Early games Many years ago when computer games were just starting to get their footing, memory constraints prevented developers from releasing games with lots of pre-made content. As a result, content such as maps would be produced on the fly using algorithms.
The term "random" is sometimes used interchangeably with "procedurally-generated", but developers tend to prefer the latter term because For example, the game Pitfall has a world layout that is procedurally generated. But this was not perceived by the player as randomness, because the room generated would be deterministic given the players number of "screen steps" into the game world and a fixed random starting seed. (see: GDC 2011 Pitfall Postmortem, "World Layout")
Today, however, technology has reached the point where developers can spend time modeling textures, characters, buildings, etc. and then put them into the game (after rendering them in the game engine first). As technology continues to evolve and technical capacities continue to increase, a sort of consumer demand arises that forces artists to spend even more time creating highly detailed objects. Players nowadays tend to expect highly detailed environments and more in games, so artists need to spend longer on individual aspects like characters and buildings to meet the expectations.
- Borderlands - A procedural generator creates weapons. The final game has over 17,000,000 unique guns.
- Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 - Enemy placement, weapon placement, and more are generated procedurally.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Uses procedural animation for the water effects.
- Just Cause - The game world was procedurally generated.
- Elite - Virtually all the game's content was created procedurally.