Imagine a gaming universe with 18,466,744,073,709,551,616 planets (for those of you who don’t want to count commas, that’s over 18 quintillion, or 18 billion billions). Fathoming such a number is insane. Now picture what must’ve created it. A Big Bang? God? A long-extinct alien civilization?
What if I told you it was a team of just 13 developers?
Mind blown, right? It seems impossible, but it’s the reality behind Hello Games’ new hit video game, No Man’s Sky.
The key ingredient to No Man’s Sky’s expansive universe of quintillions of unique, full-sized planets is a developing trick known as procedural generation. Without parsing the coding mechanics of it, procedural generation in a game like No Man’s Sky generates playspace on the fly, following a pre-programmed gaming algorithm, rather than relying on handcrafted worlds carefully sculpted by artists.
No two planets are alike, and many come with their own native species, which are also procedurally generated. So far, gamers have discovered well over 10 million species.
In the first 24 hours since No Man’s Sky became available, creator Sean Murray has been reporting amazing data that indicate his passion project has been very popular.
After reaching 1 million discoveries in the first hour, the game’s servers continued to hold strong despite being pushed to their limits, resulting in over 10 million discovered species a few hours later.
It’s an impressive universe, created on a shoestring budget (with a relatively small 6GB install size to boot) by a relative handful of incredibly dedicated and resourceful developers. And yet, even if gamers were to discover one new planet per second, it will take 500 billion years to discover each one.
Well… better get started.
If you’re looking to dig deeper into the concept behind No Man’s Sky, take a look at TIME’s recent interview with creator Sean Murray.
Have any initial thoughts? Shoot us a note anytime and we’ll be happy to nerd out: