Universe Sandbox Takes Off in China

The Wandering Earth

Have you heard of the sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth? While it has had modest success with a limited release in the United States, it is now China’s second-highest-grossing film of all time with over $679 million in domestic box office sales.

The screenplay is based on a story by Liu Cixin, a renown Chinese sci-fi author who has popularized the genre with his award-winning stories, including the novel The Three-Body Problem (which also has a movie adaptation in the works and received praise from Barack Obama).

Simulating a Disaster Film

Earth being ripped apart by Jupiter’s tidal forces in Universe Sandbox.

Critics say The Wandering Earth often falls victim to the trappings of disaster films (overblown CGI, heavy-handed sentimentality, etc.), but what excites us is the scenario that plays out in the film.

To us, the plot summary reads like a description of a simulation in a not-too-distant version of Universe Sandbox: [SPOILERS] In the future, Sun evolves into red giant and threatens Earth habitability → Gigantic thrusters are attached to Earth (you better believe this fits well into our development plans) → Earth is propelled farther from the Sun and freezes over → Tidal forces from Jupiter wreak havoc as Earth approaches the gas giant and prepares for collision → A GIF of this terribly interesting disaster is captured and the simulation is shared to Steam Workshop… oh wait that part wasn’t in the film.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones to see this potential. Video creators in China familiar with Universe Sandbox immediately got to work simulating the events of the film.

Here are a couple of the more popular ones that we’re aware of:


Sales Boost

The news of the rising popularity of these videos in China was shared with us by our proofreader for the Chinese language in Universe Sandbox. And sure enough, this correlated with a sharp rise in Universe Sandbox sales in China that we had noticed a week before, along with an influx of Steam reviews written in Chinese (some of which mentioned The Wandering Earth explicitly).

The overlap with Steam’s Lunar New Year sale meant that, for the first two weeks in February, Universe Sandbox copies sold in China made up 50% of our total sales on Steam. Compare this to the previous two weeks, when Chinese sales accounted for only 7% of total sales.


Translating Chinese

Needless to say, we’re extremely grateful for the exposure brought to us by The Wandering Earth and the content creators who used Universe Sandbox to explore its premise. It’s also not hard to imagine that our support for Chinese in Universe Sandbox, which we added last summer, also played a part in making it more accessible and appealing to Chinese players. That said, we don’t want to overlook some criticism we have received about the current Chinese translations. Some reviewers noted that, while it’s appreciated that there is support for Chinese, the translations themselves could be vastly improved.

As with all of the languages we support, we currently rely on community volunteers to suggest improved translations and vote on the best ones. We have contributors now, including a proofreader who approves the best translations, but this is a big project — we are often changing and adding text, and we have no way ourselves to review the quality of the translations. We hope that as the community grows, we have more community members able to help improve these translations.

Want to help translate? Just click “Help Translate” on the Home panel and follow the instructions. Learn more

Want to be a proofreader that approves translations? Let us know!



2018 Retrospective

Happy New Year!

Before we take a look at what’s coming to Universe Sandbox this year, let’s take a look back at our achievements in 2018, by the numbers:



new team member: welcome, Jules, our new sound designer!



the # that was dropped from the logo.

That’s right, now it’s just Universe Sandbox. We’ll have more to say about this soon!


# of significant updates to Universe Sandbox.

  • They Put a Car in Space, We Upgraded Our Engine | Update 20.5 | March 7, 2018
  • More Super Supernovae | Update 20.6 | March 15, 2018
  • This Hyperbolic Update Will Change Your Life | Update 20.7 | May 24, 2018
  • 20 Earth Languages & 12 Jovian Moons | Update 21 | July 19, 2018
  • Windows Mixed Reality Support | Update 21.2 | August 02, 2018
  • The Extremes of Our Solar System | Update 21.3 | October 04, 2018
  • The Universe Just Got Bigger: Steam Workshop Support | Update 22 | November 15, 2018
  • Far Out | Update 22.1 | December 20, 2018



