Well, it does have drawn cover art, so it’s at least supposed to be one of the “game changing” ones, not just about adding an additional feature.
The thing is… HG knows that variety has been a problem for a long time.They never said anything about it. And that’s because… well, here comes the speculation.
There’s two things about procgen at play here. First, you cannot update the algorithms gradually to get more variety. Or rather you could, but every tweak would have rather significant impact on the gaming world. Any tweak to terrain algorithms would basically mean a reset. Palette swaps could probably be done without affecting the terrain, depending on how the seeding works. Adding variety to flora would be somewhere in between.
Now, the other thing is, that you have to gradually update procgen algorithms. Wait, did I not just say that you couldn’t? Well, you can tweak the algorithms, but you can’t release them before you’re sure they hold up. And tweaking them is a terribly tedious, longwinded and incredibly fiddly process, which many people that don’t work with procgen don’t realise (like, it’s insane. You finally render your first landscapes and think "ok, everything works, now let’s tweak those algorithms a bit, and maybe add a couple more to have some variety, and befre you know it you have been tweaking that crap for longer than it took to write the engine, and everything still looks like crap).
Now, we have gotten quite a bit of content since beyond, but… not enough to account for a year of work for a team of that size. This may well be because HG diverted resources to other areas like last campfire and that new thing they are working on, buuuuut… It’s also possible that they have been working on variety the entire year, but not released any of it yet, because… you know, people were kinda starting to complain about the resets.
Now we have a new update that HG considers “a new beginning”, and while I don’t think it’s as big as beyond or next, HG considers it significant enough to put it on a level with them. Also, the art clearly implies biome variety/distinction. So right now, the above assumption is my working theory.
There’s another thing that plays into this, and it’s the infamous superformula. We know that NMS isn’t using it, because there would have been hell to pay if they had. We also know that they were playing with it during development and were preeeetty taken by the results. The thing we don’t know is why they didn’t end up using it. What we do know is that the patent has expired, so if the patent had anything to do with the decision to not use it… If they kept paralleling a branch that had superior procgen thanks to it all this time, and it really is as powerful as Sean thought it was in that interview… Basically, in such a scenario, all the bets are off. But that turns into really wild speculation.
Superformula or not, the assumption that they invested significant resources into overhauling the procgen without releasing any of it is not implausible. Especially since it would occupy a very specific part of the development team whose “superpowers” weren’t really used that much in any of the updates we’ve seen this year, which were mostly pretty straightforward content updates, with maybe the exception of desolation.