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Building the Infinite Digital Universe of No Man's Sky

Soulskill posted about a month ago | from the go-really-really-big-or-go-home dept.

Programming 100

An anonymous reader writes: Hello Games is a small development studio, only employing 10 people. But they're building a game, No Man's Sky, that's enormous — effectively infinite. Its universe is procedurally generated, from the star systems down to individual species of plant and animal life. The engine running the game is impressively optimized. A planet's characteristics are not computed ahead of time — terrain and lifeforms are randomly generated on the fly as a player explores it. But, of course, that created a problem for the developers — how do they know their procedural generation algorithms don't create ridiculous life forms or geological formations? They solved that by writing AI bot software that explores the universe and captures brief videos, which are then converted to GIF format and posted on a feed the developers can review. The article goes into a bit more detail on how the procedural generation works, and how such a small studio can build such a big game.

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100 comments

Gifs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319039)

Set it up so they just all upload to imgur. If a gif gets more downvoted, nuke it from the universe.

"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319189)

Jesus Christ, it's terrible when somebody advocates "downvoting" as something of value.

Just look at reddit or Hacker News today, or even Slashdot, for example. The discussion there is horribly sterile, all thanks to their flawed moderation systems that encourage rampant censorship of any ideas that are unique or worthwhile. Comments expressing such ideas are near-instantly downvoted out of view.

That kind of a system fails even worse when the audience consists of people who are commonly labeled as "hipsters". These people have a very skewed perception of reality. They pretend to embrace "tolerance" and "acceptance", but they're often among the most strident crusaders against any sort of free thought and free expression.

We see the same with academic peer review, where the theory behind it is sound enough, but in practice it's just the entrenched players demonizing and shitting upon any challengers. Hell, we see the same with democratic political systems.

I don't see why your system would be any different. Unique game content would be quenched by the stupidity of those who seek to enforce total and unrelenting conformance with what they like.

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (2, Informative)

Sowelu (713889) | about a month ago | (#47319231)

Wait, so you actually browse Slashdot at -1? Because there's some damn awful stuff on here most of the time. Acres and acres of spam, unrelated rantings of psychopaths, and copypasta from adult novels... Yes, downvoting serves a vital purpose.

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (4, Funny)

AndroSyn (89960) | about a month ago | (#47319283)

All the best posts on /. are modded -1. I just feel like I'm only hearing half of the conversation when you view the comments without the -1 posts. /. isn't the same without it.

Oh and fuck beta :D

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319287)

You sound like the kind of tyrant that the GP is talking about. You just can't face comments that rub you the wrong way, for whatever reason. Instead of just ignoring them and moving on like an adult would, you feel an overwhelming urge to censor others. Perhaps you feel or are powerless in the real world? Perhaps you are physically weak, and perhaps you have small genitalia? Perhaps you compensate for these factors by trying to impose your will upon others online?

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319299)

There's always a lot of great content at -1. Anything worth reading is sure to be found there. Those are where the comments expressing painful truths end up, and they're always the most relevant and insightful. And I haven't seen commercial spam here in ages. It's probably not worth engaging in, due to the decrease in readership here at /.!

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (1, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a month ago | (#47319307)

Wait, so you actually browse Slashdot at -1? Because there's some damn awful stuff on here most of the time. Acres and acres of spam, unrelated rantings of psychopaths, and copypasta from adult novels...

My ears are burning.

So what are you guys talking about?

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319929)

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47320851)

Stop pretending to be me, you runt.

+++
APK

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321609)

Impersonating apk isn't cutting it PopeRatzo. You're the only sawed off runt around here picked on your whole life and now you take it out on others online. That's obvious you're damaged goods that way.

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (1, Flamebait)

sexconker (1179573) | about a month ago | (#47319619)

If you're not reading at -1, you're missing out. When I see something modden -1, I know it's going to be, funny, insightful, or painfully (to the blind liberal retards) true.

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47325911)

BS.

I read slashdot at -1 because nobody upvotes useable AC comments. Hence the problem the previous post states.

Besides the point. The issue with moderation is that the automated trash/spam is 1000x magnification more traffic than any real person. I once sifted through my employers inbox to do a quick analysis of how much spam was going to it and it's like a 1GB/month problem.

Stuff gets lost in moderation and automatic filters because the amount of human energy needed to deal with it is insufficient. When you are asking to QC procedurally generated data, you will never have enough manpower to do so because the random seeds are infinite.

The best solution really is to just throw caution into the wind during an alpha test and let players be sent directly to each procedurally generated world, with no two players seeing the same one and basically go "does the world work" ? Each time a world works it goes into a first level whitelist, each time it doesn't it goes into a greylist. Repeat this a few dozen times so you get a large enough sample of worlds that players say don't work and then check why.

Repeat the tests until the grey list generates zero. With each phase of the test throw back some of the white lists into the testing to see if they remain white listed.

