I recently found an amazing piece of tech, which is giving me quite a bit of fun, called Space Engine. It essentially simulates an entire universe, using real data where it can, and procedurally generating content everywhere else. It looks amazing on high settings, and, just like the real universe, is silly massive. There’s billions of galaxies, each galaxy with trillions or billions of stars, most stars have planets, comets and asteroids orbiting them, those planets have moons around them, and all of those things you can go down to the very surface and explore in really good detail, especially if you run the graphics on higher settings (at least I can, the detail is pretty good even if it’s turned down, but it really looks amazing when turned all the way to detail level 2 with all the other stuff high).
The procedural generation is really good too, and pretty quick, although that will again vary widely most likely depending on setup. You get really varied stuff sometimes, really cool looking terrain and combinations of different terrain, even things like craters are quite varied, with some making large firework-like debre spray over the surface of the planet, and then the center of that may have a lump, a large crater, a very faint crater, or a mix of the above. Different parts of planets will have different terrain and colors and such, and they have full orbital periods and everything.
The game is in an alpha state, but it has a ton of ton of stuff, and each update brings lots of cool things. You can even pilot spaceships now.
I also took a bunch of screenshots, all from me exploring the last few days, many of the screens take place in a ring/halo galaxy I’ve discovered which has been my main place of exploration. There’s also some good ones from Alpha Centauri, or A Cen. (Use the latter to get to it in game, you’ll find nothing under Alpha Centauri it seems to me, unless there’s something I don’t understand about the search)
My full uploaded Space Engine album can be viewed on imgur, where you can see the full resolution images, and use dem as ur backgraunds. I’ll keep uploading more, not like I’m going to run out of things to spam F11 on in this game.
As is apparent from the screenshots I took, the graphics are <dat word you throw around a lot>ing awesome. These are all at about the highest settings (I haven’t messed with the glare variable and such), and should be easy to run as long as your computer was commissioned by Crytek. Nah kidding it actually runs pretty good on a somewhat decent computer, and if you have any problems, you could turn some stuff down. Ya know, runs good for a massive universe simulator.
Yes, the “map is bigger than EVE’s“, by a stupid amount. Get that out of the way because that’ll be the greatest question many people will have when a universe is shoved in their face. Lemme illustrate this for you, with another screenshot.
So there’s two galaxies (many of my screenshots and hours spent exploring take place in that ring galaxy on the right. My own private place to try and detonate my hardware by flying thousands of parsecs per-second through some-odd trillion stars), and then all those other pins of light you see are also galaxies. Deal with it.
Also, there is a ton of variation, there’s always going to be something new to find. Even if you come across twenty-billion barren planets, you’re going to find a ton of planets with oceans and rivers and mountains, and maybe even life. Heck, many of the barren planets are pretty interesting also, I’ve found barren planets that look like a globe of guacamole and other cool things.
The game (blah blah technically not a game blah. It’s fun to me, so blah) or simulator or whatever is available for free at http://en.spaceengine.org/ so go have fun, it’s an amazing piece of software. If you want videos, the legendary Scott Manley has some videos on it, the latest of which is here.