Just recently, a Co-optional Podcast episode by TotalBiscuit, Jesse Cox and Dodger involved the discussion of procedural generation, and that such an idea is starting to lose traction because of a major flaw in the design of such a concept: the fact that nothing is deliberate.
Something that is important to note is that these people are not game designers and they are taking something very complex and boiling it down into a simple concept that is easy to criticize (he is the 'cynical' brit after all). "Nothing is deliberate" is the opposite of what procedural content generation (PCG) is about. One of the most important ingredients in a PCG recipe is intention. Otherwise, you would just have random content generation.
For instance, you can't place an object in a specific room that's specifically designed to do something that allows the player to progress because of the fact that the entire world is procedurally-generated.
Having a procedurally generated world does not prevent the placing of objects in a world for a particular design reason. A game is an extremely complex system which is sometimes comprised of many complex systems. We can't just assume that a game using PCG will be 100% generated without any thought of narrative or cohesiveness. Imagine two systems, both completely procedurally generated, connected by a moment in the game that is hand crafted.
Procedurally-generated games, in my opinion, only works for sandbox games where you can do whatever the game offers you, which in itself is flawed by design and limited by the mechanics you offer.
Well, this sentence is a doozy. I'm starting to see a pattern of assumptions that aren't really reflective of reality. Many media (movies, music, animation, games, writing, etc.) are using PCG to great effect already and most of them can't be considered procedurally generated. They merely use PCG as a tool to make the art better.
As for this only being for sandbox games, that's proven wrong by the games that have already used PCG successfully (I will address this later).
Then there is the point that sandbox games are flawed by design and limited by the mechanics you offer. The latter point is true of every game. You're limited by what was created for you to interact with and I would argue that sandbox games use simulations better than any other type of game. They give you something to explore that is interesting and more complex than what a human could conceivably create in a lifetime. The former point is also shown to be false based on how many amazing simulation/sandbox games exist. Factorio is a particular obsession of mine, and many other people's. Minecraft would not be as successful as it is if 'sandbox games... are flawed by design.'
...now that the topic has been criticized and brought up by perhaps the most cynical critic I know, that being TotalBiscuit.
If you ask me, being cynical is shameful, not something that can give anyone credibility. Skepticism is crucial to us as humans, but cynicism holds us back. In this case, I think his cynicism is holding him back from his own predetermined opinions on the topic.
His words on the topic was (not the words exactly): "I would rather play a game that was specifically designed by the developer because that's how the developer envisioned it, not a game that is procedurally-generated that has objects that make no sense or has no real value to it."
Again, there are many flawed assumptions here. The fact that a game *that uses PCG* "...has objects that make no sense of has no real value to it." is just ridiculous. No one wants to play a game that fits that statement, and no one does play games that do so. We play games that we connect with, regardless of how items were organized or how worlds were generated.
...creating a procedurally-generated game and advising on creating one may not necessarily be the best advice from a design perspective.
There are many kinds of games and ways to make them. This is just one way, and choosing the "best" way would be impossible for anyone showing the world how it's done. This series is more about the development of a game from scratch rather than how to design a great experience. Using PCG here seems like the perfect fit because it means that we get to learn more about how to craft complex systems. (Caveat: this paragraph is pure opinion on my part. I just wanted to add my two cents.)
...but I would personally advise that people handcraft their worlds and design it specifically how you intend the world to appear because that way you can make the final product feel polished. It's a lot harder to polish a procedurally-generated game due to the nature of such games by design. No Man's Sky is a perfect example of this.
Your advice may make sense for a very specific type of game, but for many other kinds of games, this just doesn't fit. The way the world appears is not always an important aspect of making the game great. It may not be worth the time to hand craft things in a game when they are not the major focus. Some types of PCG can actually create things that a human would not, and it would make many of them very quickly... I could go on and on.
As for polish, I don't really understand what you mean because my definition of polish has nothing to do with how content was created. It's just how you present that content.
No Man's Sky (NMS) is very polished and looks gorgeous. It also has many interesting aspects that make it worth playing. The problem with NMS was the hype and misleading comments by the developers. The major criticism I hear about the PCG in NMS is that it feels empty and becomes 'samey' after a while. That's perfectly valid, and I think it's because the developers decided to focus more on a vast world and how to create it rather than giving us a world where we can find purpose and enjoyment.
...As far as I know, there is no procedurally-generated commercially available game that is considered complete.
OK, final thoughts here. I've already alluded to the fact that I think there are many flawed assumptions here, and one major one is that *games* are procedurally generated rather than games *using* procedural generation. As someone already said, PCG is a tool. It can be used well and it can be used poorly. Also, I truly believe that we have barely scratched the surface of what is possible with PCG. Just like we've barely scratched the surface of what games can be, the PCG systems we create are getting better over time. There are already exceptionally simple examples of PCG used very well in "commercially available" games.
In closing, here are just a few games that I think have used PCG well and that have barely begun to exercise what is currently possible in the world of procedural generation (not to mention what will be possible in the coming years):
Spelunky, Faster Than Light, Minecraft, The Binding of Isaac (and sequels), Factorio, Dwarf Fortress, Don't Starve, Darkest Dungeon, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Downwell, and (I couldn't leave this one out, of course) Rogue.
P.S. Please don't take anything TotalBiscuit says seriously :-P