Archive for April, 2016

Universe Sandbox ² Alpha 19 Preview

Universe Sandbox ² - Third Stage Saturn V

The new model for the third stage of the Saturn V rocket.

We’re still working hard to get Alpha 19 polished and ready to go. We hope to have it ready in the next few weeks.

Until then, you can read about what’s coming in Alpha 19 below and try out a preview version by manually opting in via Steam:

  1. Right-click on the game title in your Steam Library
  2. Click on ‘Properties’
  3. Select the ‘Betas’ tab
  4. Set the dropdown menu to ‘alpha19preview
  5. Close the Properties window
  6. Steam will now update Universe Sandbox ² to the preview version
  7. Once updated, launch Universe Sandbox ²

 

1. Roche Limit & Tidal Heating

In this simulation, the Moon is orbiting Earth within the Roche limit and is being torn apart by tidal forces.

In this simulation, the Moon is orbiting Earth within the Roche limit and is being torn apart by tidal forces.

When a small celestial body approaches a larger body at a distance inside its Roche limit, it begins to stretch and disintegrate due to tidal forces. Essentially, the gravitational force acting on the closer side of the smaller body is stronger than the force acting on the far side. Outside of the Roche limit, these tidal forces are still present and can heat bodies in close orbits.

In Universe Sandbox ² Alpha 19, you can see these effects when a satellite tightly orbits its primary body, or when a star gets too close to a massive black hole, or even if two identically-sized bodies are in a close binary orbit. First, the secondary body will heat up, then if it’s close enough, it will begin to disintegrate and lose mass by producing a stream of particles. Often times these particles will begin orbiting and form a nice glowing ring around the primary body.

 

2. Models for Saturn V 3rd Stage, New Horizons probe, & Police Box

Universe Sandbox ² - Updated New Horizons Model

We’ve put in improved models for the third stage of the Saturn V rocket, which was used in multiple lunar missions, and the New Horizons probe, which has famously given us a closer look at Pluto. We’ve also added in another very important spacecraft, the police box.  These new and improved models were made for Universe Sandbox ² by Toby Halter, who is continuing to make models for us. It’s not possible to pilot or control these spacecraft… but we’re talking about it.

To check these out, you can load up the following sims:
– Third Stage of the Apollo 12 in Orbit of Earth in 2003
– New Horizons Pluto Encounter in 2015

Or you can place them in any simulation: Add > Objects tab.

 

3. Improved Explosion Power

Universe Sandbox ² - Earth Moons Explode

We’ve improved both the visuals and the simulated effects for the explosion power.

As you can see in the screenshot above, using Explode on a body will send out a “shock wave” which will affect surrounding bodies as well, causing a chain of destruction. Realistic destruction, of course.

 

4. Simulation Quality Setting

You can now adjust a Simulation Quality setting in Home>Settings>General tab. This will adjust the maximum number of attracting and non-attracting bodies, which in turn will affect the number of particles/fragments produced and how long they last. Set it to “Auto” to determine the best settings for your hardware.

In the future we hope to have this setting adjust dynamically with what is happening in the simulation, in order to constantly find the best balance between performance and simulation experience.

 

 

We still have some bugs to sort through and some polish to add, so hold tight. We’ll let everyone know once Alpha 19 is available.

The laser, which is already part of the VR mode, is still being integrated with the additional surface detail feature. We expect these features to be ready for Alpha 20.

You can buy Universe Sandbox ² on our website or on the Steam Store.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest Universe Sandbox ² news.

Celebrating Our Rare and Special Planet on Earth Day

Universe-Sandbox-²-Earth Day

I hear a lot of people say that looking at our universe from a solar system, galactic, or cosmological scale makes them feel small and insignificant. Insignificant to who and what? I look at our universe and I see the incredible complexity that has arisen from a few forces and a few fundamental laws. You see it in the structure of the cosmic background, you see it in the shapes of galaxies, you see it in the heavy elements formed in our stars. Nowhere do you see that complexity more than when you look at life. It was a glorious accident that allowed us to exist, and we exist in an incredibly delicate balance.

99.99999999…% of the universe is empty space. 99.9999999…% of that which is not empty space is lifeless. Why does it matter if somewhere light years away something doesn’t care about your individual existence?  We have this amazing planet and it might not be unique in the universe in its complexity, but it is incredibly rare and special, and I feel very significant — overwhelmed with a sense of purpose and duty, in fact — because it is up to us to try as hard as we can to preserve this rare and special place and all the life on it.

The structure of the universe doesn’t make me feel insignificant. It makes me feel incredibly lucky. By some chance I exist in this rare place. Thus it is my duty to try to keep life existing here, and to try to make that life as pleasant as possible for the other rare and lucky creatures who share it with me.

