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The Video Game That Maps the Galaxy

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the hint:-not-pacman dept.

Space 28

An anonymous reader writes "Video game designers and astronomers have been working different ends of the same problem: how to chart a galaxy full of stars. Astronomers start with observation, finding new and better ways to look into the sky and record what they can see. Game devs take the limited data we have as a starting point, and assume that everything else in the galaxy obeys roughly the same rules. They generate the rest of the galaxy procedurally from this data. But the information flow isn't simply one-way. As developers like David Braben improve their galaxy-creation models, astronomers can look at the models and see where they match (or not) with further observations, allowing them to improve their own scientific models in the process. "'The conflicts that show up are generally due to simplifications made in the models, for which new observations can provide improved guidelines. There's a continuously evolving and developing understanding of space, in which both models and observations play important roles.' ... Elite's model has expanded Braben's understanding of planet formation and distribution. Braben boasts that his games predicted extra-solar planets ('These were pretty close to those that have been since discovered, demonstrating that there is some validity in our algorithms'), and that the game's use of current planet-formation theories has shown the sheer number of different systems that can exist according to the rules, everything from nebulous gas giants to theoretically habitable worlds.""

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planets the hard way: how to (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47419997)

const float planet_probability = 0.000001f; // todo: raise the value if we dont find any

Cool idea until you see the beta price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47420043)

I thought this was a really cool concept so I looked into joining the beta. $75?? No thanks.

Re:Cool idea until you see the beta price (1)

Ost99 (101831) | about 5 months ago | (#47422487)

You can always wait for the finished game and buy that when it arrives next year.

Elite is crowd funded - early access is one of the perks of contributing. Alpha access was a $300+ tier.

Re:Cool idea until you see the beta price (2)

polyp2000 (444682) | about 5 months ago | (#47422541)

Without the contributions and crowdfunding Elite: Dangerous might not have happened! There are a huge number of people who have made this happen (including myself)! That money , not only gets you early access to the game but to actually help shape the games development. The reviews so far , despite the fact that were still in Beta have been amazing , some commenting that the game is remarkably polished for this stage in the game. Others have said its occulus rift support is possibly the best showcase of the hardware out there at the moment. http://www.pcgamer.com/uk/2014... [pcgamer.com] N

Of course (0)

pthisis (27352) | about 5 months ago | (#47420059)

Braben boasts that his games predicted extra-solar planets ('These were pretty close to those that have been since discovered, demonstrating that there is some validity in our algorithms'), and that the game's use of current planet-formation theories has shown the sheer number of different systems that can exist according to the rules, everything from nebulous gas giants to theoretically habitable worlds.

Starflight did this in 1986.

Re:Of course (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47420181)

And Elite did this in 1984

Re: Of course (1)

Teranolist (3658793) | about 5 months ago | (#47420455)

Was it obeying the same rules or just creating "random stuff"?

Re: Of course (2)

ElderKorean (49299) | about 5 months ago | (#47420701)

And Elite did this in 1984 Was it obeying the same rules or just creating "random stuff"?

From what I remember the star and planet creation happened through an algorithm, as you could visit the same location when playing Elite on a totally different computer, eg BBC Micro, or (eventually) PC version. There was some fluctuation on commodity prices but even that wasn't really random, more cyclic.

Re: Of course (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 5 months ago | (#47422481)

I think GP meant "random" as in the seeded random values a computer generates; i.e. all over the place and unpredictable for a human but completely identical every time.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47420583)

And Star Trek did this in the 1960s...

Re:Of course (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#47422539)

Wasn't there only ever one planet per star in Elite?

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47424575)

yes. It wasn't until Frontier: Elite II came out that hey could model a whole solar system in 3d with realistic ranges and things like gravity. Not bad for 1993. Starflight in 86 was 2d and had the standard scifi trope of everything being right next door to one another. it also didn't model gravity or orbital dynamics.

Re:Of course (1)

pthisis (27352) | about 5 months ago | (#47436969)

Gravity was modelled and absolutely key in Starflight--if you tried to land on planets that were too high-grav, your lander would crash and you'd die. So scanning for gravity was among the more important aspects of a landing mission.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47421411)

Don't you think you're a little wrong here? I don't recall Staflight being accurate to any degree or even based on our real Galaxy, which Elite: Frontier did back in the early to mid-90's before we discovered any exo-planets. Perhaps either Braben was not being detailed enough, or NYT left off some comments.

Drake's equation did it in 1961 (3)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 5 months ago | (#47420549)

Drake's equation did it in 1961 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47422693)

And grapefruit did remote controls for tv's in the 60's.

Re:Drake's equation did it in 1961 (3, Informative)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 5 months ago | (#47422759)

Drake's Equation hasn't predicted anything, because no-one knows what the vaues of any of the variables are.

Re:Drake's equation did it in 1961 (1)

fuzzywig (208937) | about 5 months ago | (#47423837)

We've got quite a good idea of R, the rate of star formation, and in the next 50 years or so we'll probably have a more precise value for fP, the number of stars that have planets.

Re:Drake's equation did it in 1961 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47422913)

Drakes equation is just random bullshit.
A prime example of pseudoscience.

Writing it in equation form is dishonest, it is just an enumerated list of things that could be of relevance for finding a civilization that you can communicate with. It also lacks proof regarding the lists completeness and several of the points are just subsets of other points.

Explore the known universe (2)

Trogre (513942) | about 5 months ago | (#47421149)

apt-get/yum install celestia

Obligatory (3, Funny)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | about 5 months ago | (#47421281)

My god!...... it's full of stars!

For those wanting to know more (1)

Pecisk (688001) | about 5 months ago | (#47422873)

ED has been amazing blast so far, both as KS community and just inspirational development project. We are closing to regular beta, starting at the end of July, which will have huge majority of first version of ED implemented, coming out at the end of the year.

See ED unofficial community FAQ [wikia.com] for more

No no no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47422981)

Video games are defined by the artistry with which hacks are made to make something plausible but with complete disdain for physical accuracy. That physics engine you're using? Completely inaccurate. It's a hack to make plausible physics, based on physical laws. If a physics engine disagrees with the science, it's not that science needs to learn from the physics engine. Braben may well boast about "predicting" extra-solar planets but he has not written an engine to solve for current planet formation theory, he's written a planet forming engine which is loosely based on current planet formation theory. The reason he can solve bigger systems than the pros is because he cheats and uses massive hacks, because he cares about plausibility not accuracy.

You may as well say CERN has a lot to learn about anti-matter from Dan Brown.

Slashvertisement for a 1984 game? (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 5 months ago | (#47423107)

As I started reading TFS, I really was expecting the announcement of a new space combat sim or 4X game, but... Elite? really?

Re:Slashvertisement for a 1984 game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47423389)

There's a new Elite game in development, currently in paid beta.

wow (1)

CSIHiddenCrimesHack (3740981) | about 5 months ago | (#47423777)

What's this article! WOW

Uh... I don't get it (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 5 months ago | (#47425133)

I did read the fine article, but I'm afraid I just don't get what's going on here. Are the players contributing something in some kind of crowd-sourced "Yes, that blob is a star, and its center is here" kind of way? Or are they using players' computers as a distributed processing system?

It's nifty either way, but I don't the New Yorker's audience has the same kinds of questions about the technology that I do. Can anybody in this audience (more like me) help me out?

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