ETAO Podcast, Episode 94.

Oskar Stålberg builds little town dioramas, as he puts it—or more exactly, he builds the procedural generation tools that allow him, and his algorithms, and you the player to build little town dioramas together. You could call this an extension of his work on the “megamap” in The Division, and certainly of his smaller projects such as Brick Block, and of the elegant map generation in his first commercial indie game Bad North. But in some ways, Townscaper is the purest and most focused expression of his sensibility, his skill, and his aesthetical and technical preoccupations.

Here Oskar talks about the allure of procedural generation, the oft-unsung joys of toys (as distinct from games or tools), and the vital emotional difference between encountering randomness and embracing wonk.
Some colorful, close-packed buildings in Townscaper, with some birds resting on one and a gray sky behind.
You can get Townscaper on Steam.
You can also follow Oskar on Twitter.
• I sort of conflate European and Scandinavian names (and by extension, cultures) in the intro—but in the interview, Oskar talks a bit about those very distinctions (and overlaps), so I’ll call this a case of me sounding dumb but you being informed nonetheless. (On-brand, in other words).

• “Don’t be a sucker” is a reference to this.

• Here’s Oskar getting deeper into the technical side of the wonky quad grid in Townscaper.

• And here he is talking about the procedural generation in Bad North, and specifically about that game’s use of wave function collapse.

• Martin Kvale’s work really is wonderful.

• The best summary of that research on intrinsic and extrinsic rewards is probably this episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit.

• The study that I mentioned, and that Mark Brown uses as a source in that video, isthis one.
“All The People Say (Season 3)” by Holly Hyperion.
“Copenhagen” by Walter Melrose and Charlie Davis, performed by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra.
“Mush Mouth” by Buddy Johnson, performed by Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra.

We’re on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Spotify, PocketCasts, Overcast, Podyssey, and RadioPublic. You can also subscribe using good old-fashioned RSS.

Logo by Aaron Perry-Zucker, using Icons by by Llisole, Dávid Gladiš, Atif Arshad, Daniel Nochta, Mike Rowe, Jakub Čaja, Raji Purcell and IconsGhost from the Noun Project.

Left-click to play. Right-click to download.

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