No Man’s Sky is a game that is so large that it has turned to NASA for inspiration on how to explore its universe. With the number of planets lingering in the quintillions, a number too large for the human mind to fathom, Hello Games has employed the use of space probes to fly around its virtual creation and document events happening on random planets.
Using these probes, the team can better understand the true scale and scope of the reality it has created in this highly anticipated game. By its definition of being a procedurally generated game, the team is unable to control how planets are made, what kind of life or machines populate them, or pretty much any aspect on the final outcome of its universe.
Art Director Grant Duncan explained this loss of control at GDC 2015 this week, and his statements and interviews were captured by Polygon. His methods of creating the basics of No Man’s Sky‘s scenery come from our own actual reality, wanting his universe to be grounded in some form of the believable. The algorithms behind his art is the driving force that creates all that this universe has to offer.
To populate this alternate reality, the artists created seeds: the essential parts of plants and animals and geographic locations. Trees have trunks and leaves. Animals have bone structures. Spaceships have cockpits. Buildings have doors, windows and roofs.
Then they threw those seeds into what Duncan calls a “big box of maths,” where the British developer’s algorithms create variations on those themes. Short trees with orange foliage. Spaceships with stubby cockpits. Alien creatures whose deer-like ancestry is graspable at a glance.
Feed No Man’s Sky‘s big box of maths the same inputs — the art team’s seeds — and it will produce the same outputs, whether on your system or a friend’s. That’s where its mighty universe comes from.
Originally, Duncan had been turned off by the idea of procedural generation and the flat, boring worlds it makes, but he now has set to prove its doubters wrong with No Man’s Sky.
“I think that the truth is, we’re actually all control freaks. Artists are so used to having complete control of every single pixel. Especially now with digital artists. We can get Photoshop, we can zoom right in and obsess over something no one will ever care about.”
Be sure to give Polygon’s write-up a good read. It still doesn’t reveal the driving force of progression behind No Man’s Sky, but it does provide yet another interesting view into what is definitely the most exciting game of 2015. Math behind the art, huh? Who would have guessed.
No Man’s Sky will be released for the PlayStation 4 in 2015, and a PC version will follow. Expectations for this thing are probably larger than its own universe by this point.