Procedural maps in Spy DNA

Since shipping our pre-alpha demo, the pace of development hasn’t slowed here at Shy Snake. Even as we’ve been posting less on our blog, we’ve been working harder on Spy DNA. After reviewing the feedback from our play testers, we’re working to make the game even more engaging and intuitive to play in time for the Beta release.

What should you expect from Spy DNA when it goes to Beta? Well, for one, it will have procedurally generated maps.

This means that each time you start a mission, it’ll have a unique map, so that even if you’re replaying the level -- or the whole game even! -- you will have to work out the strategy each time you play.

You’ll encounter different buildings, different street and block configuration in cities, or different terrain and vegetation in rural areas. The items to be retrieved or civilians to be rescued will not be in the same spot either. There may be elevation changes, and the enemies may come from a different location.

Depending on the difficulty level, there may be less or more cover, and obstructions to line of sight, in addition to the competency level of your enemies.

All of this together will guarantee a unique experience each time you sit down to play Spy DNA, and it will take both Alex and Jason’s efforts to make it work. 

That's a lot of boxes

That's a lot of boxes

Alex is already working to create architectural modules out of which the program will assemble all the buildings in the world of Spy DNA. The blocks will come in a variety of sizes and shapes to cover all kinds of structures, from family homes to military facilities and everything inbetween. 

In order to make the different buildings look unique, we’ll be designing numerous materials that will change the appearance of the buildings’ surface. This way we can make our cities have all the kinds of buildings you’d expect, from residential houses with wood siding, to industrial brick structures, to stucco apartment buildings, and steel, glass, and concrete of the commercial and office complexes.

Look at that office carpet. Look at it.

Look at that office carpet. Look at it.

When you load a level, the algorithm will combine the building blocks into complex maps depending on some pre-defined parameters, things like, is it a city or a forest? What kind of buildings if any, are there? What are the mission objectives? 

If you have to restart a level, you can expect the general look and feel of the map to remain the same, while its topography changes. So if the first time you found yourself in a city, you can plan on the mission being set in an urban setting on each playthrough, but you may find yourself in what would feel like a different part of the same town.

Using procedural maps also will allow us to adjust difficulty level for each level with more nuance. If the map is static, the only “levers” we can adjust are enemy skills and numbers. With a procedural map, we can adjust pretty much every aspect of the level as needed. More cover for the party, more easily spotted objectives, helpfully positioned fire escapes for your sniper, less cover for the enemies, all this will contribute to the mission being easier to accomplish. Adjusted the other way, the terrain, vegetation, and building layout can all contribute to make the mission more challenging.

One final aspect of procedural maps is that on top of adding a lot of flexibility they also allow us to make better use of our expertise.  Alex will be have more time to expand the story and create additional missions, adding to the amount of gameplay you, the player, get.  We have a lot of mission ideas and now we will be able to include far more of them in the game.  

We want to make Spy DNA a game that you can return to over and over, a familiar, but yet always engaging world, and procedural maps will help us achieve just that.

What do you like about procedural maps? What are your pet peeves? Tell us in the comments below. We read all of them!