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Universe Sandbox is an interactive space gravity simulator video game and educational software. Using Universe Sandbox, users can see the effects of gravity on objects in the universe and run scale simulations of the Solar System, various galaxies or other simulations, while at the same time interacting and maintaining control over gravity, time, and other objects in the universe, such as moons, planets, asteroids, comets, and black holes. The original Universe Sandbox was only available for Windows-based PCs, but an updated version, Universe Sandbox ², was released for Windows, macOS, and Linux in 2017.
|Initial release||May 2008|
2.2 / October 1, 2012
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows|
|License||Proprietary commercial software|
Universe Sandbox was designed primarily by Dan Dixon, who worked on the educational project for over fifteen years before launching the full version in May 2008. Dixon had worked full-time on the project since 2010, founding the company Giant Army the following year. Since then, he has hired six additional designers for the company.
Both realistic and fictional simulations appear in Universe Sandbox, with each area of outer space being placed by default or according to the player's preference. Real simulations include the Solar System, which includes the eight planets, five minor planets, 160+ moons, and hundreds of asteroids; and predictions of future events such as the Andromeda & Milky Way galaxy collision which will occur in 3.8 to 4.5 billion years. During gameplay, the player may be introduced to the regions that include the 100 largest bodies in the Solar System, the nearest 1000 stars to the Sun or the nearest 70 galaxies to the Milky Way. A visual size comparison of the largest known stars and planets can be explored, and real time animations of events like the Apophis asteroid passing near Earth in the year 2029 can be watched. Comets can be observed colliding into planets, such as the Shoemaker Levy 9's collision with Jupiter. The trans-Neptunian object 2008 KV42 with a retrograde motion orbit can be seen in a simulation. Moons are able to be converged into planets, and may be able to affect the planet's atmosphere or minerals. Players are able to view the Rho Cancri (55 Cancri) star in the constellation of Cancer; they can see the five known planets in the system. The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft can be seen in its encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, & Neptune. Visual Lagrange points of the Earth and Moon can be seen, along with the galaxy and star system. The Gamma-ray burst locations, found in distant galaxies, can be found. Supernovas are shown in real time.
Duncan Geere of PC Gamer UK gave it an 84/100 and spoke positively of the game, "Universe Sandbox isn't going to change your life. It isn't going to make you cry, and it won't sit in the top of your most-played list in Steam for weeks. But if you like the idea of an interactive orrery that you can rip apart and put back together in whatever way you like, and you're happy to feed it with a bit of imagination, it's hard to find a better way to spend £6." Jules of Wired said in their review, "I've seen some pretty wonderful interactive programs that allow you and your family to explore the vast regions of the universe, but nothing nearly as enthralling as Universe Sandbox. [...] Unlike most astronomy software that just shows you what the sky looks like or where the planets are, Universe Sandbox is a powerful gravity simulator."
Universe Sandbox ²Edit
|Initial release||August 24, 2015(early access)|
Alpha 20.6 / March 15, 2018
|Operating system||Windows, macOS, Linux|
|License||Proprietary commercial software|
The team began working on a complete rewrite of Universe Sandbox in 2014. Some of the new features include atmospheres being shown on planets, dynamic and procedurally generated textures on stars and gas giants, a more realistic and graphic collision system, 3D charts in chart mode, simulation of stellar evolution, procedural detail in rings/particles, visualization of black holes, simulation of fluid-like objects (such as gas clouds, nebulae and protoplanetary disks, and planetary collisions) and much more. The team demonstrated many of these features at the Unite 2012 conference. On November 16, 2018, the feature to share simulations through Steam Workshop was added. Such simulations like Planet X crashing into Earth, Venus and Mars as the planets were billions of years ago are possible.
Key features of Universe Sandbox as of version 2.0:
- Interactive n-body gravity simulator
- Simple tutorial introduction
- Several step-by-step activities included
- All physical quantities are measured in real units: kilograms, meters, seconds, etc.
- User control of the speed of time, gravity and other factors
- Simulation files are editable
- 3D Mode for use with red and cyan 3D glasses (anaglyph stereoscopic)
- Support for 3D DLP HD televisions[irrelevant citation]
- Multiple color modes to help visualize and differentiate speeds and accelerations
- Two collision modes, bounce and combine
- Scaled ring systems of Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, and generate rings around bodies
- Particle grids can be used to create 2D computer graphics or 3D computer graphics particle grids, which warps/distort the grids and causes gravitational effects by adding in moving planets or other objects (not in version 2)
- "Line-up/chart" mode option shows a visual size comparison of the stars and planets
- Includes the full sky panoramic view of the Milky Way from Axel Mellinger's photography of the Milky Way
- Can capture high resolution screen shot
- Steam Workshop support
- Alex Cox (2008-10-05). "How one man created his own universe - How Dan Dixon fashioned a whole universe out of mere bytes". PC Plus, Issue 274 and techradar.com - computing news. Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
- "Universe Sandbox". Universe Sandbox. Giant Army. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 14, 2012. Retrieved September 12, 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Universe Sandbox for PC". GameRankings.
- "Universe Sandbox for PC Reviews". Metacritic.
- Geere, Duncan (November 20, 2011). "Universe Sandbox review". PC Gamer.
- "The Universe Is Your Sandbox With Universe Sandbox". Wired. August 4, 2011.
- "Universe Sandbox ²". Universe Sandbox. Archived from the original on 24 July 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2015.