”, you say, “How the heck would one even begin to do that?” Well go read The Writers’s Journey and TVTropes.org for the algorithms you would use. It’s actually quite straightforward.

    The player customizes The Hero character’s look and back-story. The ensemble and world are generated so that the player has a path from The Moisture Farm to Blowing Up The Death Star (or Kakariko Village to Death Mountain, or whatever the locations will be called in a particular iteration) with plenty of sidequests and other stuff filling in the terrain that’s not part of the path. See jRPGs for the cast, plot, and setting archetypes, Fuel for the overworld, Roguelikes for the dungeons/interiors, & L4D for fight choreography. It’d be much like the triple-A games we have right now, except different every time you play.

    A game with a deep procedurally generated plot, setting and characters is possible, in my opinion. I just wonder sometimes why I seem to be the only one saying this. (But hey: once I’m done my studies and I’m the first guy to accomplish it then I’m fine with that too)

  27. Deoxy says:

    MadTinkerer…

    Heh, yeah, that all sounds good. Of course, as an example, you can look at the complexity of Dwarf Fortress, see that’s it’s still in Alpha after several years of solo development, then realize that what you are describing is orders of magnitude more difficult and complicated to actually do…

    Yeah, good luck with that. I’d love to play such a game, but the level of effort involved boggles the mind.

  28. Cuthalion says:

    Heheh. “Recreating the speeder chase scene from Return of the Jedi.” Nice.

  29. Blake says:

    Nicely cut together for someone who doesn’t make videos all that often.
    I will add that some of the captions disappeared too quickly though.

  30. James says:

    I really liked your visual presentation here along with the commentary. It allowed me to get your point much more quickly then I would have normally.

    Please do more videos in the future. It was joyous to see this one. Maybe a weekly/biweekly/monthly type of deal? Any of those would satisfy me a lot, and I’m sure your fanbase would enjoy them.

    loved the “recreating the speeder chase” part ;)

  31. Cody says:

    You sound so young Shamus, it’s hard for me to put that voice to your face. Hmm, unintentional backhanded compliment?

    @Illiterate: They already kind of did dwarf fortress with graphics, it’s called Stonesense. I don’t really know how far along it is in development but if you look at the pictures on the DF forums of the visualizer it will probably end in some kind of religious experience.

  32. Mrsnugglesworth says:

    Interesting voice. Its nice to hear what you sound like. Even if it is totally opposite what I thought your voice would be like.

    Cheers then.

  33. Volatar says:

    Shamus, I do not think you have EVER told us who you work for specifically, until now.

    ” The only larger (unbroken) world I know of is the one run by my company. :)

    It’s about 655360 meters on a side, so it’s 429,496,729,6002m in total. It’s been running since 1995 (and it shows, sadly) and that space is open build-able space. You can see an overhead map of it here:

    http://www.activeworlds.com/community/maps.asp

    Why have you not mentioned it before?

  34. Kalil says:

    Just looked it up, and according to the All-Knowing Wiki, Daggerfall is 161,600 square kilometers, dwarfing FUEL’s measly 14,400.
    It looks substantially more cut/pasted, but considering that it dates back to 1996, I can’t hold that against it. It’s still an awesome piece of work.

  35. SimeSublime says:

    I was going to write in to say that you sound a lot younger then you claim to be, but many people have beaten me to it. So instead I’ll say you sound a lot less Australian then when I read your text off my monitor. Granted, due to certain geographical reasons all text I read has an Australian accent, but I’m still stupid enough to be surprised.

  36. Dnaloiram says:

    Yeah, as people have said above me, you sound really young.

    Which is weird, because my mic makes me sound much older. Any idea why that is?

    OT: I actually use a 3-D animation program for my video editing, even though that’s just a side feature. I really like it. It’s Blender, maybe you could try that?

  37. Veylon says:

    The problem with procedurally generated content is that it’s mostly random quests of either Kill X or deliver Y or Get Z.

    On the other hand, it ought to be possible to have a larger meta-game playing out in the background. You know that Evil Empire you keep hearing about? They have a plan, and if you complete quests against them, you weaken them, and if you ignore them, they grow stronger. Killing off X becomes more meaningful if it slows up the building of the Death Ray. And the destruction of village Y matters more if you could’ve prevented it by slaying Dragon Z in a timely fashion.

    This way, every capping quest is the sum of many smaller quests. All that killing and delivering can have an actual impact in the game world to the player by having the towns’ sizes, makeup, and existence dependent on the player’s action or inaction. The player could even sit back and watch as the baddies conquer the world and begin erecting monuments to themselves.

  38. Tony says:

    Nobody here seems to mention Frontier: Elite II from 1991, which procedurally generated our entire galaxy. The only reason you could get anywhere in a reasonable time is a combination of ridiculously powerful spaceships, hyperspace and the ability to fast-forward in time.

    Going from where you hyperspaced in to your destination planet usually took about 3 to 4 in-game days which, if you didn’t fast-forward, would take you three actual days.

    Spore, of course, also did something similar.

  39. Lord of Rapture says:

    I cannot properly express my astonishment at hearing Shamus Young’s voice for the first time. It sounds like nothing I would imagine.

  40. Zaxares says:

    Hmmm… I do have one question.

    If the entire world of Fuel is procedurally generated, doesn’t that data now have to be stored somewhere? I mean, what happens if the player drives past a small town that the program created on the fly, and then 5 mins later, after they’ve crossed halfway around the gameworld, decides to do a 180 and drive back the way they came? The exact details of the town need to be stored in memory, otherwise the player could end up driving past the same location, only now the place is a placid lake surrounded by verdant forests instead of a ramshackle town made of rusting corrugated iron and sun-bleached wood. It could be seriously immersion-breaking.

    • Shamus says:

      Zaxares: The terrain is generated on the fly, but it’s not random. It’s generated in a deterministic manner. It gets the same result for the same area every time.

      In the example I gave in the video, I could fire up the terrain program and combine the two data sets again and get precisely the same topography.

  41. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I know what would be perfect for fuel:Zombies.Mix fuel with carmageddon,and you have instant fun.It is a postapocalyptic wasteland after all,and what better way to spice it up than mad max drivers bent on killing pedestrians and smashing each other.

  42. mookers says:

    Nice video, Shamus. I guess I read quickly, because I didn’t have any trouble with the captions. Anyhow, my only criticism is that the video is actually so well produced and presented that the self-effacing jokes in the credits were a little forced. I know that much of your humour comes from making fun of your own idiosyncrasies, but repeatedly telling us how much you suck when you obviously don’t suck gets a little old after a while :P

  43. Searly says:

    Shamus,

    If you love making up your own fun then you should try Just Cause. Its a budget title now and I got it on the recommendation of someone else. I really have no idea what the plot but mainly I just stuff around doing jumps, hijacking helicopters and doing strafing runs or beaching boats (after doing stupid jumps).

  44. asterismW says:

    Adding to Shamus’ response to Zaxares: I think of it like math equations. The game stores the equations, but not the answers. So location A has static equations that will always produce the same answers (terrain), even when you leave and come back.

  45. SteveDJ says:

    The video has some editing problems. Specifically, at about 5:50 (and again right at the end), you pop up some text to read – quite a bit, in fact – but only leave it for about 2 seconds. I’m not that good of a speed reader, so have to stop the video and go back so that I can finish reading your commentary.

    Otherwise, very fascinating video. Thx!

  46. Mephane says:

    I finally decided to try out the demo, and I must say, the landscapes look great, I love the feeling of this wide, open area…

    But what bothered me and is holding me back from buying the game, is the forced vehicle choices. The demo lets you explore one area, and drive two different races. A motocross race, which is great fun even for someone like me who usually doesn’t like racing games.

    The second one is a time trial parcours which you are forced to do with some sort of self-made “car” that drives like on slippery oil – which I totally hated. Then I found out that the other races would have forced me onto the motocross bike if I didn’t already drive it…

    So, the game seems promising, but I don’t look forward to being forced to vehicles that are so crappy that I have to wonder how anyone would even want to put them in a game.

  47. Miral says:

    Just a few references to other games, for the curious:

    As Tony mentioned above, the combination of procedural content with a random engine (so it’s not the same every time, unlike FUEL) and random missions was used in Spore. It’s not bad, exactly, but it does devolve into grinding once you’re familiar with all the mission types. This was mitigated a bit with the first expansion, which allows custom scripted missions, but even then there are a limited number of mission types. (And as Veylon suggested above, it kinda does have an evil-empire plot going on in the background too.)

    The Matrix Online also did randomised missions (basically the “filler” fetch-this, kill-them type quests were random, with a few story-advancing scripted missions scattered around too), but again they got quite monotonous after a while.

    An interesting contrast is Darwinia. That uses procedural world and enemy generation (each of the levels is described in a text file that sets up a bunch of functions and parameters), but each level has still been edited by hand (putting this terrain-function there, setting this type of enemy here, etc) and so the world layout is consistent every time. Of course it’s on a much smaller scale, but still… that game is a lot of fun. :)

  48. Robert says:

    I like exploring. If I could get it for the Wii, I think I would. (I hate racing, but it looks like you can turn that off and just noodle around seeing things.)

  49. Neil Polenske says:

    Said it last time, and I’ll say it again, cause it can’t be said enough:

    INTERSTATE ’76!

    Kick ass music, kick ass cars, kick ass bell bottoms, kick ass afros, kick ass mustaches…seriously this list goes on for a few more hours… This game is just BEGGING to be modded into funkadelic awesome!

  50. VonBraun says:

    The Escapist should definitely pick this up.

  51. That’s an interesting technique in generating the world – your demonstration, video, “slapdash” editing, etc. is damn good. I must admit I got all excited about the train engine thing until I saw your subtitle. Then I got slightly more excited, which of course is also a bit worrying. I think programmers in general worry a lot of people.

  52. Johan says:

    Fallout 3 with motorcycles sounds AWESOME.

    Oh yeah, and procedurally generated world ftw.

  53. […] by Shamus on January 6th, 2010    Previous in Personal: Christmas TraditionsIn my Reset Button post, Volatar asks why I’ve never mentioned my employer […]

  54. Moriarty says:

    Hey Shamus, just wanted to let you know that youtube banned your video again.

    At least it’s blocked for viewers from germany which usually means it’s blocked in most of europe.

    The video itself says:
    “Dieses Video ist in Deutschland leider nicht verfügbar, da es möglicherweise Musik enthält, für die die erforderlichen Musikrechte von der GEMA nicht eingeräumt wurden.
    Das tut uns leid.”

    Which roughly translates to “This video is unavailable in germany because it possibly contains music which isn’t licensed by GEMA”

    (link to english wikipedia article about gema: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gesellschaft_f%C3%BCr_musikalische_Auff%C3%BChrungs-_und_mechanische_Vervielf%C3%A4ltigungsrechte )

  55. What’s up, this weekend is pleasant for me, because this moment
    i am reading this enormous educational piece of writing here at my residence.

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    […] by Shamus on January 6th, 2010    Previous in Personal: Christmas TraditionsIn my Reset Button post, Volatar asks why I’ve never mentioned my employer […]

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