Procedural Generation

Procedural generation: Creating infinite algorithmic realities

Embrace dynamic content creation with procedural generation. Build expansive and ever-changing worlds with environment-design software.

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What is procedural generation?

Procedural generation is a technique used in animation, visual effects, game development, and many other fields to create digital content algorithmically instead of manually designing it.

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Procedural generation in entertainment

Procedural generation relies on mathematical algorithms, randomization, and predefined rules to create diverse content such as levels, maps, characters, textures, and more. Procedural generation offers several advantages, including scalability and the ability to generate content on the fly, making it a valuable tool in modern media and entertainment.

The concept of 3D procedural generation has evolved over decades, with early examples dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. It gained prominence in video games through titles like Rogue and became widely recognized with the release of Minecraft and No Man's Sky. In recent years, procedural generation has continued to advance, becoming an integral part of creating dynamic and diverse content in various digital media and software applications. 

Procedural generation offers game developers a versatile toolkit for dynamically creating a wide range of assets. These assets encompass everything from lifelike terrain, level layouts, textures, and 3D models to characters, items, and quests. Procedural generation in games even extends to crafting immersive soundscapes and adaptive user interfaces. This approach enhances gameplay variability and optimizes development efficiency. The specific assets generated are tailored to the game’s design and genre, embracing a fusion of procedural and handcrafted content to deliver diverse and engaging player experiences.

Procedural generation is a vital tool for VFX pros tasked with bringing fantastical visions to life and the big or small screen. In the film and TV industry, procedural techniques are applied primarily in visual effects, where they assist in generating realistic simulations of natural phenomena like combustion, snow or particles, crowd behavior, and virtual environments.

Additionally, algorithms can contribute to soundscapes and music generation and—in some experimental cases—can explore generating scripts.  However, the use of 3D procedural generation in the entertainment industry remains a supplement rather than a replacement for human creativity and storytelling, serving to enhance specific aspects of production while preserving the artistic and narrative elements that define movies and television.

Benefits of procedural generation

Procedural generation offers benefits in various industries, including film, television, games, and more. Some of the key advantages include:


Procedural generation can create vast amounts of content quickly and efficiently, reducing the need for manual design and content creation. This is particularly valuable for quickly generating custom visual effects or environments.



It provides a high degree of variability and randomness, making each playthrough or interaction unique. This allows for the creation of responsive and adaptive environments and experiences.



Procedural generation can adapt content to different hardware specifications, screen sizes, or player preferences, helping to ensure a consistent experience across devices and platforms.


Resource conservation

It reduces the storage requirements for assets because generated content is created algorithmically at runtime. This can save storage space and reduce load times.


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Procedural generation resources

See how Black Forest Games combined handcrafted models with procedurally generated elements to create an epic gaming experience.


Meet an award-winning member of the Bifrost software development team building tools that make game production more efficient.


Learn how VFX pros collaborated across continents to create legendary characters and iconic environments.


Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about procedural generation

What is an example of procedural generation?

A classic example of procedural generation is the creation of terrain in video games. Terrain-generation algorithms create realistic or fictional landscapes—such as mountains, valleys, and plains—using procedural techniques. Games such as Minecraft and No Man’s Sky use procedural terrain generation to create vast, diverse worlds where each playthrough results in a unique landscape. This provides a sense of exploration and discovery and efficiently generates expansive game worlds without the need for manual design.

What is the difference between procedural generation and random generation?

Procedural generation is an algorithmic approach that systematically generates content based on predefined rules and parameters, allowing controlled variability and purposeful design. It’s repeatable and provides structure to content creation. In contrast, random generation relies solely on chance, introducing unpredictability and uncontrolled variability into the content. It is nonrepeatable, creating different outcomes each time. The choice between procedural and random generation depends on the need for structured, designed content (procedural) or purely random, unpredictable outcomes (random).

Does procedural generation use artificial intelligence (AI)?

Procedural generation is primarily based on algorithms and predefined rules to create content systematically, but it can also incorporate AI techniques to enhance its capabilities. AI can be used for pattern recognition, adaptability to user interactions, creating entities with complex behaviors, improving content quality, generating narratives, and validating generated content. This combination of procedural generation and AI allows more sophisticated and dynamic content creation in various applications, including video games and simulations, by adding learning, adaptability, complexity, and quality control to the generated content.

Is procedural generation an algorithm?

Procedural generation is not a single algorithm but a general approach to content creation. It involves using algorithms, mathematical formulas, and predefined rules to generate content systematically. The specific algorithms and techniques used in procedural generation vary depending on the type of content being created, whether it’s terrain, textures, patterns, structures, or more. Procedural generation is a versatile and powerful concept used in fields such as game development, art, and simulation, enabling efficient, dynamic content creation through algorithmic processes.