Universe Sandbox 2019 Retrospective

While there’s a lot to look forward to in 2020, we’re going to take a moment to celebrate the milestones we reached this past year.



New team member.

Brendan is a graphics developer from Australia and is joining Georg in making everything in the universe beautiful, awesome, and graphically performant. He’s already worked on improving random planet generation, fixing black hole issues on the Magic Leap, and is now creating visuals for our experimental liquid planets project, AKA smoothed-particle hydrodynamics (SPH).



Number of full-time developers on a new platform.

Magic Leap 1! We started a new journey into augmented reality in 2019 and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done to bring the full power of Universe Sandbox to Magic Leap as an undiluted experience. Dave and Jacob focused most of the year on Magic Leap with support from the rest of the team.

Universe Sandbox creator & director, Dan Dixon, working on Magic Leap with developer Dave Nelson.



New human-sized objects.

  • banana
  • watermelon
  • sword
  • sledgehammer

Everything you need to make a very bad fruit salad.



Significant updates to Universe Sandbox.

  • Revamped Vapor & Engine Experiments | Update 22.2 | April 10, 2019
  • A Big Day for Physics | Update 22.3 | May 30, 2019
  • Beyond the Milky Way | Update 23 | June 25, 2019
  • Galactic Clean-Up | Update 23.1 | August 20, 2019
  • Saturn’s New Moons | Update 23.2 | November 01, 2019
  • Surface Grids & Lasers | Update 24 | November 22, 2019
  • The Color in Space | Update 24.1 | December 19, 2019

This year had a mix of improving existing content and rolling out new features. While there were fewer objects added, several key systems got revamped (see Surface Grids), setting the team up for exciting additions in the coming year.

Image provided by Discord user Mangolia.



# of languages we now support, up from 22 last year.

A big thanks to our community for helping with our crowdsourced translation efforts! Want to help translate Universe Sandbox into your native language? Learn more.

Bulgarian Chinese Simplified Chinese Traditional Czech Danish
Dutch  English  Filipino Finnish French
German Greek Hungarian Indonesian Italian
Japanese Korean Norwegian Polish Portuguese
Romanian Russian Spanish Swedish Thai
Turkish Ukrainian Vietnamese



Highest number of concurrent users in Universe Sandbox in 2019.

This is higher than in 2018, and second only to our all-time high of 617 players in March of 2016, during our first big Steam sale. 



# of users in our Discord server.

Join us on Discord!



# of positive Steam reviews in 2019.

Seeing so much love for Universe Sandbox warms our hearts the way gravitational squishing heats Io.

Overwhelmingly Positive reviews. Wow!



# of code commits (changes) made to the Universe Sandbox project in 2019.

A look at our GitHub commits activity since 2015. The gray section shows 2019.



# of shared items in the Universe Sandbox Steam Workshop.

This is over six times as many as 2018! We can’t wait to see how this library of community creations grows in the coming year! To get through all of them in 2020, you’d have to check out slightly more than 40 per day. (Get cracking?)



# of messages sent on Slack (an instant messaging platform we use to communicate).

Giant Army is a completely remote team, with some dozen members on three continents. We also use Google Meet for our face to face video meetings but much of our work happens in text.



# of units sold on Steam.

In 2018, we sold a copy just about every five minutes. In 2019, that interval narrowed to a little under 3 minutes and 15 seconds. 



Lasers equipped since our Surface Grids & Lasers release.

This is one of the stats we track using our built-in analytics.


The magic cold laser in action. Image provided by Discord user Anonymoose/BlueMarble.



# of views on most viewed Universe Sandbox video of the year.

We’ve been delighted to see GreyStillPlays make 26 videos featuring antics in Universe Sandbox.



# of individual data points we are simultaneously simulating on object surfaces.

This is our Surface Grid system, which is a foundation that we’ve been working on for years, and will enable us to skyrocket into the future with some pretty exciting features. More on that soon in the 2020 roadmap.

(with atlas resolution of 1024 × 2048 × 5 layers = 10,485,760  |  higher-end computers can simulate 2048× 4096 × 5 layers = 41,943,040 points).

Vapor content on the Moon as it is bombarded by icy asteroids



What’s next?

Improvements to heat and material simulation across object surfaces, new tools, life simulation, better performance, data analysis, Magic Leap, a completely revamped VR experience, SPH – it’s hard to list it all. The foundational work we did in 2019 sets us up to do amazing things in the coming year.

Stay tuned for a 2020 roadmap, which we’ll publish next.

Thank you to everyone, to both new players and those who have been playing Universe Sandbox for years. Whether you’re analyzing orbits, creating fictional worlds, learning about astronomical material properties, or just having fun throwing planets together, we truly couldn’t do this without your continued enthusiasm for our little astronomy simulation. And we’re just getting started.


The Universe Sandbox Team
Dan, Chris, Georg, Alexander, Jonathan, Dave, Rappo, Mat, Jacob, Erika, and Brendan


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 2017 Retrospective


2017 was another great year for Universe Sandbox ². Our big milestone was Update 20, which – as we explained in our blog post – replaced the whole foundation for Universe Sandbox ² and opened up tons of new possibilities. We also launched on the Oculus Store, expanded our team, and continued to see positive reviews pour in. Our sales once again surpassed our expectations, which has helped in our team expansion and keeps us looking forward to a long list of great features and improvements.

