Mesdames et Messieurs,
We're back with our first update to Ambition: A Minuet in Power, this time covering our party map generation system. Of course, you're probably wondering what that all means, so let's get started!
Parties and Maps
You go to a lot of Parties in Ambition, as these allow you to meet new people and advance yourself socially. In Parties, the Player moves around a map of the venue, exploring the estate and engaging with different groups of guests in conversations. Think of it like a dungeon crawl, but with more backhanded compliments and social maneuvering, instead of goblins and dragons.
An art mockup of what a normal Party Map might look like. Mockups like this help us establish the end goal of the visuals before committing more resources to something that might not work. As you can see here, the Player hasn't fully explored the party yet, as some rooms are still shrouded in darkness.
Very early on in this project we realized that if we had to make every Party Map ourselves, this mechanic would get really stale, really fast. Players are great at pattern recognition, and would notice duplicate maps quickly, even if we made 50 different party maps. This is why nearly every venue you visit will be procedurally generated, helping make each party, and each playthrough, feel different. This is a common feature in rogue-like games, but Ambition presents some unique challenges here.
This party map generation system, has to generate maps that aren't just fun to play, they also have to look and feel like actual 18th century homes. As you might have guessed, it's the most complex system in the entire game. Here to talk about that system further is Mike, our Lead Engineer!
Take it away Mike!
Procedural Party Map Generation (Aka: 'Baroque-Like')
One of our objectives in Ambition is to present the player with a world they can come back to and explore in a variety of ways. One method utilized by games like Spelunky, Dwarf Fortress, and Don’t Starve is rogue-like map generation, a method where maps are generated procedurally to suit the game’s context. In Ambition, we have an opportunity to explore the aesthetic of pre-revolutionary France in the architecture of the period. For France, this was the late Baroque period, when people of great wealth would build elaborate, ornate chateaux and mansions, frequently taking cues from the Palace of Versailles. This was also the period where the Rococo style came into its own, demonstrating many notes from the late Baroque aesthetic, but incorporating elements of asymmetry, curvilinearity, and trompe l’oeil.
Considering the significance of the setting to the context of the game, we naturally want to be able to interact with historically significant locations around Paris, like the Chateau de Versailles and the Palais du Luxembourg, but for the most part, notable characters in the game will have randomly generated mansions that are intended to be convincingly appropriate for the period. Parties hosted by individuals more closely aligned with the Crown will entertain at homes more in line with the traditional late Baroque style, where Bourgeois hosts may tend more towards the modern Rococo style. So while the mansions are randomly generated, they are guided by control variables like wealth, personality, and faction.
Creation of this system was largely a challenge to myself to be able to generate these maps that would not only be configurable, but to enable the artists to add their own flair on top of the procedurally generated map. What surprised me the most about this process was incorporating the nuances of creating a realistic, recognizable floor plan. Where most rogue-like systems are content with creating connected masses of navigable terrain, generating a recognizable floor plan requires closer attention to minutiae like where to put the doors, the spacing of the windows, and the proportions of the rooms. The period itself imposes other nuances, like the tendency to use antechambers rather than hallways, and the proximity of certain types of rooms to the heart of the mansion. This sort of detail is in no short supply in game, and has also informed the gameplay as well.
Thanks for reading this update, and have a great day!
All the best,
Joy Manufacturing Co.