Once there is enough confidence that the grey list is zero or within a level of tester distrust, double-blind test a sample of the whitelisted worlds and the previously greylisted worlds to see if they all check out.

Like in all honestly I like the premise of procedurally generated exploration (Terraria is fairly good) but ultimately the lack of actual physics calculations being used is why you get screwed up worlds in the first place.

A world has to be considered from several stages
What it was formed by (Is it carbon, silicon, helium?)
Plate tectonics (is there vulcanism? Are there earthquakes?)
Atmosphere (Is the air combustible? Is it suitable for life?)
Weather (Rain, snow, acid rain, does rain fall upwards because of atmospheric pressure?)
Erosion from weather and vulcanism
Climate zones (Are there climate poles? Severe weather? Deserts? Tundra?)
Age, a young planet will have less life and more violent activity, while a old planet will have more life and less active plate tectonics)

Like I could see a world being procedurally generated that only takes into account the layers of the earth, and not gravity or erosion come up with some really screwed up premesies like a planet that is basically a sponge.

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319863)

As if the problem is just downvoting, it is any sort of popular based moderation. More often than I see something great that was downvoted on Slashdot, I see something that is flat out wrong modded up to 4 or 5, as in wrong on the level in intro textbooks and stuff you can check yourself with a simple, cheap table top experiment. There might be numerous replies that point out how it is wrong, but by merely getting posted at a later time, they get no moderation one way or the other.

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321631)

It's since using sockpuppets to mod one's own posts up is cake here. It's how these jerks do it.

Well said & agreed 110% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319961)

Those not agreeing w/ you below your post's just an example of assholes who abuse the easily cheated so-called "moderation" system here.

Re:"Downvoting" fucks everything up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47339391)

You hit the nail bang on... right through the next universe. Fuck up/down voting it just shouldn't exist period. Everyone should be able to voice their opinion equally without being punished in any way, shape or form.

That's why I stopped going to Reddit some 5 years ago, never to return again.

Sigh (2, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about a month ago | (#47319063)

Definitely feel a Peter Molyneaux coming on - before you know it the hype will go so mad, you won't even notice that the game's actually been released, and then we'll find out it's as dull as hell as a game.

But aside from that, a team of 10 isn't exactly tiny. A lot better games have been written with a lot less people.

And front-page of Slashdot before release? I'm guessing at least one of those people works in marketing...

Re:Sigh (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a month ago | (#47319139)

Didn't they already do this with Spore?

Re:Sigh (2)

SammyIAm (1348279) | about a month ago | (#47319357)

I feel like this game is making the same promises that Spore did (cellular to universal scale). But then Spore was kind of a huge let down as far as I'm concerned. Much less a game of continuous scale as like 5 separate games packaged together. This one, from the little glimpses so far at least, seems more likely to deliver.

Re:Sigh (4, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about a month ago | (#47319183)

It's actually a team of just 4 working on No Man's Sky. The other 6 people are working on other things (not everybody at the company is working on this one game).

Re:Sigh (1)

Sowelu (713889) | about a month ago | (#47319255)

I for one don't care if it's dull. I spent an awful lot of time in Noctis, which had one of the worst control schemes ever, no combat, and no interaction with other players whatsoever besides naming planets and posting short notes (the database was updated every few months and made downloadable), but boy did it have a gorgeous infinite universe in its day.

Re:Sigh (1)

Smauler (915644) | about a month ago | (#47323193)

Wow, another Noctis player :). I remember logging in every day after work to see whether there was any news about Noctis V.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319453)

In terms of AAA games, 10 **is** tiny. Especially when only 4 of those people are actually working on the game itself.

Re:Sigh (2)

Onuma (947856) | about a month ago | (#47319559)

Papers, Please was created by 1 guy. It's not "infinite", but it is really damned good.

The quantity on the dev team is obviously not indicative of the quality of the finished product or the enjoyability of the game play. Otherwise, how could we explain the dismally disappointing nature of Diablo 3 or Call of Duty: Whateverthehellthey'recallingitnow?

Re:Sigh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319663)

well aren't WE a negative nancy

No hype train (2)

eamonman (567383) | about a month ago | (#47321327)

It does initially feel like Spore, but when Giantbomb were talking/hanging out with a some of the developers (E3 Day 1 GiantBombcast, at around 30min in or so), they pushed the devs about what the hell you do besides exploring and they didn't go too far and promise too much. They did mention some ideas that haven't been completely fleshed out yet: combat - space and planet-level, exploring (sharing? ugh), resource mining, ship upgrading. I would personally like it if they created some giant ship-design tree that would possibly be based on what your planet(s) had. But as they mentioned, these either weren't showable, or were just ideas they had, so it's probably best to wait it out and see if they can find some good gameplay mechanics and game goals. Otherwise it'll be "201X's Spore". (although I personally didn't mind Spore at the smaller kens; it's just that I remember my last hours of Spore were playing a frustrating planetary micromanagement sim. )

Re:Sigh (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a month ago | (#47322115)

Somebody pissed in your cereal this morning? Their previous games, Joe Danger, were pretty good and didn't try to oversell. They're obviously trying to hype their game so they get a fanbase, but that's nothing special. It's also quite a bit more understated than Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen in terms of bling.

