How to make virtual worlds more convincing

Video games often feature expansive worlds to explore. But a combination of rigid structure and bland surface randomness leaves them wanting for depth and meaning. A company named Improbable wants to fix this.

Virtual worlds will no longer feel as if they're built of "cardboard," says Improbable's CEO and cofounder, Herman Narula. Moreover, using Improbable's technology, objects and entities will be able to remain in the virtual world persistently, even when there are no human players around (currently, most virtual worlds essentially freeze when unoccupied). And actions taken in one corner of a game could have implications later or in another place.+

Virtual worlds are already often expansive. The procedurally generated game No Man's Sky, for example, presents a virtual galaxy that is too large for any human to fully explore within his or her lifetime (see "No Man's Sky: A Vast Game Created by Algorithms"). But even if we are awed by the sprawl of their geography, the complexity of such worlds is limited by hardware and software limitations.

Worlds Adrift is the flagship game in development using the system.

I'm eager to see this in action. The price of increased complexity and realism is often a counterproductive uncanniness, a finer level of detail that firmly reminds the observer of how far it remains from reality.

Making simple worlds more convincing? I enjoy it when generative techniques are reserved for nature, "man-made" stuff such as cities or buildings are designed by hand, and when much of the world remains inaccessible, an imagination-triggering mystery.