Symposium: What’s next for procedural content? (Nov 10-11, ’14)

Procedural-content generation (PCG) in games has become a well known technique. Will Wright some years ago touted PCG as the “future of content”, and now procedural-generation techniques underlie influential (even if experimental) games such as Spore, Spelunky, and Dwarf Fortress. Among journalists, whether automation will “replace game designers” is a perennial, if often loosely grounded, topic of speculation. And among researchers, the field has grown into a sizeable community, exploring dozens of techniques.

The techniques used in PCG have begun to spill over into and/or harness
resources from quite a range of neighboring fields: computational
aesthetics, computational creativity, design automation, HCI, game
analytics, procedural graphics, design theory, evolutionary computation,
logic programming, software verification, etc. Since we (the organizers)
recently completed a draft of a textbook (
surveying the current state of the field, the symposium is motivated in
part by the question: where next? What of this wide range of influences
can we import and adapt, and what else new should we develop?

Suggested areas of focus (to be narrowed based on interest):

– PCG’s impact on game design:
Design methodologies for incorporating PCG into the design process;
PCG-centric genres; playtesting/QA impacts of PCG; researching how PCG
is already used “in the field”.

– Content-agnostic and content-specific PCG:
Much research uses content-agnostic methods: evolutionary computation,
constraint solving, etc. On the other hand, some systems, especially
in industry, are closely tied to specific content (SpeedTree,
hand-crafted level generators, etc.). Will we specialize into
“procedural X generation”?

– Automated game design:
How should we think about and approach fully automated game design, if
at all? Does it make sense to think of designing entire games,
rulesets, etc., as a broad kind of “content generation”? As a special
case of genetic programming? As an application domain for
computational creativity? What would a realistic 5- or 10-year
research agenda tackling the topic look like?

– Low-level design-automation tools:
In engineering, electronic design automation (EDA) and computer-aided
engineering (CAE) have made semi-automated design of artifacts such as
circuit boards and car parts standard practice, integrated into
typical engineering workflows. Is game development in need or want of
tools in the style of EDA/CAE?

– Generative programming languages:
Outside of games, music- and art-focused procedural/generative
programming environments are burgeoning: SuperCollider, Impromtu,
vvvv, Structure Synth, Pure Data. Can we as PCG researchers hook our
systems into this style of programming environment?

– Operationalized design theory:
PCG systems implicitly constitute operationalized design theories,
with commitments to game ontology, structure, and sometimes design
processes. Can this be pushed into being explicit?

– Brainstorming/prototyping tools:
Rather than focusing on automating production of finalized content,
can PCG techniques help designers with interactive brainstorming?

==Schedule and participation==

November 10:
Invited talks from PCG researchers and practitioners on advances,
problems and prospects for the field. Speakers/schedule TBA.

November 11:
Discussion/workshop day aimed at debating & developing a 5-to-10-year
outlook for PCG research & development.

To participate in the entire symposium, please send a short expression
of interest by email to Mark Nelson <> by October 10,
with your background and interest in the symposium. We’ll try to
accommodate all interested participants, but due to space and
practicality constraints, may have to limit participation if the number
interested is large. There will be a nominal registration fee (likely

Those simply interested in attending the talks on November 10 do not
need to apply or register. Talks will be open to the public, with a
schedule posted on the website closer to the event.

IT University of Copenhagen
Rued Langgaards Vej 7
2300 Copenhagen S
(by transit: metro to DR Byen st; walk north 500m)

Mark J. Nelson <>
Noor Shaker <>
Julian Togelius <>

More information:


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