Also, a team of 10 is tiny. I take it you stopped following games around 1995, where two guys in their garage could make a solid game in six months. Expectations have changed, believe it or not! AAA game devs number in the hundreds and for a game of this scope 10 is very small. They're also not all programmers/artists and I believe not all of them are working on the game.

Re:Sigh (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a month ago | (#47322771)

It's the buzz of the gaming world right now so I'm surprised it took this long to reach Slashdot. Even as early as last year it had a ten-page feature in Edge.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323985)

idk. Looks like a pretty interesting game to me, but I don't like the "playstation" attached to the videos... hope it comes out for windows o.w. I might have to break down and buy a console specifically just to play this game, but I'd rather not as it's yet another game that should be on a pc rather than a console although in this case I would think that your typical console controller would suffice to play it, although I'm sure that it's going to be resource constrained by current anemic consoles.

It's not like the old days when a current console would whomp on anything short of a workstation... and the consoles actually had good games that took advantage of console's strengths rather than just consolejacking pc games...

Re:Sigh (1)

Skarjak (3492305) | about a month ago | (#47324095)

The devs are being so cagey anytime someone asks about the actual gameplay, I would be surprised if this were any good to be honest. It's probably gonna be a really nice tech demo.

Super excited! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319075)

I look forward to playing the hell out of this game. And also seeing whether it's a failed promise, a glorious achievement, or both or somewhere inbetween.

I'm not a gamer (3)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | about a month ago | (#47319215)

...and I'm generally not interested in games. But this could turn me into a convert - the concept seems really awesome, and the sample video looked very cool.

Just now I've slipped off my armour of techno-jadedness, and I'm amazed at the wonders we humans are capable of creating when we're not busy engaging in pillaging, war, and petty bickering. Off-topic perhaps, but what the hell.

Purpose of this game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319347)

42

Re:I'm not a gamer (1)

RyoShin (610051) | about a month ago | (#47329747)

I'm a long-time gamer, and I was astounded at the demo as well. It doesn't claim otherwise, so I assume the video is not from in-game footage, but just the design and suggestion really riled my inner geek. If their final product can reach even 70% of what the video suggests, it will be amazing... ...and that's the problem. As beautiful as the trailer is to me, there is a lot being promised and I doubt they can deliver on that, much like Fable. Fable (at least the first one) was still a good game, but it was far more limited than originally promised. And Molyneaux probably had a team of more than 10 people behind him when he made those promises.

Sadly, this is probably either vaporware or will be underwhelming when released.

Re:I'm not a gamer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47339939)

Actually, they said in one interview that the demo came from a composition of live recordings, which posed a challenge, since most events (like the charging dino) only happen randomly.

Text adventure game (1)

swb (14022) | about a month ago | (#47319259)

I remember a text dungeon game in the 1980s that had a dynamically generated map. If you set the seed to the same value, you always got the same map.

Seemed kind of revolutionary in 1984 for some reason because you could have a huge map without actually having to create a huge map.

Re:Text adventure game (1)

Sowelu (713889) | about a month ago | (#47319285)

Played around with (and wrote extensions for) an implementation of this on a MUCK 10+ years ago. So, basically online text adventure with a somewhat procedural map. Wound up with procedural cities and cultures and stuff too.

Re:Text adventure game (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a month ago | (#47319503)

Elite did something similar as far as I recall.

Re:Text adventure game (1)

bombman (87339) | about a month ago | (#47322343)

Yeah i think it has 8 galaxies with 256 star systems in each all in 64K

Re:Text adventure game (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | about a month ago | (#47322817)

Only 48K on the ZX Spectrum!

Re:Text adventure game (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about a month ago | (#47323865)

Yeah i think it has 8 galaxies with 256 star systems in each all in 64K

Errr.... no. The BBC Micro had 32K, but in the mode Elite ran in the screen was eating about 20K of that. So it had 8 galaxies with 256 star systems in each - each with names, systems of governance, markets, et cetera - about twenty different ship types, and the physics and rendering engines - all in less than 14K.

I still think that's awesome. And, while I'm very impressed with what I've seen of No Man's Sky, the procedural universe of Elite Dangerous [frontier.co.uk] looks even more spectacular.

Full disclosure - I spent most of my final year of university playing Elite.

Re:Text adventure game (1)

0xdeaddead (797696) | about a month ago | (#47320737)

elite had it's procedural universe, frontier expanded on it vastly... and now there is going to be frontier deadly, which oddly enough is going to be much like this 'no mans sky'... except David Braben has been doing this for decades.

Re:Text adventure game (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a month ago | (#47322513)

Frontiers core systems were not procedurally generated (there was even a map included in the box), but once you got off the map it was all procedural after that - you could literally go forever (or at least on the "exploring" save game I had I never reached the edge of the universe despite hyper jumping for a full day in one direction).

