Elite: Dangerous (opens in new tab) project head David Braben has spoken before about procedural generation (opens in new tab) in the upcoming space trading sim, describing how the computer's roll of the dice creates whole star systems and majestic nebulae on the fly as you, er, fly. Before the depths of space overwhelms your consciousness (opens in new tab) , know that Braben claimed (via PCGamesN (opens in new tab) ) "over 100 billion" star systems will exist as navigable destinations.
Braben summarized the colossal constellation count as "a truly giant galaxy of vast numbers." How very Sagan-esque (opens in new tab) . The designer also said each star could feature up to 100 objects orbiting it, including fuel-rich gas giants and space stations (opens in new tab) .
Hundreds? Billions? Hunillions ? Such sky(space?)-high numbers seemed a little too good to be true, so we asked Braben for clarification on what exactly a player will encounter out in the vast blackness.
"Yes, Elite: Dangerous has over 100 billion star systems, each of which have up to 100 or more bodies in them (these are secondary and tertiary stars—the bigger single systems have up to six stars— then there are the planets, moons, even moons-of-moons and so on)," he wrote over email. "Each of these can be visited in game, though it's not realistic that any one player will do so, even in a lifetime. These systems are created using a rule-based procedural system. Things can still be changed through gameplay—effectively, this gets built into the rules. The reason [for] this number is this is the number of star systems thought to be in the real-life Milky Way."
A near-perfect recreation of a to-scale Milky Way sounds exciting, indeed, and we'll learn more about Elite: Dangerous as Frontier cruises ahead to its targeted March 2014 release date. One thing's for sure: my planned Bubba the Space Trucker character has a long haul ahead of him.