# of Universe Sandbox team members that fit into one house in Spain for a week.



# of new simulations.

  • 2 Parker Solar Probe sims
  • 2 Tesla Roadster sims
  • 2 sims of Jupiter’s newly discovered moons
  • New Horizons Ultima Thule Encounter in 2019
  • 2018 VG18: The Most Distant Object in the Solar System
  • 2015 TG387: A Goblin at the Edge of the Solar System
  • Voyagers 1 & 2 Start 2019 Outside the Solar System
  • Ultimate Engineered System
  • Solar System with No Sun
  • Kepler 10
  • Kepler 47 Binary System
  • Alpha Centauri Triple System
  • Saturn & Earth
  • Retrograde Asteroid 2015 BZ509
  • Interstellar Object with a Hyperbolic Trajectory
  • Solar System with Betelgeuse instead of the Sun
  • Conservation of Momentum lesson
  • Gravitational Force lesson

This just includes the simulations that we added, though. Scroll down for a much larger number of simulations that our community has shared on Workshop!



# of languages now supported in Universe Sandbox.



# of pages of release notes for Universe Sandbox updates in 2018.

Check out What’s New.



# of bugs fixed.

You know what they say, fixing a bug a day keeps the QA away. Just kidding, we can’t — and don’t want to — stop our awesome QA, Mat, from hunting down bugs in Universe Sandbox.

Not all of these bug fixes were notable for releases, as there are many bugs that are discovered and fixed while we’re still doing behind-the-scenes work with improving Universe Sandbox. We look forward to squashing hundreds more this year!



Highest # of concurrent users in Universe Sandbox in 2018 (happened on the week of August 6).

This is the fifth highest of all time for us.



# of positive Steam reviews of Universe Sandbox written in 2018.

All this love for Universe Sandbox really warms our cold, spaceborne hearts. <3



# of simulations shared on Steam Workshop.

That means there are literally thousands of simulations featuring alien planets and systems, recently discovered exoplanets, confounding scientific phenomena, worlds from movies, books, and other video games, and of course bizarre bugs (or are they features?), created by you, the community, now shared on Steam Workshop. We look forward to seeing this treasure trove continue to grow.



# of copies of Universe Sandbox donated for charity.

This year we donated copies to StackUp for distribution to military personnel, donated proceeds to the National Center for Science Education, provided copies to schools and educational organizations, and donated copies for various fundraisers for people doing awesome things, like all the folks at CosmoQuest.



# of objects added to the Universe Sandbox database.

That’s 11,973 new Solar System objects, 387 new exoplanets, 310 new stars, 21 new moons, 2 new human-scale objects, and 1 new galaxy.



# of messages sent on Slack.

We’re a remote team, so other than some video chats and comments on GitHub, all of our conversations happen on Slack. It’s what makes our collaboration on Universe Sandbox possible!



# of copies sold on Steam and other platforms.

Or, on average, one copy sold every five minutes — comfortably keeping pace with last year!



# of views of Markiplier’s two recent videos featuring Universe Sandbox.

These were the most watched Universe Sandbox videos on YouTube this year. And this brings the total number of views of Markiplier’s Universe Sandbox videos to… 35,522,196. Granted, 24 million of those views are on the so-catchy-you-really-will-regret-being-reminded-of-it Space is Cool remix, but we’ll take some credit for providing a bit of inspiration and a nice backdrop for Markiplier’s auto-tuned cries of love for space. Many thanks to Markiplier for helping spread the word!





# of supernovae in Universe Sandbox.

According to our analytics, y’all have exploded more than 6 million stars. Needless to say, that’s an accomplishment.


What’s Next?

Our big features this year were Localization (support for other languages) and Steam Workshop. A lot of time and effort went into these features, and we think they’re a pretty big deal — Localization opens up Universe Sandbox for the first time to people all over the world, and support for Workshop has made it super easy to check out an ever increasing catalogue of simulations made by people pushing the limits of Universe Sandbox.

But we also recognize that these features did not change any aspects of the simulation itself. And the simulation is the heart of Universe Sandbox. While we made a number of some smaller improvements and fixes related to the simulation, we unfortunately ran into continual issues with two big updates that we had hoped to get out this year — Surface Grids / Lasers and a physics rewrite. Surface Grids will allow for more detailed surface simulation, including localized temperatures, which makes possible things like heating from lasers. The physics rewrite should greatly increase physics performance and pave the way for additional physics-related features, like megastructures.

