Star Citizen is certainly living up to its tag line of “The first-person universe is expanding.” In the latest promotional video, Cloud Imperium Games shows off an impressive new feature coming to the massive space exploration game: procedurally generated planets.
The video is called “From Pupil to Planet,” and it's about as literal a title as you can get. This latest Star Citizen video, which is shot entirely in-engine and rendered in real time, starts off zoomed in on the eye of a playable character and slowly pans back to reveal an entire planet. Again, the impressive thing here is that the planet is procedurally generated, meaning a bunch of math running under the hood creates what you're seeing the moment you need to see it.
As you can see, the planet on display is completely barren save for the one pre-constructed piece of the puzzle, a landing zone. Everything else resembles the Earth's moon, just a big old ball of gray rock. Again, this is just a demonstration of a work-in-progress of the upcoming feature for Star Citizen, one that will create and let players explore planets on the fly.
As the video explains, the planet on display is 1,000 km in diameter and allows for seamless transition from space to ground. In other words, you can zip around the galaxy and land on this planet without waiting on a load or letting the game take over your controls.
Even the star light hits the planet accurately, creating an atmosphere and look that is as close to what you might expect out of a real alien planet as most of us are likely to get.
There's no word on when this functionality is coming to Star Citizen, but it's certainly an impressive feat.
And, if you're thinking, “Wait, isn't this basically No Man's Sky?” you aren't far off the mark. It's not uncommon for one developer to figure out a creative way of tackling a programming problem and then seeing it borrowed by other games. In this case, it would be impossible for even the most beefy computers/servers to save all of those planets needed for a game like Star Citizen. Again, we're talking full planets, not small portions of a planet or one that is drastically reduced in size.
The solution discovered for No Man's Sky is to procedurally create those massive landscapes as the player interacts with them, and it sounds like that very same bit of technical magic is being utilized with this upcoming addition to Star Citizen. Unlike with NMS, however, we don't know how interactive these planets will be. Will players be able to fully explore them? Will they come packed with vegetation, resources and even wildlife? We'll just have to wait a bit longer for Cloud Imperium to spill some additional details.