The Many Worlds of Charbitat

Game, Set and Match II. Notes from The Many Worlds of Charbitat, by Michael Nitsche from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

1958, Tennis For Two was basically a game of pong on an analog computer. Not much has changed since. Apart from notable exceptions.

As the technology develops and graphic engines get stronger, the environment becomes more detailed, the level of complexity increases and the development takes more and more time and money. Is there still a place left for innovation and independent game developers?

Developing procedurally-generated content could be a solution, for example: Charbitat presented here and Spore. Procedural environment use basic algorithms and varying seed values to generate the virtual space. In Charbitat, the space moves and is re-created over time depending on how players interact with it, their actions are translated into a data set which influences the seed values that controls the manipulation of the game world. Result: Charbitat allows players to craft personalized and meaningful environment simply by playing.


The system plugs into an existing commercial game engine (Unreal), splits up the world in tiles, clarify seed values (five elements: earth, water, wood, fire and metal). All along the game, the player is informed on the status, he or she can trace their actions.

The stories, developed as you’re playing, are always unique but they can be shared.

Description: a lone heroine sets out on a quest through hostile land and uses her growing skills to overcome obstacles and save the world. When the player starts the game, the character is in a solitary first cell of an unformed, endless world. When she reaches one of the borderlines of a cell and steps into the void beyond, a new area is procedurally formed and populated. Every new cell adds to the existing world and imprints the player’s behaviour patterns within the game space and its inhabitants.

Within each cell, the game engine records the player’s actions in a data set. The data is then combined with information on surrounding cells, to draft instructions on terrain generation and asset placement for the next cell to be built. If a player plays in a certain way s/he consciously affects her character’s data set and can anticipate the kind of space that she will create.

Players will be able to save their game states and return to it later. They can also swap worlds with other players. The developers think that players will probably develop a very personal relationship to their own world.

Developed by Michael Nitsche, Calvin Ashmore, Kate Compton, Jason Alderman, Matthias Shapiro, Rob Fitzpatrick, John Kelly, Martin Walsh.