Universe Sandbox ² – Giant Army
Universe Sandbox ² is a space simulator that lets you realistically model the Solar System or completely destroy it. If you have ever wanted to crash the Moon into the Earth or be the cause of a Supernova or Galaxies colliding, then this game is perfect. Universe Sandbox ² is developed by Giant Army right here in Seattle, Washington. It’s available through Early Access on Steam and works on PC, Mac and Linux. I personally love seeing more and more games of this quality coming to Linux/SteamOS, makes me excited for the future of gaming on Linux.
Universe Sandbox ² is the sequel of Universe Sandbox, which was a one man project created by Dan Dixon as a personal project that quickly became a success on Steam. When the time came to make Universe Sandbox ², back in Fall 2011, Dan knew this could no longer just be a one man project. Giant Army is now an eight-person team that includes a dedicated physics programmer, an astrophysicist, and a climate scientist. With this, Universe Sandbox ² includes climate simulation, advanced collision simulation, terraforming, light warping black holes, dark matter, procedural surfaces and planets, and a lot more.
When you first start the game you are greeted with our Solar System. After playing around with that for a bit, zooming in and out and looking at planets, I decided it was time to crash the Moon into the Earth. Doing that caused Earth to turn into a giant glowing ball of molten rock and quickly shot up over 4500 K, or about 7640 °F. For reference the surface of the Sun is about 5,778 K. I was running the simulation at about 50 seconds per second at the time which made it really awesome watching the Moon slowly crash into the Earth, and the devastation it caused because of it. Within minutes the whole globe was engulfed in flame. So I wanted to see how long it would take for Earth to cool down naturally, so I cranked up the speed to about one year per second. After about twenty years or so, Earth had significantly cooled down to around 850 K, about 1070 °F. It was now a lifeless, still very hot, gray rock with a large crater on one side. So I cranked up the time warp again, which by the way you can adjust anywhere from microseconds per second to billions of years per sec depending on how many objects your simulating and your hardware. After about another twenty years or so Earth cooled down to around 385 K, which is still about 232 °F, and got a lot of it’s water back on it’s surface. It only took about another 50 years or so for Earth to pretty much level out again, still a couple degrees hotter than it used to be, but definitely habitable again.
There is so much more you can do in this sandbox than blow up Earth. If you click on the menu in the upper left hand corner you have lots of options. You can create an empty simulation to start from scratch or select one of the many existing simulations and presets. In the existing simulations you will find multiple different solar system simulations, merging galaxies, Kepler systems, supernova, and much more. There is even a simulation that starts out with Earth and about 50 or so different moons orbiting around it and you can watch them all crash into each other. In the presets you will find different scenarios like collisions, different systems, and encounters to help you create your own simulations. Underneath that you will find some very helpful and interesting tutorials and lessons you can select like light pulses and creating pulsars. A good way to see the scale of the Solar System is to watch how long it takes a light pulse to go from the Sun to Pluto in real time. You should definitely check them all out though as they will help a lot.
I love anything that has to do with space, which should be obvious to anyone who listens to our podcast. I am a huge fan of games like Kerbal Space Program, which I have put over a 1000 hours into. With a game of this scale and awesomeness, I imagine I will be putting a lot of time into Universe Sandbox ² as well. I highly recommend that everyone reading this should go and check out Universe Sandbox ², it is more than worth the price and available on Steam. And a hearty thank you to everyone at Giant Army for creating such a great game and for supplying us with a copy to review.