We hope to have more news about Surface Grids soon, along with some insight into some of the obstacles we’ve faced with its development. We also continue to work on other projects like new star audio, a new tutorial system, a VR interface overhaul, new galaxies, a mobile version, and continual improvements to the overall experience.

We thank all of you for your continued support of Universe Sandbox! This year we remain committed to improving Universe Sandbox as we develop and plan new features, upgrades, and fixes for 2019 and the years to come.

– The Universe Sandbox Team
Dan, Chris, Georg, Alexander, Jenn, Jonathan, Dave, Rappo, Mat, Jacob, Erika, Jules, and Jared


Universe Sandbox ² Featured in Vsauce Video

Friday, November 3rd: We’ve released Updates 20.2.3 and 20.2.4, which add two sims from this Vsauce video as well as a few improvements and bug fixes. See the sims in Home > Open.

Hey, did you hear that? Michael from Vsauce just gave some high praise of Universe Sandbox ²: “This simulator will blow your mind. I love it.”

Vsauce is a science and education YouTube channel that has attracted over 12.5 million subscribers with “videos that feed the curious and illuminate the amazing.”

We’re very honored and humbled to be featured in their latest video! Check it out below.


For the latest Universe Sandbox ² news, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Universe Sandbox ² GIF Contest

Update December 16: Contest Closed!

Thanks everyone for your submissions! We will be announcing the winner in the next couple of weeks. 


So it’s clear at this point that you all love blowing up planets. But now we want to see exactly how you blow up planets.

Which is why we’re having a Universe Sandbox ² GIF contest!

Submit your GIF before midnight PST, Thursday, December 15, and you’ll be considered for the Grand Prize: a $50 Steam gift card and shoutouts on our social media. Please see below for full instructions on how to submit a GIF. 

Of course, you don’t have to show us exploding planets. We love to see how our fans explore and utilize all of the tools and features in Universe Sandbox ². Be creative. So how do you submit a GIF for the contest? Easy!

How to Submit a GIF via Facebook or Twitter

  1. Open Universe Sandbox ² and start colliding planets (or delicately balancing orbits)
  2. Record your GIF (press F9 to Start/Stop, or click Video > Start/Stop Video Capture)
  3. Click Share once the GIF is processed
  4. After it’s done uploading, select either Share on Facebook or Tweet (alternatively, select Copy URL to Clipboard and manually share on Facebook or Twitter)
  5. Your Tweet/Facebook post MUST be public and MUST include the #UniverseSandbox hashtag in order to be considered for the contest! (If you’re sharing on Facebook, you will have to add #UniverseSandbox yourself; it is automatically included in Tweets)

How to Submit a GIF via Steam

  1. Open Universe Sandbox ² and start colliding planets (or delicately balancing orbits)
  2. Record your GIF (press F9 to Start/Stop, or click Video > Start/Stop Video Capture)
  3. Click Video > Open Video Folder to show where the GIFs are stored on your computer
  4. Upload your GIF to the Universe Sandbox ² Artwork page, no Facebook or Twitter necessary
  5. Visibility MUST be set to Public and it MUST be uploaded to the Community Hub, not your profile

Happy GIFing!

More Love for Universe Sandbox ² VR

Universe Sandbox ² - Earth Explosion VR

When we began work on the VR mode for Universe Sandbox ² at the end of last year, we weren’t really sure how it would turn out, or what people would think of it.

Now, a few months after our VR launch, the picture is a bit more clear: Universe Sandbox ² in VR is awesome, and people love it.

That may sound like it needs a dose of modesty, but take a look at what people are saying below. Space is a great setting for experiencing the sense of scale that VR allows, and a number of users have talked about the wonder (and sometimes dread) that comes with floating next to a true-to-scale Sun. Quite a few users have even said that Universe Sandbox ² has been their best VR experience. But again, no need to take our word for it.

The first Tweet here is from Dean Hall, the creator of DayZ.


Ctrl V is a VR arcade opening up in Canada very soon, for those who’d like to try out VR before purchasing their own headsets. Universe Sandbox ² will be one of the titles available in their libraries. The team at Ctrl V recently tried out Universe Sandbox ² for the first time and sent us this wonderful email:

We here at Ctrl V, are speechless… This game is phenomenal on so many levels. The level of detail and customization available exceeded all of our expectations.