Re:Text adventure game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321587)

Minecraft?

>_>

Most obvious modern day example of an infinite procedurely generated world.

And it has multiple dimensions. Even more with mods, like twilight forest, the deep dark, and mystcraft worlds. All infinite as well.

Procedural (1)

Marquis231 (3115633) | about a month ago | (#47319281)

While I'm not really looking forward to this game specifically, I am glad to witness procedural content generation technologies advance as they have. From TES: Oblivion's foliage to Starforge's infinite terrain demo, things are becoming very interesting.

Re:Procedural (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about a month ago | (#47319689)

I'm imagining ten thousand different players exploring in ten thousand different directions, and every time something is procedurally generated, it either needs to be remembered for the next player to come along to that same location, or the generator has to be super-well-done, to reach a given point from ten thousand different directions, and the same landscape/space-scape/whatever gets generated every time.

Re:Procedural (1)

Knightman (142928) | about a month ago | (#47320103)

I don't think you get what procedural generation is all about. The point is that you DON'T have to remember anything except the seed for the planet, and the seed itself can be procedurally generated.

In essence you can build a complete universe from one seed alone.

Re:Procedural (1)

0xdeaddead (797696) | about a month ago | (#47320795)

all you have to remember is what changed, no different than differencing disks in the virtualization world.

Take a look at this, a 'text mode' version of elite.

http://www.iancgbell.clara.net... [clara.net]

Elite was of course a procedural universe on a 6502 back in the early 1980s.

And if you want to be 1990's wowed, check out Frontier Elite II...

http://www.frontierastro.co.uk... [frontierastro.co.uk]

This time Elite grew up to include multiple planets, star, even asteroids... It's amazing! and ran on a 68000 or 80286 without a maths coprocessor. David Braben is the go to guy when it comes to procedural universes!

StarFlight (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a month ago | (#47319291)

Back in my day, we had 800 planets that were procedurally generated, [wikipedia.org] AND WE LIKED IT!

But really, the concept that you can procedurally generate an infinite universe is not that ground-breaking. I understand a lot of people are falling for the hype-train. And hey, it might be a really fun game. As long as there's something meaningful to do with all this PGC, and the game play holds water. But just because it's procedurally generated doesn't sell me on a game.

(Also, side-note, where the hell are the procedurally generated maps for the FPS genre? Why hasn't this happened yet?)

Re:StarFlight (2)

Sowelu (713889) | about a month ago | (#47319337)

God, Starflight was a thing of beauty. Alien Legacy (1994) had a pretty gorgeous mix of procedural and hand-tweaked, too. If you want a procedural FPS, I think what you're looking for is Tower of Guns--I haven't played it but it definitely fits the bill.

Re:StarFlight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319353)

As I understand it, the devs of Rust are on the cusp of completing their procedural terrain implementation for the experimental branch. It may be old news by now -- I haven't followed them closely for a while.

Re:StarFlight (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a month ago | (#47319359)

(Also, side-note, where the hell are the procedurally generated maps for the FPS genre? Why hasn't this happened yet?)

I have a suspicion that in that context, procedurally generated is a synonym for "boringly symmetrical," "unfair and exploitable," or both.

Re:StarFlight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319485)

Then you know absolutely nothing about procedural generation, like 99.99% of every other person here. Learn what you're talking about before you puke up your opinion.

Re:StarFlight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319813)

As an RTS developer I can confirm that GP is correct. Maps go through lots of balance revisions. Being symmetrical doesn't guarantee balance: asymmetrical armies can give one player access to a map exploit the other player can't use. Besides that, good maps consciously complement the design of the armies that play on them, by creating choke points or open areas that favor particular unit combinations or tactics.

Plus... serious RTS players LIKE being able to get to know the maps. Exploring all the tactical options, practicing on and learning how to play a particular map -- that's part of the fun, just like learning all the tactical options presented by different unit choices and different strategies.

It's not like procedural generation of decent maps seems impossible on its face, I could suggest ways to deal with each of these issues; it does seem to me to be a subtle and complex problem. I'm sure there's a place for a deck-building RTS where all the units and terrain are procedurally generated. That game is not going to be a finely balanced game like Starcraft.

Re:StarFlight (2)

Sowelu (713889) | about a month ago | (#47320193)

As an Age of Empires / Empire Earth fan, I respectfully assert that I prefer random maps. If I'm going to sink a few hundred hours into getting good at a game, I prefer to win by skillful improvising instead of by optimizing my build orders around map travel routes that are known to-the-second and careful memorization of tile counts where I know I can block off a passage most efficiently every game. If your asymmetrical armies are well defined (and admittedly, that means they are not very asymmetrical), no map will give such an extreme advantage that it can't be overcome by spotting it early and adapting your strategy to force an engagement somewhere else. Or, hell, 'when he sees this advantageous narrow passage he's sure to build a lot of scissors units, so I'll build a bunch of rocks in anticipation and take bigger advantage than he will'.

It seems like random-map RTSes and hand-built-map RTSes are really different subgenres altogether, and they draw different crowds.

Re:StarFlight (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about a month ago | (#47320611)

If I'm going to sink a few hundred hours into getting good at a game, I prefer to win by skillful improvising instead of by optimizing my build orders around map travel routes that are known to-the-second and careful memorization of tile counts where I know I can block off a passage most efficiently every game.

So, I shouldn't wait for you to join my $$$BIG GAME HUNTERZ$$$ FFA?

Re:StarFlight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319381)

It did. A game called Virus.

Problem is, it doesn't work. FPS games are as much about aesthetic as they are gameplay, and keeping a proc. gen world looking good is hard.
On top of that maps don't just need to be traversable, they need to be fun to play on as well - that means a lot of resources spent on making sure that it's challenging without being frustrating, on getting the balance of resources right, availability of cover, flanking opportunities and so on. The terrain and geometry all have a huge impact on where that balance needs to be.

In short, it's one of those 'Can be done, but probably shouldn't' ideas.

Re:StarFlight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319567)

Elite [wikipedia.org] (1984) also used procedural content generation, if I remember correctly according to a documentary I saw they used Fibonacci's sequence or a bastardization of the concept.

Re:StarFlight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319875)

The trick is to have algorithmically generated terrain but have it be repeatable. Once you go there, the terrain is fixed, objects remain where they are placed, and things taken away do not get algorithmically regenerated. Unless that makes sense for the object type.

StarFlight did all of that. I played it and loved that game.

Re:StarFlight (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a month ago | (#47324249)

Holy SHIT!
You can go back up the stairs in Nethack!? [wikipedia.org] Does the maker of Rogue know?

StarFlight did all of that.

No, actually it didn't. The reason they had a procedurally generated map is that they COULDN'T save the game-state to disk. Disks were really small back then. Size constraints are a thing of the past, but they were a super-bitch back in the day. Their "fractal engine" created the world from an algorithm. And then I think they saved a couple flags if the player dinked with a planet or advanced plot. Saving the delta could really add up, so I don't know exactly how they persisted their map.

There've been quite a few procedural games (3, Informative)

Rinikusu (28164) | about a month ago | (#47319301)

Frontier Elite 2 [wikipedia.org] , for instance. Ken Musgrave [wikipedia.org] literally wrote the book [amazon.com] on procedural generation and is the brains behind MojoWorld, a procedural world generator that's great fun. If you liked Bryce back in the day, MojoWorld is Bryce on steroids.

Not knocking these guys at all, btw, it looks great. Just giving some background.

question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321125)

I get how you can procedurally generate an environment on demand. What I don't get is how do you save the state of the procedurally generated environment after it's created, so that when you go back again, it still looks the same? Sure, everything is parameterized, so you're not saving nearly as much as you see, but if this is universe sized, and you get many thousands (or more) of people playing it for a while, wouldn't the size of the data set grow exceedingly large?

Re:question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321355)

Yes.

Re:question (1)

heson (915298) | about a month ago | (#47322637)

You only need to save the seed for the pseudo random number generator and the world will look exactly the same every time you re-generate it.

Re:question (2)

Salgat (1098063) | about a month ago | (#47323137)

You save the initial values that created it then any changes to it must be saved separate and appended after its creation each time.

Re:There've been quite a few procedural games (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about a month ago | (#47322735)

I'm happy to see a mention of Musgrave here. He was doing procedural landscapes and atmospheric effects back before "fractals" were well known as anything other than the Mandelbrot set or a Koch snowflake.

Elite? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319317)

Reminds me of Elite of old past. While fun for a while, the similarities got boring and tedious pretty fast.
This is true for all current procedural games. Eventually there'll be enough similarities to make it boring.
Even a game as beautiful as this. Random critters and landscapes just ISN'T CONTENT.

It's a never-ending chase: Maybe if the gameplay become procedural as well, it might be interesting.
However, you'll have difficulty creating something with the longevity of L4D2, without narrowing down content and gameplay into something which is just right.
Balance and fun is hard to make procedural. Which is why I think this is a fool's chase in the most general case, but to be fair: intellectually stimulating to pursue.

Captcha: advert

Re:Elite? (2)

itsdapead (734413) | about a month ago | (#47319749)

Reminds me of Elite of old past. While fun for a while, the similarities got boring and tedious pretty fast.

Thing is, although Elite used procedural generation, the game was about space combat, trading, piracy and smuggling with cutting edge (for the time - kids today won't understand) graphics. Things like the planet names and descriptions, and the fact there were a gazillion systems, were part of the atmosphere, not the Unique Selling Point.

Same with Minecraft - when you get fed up of exploring your effectively infinite world, there's building stuff, playing with redstone circuitry, fighting, potions, railways, breeding horses... The procedural generation is part of an ensemble. So the jury's out until we here what No Man's Sky's gameplay is like.