It may not have been the flashiest development year for us, but what we accomplished was extremely important and we’re very proud. Plus we expect some flashy stuff to arrive soon enough.

Here’s a look at our achievements in 2017 by the numbers:



# of new spacecraft models.

Find them in Add > Objects:

  • Voyager 1 & 2
  • Arrival
  • Cassini



# of team members who joined us on our journey to build the universe.

Warm welcomes to:

  • Mat | Quality Assurance
  • Jacob | VR Developer
  • Barry | Graphics Developer
  • Erika | Astrophysicist, Climate & Simulation Developer



# of significant updates to Universe Sandbox ².

  • Prettier Moons & Bug Fixes | Alpha 19.5 | February 08, 2017
  • TRAPPIST-1 & the Seven Planets | Alpha 19.6 | February 23, 2017
  • Voyager & Two Icy Moons | Alpha 19.7 | April 19, 2017
  • A New Foundation & VR 2.0 | Update 20 | June 22, 2017
  • Total Solar Eclipse | Update 20.1 | August 14, 2017
  • Ciao, Cassini | Update 20.2 | September 14, 2017
  • A New Exoplanet & Interstellar Messenger | Update 20.3 | November 21, 2017
  • Oculus Store Launch | Update 20.3.1 | December 7, 2017
  • Scales & Scholars | Update 20.4 | December 21, 2017



# of new & improved textures.

  • Ganymede
  • The Moon
  • Mimas
  • Enceladus
  • Callisto
  • Rhea
  • Titan
  • Dione
  • Iapetus
  • Tethys
  • Vesta
  • Mercury




# of new simulations.

This year we made an effort to add even more simulations for historical and current astronomical events. Explore the newly announced exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 and Ross 128 sims; watch 2012 TC4 and Apophis skim past Earth; and say hello to our first known interstellar visitor, ‘Oumuamua, and goodbye to Cassini, the spacecraft that illuminated Saturn.

  • 2 TRAPPIST-1 sims
  • 2 Vsauce sims
  • 3 Total Solar Eclipse sims
  • 7 Voyager 1 & 2 sims
  • 2012 TC4 passes Earth on October 12, 2017
  • Cassini’s Collision with Saturn
  • Potentially Hazardous Asteroids
  • 400 Nearest Stars
  • Ross 128 with Earth-sized Planet
  • Just Chariklo
  • ‘Oumuamua in 2017
  • Solar System – Now & Real Time
  • Planets Between the Earth & Moon
  • Apophis Encounters Earth in 2029
  • Earth’s Most Stable Quasi-Satellite, 2016 HO3
  • Solar System Planet Comparison




# of pages of release notes for Universe Sandbox ² updates in 2017.

Check out What’s New.



Highest # of concurrent users in Universe Sandbox ² in 2017 (happened on December 25).

This isn’t quite as many as our all-time high in March 2016 (our first big sale after our launch on Steam the summer before), but it’s the highest since. We’re happy to see that we continue to bring in new players and keep our fans coming back for more.



# of tasks closed in our task management system.

Tasks keep track of all the bugs we want to fix and the improvements and features we want to add, as well as higher level goals like design work and ideas we want to explore. Once we complete whatever the task asked for, like fixing a bug, we pass it on for approval to Mat, our QA, then close it and move onto the next task.



# of positive Steam reviews of Universe Sandbox ² written in 2017.




# of new tasks opened in our task management system.

While it would have been nice to close a task each time we opened a new one, it’s unfortunately easier, generally speaking, to imagine an improvement or feature than it is to implement it, and it’s easier to spot a bug than it is to fix it. Development on other games may look a bit different, but with Universe Sandbox ², we don’t hesitate to write down any idea that comes our way. We still focus our efforts toward specific milestones, but at the same time, we don’t stop ourselves from dreaming up a development road that goes past the horizon.



# of commits made to our project.

A commit is essentially a package of code changes that a team member adds to the project. It could include one small change, like adding a parenthesis, or it could include hundreds of lines of code.



# of copies sold on Steam and other platforms.

Or, on average, one copy sold every five minutes.



# of views of Vsauce’s Which Way Is Down video featuring Universe Sandbox ².

Universe Sandbox ² is used (starting at 45 seconds in) as part of an exploration into how gravity works. We’re big fans of Vsauce and were super happy to see Universe Sandbox ² in one of their videos. The icing on the cake: when Michael said “This simulator will blow your mind. I love it.”




# of views in 2017 of all YouTube videos specifically about Universe Sandbox ².

Take this number with a grain of salt. It’s hard to say how accurate this value is from SteamSpy, but it’s a fun number regardless! And this doesn’t even include the above 5+ million views from the Vsauce video.


What’s Next?

What we don’t see in the list above is all of the work we did in 2017 that has yet to be released. There’s a lot of it. Planet grids, lasers, Steam Workshop, localization, stellar evolution, and on and on. Check out our roadmap from last year to get an idea of what we’re working on.

We’re moving closer to our next big release, Update 21, and we’re excited to show off what we’ve been doing. Once Update 21 has come and gone, we’ll share a new roadmap for 2018 that we expect will be no less exciting than last year’s. Stay tuned! And as always, thanks to all our fans for joining us on this cosmic journey. Your continued support and enthusiasm make all of this possible.