Archive for January, 2016

Universe Sandbox ² 2016 Roadmap

Happy New Year! 2015 was an exciting year for us. A few highlights: Universe Sandbox ² got a whole lot faster thanks to multiple physics refactorings, it was made a lot prettier thanks to a new user interface and a slew of eye candy upgrades, and we released on Steam Early Access with extremely positive reviews which haven’t stopped coming in.

The good news is that we don’t plan on slowing down. The following is a list of our hopes for Universe Sandbox ² in 2016.

It’s not necessarily a roadmap in the sense that we’ll get to these features in this order. But these are some of the big landmarks we are very excited to explore as we continue development through 2016 and beyond.

More Planetary Details & Interactions

A laser melting a frozen Earth.

Planets in Universe Sandbox ² will be visually more detailed and responsive to interactions, all part of a project which we are internally calling “automata.”

This works by increasing the spatial resolution of data. That is, instead of having one point of data for an object’s property, like temperature, there will now be a 2D grid of data. In the example of temperature, this means that collisions can impact values locally, so heat spreads from the impact site rather than just raising the overall temperature. In turn, this will make for much more dynamic visuals. This will eventually also factor in elevation, making possible more detailed surface deformation and a lot more. And along with the improved composition system mentioned below, this will form the groundwork for basic life simulation.

Oh, and there will also be lasers.

Improved Composition System

Currently we support four materials for a body’s composition: iron, silicate, water, and hydrogen. We’ve been discussing ways we can include additional materials to this list. We’d also like to improve the interactions between radii and compositions, as the results are sometimes a bit confusing right now. Another component we’ve discussed is atmospheric composition. This is a very tricky problem with no clear solution, but it’s often requested and we are working toward it.

Space Megastructures
a.k.a. The Feature No One Knew They Wanted Until They Had It

A megastructure around Earth. The green lines are the current, early rendering which will be improved.

A megastructure around Earth. The green lines are the current, early rendering which will be improved.

We’re not ready to give away too many details on this yet… but doesn’t “Space Megastructures” sound pretty cool? The answer is yes, they do sound pretty cool, because they are. Using physics based space tethers as the idea behind the basic building block, these structures can come in many shapes and sizes. We still have a lot of work to do on these, but you can start imagining things along the lines of space elevators, Dyson spheres, and ring worlds.

Virtual Reality

What more needs to be said? Internally we have basic support for this going already, but there’s still a lot of work to do in fine-tuning the experience of reaching out, grabbing the Moon, then hurling it toward Earth. Our initial efforts are directed at getting it to work with the upcoming Steam VR based HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.

User Interface Rewrite

This is largely an under-the-hood rewrite, but it’s going to make it possible to scale the interface for larger and different-sized resolutions, and also allow for language localization down the road. Technically, we’re transitioning from our own internal system to the new native system in Unity (our 3D engine) that didn’t exist when we started on this project 4 years ago.

Language Localization

As mentioned above, the rewrite to the user interface will make it a lot easier for us to implement localization. Our next step, once we’re ready, is to start the crowd-sourced localization process so we can get Universe Sandbox ² running in as many languages as possible.

Stellar Evolution Rewrite

A Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in Universe Sandbox ² using the new stellar evolution model.

A Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in Universe Sandbox ² using the new stellar evolution model.

Universe Sandbox ² will support 16 evolutionary star types with the stellar evolution rewrite , versus the previous 5.  The improved evolution model, based on these papers, is primarily a function of mass and age or metallicity, and will work for evolutionary types outside of main-sequence stars.

The result will be more dynamic and accurate properties for stars, as well as smoother transitions from type to type. The model also will now account for mass loss from solar winds, and be able to differentiate envelope from core. As a whole, this is also a stepping stone toward being able to illustrate stellar nucleosynthesis in Universe Sandbox ². We’ve hit a few snags in fully implementing this, but Jenn, our astrophysicist, has been making good, steady progress.

Total Body Fragmentation

This feature was partially implemented before, but was removed during the physics rewrite. Now we’re about ready to add it back in, and once we add some nice visual flair, this will make collisions and explosions even more epic and realistic as planets get completely broken apart.