Another cool game that (1)

Victor Tramp (5336) | about a month ago | (#47319349)

needs more linux

Re:Another cool game that (2)

antdude (79039) | about a month ago | (#47320421)

Like Elite Dangerous? :P

Spore 2 (1)

_KiTA_ (241027) | about a month ago | (#47319369)

So they're making Spore 2? Or maybe Minecraft: Corporate Sellout edition? We've heard this song and dance before.

Of course, since I've been playing Roguelikes for decades, literally nothing in the hype train up there really gets my attention. Wake me when they have something with 1/10th the complexity of Dwarf Fortress.

Re:Spore 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47322575)

Dwarf Fortress is "complex", but it's not deep or meaningful complexity. It's simply packed with a lot of really poorly designed features that most of the small-but-vocal player-base never even utilizes or sees. It's just "feature-creep" the game. People like to talk big about Dwarf Fortress, but the reality of it is that it's not nearly as impressive as the shouting super-fans would have you believe.

Spore? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about a month ago | (#47319379)

I was fascinated by the idea of Spore when it was in development, and not so much when it was released.

Replays might be more interesting, but you're going to have to make a game pretty damned good for me to want to reply it -- and you're going to have to hope that the procedural generation the second time around makes for an interesting game.

If I play it once, I can't tell the difference between on-the-fly generation and static worlds.

Re:Spore? (1)

DocHoncho (1198543) | about a month ago | (#47321403)

I get the feeling that EA forced Will Wright to make all sorts of stupid changes to make it something "anyone can play." There are videos (link) [youtube.com] from early versions that show a much more "realistic" look and feel. No cartoonish dancing, googly eyes, or happy singing penis creatures in evidence.

At some point during development some upper management types meddled the game into the pitiful thing that was released. If you look at the information about the development of the game, there are all kinds of cool prototypes that went on to become the game, you can really tell they were trying to do something revolutionary.

EA does NOT do revolutionary.

Re:Spore? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a month ago | (#47358275)

Surprisingly, no; during development the studio gradually split into a team which had been designing the low-level stuff and creatures, and a team which had been responsible for the large-scale procedural gameplay and space exploration. Because the two teams were essentially not talking to each other, the aspects wound up diverging massively in graphical style and it was a bit of a mess to try and bring it all back together into a shippable game. It's just the usual story of an overambitious idea, poorly managed, that winds up having to conform to genre standards (in this case, The Sims and a god game on one disk) to meet a deadline.

Re:Spore? (1)

Smauler (915644) | about a month ago | (#47323237)

If I play it once, I can't tell the difference between on-the-fly generation and static worlds.

Except for the fact that a game with static star systems will have at most a few hundred, rather than a few billion. There is no way to simulate the universe without some kind of procedural generation, there are just far too many things in it.

Re:Spore? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about a month ago | (#47325411)

The likelihood of me visiting a few billion star systems, in any play-through, seems unlikely.

Re:Spore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47325617)

That is because the indev and release games were literally 2 different games.

The release game was a bastardized version of the original game, content removed all over the place and cutesy crap thrown in because "yay kids!"
So what we ended up with was the Urbz of Sims, the even more casualized Sims, instead of, you know, the Sims. (and then they literally did this to the Sims, and Sim City! GOD!)

The worst part was the pricks never even had the decency (never DO) to release the server side and make the game work well without it. (it works, just not well and is annoying at times)
So you end up having to look towards dodgy as hell sites just to get cracked versions and such just to be able to play the damn thing. (not that it is a problem, I still find the idea of people getting viruses idiotic. You have to be a grape to get a virus. HOW do people do it? Seriously.)

Spore could have been the next Sims for them. But they killed it. They made it in to cutesy crap and never left much in terms of expansion for it. And whatever expansions they released were pretty poor up to Galactic Adventures.
There was barely any effort compared to the old days where expansion packs came out left right and center with thousands upon thousands of next textures and models.
Where the hell are all my new textures? All I got was some shit hands and feet! Screw those!

EA destroyed Will Wright. He almost lost the will to gamedev. Passion obliterated.
Likewise with Chris Hecker, they tried to do some damage control out the ass and blame it on him, making it look like there was some divide down the team where there wasn't.
Awful awful people. Destroyed a gamedev great and almost ruined another.
This is why I won't support EA, even if they did fire that complete ass that ruined the company. They are still on my shitlist for 5 years.

Article is wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319439)

It is stated "terrain and lifeforms are randomly generated on the fly as a player explores it" but this is completely false, and the developers have even said so in interviews. Basically, terrain and lifeforms are "evolved" from seed values. A given planet with the same seed values will always generate the same planet. It is not random.

Lazy summary writing, again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47319445)

From the summary:
"A planet's characteristics are not computed ahead of time — terrain and lifeforms are randomly generated on the fly as a player explores it."
From the article on Eurogamer (and reality):
"We do start everyone on a different place on the outside edge of the galaxy," says Murray, reiterating his grand statement from Sony's conference. "It is the same for everyone, but they are actually not just hundreds of miles apart, they could be billions of miles apart."

The game universe is the same for everyone. The devs are generating it and when they are happy with the way it turns out, that version will be the one they release for everyone to play in.

Re:Lazy summary writing, again (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about a month ago | (#47325831)

That differs from my understanding: I got the impression that once a player explored a world, the parameters for procedural generation on that world were fixed and uploaded (this is an MMO, whether or not the game designers want it to be thought of as such). That's why in the gameplay videos, you see onscreen tags identifying which player discovered a species or world.

I've worked on my own idea of a procedurally-generated universe, and the idea I've come up with is you generate a random list of stars and assign a seed value to each star. When a player visits the star, the details of the stellar system (which are only observable up close) are procedurally generated using that star's seed: planets, asteroid fields, etc. Anything you do to modify that system is saved so that the next time you go back, it's still there. In a multiplayer environment, any modifications or even the results of pseudo-random generation can be uploaded so other players see the same thing you see.

So it's random in the sense of "not determined ahead of time." The way stuff is generated in this game is the developers create prototypes that have traits that can be modified (see dev discussion of character creators with sliders in other games) in many ways, and when a world is first visited by a player, which animal prototypes are present and how they're modified is determined at that time. What the devs are doing by reviewing the results of this generation with bots and gifs is ensuring the range of parameters for pseudo-random generation is acceptable, i.e. you get results that look good. They're not setting the parameters for each planet you'll visit when you get your copy of the game.

The game universe is the same for everyone. The devs are generating it and when they are happy with the way it turns out, that version will be the one they release for everyone to play in.

The universe is the same for everyone because randomly-generated content is preserved online. The devs are not generating the entire universe, they're fine-tuning the parameters of their generators.

As far as I can tell, anyway. This could be really cool. I've also been following the development of I-Novae Studios' [inovaestudios.com] game engine, which aims for realism.

OK, now do cities (1)

Animats (122034) | about a month ago | (#47319707)

Procedural generation of outdoor scenes has been done for years. Decades, even. Works fine. Most of nature can be simulated with fractals, and basic terrain generators are simple. Speedtree turns out really nice trees and vegetation.

What's really tough is procedural generation of cities. There are programs that build a skyline, but so far, nobody has been able to procedurally generate a convincing city at high-detail level. There are systems that tried, like Introversion and Instant Architecture, but the sameness of the buildings makes for boring cities. It's easy to do this badly, but very hard to do it well.

It's not impossible. You'd need something like The Sims engine or SimCity, which grows cities over time in response to their occupants'' needs. That would be a big win. You could build something like GTA without an army of people constructing the real estate.

Re:OK, now do cities (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about a month ago | (#47325859)

I followed the development of Introversion with great interest, particularly the procedural city generation. I look forward to the day when someone writes the all-encompassing MMO that incorporates multiple game types in a single universe. It'll happen eventually, and one of the versions will probably even be worthwhile.

Yummy (1)

Indigo (2453) | about a month ago | (#47320641)

WANT.

A new universe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47321021)

Hopefully insurance salesman free this time. I told God last time...

There's a thought for you...

It's not just the idea that we may be a simulation, but we may be one where our creator isn't even aware of us.

non-quantum physics (1)

medusa-v2 (3669719) | about a month ago | (#47321165)

The cat won't even be a cat until somebody looks at it.

What does "effectively infinite" mean? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a month ago | (#47322549)

that's enormous — effectively infinite

What does "effectively infinite" mean? Is it a) really, really, really big, so big that you'd never be able to explore more than a minuscule fraction of it in a lifetime (but not infinite) or is it b) infinite?

Re:What does "effectively infinite" mean? (1)

bucket_brigade (1079247) | about a month ago | (#47323215)

Define infinite. There are no infinite things in observed reality and there obviously can not be any in a computer game. Infinite simply means that you can always come up with more of whatever object is under consideration. For example no matter how large a natural number you name I can always name a bigger one. In this case it probably means that when you reach a "border" of the world some more "world" is generated. Given that they claim it is procedurally generated.

Re:What does "effectively infinite" mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47325249)

no infinite things in observed reality

Except stupidity. Just when you think the Universe can't evolve a better idiot...

Re:What does "effectively infinite" mean? (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about a month ago | (#47325941)

"Infinite" means "without bound", so I take "effectively infinite" to mean you'll never encounter a boundary. You'll never run out of new space, every world will never be explored; it might as well be infinite because there's no discernible difference.