Everyone on our team has both tested, loved, and gotten completely lost in the beauty of this game.

We had never anticipated that a non-shooting VR game would steal the spotlight, but your wizardry has managed to do just that.

— Ryan from Ctrl V


Steam Reviews

This is just a selection of Steam reviews which have praised the VR mode in Universe Sandbox ². It’s impossible to capture them all, because they keep rolling in every day.


…this is the most unbelievable experience you will ever have, VR or otherwise. […] You will not come back from this experience the same. You’ve been warned.

— Brutalface, Steam review

This is perfect for VR. […] If you have VR, you know that some things just make you smile and laugh a little because something cool just happened. This happened almost constantly with this game.

Of all the VR games/Experiences I have (which is pretty much all of them) this is at the top of my list. Get it!!!

— JeffyThanatos, Steam review

Universe Sandbox ² - Uranus VR

I’m a grown man and I literally shed tears when I stood next to Earth spinning peacefully in the vastness of space and looked back at our life-giving Sun so far away and yet so close.

A breathtaking experience for anyone even slightly interested in space exploration.

VR is a must. Completely changes the experience.

— Milo.[HUN], Steam review

My mind was sufficiently blown the first time I entered Universe Sandbox ² in VR. It remains so every time I reboot.

— Shark, Steam review

This on the HTC Vive is the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. The absolute scale of the universe and the accurate depiction of our solar system is totally awe-inspiring. Words, videos or pictures don’t do it justice. It has to be experienced to fully understand how awesome this is.

— stareye2004, Steam review

Played in VR on the HTC Vive and the sense of scale was incredible. I played around with a couple of stars the size of my fist, trying to get them into a binary orbit, but I accidentally collided them and then *boom* my entire room filled with a massive explosion that I was just a speck inside. Just incredible.

— shazow, Steam review

Universe Sandbox ² - Planets VR

Sooooo great with HTC VIVE… One of the best experiences in virtual reality. I usually play it lying on the floor… Love the Big supernovas once you make two stars explode.

— navalguijo, Steam review

Wow… Incredible with HTC VIVE… A complete fantastic submersion in space dynamics. One of the best experiences in virtual reality!

— bilbo.deforce, Steam review

After more intense and exhausting room-scale sessions wear me down this is what I’ve came back to for end of the night relaxation. I’ll sit in the middle of my VR space and mellow out to the beautiful soundtrack and play with the fabric of creation. Pretty damn cool.

— dixon.jonathan, Steam review

One of the most amazing things I’ve witnessed in VR.

— d e s u, Steam review

Incredible in VR, must buy if you have a Vive. Great soundtrack. Developers continue to push out amazing updates for virtual reality.

— iaqo_dan, Steam review

If you don’t have VR, don’t worry, we’re still developing the desktop version of Universe Sandbox ² and expect to release Alpha 19 soon, which will feature some really awesome new Roche limit and tidal heating effects. If you’re itching to try this out, you can opt into a preview version of Alpha 19. Learn more here: Alpha 19 Preview.

Feeling the Love for Universe Sandbox ²

Since our release on Steam Early Access two weeks ago, we’ve been seeing new videos and articles about Universe Sandbox ² every day.

But even better than the huge increase in exposure is seeing how much people are enjoying it. We appreciate each and every YouTube video and write-up that features Universe Sandbox ², but we can’t mention them all, so here’s a short list of some of our favorites.


Nerd³ made the most popular YouTube video about the original Universe Sandbox, and now he’s back to experiment with Earth in Universe Sandbox ². He “fixes” its axis, floods every continent, then hurls it toward the sun.

This is one of the more recent videos in ZeRoyalViking’s series on Universe Sandbox ².  We had the pleasure of chatting with him in person at PAX Prime last week. Looking forward to seeing his future videos!


Have you heard of PewDiePie? No? He only has a small following on YouTube, with over 39 million subscribers. What does he have to say about Universe Sandbox ²? “This game is so ******* cool.”


