Star Citizen Showcases Procedurally Generated Planets

Star Citizen [official site], you may have noticed, has received a fair amount of attention lately. That’s probably because it recently launched its Alpha 2.0 and also surpassed $100 million via its on-going crowd funding initiative – a total accrued in just over three years. If you’re not clued up on all that is Star Citizen, it’s well worth checking out Alec’s Star Citizen 101: What Is It And Why Is It Controversial? which should get you quickly up to speed. Done that? Good, now you can appreciate the following trailers which show off the game’s procedurally generated planets and how you’ll seamlessly explore them.

Announced during a livestream last night, developers Cloud Imperium Games shared the first – apparently in-engine and in real-time – demonstration of Star Citizen’s procedurally generated planet systems. The following trailer explains that “since the planet [which is said to be 1000km in diameter earlier in the cinematic] could never fit in memory, the planet surface is procedurally generated on-demand at different LODs as the camera moves.” It looks pretty impressive. Take a look:

The second trailer is arguably more remarkable still, as it tracks the movements of a ship from the limitless bounds of space all the way down onto the surface of a nearby planet and into the tight confines of a space aircraft hold:

Procedural planet perusal seems to be à la mode at the moment, as genre cousins Space Engineers, Elite: Dangerous and the forthcoming No Man’s Sky strive to create their own constant worlds. If the lofty standards of above trailers are a byproduct of inter-genre competition, then long may it continue.


  1. FeedFilter says:

    Wow, I look forward to experiencing this in Alpha 2.2 it in 18 months!

    • VOAD says:

      Not in 18 months byt mostly before end of january as CIG is going to release one major update/fix every month during 2016.

  2. teppic says:

    It’s easy to show off something impressive in recorded, strictly controlled, strictly limited in-engine demos on the best hardware available. We all know how misleading game trailers can be. I think that this has to be taken as marketing fluff until it can be demonstrated on real PCs in normal play environments.

    • 0positivo says:

      They did show it off during the livestream proper as being an iteration of a branch running directly upon the current 2.0 alpha

      It looks quite good, albieit the scale seems a bit off. Though it might be because the ship was moving about 2-3 times faster than it does ingame

      Atmosphere aside, I think space engineers did the scale of planets best in my opinion, where every approach or escape is quite the feat and takes a considerable amount of time, but also allows you to really appreciate just how massive planets can be

      • teppic says:

        It’s still essentially a strictly controlled tech demo. The video is released to boost the current load of $2,500 ships they are selling, as well as to make Elite: Dangerous Horizons look inferior (which of course is a fully live, playable game, and so shouldn’t be compared).

        • 0positivo says:

          I don’t know where to even start answering that. Critical thinking is good, but if you want to be negative for negativity sake, go ahead, but I’m not following you there

          • teppic says:

            I don’t think that’s being negative at all. The timing is obvious, with Horizons out a couple of days ago, and a current sale of high cost ships announced at the same time as the video.

          • LacSlyer says:

            It’s not being negative, it’s being realistic. These sort of demos are highly controlled as to not display anything negative about the game even if it’s in an alpha state where bugs and unfinished content are a norm.

          • macc says:

            They played this live during the livestream. Nobody is trying to con anybody here. There is some degree of control because the tech is not ready.

      • bikkebakke says:

        The scale might be because of the “planet”? The one they showed in this video is 1k in diameter, Pluto is twice the size of that.

        • 0positivo says:

          Didn’t notice they actually stated the size. I really hope it’s just placeholder, at that size it’s more like an oversized rock than an actual planet.

          It really doesn’t have to be true to scale, but at least it should FEEL massive

        • derbefrier says:

          its a large asteroid, not a planet.

        • slight says:

          1000km rather than 1km

    • Stevostin says:

      It’s so easy a lot of ppl already did… oh wait. No one actually. But hey.

      • shocked says:

        Planetary landings have been done for years. There are a several tech demos on youtube like this one from 2008 or this one and this one from 2011.

        So, it’s cool that Star Citizen features planetary landings, but it’s nothing new.

      • ThornEel says:

        The old Elite, Pioneer Space Sim, Space Engine, Evochron, Planetary Annihilation, Rhodina, Elite Horizon, No Man’s Sky, Infinity:Battlescape, Outerra…
        Actually, a lot of people did or are doing. (Sorry for all those didn’t list there).

        The most impressive is by far Outerra at the moment, no engine is even coming close – I mean just look at it – but it is focusing on Earth only, and last time I’ve heard, wasn’t quite there yet performance-wise. I really, really hope to see an Outerra planet generator some day.
        The second most impressive so far is Infinity:Battlescape – though they are missing things like clouds. They do have a nice and varied planet generator, though, as well as pretty much no LoD popping (which is way, way more impressive that one would think).

        Then again, many of those, like Star Citizen, aren’t going for the even harder full-scale planets.

        So yeah, it’s hard to do right. Very hard even. But it’s far from unique.

    • Stevostin says:

      You can watch them doing it live in the last third of this video. link to

      It’s a bit messier but still pretty nice if you ask me.

