Just how big is upcoming PS4 exclusive, “No Man’s Sky?” As part of a recent GDC 2015 session, Hello Games Art Director Grant Duncan stated that the game contained 18 quintillion worlds. Duncan spoke at length about how a team of only four people are creating content for a universe that happens to be incomprehensibly massive.

As noted by GamesRadar in its coverage of the event, Art Director Andrew Duncan was originally unconvinced that employing procedural generation would work for “No Man’s Sky.” He believed that a computer-driven procedural system would be incapable of matching the strange beauty and randomness found in nature.

“Artists are so used to having complete control of every single pixel, especially now with digital artists. We can get Photoshop, we can zoom right in and obsess over something no one will ever care about,” he said.

Eventually, Duncan learned to embrace the concept of procedural art generation. To solve the problem, he created handmade blueprints that served as a template for the generation system. Working closely with the team’s programmer, he came up with a set of rules that governed the very basics of asset creation. The team did this by creating digital seeds that dictated how everything, from a cluster of rocks to a grouping of palm trees would grow and be created.

These seeds were then fed into a special algorithm that created a nearly infinite number of variations on plants, birds, trees and more, all while keeping the basic laws provided intact. The algorithm references Duncan’s original handmade assets, then alters them to create artistically sound versions based on them.

Polygon reports that the studio created a special A.I. controlled probe for the purpose of quality control. The probe’s sole job it is to journey to every one of the game’s 18 quintillion planets, taking snippets of video and recording a series of animated GIFs for the team to review.

While concrete details about the actual gameplay portion of “No Man’s Sky” are a closely guarded secret, the developer has spoken in broad terms about the kinds of things gamers will be able to do in the game. In an interview with Eurogamer in January, Hello Games Managing Director Sean Murray likened the open-ended nature of the game to titles like “Minecraft” and “DayZ.” He stated that players will be able to upgrade their ships, weapons and suits. They’ll also be able to engage in space and ground combat, trade and explore planets to find mining resources. “No Man’s Sky” is set to launch on PS4 sometime in 2015, with a PC release due at a later date. The developer has thus far revealed no plans for an Xbox One launch.

(Credit: YouTube/HelloGamesTube)

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