Posted by Dan O'Halloran @danohalloran
Writer. Father. Gamer. Geek. Not necessarily in that order. @danoh
Dan O'Halloran

We've learned that that procedurally generated galaxy that you can explore in the upcoming No Man's Sky contains over 18 quintillion planets. We've also learned that the games' download size is shockingly small: 6GB on PS4 and 10GB on PC.

While this sounds great for us discovery hounds, it presented a problem to the designers at Hello Games. How can they check to make sure each planet is free of bugs and game-breaking defects?

"A drone, of course is the answer."

Given that visiting every planet in the game, at the rate of 1 planet per second, would take 585 billion years, the game devs needed a more... elegant solution to ship a playable game. So they created a drone to do it. In this case, a space probe that visits every planet and sends back a short animated gif of each so the four-person art team can check for problems.

What kinds of problems you ask?

It's not just the planets themselves that are generated from an algorithm. The plants, animals, terrain, and points of interest are created the same way as well. Not only does everything have to be in the right place, but there has to have the right balance of each.

On top of that, it needs to look good. Procedurally generated art tends to look, well, dull.

The art team worked hard to make sure the different elements, when put together, not only looked unique, but also didn't appear too bizarre. The probe's pictures helped the team find bad planets that didn't work well.

The end result is beautiful, as you can see from the many screenshots that have been released so far - with, of course, more to come when No Man's Sky is released for PlayStation 4 on August 9th and PC on August 12th.

Bonus: When you are the first to discover one of the 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets in the game, you get to name it for all who pass by to see. If you do, check out our tips for naming planets in No Man's Sky.