Jacksepticeye, “the most energetic video game commentator on YouTube,” had nothing but good things to say about Universe Sandbox ²: “I just love this stuff. I could explore this game alllll day.” Jacksepticeye has almost 6.5 million subscribers, and right now this video is the most watched Universe Sandbox ² YouTube video with over 2.1 million views.


And this is one of our personal favorites — Justin and Griffin from Polygon have a blast playing through Universe Sandbox ² for the first time.


Rock Paper Shotgun:  Premature Evaluation: Universe Sandbox 2

In this Early Access review from Rock Paper Shotgun, one of the most popular sources for indie game news and reviews, Marsh Davies writes: “It’s easy to use, beautifully tutorialised, and hugely fascinating.”

Kotaku: Universe Sandbox 2 Lets You Build, Destroy The Universe

My favorite quote from this write-up, published shortly after our launch on Steam Early Access: “Within a minute of booting it up, I’d already smashed Earth into a second, identical Earth and watched both erupt into flame, blossom thousands of tiny volcanic flowers. ‘That escalated quickly,’ I said, realizing even as the words came out of my mouth that it was an understatement.”

Geek DadMy Top 10 Indie Games at PAX Prime 2015, Part I

At PAX we were able to talk to Mike LeSauvage, contributor for Geek Dad. In this article about Universe Sandbox ², Mike writes: “This was the first game I tried out after PAX, and my kids became instantly enamored with it, with my eight-year-old declaring it to be more fun than Splatoon!”

Brash Games: Universe Sandbox ² Early Access Review

Dan Jackson writes, “This will leave you mesmerized only after 5 minutes of navigating the tutorial and once left to your own devices you will lose yourself in the vast expanse of our known galaxy. […] I highly recommend this to anyone with a similar interest or if you’re just curious to see how the universe works. You will not be disappointed.”





And to top it all off, here’s a humble recommendation from the writer and director of the films District 9 and Elysium, Neill Blomkamp:

Listen to an Inteview with Dan, Creator of Universe Sandbox, on The Zachtronics Podcast

Zachtronics Podcast

Dan sits down for an interview with Zach on The Zachtronics Podcast, a series which explores indie game development.

They start out by talking about the humble beginnings of Universe Sandbox a long time ago as Dan’s personal project throughout middle school and high school. Then they get into discussions about the ideas and passions driving the current development, the limitations which present interesting problems and require creative solutions, and the future of Universe Sandbox ².

Listen to the full interview at the Zachtronics website: The Zachtronics Podcast: Episode #4

Interviews From PAX Prime 2014

PAX Prime 2014 is long gone now, but we thought we’d share with you these interviews with Dan, creator and lead on Universe Sandbox ², in case you didn’t catch them back in September.

In the backgrounds of these videos from TimmyTechTV and GeekGamer.TV, you can see our booth and demos of Alpha 10 of Universe Sandbox ².

TimmyTechTV’s YouTube Channel

GeekGamer.TV’s YouTube Channel

We are now up to Alpha 12.1 of Universe Sandbox ².

Buy it now to get instant access to the Alpha through Steam as well as free updates up to and including the final release:

Screenshots from Universe Sandbox ² Users

While you patiently wait for Alpha 12 (available by the end of October), here’s a round of awesome screenshots from Universe Sandbox ² alpha testers.

Earth & 2000 Moons

Earth & 2000 Moons

High-Impact Collision

High-Impact Collision



Terraformed Mars

Terraformed Mars

US² - Rocky Planet with Rings

Rocky Planet with Rings
US² - Heated Planet After Collision

Heated Planet After Collision

Thanks to all those who have shared screenshots from their simulations in Universe Sandbox ².  You can see more on our forum.

For a preview of Alpha 12’s features, check out our previous blog post.

If you do not yet own Universe Sandbox ², buy it now to get instant access to the alpha and receive free updates up to and including the final release:


Scott Manley Simulating the Universe for Fun

Watch “Astronogamer” Scott Manley run through a series of simulations in Universe Sandbox ² as he discusses a bit of the science behind it all:

Thanks, Scott!

Remember, Universe Sandbox ² is still in alpha, so there are many fixes and improvements that are on their way.

Buy Universe Sandbox ² and get instant access to the alpha on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux and pre-order the finished game: