So to make my life easier I've built into the game a dev mode to build objects for free and save them into a room. That is how you get the few 'locations' you see around the map. One thing I've been really wanting is in the open world when you 'explore' for the player to come across ruined buildings, settlements, and farms while they look for resources. I have 2 options:
- Procedurally generate structures
- Place pre-built constructs and populate them
Procedurally generate structures - this option would be the best if I had the time to program it. You would get the best variation and endless replay-ability. The problem is time. Not only is it very time-consuming testing and creating an algorithm that looks and feels natural it is also time-consuming in feature creep. What I mean is I am going to be added lots more items and junk into the game and every-time I do I'll have to go back and decide if I need to add it to the creation algorithm. I've done this in my previous game The Superfluous and it was very time-consuming. That game took about 2 months to make and 1 month was tweaking the level generator; which is IMO makes quite poor/boring levels. If I had a team (or maybe just another person) I feel like this would be the way to go.
Place pre-built constructs and populate them - This is where I am leaning. Although I'll have to build lots of different constructs to add variety, that is part of game design I actually really like. It is nice to have some hand built things IMO. All the towns and locations will be hand built anyway. I could also build some sort of rotation algorithm that rotates the prefab so building one will, in reality, make it 4 different ones. Then write a small procedural loot/enemies algorithm that spawns things differently every time a player runs across the same prefab. I already have my dev tool to build levels so I could build a custom room where I can save and load prefabs. [This reminds me I need to add a chest item.]