If you've ever played a role-playing game, from Final Fantasy V to Skyrim, you'll know that the genre loves its tropes. From orcs and goblins to swords and sorcery, the same themes come up time and time again. Sometimes this is exactly what you want, but often - particularly when it comes to the classes players choose to be, and the skills they have available - we want to have something new to challenge us. This week The Saturday Paper is about getting the game itself to come up with new abilities and class ideas for RPGs, with a little guidance from the player.
Where might this research apply to the games industry today? Even just considering its core idea - that there are more RPG classes out there than just Warrior, Mage and Thief - I think there's plenty to be excited about here. Ideas like this could be used in the development of a game - to explore new ideas that you might not have thought of yourself - or even built in as procedural generators to games for players to explore themselves.
It also has promise outside the boundaries of RPGs. What about a roguelike whose item drops were designed based on which ones the player picked up and which ones they threw away? What about an RTS where the tech tree redesigned itself each week based on what skills players were picking most or picking least? Perhaps a game like Minecraft could help players specialise and co-operate better by changing its crafting recipes or inventing new ones as players find things they want to do more of? Player-guided creation of content, that goes beyond the ordinary things that games try to generate, is an exciting prospect.