The Grokalow

One day, the grokalow crawled out of the swamp.

“It looks like a gargantuan alligator”, cried a bystander, as it approached.

“Nay, it is a brobdingnagian crocodile”, countered a second, as the grokalow licked its leathery lips.

“Without a clear definition, we cannot conclude this thing is a threat”, surmised the third, settling the matter.

The grokalow ate them all, with great satisfaction.

Editable WFC

When I spoke about autotiling, I briefly touched on how it’s possible to use Wave Function Collapse (or other constraint based generators) as a form of autotiling, i.e. user-directed editing of tilemaps.

I’ve usually referred to this technique as “editable WFC“. It’s a combination of autotiling and WFC, and contains the best of both:

  • Being an autotiler, it allows users to easily and interactively make changes to an existing level.
  • Being constraint based, it automatically ensures that those changes are consistent with the predefined rules of the constraints, potentially making further changes to the level to make it fit

This is different from most other autotilers, which either require manual configuration of patterns used to enforce good behaviour, hidden layers, or come with more stringent requirements on what tiles are available.

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2d Marching Cubes with Multiple Colors

2d Marching cubes (sometimes called marching squares) is a way of drawing a contour around an area. Alternatively, you can think of it as a drawing a dividing line between two different areas. The areas are determined by a boolean or signed number value on each vertex of a grid:

But what if we didn’t have a boolean value? What if we had n possible colors for each vertex, and we wanted to draw separating lines between all of them?

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Classification of Tilesets

Many years ago I started looking at different sorts of tiles sets used by artists. A good tile set is flexible enough to allow tiles to be re-used in a lot of situation, but simple enough that the tiles can be easily created. Ideally, it would enable autotiling or otherwise be easy to design levels with.

Though I covered a few different techniques back then, I fell short of any systematic discussion of tiles. Here I plan to take a more rigorous approach, in the hopes of making a common language for referring to different tile sets, and pointing out the key variations in design. Maybe we’ll even discover something new, like Mendelev predicting new elements for the periodic table.

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Infinite Modifying in Blocks

I’m going to share with you a technique I’ve found for doing lazy, reliable, deterministic, constant-time infinite generation of tile based levels using Wave Function Collapse (WFC). But first, let’s cover some background, Modifying in Blocks, and lazy chunk based infinite generation.

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Constraint-Based Tile Generators

Last article, we were comparing WaveFunctionCollapse (WFC), and Model Synthesis (MS). These are both similar procedural generation techniques that work along similar lines. Specifically, they generate a grid of tiles (or pixels), using a set of hard constraints, and some generalized solver technique to find a solution, a set of tiles that satisfies all the constraints provided. Let’s call this overall class of thing constraint-based tile generators.

The techniques have been pretty popular in recent years, and part of that is because it’s actually a very easy concept to experiment with and extend. Many of the more practical examples in the wild include their own extensions, as basic WFC tends to produce levels that look a bit repetitive and structureless.

Today I thought I’d do a review of all the different ways that you can customize this generation technique, showing how WFC and MS are subsets of a greater class. The whole family of such algorithms is much larger and I think there’s a lot of potential still to explore.

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Model Synthesis and Modifying in Blocks

I’ve written a lot about Wave Function Collapse. Developed in 2016 by Maxim Gumin, it’s an algorithm for generating tilemaps and pixel textures based on the constraint solving with extra randomization . But did you know most of the key ideas come from a paper written a full decade earlier? Today, we’ll be looking into Model Synthesis, the 2007 PhD dissertation of Paul Merrell, and some of the elaborations he’s designed, particularly Modifying in Blocks.

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