– Jenn Seiler, astrophysicist and Universe Sandbox ² developer.

 

Learn how we simulate Earth’s climate and how you can explore it in Universe Sandbox ²:

 

Hiring a Simulation Developer

This position has been filled. If this sounds like the perfect job for you, though, please reach out. We are always looking for more help from the right candidates. 

Giant Army is looking for a simulation developer to help in our continued development on Universe Sandbox ², a space and gravity simulator with a 94% positive rating on Steam.

You will work with scientists and developers to improve and create geophysical and astrophysical simulation code. This code must smoothly integrate with the other systems in Universe Sandbox ², including running in real-time under computational restraints.

Above all you must be an experienced C# programmer (ideally with Unity experience). You do not need to be a subject-matter expert, but you must be a collaborative worker who is curious about science, and you must have a broad toolkit of numerical techniques.

We hope you join us in making something incredible that’s never been done before.

64965164eb4040ed43c35c75550bd29f46a73748

Your Role

  • Build on, improve and optimize, and create new geophysical and astrophysical simulation codes which talk to all the other pieces of the simulation
  • Work with scientists to define a problem and iteratively determine the best numerical solution that meets computational constraints
  • Work with developers to integrate with other systems and the graphical display smoothly
  • Quickly prototype and estimate computational costs
  • Help change the way the world perceives our universe and fragile planet

Ideal Candidate

  • Is a self-driven and talented programmer with experience applying/integrating numerical models in a compiled language using modern developer best-practices
  • Writes clean code that is comprehensible to teammates
  • Loves physics simulations and fantastical what-if scenarios: what-if.xkcd.com (note citation #6 on 148)
  • Is excited about developing a tool that allows users to experiment with simulations, pushing the boundaries of what has been done in real time for public consumption

Mandatory Qualifications

  • (Strong C# && Unity Engine experience) || (Experience with an entity component model && object-oriented programming)
  • Experience with developing simulations
  • Familiar with version control, some kind of task-management system, unit tests, code reviews, and so forth
  • Familiar with a broad toolkit of numerical techniques
  • Works collaboratively
  • Curious about science
  • Enjoys a challenging problem

Preferred Qualifications

  • M.S. in relevant field (e.g. applied math, computer science)
  • Ability to meet in person at least once a week in Seattle, WA, United States, but will consider outstanding candidates from anywhere in the world

Partial List of Simulation Improvements

  • Improving the climate simulation (calculating temperature, pressure, greenhouse effect, user adjustable materials, dust from impacts affecting the temperature)
  • Improving asteroid collisions (heating, impact size, velocities of fragments)
  • Adding atmospheric drag (based on the properties of the body and the atmosphere, with correct heating of the body and material loss from the friction and heat)
  • Improving our material system (metallic hydrogen in gas giants, simulating subsurface oceans on moons)
  • Improving supernova and stellar evolution (and making that all work smoothly together)
  • Improved transitions of bodies as their properties change (add hydrogen to a rocky body to make it become a gas giant, keep adding to turn it into a star)
  • This position is (largely) not oriented toward improving the following:
    • N-body
    • Relativity
    • Fluid dynamics

More Information

You don’t need to be a subject-matter expert in any area of geophysical sciences or astronomy, but you must be curious about science, and love the idea of working with scientists who would lay out a computational problem that you could help solve and implement. Everything must run in real time; computational efficiency is key. Sometimes the level of complexity that we can represent is a continual negotiation depending on the efficiencies that prove possible. Which is why this work is incredibly important for making Universe Sandbox more awesome.

There is an element of iteration with the scientists and developers. We may start from a wish-list or pseudocode that is too computationally expensive, and iterate from there, coming up with new ideas for which simple models of the physical process to suggest next. Your job in this iteration is to quickly prototype, if needed, and provide estimates for whether the current idea has yet achieved feasibility.

Besides the scientists who want to compute things in real time, the graphics programmer is concerned with displaying them smoothly, so you also need to iterate on the output and its interface with the graphical display. And because it’s a sandbox on a broad scale, everything must integrate well with existing systems. Models of specific processes do not exist in isolation of the influence of the rest of the simulation; everything must work together and be designed with this in mind.

This is very much a collaborative position, and so the ability to work well in a team is an important qualification. You must be good at working with other people’s code, and you need to be able to take direction from the creator of Universe Sandbox on design constraints, from the scientists on physical realism, and work with the systems architect to make it all operate smoothly with the core simulation and gravity integration that is already in place. You may work with the numerical physics programmer responsible for the gravity integration on problems like threading and other computational optimizations for the software at large.

Portfolio-wise, visualizations are appreciated. Visualizations of simulations that did not run in real time may impress us, but in this position everything must run in real time, so things that do will impress us more, perhaps in the form of runnable code (e.g. an executable).

