BTS 057: How a Team of 4 Built a Universe with 18 Qintillion Planets

BTS 057: How a Team of 4 Built a Universe with 18 Qintillion Planets

The gaming world is being rocked with innovation after years of milking tried-and-tested products. One such superstar is the game, "No Man's Sky", arguably one of the most ambitious games in history.

No Man's Sky is a universe with 18 Quintilian (18,000,000,000,000,000,000) planets, each of which is unique. And so are its inhabitants.

From the plants to the animals to the spacecrafts, the landscape of No Man's Sky is massive, and even that is an understatement.

But how does an independent studio of JUST FOUR PEOPLE, created such a massive and vibrant landscape? Algorithms.

Like the laws of the universe, the team had painstakingly thought through and developed complex algorithms (much like math equations) that governs the all this in the universe of No Man's Sky.

It is what the team calls "Procedural" and definitely not random - Though many people who see the game would assume otherwise.

This is actually in line with the Chaos Theory, the study of nonlinear dynamics, in which seemingly random events are actually predictable from simple deterministic equations. Of course, this is both an advantage and a challenge for the developers to utilise and overcome.

In the case of the game's development, the reverse is true, the team comes up with the equations, and puts it into this big box. The player that sees the world through the results of those equations.

Such algorithms takes into consideration many factors. For example, the characteristics of the planet is determined by how far it is from the Sun. This would determine whether the planet has water and how that element shapes the landscape. It will also affect the atmosphere, which in turn affect the colour and hue of the planet.

The landscape will also have an impact on the wildlife that inhabits it, which are generated by its own set of algorithms. Much like a character generator one might use while playing Sims, wildlife is created in respect to the algorithms, and because of Chaos Theory, the combination of these simple equation creates a world where each creature is unique.

With such a vibrant environment, the team had to employ creative solutions to keep their universe in check. To solve the manpower issue, "robot drones" are sent to survey the universe, with snippets sent back to the developers to check. If they do not like something, they can then alter the rules to minimise the likeness of such a result.

The developers also had to create other governing rules that these algorithms abide by. These have to crafted with more respect as it will affect all other aspects of the universe. One such rule is to respect the Colour Theory, so that whatever the universe ends up generating, it would still be visually pleasing to the human players.

Another rule, which aids in the generation of wildlife, are "blueprints". For instance, once the team creates a blueprint of a cat, the game can then generate every possible variant of a cat. It could be a lion, a tiger, or something completely bizzare but still in respect to the original blueprint.

And all this done by a team of four people...

Go behind the science of this ambitious game by starting here.

Also, with the advances in Virtual Reality, what are your thoughts of living in No Man's Sky? What are the implications? Let me know over at my facebook page.


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