No Man's Sky: an Infinite Procedurally Generated Universe


Wed, Jul 23rd, 2014 12:00 by capnasty NEWS

The MIT Technology Review looks at No Man's Sky, a science fiction game that allows players to travel from planet to planet, discovering flora and fauna entirely generated by computer algorithms. From the article, it sounds as if not even the developers of the game know what you might discover. Amazingly, each star in the sky is an actual sun, with a solar system, that can be visited.

When players discover a new planet, climb that planet’s tallest peak, or identify a new species of plant or animal, they are able to upload the discovery to the game’s servers, their name forever associated with the location, like a digital Christopher Columbus or Neil Armstrong. “Players will even be able to mark the planet as toxic or radioactive, or indicate what kind of life is there and then that then appears on everyone’s map,” says Murray.

Experimentation has been a watchword throughout the game’s production. Originally the game was entirely randomly generated. “Only around 1 percent of the time would it create something that looked natural, interesting, and pleasing to the eye; the rest of the time it was a mess and, in some cases where the sky, the water, and the terrain were all the same color, unplayable,” Murray says. So the team began to create simple rules, such as the distance from a sun at which it is likely that there will be moisture,” he explains. “From that we decide there will be rivers, lakes, erosion, and weather, all of which is dependent on what the liquid is made from. The color of the water in the atmosphere will derive from what the liquid is; we model the refractions to give you a modeled atmosphere.”

Similarly, the quality of light will depend on whether the solar system has a yellow sun or, for example, a red giant or red dwarf. “These are simple rules, but combined they produce something that seems natural, recognizable to our eyes. We have come from a place where everything was random and messy to something which is procedural and emergent, but still pleasingly chaotic in the mathematical sense. Things happen with cause and effect, but they are unpredictable for us.”



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