Company Overview

Giant Army is the company behind Universe Sandbox, a space simulator that’s sold hundreds of thousands of copies on Steam. Our headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, USA, with team members in Arizona, Missouri, Germany, and Denmark.

Team members enjoy a flexible, collaborative environment. 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 our core product that lets the user explore and learn about our amazing universe and fragile planet while creating and destroying on a scale they’ve never before imagined. 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 alpha access now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How to Apply

This position has been filled. If this sounds like the perfect job for you, though, please reach out. We are always looking for more help from the right candidates. 

Email us: jobs at universesandbox.com

In the email please include:

  • Relevant email subject
  • Link to or copy of your resume or CV
  • Relevant code sample/s
  • Link to examples of your work, including visualizations of numerical simulations
  • Answers to these two questions:
    • What is the most appealing part of this opportunity?
    • What feature would you be most interested in adding or helping make better?
  • Where you originally heard about this job posting

Hiring a Producer

This position has been filled. Thank you to everyone who applied.

Giant Army is looking for a producer to help in our continued development on Universe Sandbox ², a space and gravity simulator with a 94% positive rating on Steam.

You will work closely with the project lead with the overall goal of making Universe Sandbox ² even more realistic, accessible, and awesome. You will also work with the team as a whole to organize and prioritize tasks and projects, while helping ensure goals are met within established time-frames. You must be self-directed, organized, and an excellent communicator.

We hope you join us in making something incredible that’s never been done before.

Universe Sandbox ² - 20160401-003218

Your Role

  • Work with the team to help change the way people think about our amazing universe and fragile planet
  • Work closely with Dan, the project director, to discuss, articulate, and execute on the project goals
  • Maintain a broad view of the project to ensure it is oriented toward these long-term goals each step of the way
  • Work with each team member to maintain a clear vision of their individual progress and stay on track towards goals in established time-frames
  • Maintain, prioritize, and coordinate plans for projects which involve multiple team members
  • Help make decisions and provide possible solutions to problems

Ideal Candidate

  • Interested by physics simulations and fantastical what-if scenarios: what-if.xkcd.com (note citation #6 on 148)
  • Experience with software/video game/educational development, having worked with both artists and programmers
  • Has educational, business, and/or marketing acumen
  • Has experience as a lead or in some role managing others
  • Has ideas for improving production and an understanding of agile methodologies
  • Ability to meet in person at least once a week in Seattle, WA, United States (or willing to relocate), but we will consider outstanding candidates from anywhere in the world (without relocation)

Mandatory Qualifications

  • Excited about science & improving the user experience
  • Self-directed, comes up with good ideas and executes them
  • Enthusiasm for the project’s science-focused vision
  • Energized by meetings, personal interactions, and problem solving
  • Personable and energized by working with a wide-variety of personalities

Company Overview

Giant Army is the company behind Universe Sandbox, a space simulator that’s sold hundreds of thousands of copies on Steam. Our headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, USA, with team members in Arizona, Missouri, Germany, and Denmark.

Team members enjoy a flexible, collaborative environment. 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 our core product that lets the user explore and learn about our amazing universe and fragile planet while creating and destroying on a scale they’ve never before imagined. 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 alpha access now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How to Apply

This position has been filled. Thank you to everyone who applied.

Email us: jobs at universesandbox.com

In the email please include:

  • Relevant email subject
  • Link to or copy of your resume or CV
  • Answer to the following two questions:
    • What is the most appealing part of this opportunity?
    • Why would you be a good producer on this project?
  • Where you originally heard about this job posting

 

VR is Now Available for Universe Sandbox ²

Universe Sandbox ² - Earth Explosion VR

For the past few months our highest priority has been adding in HTC Vive/SteamVR support for Universe Sandbox ². The team’s hard work has paid off: we now have a fully-functional virtual reality version which allows you to walk and fly around your simulations, melt planets with a giant laser, then grab them and hurl them off into nothingness with a flick of the wrist.

The best way to experience the amazing sense of scale and immersion in Universe Sandbox ² VR is to put on a headset and check it out for yourself. But if that’s not possible, then here’s a trailer for Universe Sandbox ² VR, featuring user-created VR gameplay videos courtesy of Brad Lynch and Count Lorek of BMcD Gaming.


VR is Free for Owners of Universe Sandbox ²

Universe Sandbox ² now includes both the desktop version and the new VR mode. So anyone who buys Universe Sandbox ² will also receive Universe Sandbox ² VR, and anyone who already owns Universe Sandbox ² can access the VR mode at no extra charge.

If you own Universe Sandbox ² on Steam and have access to a Vive, just run Steam to update. Then launch Universe Sandbox ² and select “Launch Universe Sandbox ² in Steam VR Mode” in the popup dialog box.

Universe Sandbox ² - Uranus VR

Lots of Love for Universe Sandbox ² VR at GDC

Thanks to Valve, we were able to demo our VR version of Universe Sandbox ² in the Steam booth two weeks ago at GDC, the world’s largest professionals-only video game conference.

We received great feedback from everyone who stopped by for a demo, with many agreeing that it was one of the most compelling VR experiences they had tried.

PC Gamer assistant editor Tom Marks said Universe Sandbox ² “was one of the coolest thing [he’s] tried on Vive so far.” Check out the video below for his discussion of Universe Sandbox ² VR:

Scott Manley, a popular YouTuber whose videos combine science and games, was one of the first to stop by for a demo:


 
Here’s a small write-up from Rock Paper Shotgun editor Graham Smith: Universe Sandbox ² Now Has a Virtual Reality Mode

In another article about VR, Graham mentions Universe Sandbox ² as one of the few upcoming VR games which he thinks “look spectacular.”

And here’s an older article from UploadVR, based on an interview with Dan, creator and project lead on Universe Sandbox ²: Literally Play Pool with the Planets in Universe Sandbox ² VR

Universe Sandbox ² - Planets VR

What’s Next for VR?

We still have work to do, but we’ve already got an enjoyable and impressive VR experience. Beyond adding polish to the interface, we also have to work on getting the best performance possible in order to keep up with VR requirements of 90 frames per second. With VR it’s crucial to meet this requirement in order to keep the risk of motion sickness at a minimum.

We’ll continue to work on the VR version as well as the desktop version, and we’ll release updates when they’re ready. We don’t support Oculus Rift yet, but we’re looking into adding this in once the Touch is available.

You can buy Universe Sandbox ² on our website or on the Steam Store.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Did We Say VR? We Meant RV! Cruise Around Space with RV Mode

Universe-Sandbox-²-RV-Mode

RV photo credit: Greg Gjerdingen (CC License)

RV Mode is Coming Soon to Universe Sandbox ² (sorry, it’s RV, not VR mode)

First, we must apologize for this typo which was made many, many times in many of the posts here and on our promotional material. While we’re not sure who was responsible for editing these posts, we’re in the process of hiring someone now who can find the culprit and immediately fire them. We will then immediately fire this new employee as well.

So to be clear, we meant to say RV mode, not VR mode.  We’re talking recreational vehicles here, not virtual reality. Yep, RVs, those huge clunky things you can use to take the whole family on the greatest ever cross-country road trip, with no need for rest stops because inside of that RV you’ve got a bathroom, plenty of room to pace back and forth, and, if you’re lucky, even a satellite TV.

Step Inside the RV of Your Dreams… In Space

While a VR mode for Universe Sandbox ² does sound pretty cool (we’ll look into this), the RV mode which we’ve actually been focusing on for the past few months is something which we think you’ll agree is way cooler.

Just imagine: You load up a simulation of our solar system and engage RV Mode. Suddenly you’re sitting in the cushy front seat of your very own recreational vehicle, feeling like royalty on the Intergalactic Highway. You kick it into high gear and blaze through space at 60 miles per hour (that’s about 96 km/h if you’re in Europe), looking out the huge, panoramic windshield as you pass the gas giants of our solar system. What’s that, not interested in Jupiter’s moons? No problem, take a break and check out the kitchenette. Explore the mini-fridge. Explore the contents of the pot on the hot-plate. Are you picking up a signal on the satellite TV? If so, explore the 200+ channels of premium content. 

Of course, while making this RV Mode we haven’t forgotten about the spirit of the sandbox. So yes you can still experiment and get answers to fantastical what-if questions like, “What if I put the hot tub jets [yes you can unlock a hot tub] on full blast? How much sooner will I run out of gas?” or “What if I open the windows?” or “What if I drive this thing right into the sun?”

Why RV Mode for Universe Sandbox ²?

Good question. But have you considered “Why not?”

Truth be told, this may seem like it’s coming out of left field for a space and gravity simulator, but since day one it’s been part of the dream for Universe Sandbox ². Dan Dixon, creator and project lead on Universe Sandbox ², pointed out the obvious reason: “The driving force behind this project has always been about giving the player the freedom and tools to do whatever they want. And what embodies freedom more than cruising around the universe in an RV?”

So forget about exploring your Universe Sandbox ² simulations in full 3D and waving your hands around to make planets collide. The real frontier of next-generation gaming lies in the powerful and inspiring potential of the RV, the cutting edge of unwieldy, carbon-friendly (and family-friendly) automobiles. 

Again, sorry for all those typos.