Improved Galaxies

We’ve been saying for a bit now that we’d like to give galaxies some love again, as they’ve been mostly overlooked recently while we work on other projects. Our plan includes completely reworking procedural galaxies, which tend to all look the same right now, and fixing a number of bugs which currently make galaxies a little difficult to interact with.

Atmospheric Scattering

We often see requests from users that the view from the surface (press “C” when focused on a body) could be improved. We completely agree. One big step toward this is accounting for the atmosphere (if the planet has one), resulting in nice colored skies, sunrises, and sunsets, all products of atmospheric scattering. This will greatly increase the immersion when looking up from one of your planets.

Steam Workshop

Once we get the save/load mechanics even more solid, we plan to add in support for Steam Workshop. This will allow users to easily share saved simulations and objects with each other, which will be a very cool way of seeing what everyone is creating with Universe Sandbox ².


Steam Achievements are another common request for Universe Sandbox ². They can add a little incentive for exploring the simulation and trying things you wouldn’t normally try. Have any good ideas for Achievements? Let us know on the forum!

Expanded Climate Change Exploration

Our climate models for Earth and Mars have been successfully implemented in Universe Sandbox ² for a while. But we’d like to strengthen our focus on this component to further help educate users on one of the most pressing issues we face today as citizens of the Earth.

Mobile Version

Again, another common request for Universe Sandbox ². We haven’t yet moved beyond discussing this as a possibility, but we are very interested in a mobile version. Universe Sandbox ² could work extremely well with touch commands, and a mobile version would greatly increase the amount of people who could get their hands on it. With constant improvements to mobile technology, and Unity’s tools for building mobile apps (the 3D engine we use), this could be a reality sooner than we think.

Fixing Bugs

We’ve hired a dedicated tester whose job is to rigorously test Universe Sandbox ², helping us find and fix bugs as we continue development. We’re a small team, and the nature of a massive space sandbox means that there are an extraordinary amount of things to test. Our community has been super helpful to this end, but we’re happy to now have someone who’s devoted to this task and can help fill in the cracks.


The Future of Universe Sandbox ²

This roadmap may seem ambitious (and it is), but we’ve already gone pretty far into unexplored territory. We’re committed to making Universe Sandbox ² better and better as we continue to create something that’s never been done before. We hope you’re as excited as we are about the future.

Get instant access to Universe Sandbox ² on Steam Early Access:

Alpha 18.2 | Planet Nine | Now Available

Planet Nine

The discovery of a hypothetical ninth planet in our solar system was announced on January 20th, 2016 by researchers at the California Institute of Technology.

Universe Sandbox ² Alpha 18.2 features two simulations of Planet Nine. Run Steam to update, then check them out in Home -> Open -> Possible Planet Nine [and] Evidence of a Ninth Planet. 

Or buy now for instant access to Universe Sandbox ² on Steam Early Access:

The announcement comes after years of research into explaining the peculiar, but very similar, orbits of six small bodies orbiting beyond Neptune. Many theories have been proposed, but none has been as compelling as a very distant ninth planet pulling these bodies into their highly elliptical orbits. Using mathematical modeling, the two researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, have shown that a ninth planet fits very well into the data we have about objects in the Kuiper Belt and beyond.

There's only a 1 in 15,000 chance that the clustering of the orbits on the left is coincidental. Another explanation is the gravitational influence of a ninth planet, whose orbit is represented by the yellow line on the right. (from Universe Sandbox ²)

There’s only a 1 in 15,000 chance that the clustering of the orbits on the left is coincidental. Another explanation is the gravitational influence of a ninth planet, whose orbit is represented by the yellow line on the right. (from Universe Sandbox ²)

Planet Nine has not been directly observed yet by telescope, which is why it is hypothetical. But the researchers say there is a very good chance of spotting it in the next five years. It is suspected to be about 10 times the mass of Earth, similar in size to Neptune, with an orbit that’ll take it around the Sun every 10,000 – 20,000 years. 

Of course, we don’t know how Planet Nine got there. Brown and Batygin propose that this planet was formed in the early days of the solar system, along with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Then it could have been shot outward by one of the gas giants, and instead of leaving the solar system entirely, it may have been slowed down by gas in the Sun’s protoplanetary disk, enough to keep it in orbit.

Universe Sandbox ² - Planet Nine Alt Angle

Alternative angle of Planet Nine (yellow orbital line) and the six objects used in the analysis. (from Universe Sandbox ²)

If the ninth planet does exist, then it will be the second time our solar system will have claim to nine planets… After, of course, Pluto was demoted in 2006. But Brown says there’s no question that the hypothetical ninth planet is indeed a planet. It’s likely much bigger than Earth, and has a large influence on other bodies in the solar system. And besides, Brown would know — his discovery of Eris was the reason Pluto was voted out.

Here’s a great discussion of Planet Nine by Mike Merrifield, an astronomer and professor at the University of Nottingham:

We’re hope you’re as excited about this possible discovery as we are! Make sure you check out the new simulations in Universe Sandbox ²: Home -> Open -> Possible Planet Nine [and] Evidence of a Ninth Planet.

See the complete list of What’s New in Alpha 18.2:  What’s New


Additional links about Planet Nine:

Astronomers say a Neptune-sized planet lurks beyond Pluto 

Evidence grows for giant planet on fringes of Solar System

Evidence for a Distant Giant Planet in the Solar System (research paper)

Hiring a Tester

Please see our updated job post for this position.


Giant Army is looking for a part-time video game/simulation tester to join our team. You should be familiar with Universe Sandbox ², and interested in helping us find and fix bugs as we continue development. You will work independently to regularly test our builds and write up bug reports, then work with the team to ensure they’ve been fixed.

You will need a keen eye and love of science, the ability to write clearly, and a desire to rigorously test Universe Sandbox ².

This is an hourly, contract position.

Join us… we’re making something incredible that’s never been done before.


Your Role

  • Create a comprehensive list of features to test and their expected results, and update it as we add new features
  • Use this list to regularly review our internal builds to make sure we haven’t broken anything
  • Review the forums and feedback to identify user-reported bugs
  • Verify that the bug occurs and write a clear description and reproduction steps (so it’s very easy for our developers to identify the issue without spending time figuring it out)
  • Post bugs to our internal Trello board
  • Communicate with our developers on Slack to help squash bugs
  • Verify that tasks, new features, and bug fixes completed by our developers are, in fact, completed

 Ideal Candidate

  • Has already spent many hours exploring Universe Sandbox ² and loves it… and has spotted a bug or two
  • Has experience with/insight into software testing and methodology, and knows what developers are looking for
  • Maintains a flexible schedule which allows for varying hours (depending on where we are in development cycle)
  • Owns both a Windows and a Mac machine and maybe even a Linux machine

Mandatory Qualifications

  • Ability to write clear descriptions and reproduction steps for bugs in English
  • Detail-oriented and an eye for noticing when things aren’t quite right
  • Intuition about science and how our simulations should work
  • Must own a Windows or Mac machine

Company Overview

Giant Army is the company behind Universe Sandbox ². Our headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, USA, with team members across the United States and in Germany and Denmark.

Team members enjoy a flexible, collaborative environment. We strive for work-life balance, and we pursue the features that get us excited about science. We do the work so that we can share that with others. We’re also committed to creating an accessible experience that can’t be found elsewhere.

Science is for everyone, and we welcome all qualified applicants.

Product Overview

Universe Sandbox ² is a space simulator that merges real-time gravity, climate, collision, and material interactions to reveal the beauty of our universe and the fragility of our planet. It’s more than a game; it’s a way of experiencing and learning about reality in a way that’s never been done before. Early access now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How to Apply

Please see our updated job post for this position.


Email us: jobs at

In the email please include:

  • Relevant email subject
  • Link to or copy of your resume or CV
  • Answer to this question:
    • What is the most appealing part of this opportunity?
  • A description and reproduction steps for a bug which is currently in Universe Sandbox ² Alpha 18
    • These don’t need to be long. Succinct and clear is best.
    • Example description of an old bug:
      • Loading a saved sim with a star in it causes a supernova
    • Example reproduction steps:
      1. Open new sim
      2. Add Sun (seems to happen with any star)
      3. Save sim
      4. Load sim
      • Star instantly supernovas
  • Where you originally heard about this job posting