Game developers should embrace randomness – but not too much

It must have been turning 40 yesterday that caused me to find myself reading the Observer newspaper Health supplement left over from this weekend. The ‘special’ this week was entitled ‘25 things you need to know for a healthy life’ and number one on the list was ‘Embrace randomness’.

It must have been turning 40 yesterday that caused me to find myself reading the Observer newspaper Health supplement left over from this weekend. The ‘special’ this week was entitled ‘25 things you need to know for a healthy life’ and number one on the list was ‘Embrace randomness’.

We should, according to psychologist Nassim Nicholas Taleb, embrace randomness so as to not worry about catching our normal train everyday and just go with flow to adopt a more free flowing lifestyle. The argument goes: embrace randomness, find new levels of creativity and ultimately achieve a higher plane of self-expression.

It’s no surprise that I saw direct links here to application development and in particular, games development.

The British Computer Society published a piece by change management vendor Perforce this week. In the article, Dave Robertson talks about ‘pipeline programming’ for games developers. He describes a controlled pipeline to house to the flow of creative processes for games creation (with its huge binaries) so that inventiveness and randomness can exist, but in a managed way.

Robertson’s BCS piece says, “In many cases, the fact that pipeline control techniques exist means that the development team enjoys greater peace of mind in terms of overall project progress. This in itself opens up a new world of creative thought so that games studios can start to dream up newer and ever more compelling games.”

This type of ‘restricted randomness’ appears to be emerging as a recurrent trend in games development. My above ramblings come on the same day that NVIDIA is pushing out its latest graphics debugging and performance analysis tools.

The company says that complex programming and rendering techniques mean that game developers need to debug and optimise their games after production. That way they can focus on playability and creativity with a lighter debugging burden – and therefore, presumably, more randomness.

So take a different train, walk home on a different route, talk to a stranger and maybe embrace randomness. But don’t loose control.

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