It couldn't be truly infinite, because at some point you're dealing with computers which have fixed-length integers, so your seed value space is actually finite; but 64-bit integers means that 7 billion players could each have their own unique million-star sky 2500 times over.

game vo lam 3 (-1, Flamebait)

seolentop (3698809) | about a month ago | (#47322747)

Game vo lam 3 takes place in China in the late Yuan Dynasty, the chaos that culminated Wanderer, two forces Thien Thien Minh Dao Ming and Paradox struggles for power. 8 states will split into two factions sect of Thien Thien Minh Dao Ming or Traitors, become implacable opponents. Conflicts arise leading to much greater struggle "Wanderer wave up" among many different denominations state to monopolize First person galaxy. In that connection to the league of celebrities like: - My Russia: the famous Emei with generosity, grace advantage, allowing for both drugs, both the art world, ethereal aura entitled "flowing clouds". -Shaolin: Shaolin martial arts disciple stamina, take martial enter meditation, meditation married. - Ancient Tomb: Tomb must have flexible features, exquisite posing but somewhat melancholy loner, out hit mystery. - Wudang Martial is the first known painting by numbers a harmonious combination between diamond demand, the more contempt galaxy of champions. states in addition to other denominations such as Minh City teachers, Murong, Complete Truth, The State ... Come with case 3, you will get into the character role of the state in different denominations. Become a member of Thien Thien Minh Dao Ming or Traitors, district or wrong, becomes a monopoly or byproducts are continuously due to your death. Please bear this responsibility.

I-Novae Studios (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47323261)

Another space game that is being based on procedural generation is Infinity: Battlescape. The company behind it, I-Novae Studios, consists of a couple developers and a couple artists, many of whom are working part-time. The lead developer, Flavien Brebion, has been working on the thing part-time for the last decade. He's very good and very much the perfectionist, but hasn't gotten around to building an actual game yet (other than a fun little combat game intended to test networking code).

They have put out a few videos [youtube.com] through the years. You'll note that they favor realism over the more cartoonish feel of No Man's Sky. In NMS, the fighter lifts off from a planet surface, travels what looks to be a couple miles and is out in space, looking at 'asteroids' and space battles. That's great for game mechanics, but it kills the sensation of realism for me. In contrast, the expectation is that in Infinity: Battlescape you've gotta fly 300,000km to get from the Earth's surface to the Moon's surface. Naturally, your ship will be quite peppy so that you don't need three days of real time to make the trip.

I-Novae Studios is shooting for a Kickstarter sometime soon.

Any time now.

I'm sure it's right around the corner.

Re:I-Novae Studios (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about a month ago | (#47325979)

My understanding is that they realized they needed to make money, so they shifted their dev efforts to completing a marketable game engine to get some income before completing their game idea. I really look forward to this game, and its more realistic scale. But I'm not holding my breath.

The real universe. (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about a month ago | (#47325001)

I've always assumed this might be how the real universe works.
Atoms only exist upon detailed inspection. If noone is using a powerful microscope, no need to populate that detail.
The moon only physically existed once we landed on it and most of the stars will never need to physically exist.
It makes the whole "universe is a simulation" much more computationally feasible. It might even be able to explain
things like the double slit experiment and definitely helps explain why we seem to be alone.

Only confirmed for consoles, not PC. (1)

mgemmons (972332) | about a month ago | (#47326435)

Just a note that if you are a PC gamer, the game may not even release on that platform. It will initially release on PS4.

I'm bummed. For the longest time I thought this was a PC game.

Limit Theory (1)

the_arrow (171557) | about 1 month ago | (#47331381)

Haven't seen Limit Theory [ltheory.com] mentioned yet. It's an infinite space sim, all of the universe is procedurally generated, and coded by a single guy. Looking darn pretty too!

Though, it's not down on a planet level, it's only in space.

Even if the gameplay is bad... (1)

Nathan Alberg (3716527) | about 1 month ago | (#47332749)

Even if the game is bad... this kind of tech is much needed and could fuel much deeper gameplay down the road.

I suggested this for finding a Starbound mob. (1)

Gondola (189182) | about 1 month ago | (#47332935)

Starbound is a 2d side-scrolly infinite universe procedural game.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed a post by someone who had seen a randomly-generated mob of a specific type on a certain planet, taken it for a pet, and then subsequently lost all of his data, perhaps due to a patch, I forget. He wanted to find that exact pet again because he liked its looks, but in a very large (not technically infinite, but impossible to explore for one person before the heat death of the universe) game universe, the chances of him finding it again were very slim.

My suggestion was to write an AutoHotKey script and game mods to make the player invulnerable and run a ship on autopilot and explore the universe, then put that script into the cloud and run thousands of simultaneous copies. Then, post screenshots when mobs were found as Amazon Turk jobs to compare to the original screenshot of his lost pet.

5 bux says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382539)

5 bux says this game will flop badly the reason being that it will be primarily centered around exploration and most likely space combat rather than anything else. Exploration is nice and all as well as space combat, but both get boring real fast. I think a lot of people are pinning their hopes that it will be the next X game of sorts or perhaps something better than Star Citizen altogether, personally it's foolish thinking considering the videos and the plans the game maker has for it. They are just not taking it in the direction of economy, build stuff, alliances, etc.

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