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Symposium: What’s next for procedural content?

November 10, 2014 - November 11, 2014

We invite you to a two-day symposium discussing future directions for procedural content generation in games. The first day will consist of a set of public talks from researchers and practitioners; the second will be a smaller focused discussion to develop R&D directions targeted at a horizon of 5–10 years.

Background and topics

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, Impromptu, vvvv, Structure Synth, Pure Data. Can we as PCG researchers hook our systems into this style of programming environment?
Most PCG systems are either standalone systems, or one-off custom solutions. Can they be pluggable and interoperable? Can doing so help advance research?
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. Talk schedule.
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 (mjn@anadrome.org) 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 €20).

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

Can’t make it, and/or want more PCG the same week? Participate in the online PCG jam!

Travel information

See the travel information page.



November 10, 2014
November 11, 2014
Event Category:


Mark J. Nelson, Noor Shaker, Julian Togelius