    • derbefrier says:

      it’s easy to show off something impressive in recorded, strictly controlled, strictly limited in-engine demos on the best hardware available.

      if you think thats whats happening you obviously haven’t watched many of thier live streams. they really dont do that stuff ( well not to the degree say EA would) the first time they debued AC, it was a lot of crashes were the now infamous “this is bullshit” quote from Roberts came from. you must have missed the live play through of 2.0 and many other things they show to us raw and unfiltered. these are pre made videos, yes, but they also show us a live run though during the stream because as Chris says, they want to show us they actually have it in the game and working, for better or worse.

    • vahnn says:

      Well, we’ll see in a few days when 2.1 goes live, including this feature.

    • VOAD says:

      Correct. But fact is that you can already enjoy it in current Alpha build 2.1 (not procedural planet that will be added to current Alpha in 2016).

    • Typo says:

      Well, remember, SC aims to be ahead of the hardware curve just like Crysis was in 2007. Yes they are demoing the game on over the top hardware because at this point a GTX 980 Ti is probably gonna run the game at medium/high settings, nowhere near very high, and probably nothing today can run the game beyond Ultra settings, a 4 way GTX 980 Ti setup might get you there, but still.

  3. Love Albatross says:

    jfc how about they finish all the other shit they’ve promised first?? The tech demo they’ve already pushed out is barely functional as it is (watching Chris Roberts attempt to play it yesterday was both hilarious and cringeworthy – the man has clearly never played his own game) and now you expect to allow people to fly around on planets when even a high system can’t run it at a decent framerate?

    • Marblecake says:

      My specs are rather low (i5 4670 3.4 Ghz, 8 GB RAM, GTX 760) and I get fluid gameplay across the board on medium settings with only minor stutters when entering a new area. To claim it runs bad in general just isn’t true. The fact that it runs bad on several system configurations can very much be attributed to the fact that it’s alpha. We’re seeing a game being built from the ground up, with everything laid bare. No one has ever done this. But this means that we get to see the warts as well. If stuff is as janky as this on launch, I’ll gladly concede the point, but right now the complaints come too soon.

      And regarding finishing the other stuff first: it’s not as if all 4 studios are focusing on the same bits at the same time. So the other stuff is being worked on, as well. This planetary thing is something they mentioned they’d look into but thought it would be too much of an effort to include on launch. But that was before CIG basically hired all of the original CryEngine programmers. They figured out a way that let them do planetary procedural generation a lot easier and quicker than initially envisioned so they were able to push out this tech demo.

      To think that CIG’s focus has shifted isn’t entirely on the mark. At the moment they are very much focused on getting basic gameplay systems right (flying, dogfighting, FPS) and ironing out stability issues so they can launch Squadron 42 next year.

    • derbefrier says:

      it was explained that the only reason we are seeing this now is because thier engineers made a lot of progress a lot faster than they anticipated. Also keep in mind CIg is as big as a AAA developer now they and have the resources to work on more than one part of the game at a time.

  4. 2Ben says:

    I’m not sure where all the aggressiveness comes from. SC 2.0 plays pretty fine on my average system (non-descript, last-year i5, GTX760, 16GB RAM), since the days of the PTU (with a few settings in users.cfg, admittedly).
    Everything they presented so far works on decent-but-not-top-notch systems, and we can safely assume that’s the case here too.
    Then, complaining that CR isn’t a good pilot, he might very well not be, then… what ? Yeah he doesn’t do ultra-slick, Steve Jobs-like presentations, he’s not much of an orator… Then again he’s not here for that, he’s here for making a game, and the results so far are pretty damn good!

    • Love Albatross says:

      I assume you were replying to me.

      – It runs like crap on my PC. I managed to get it working once when 2.0 had just gone live, though by working I mean it was able to run for about 15 mins at a time before crashing. Since then it is literally unplayable. After the tedious getting out of bed animation it begins stuttering and choking until locking up completely. Can’t even make it to the landing pad to steal someone’s ship.

      – Chris’ problem wasn’t his piloting skills, it was that the game kept crashing on him. Then he couldn’t get the controls to work. Then he openly criticised the design of the chat window. It looked like he’d never actually sat down to play his own game before. As a presentation to show off your cutting edge game from a company that’s bummed $100m it was an utter shambles.

      • Marblecake says:

        Don’t you find it refreshing that he actually acknowledges the things that are wrong with the current build? Instead of making excuses? That just means they are working on fixing things, but that takes time.

      • 2Ben says:

        Yes I was answering to you, seems I hit the wrong button, sorry.
        For your performance issues, did you try the conf described here : link to ?
        For me it went from unbearable random freezes every 30 seconds to very playable and 20-40 minutes sessions.
        Worth a try really !

      • Cinek says:

        It looked like he’d never actually sat down to play his own game before” – that’s very true. And it’s not the first time when Chris has a flops like that.

        From a purely PR point of view – they should put one of the QA testers to play the game – someone who knows the bugs and knows how to avoid them, let Chris focus on commenting if he can’t do a good job playing.

        From a player perspective – fix the game so that Chris wouldn’t stumble upon problem after problem in a live presentation.

        • Arglebargle says:

          Chris Roberts give up facetime?? Are you mad?? Hubris is his middle name.

          The more they keep him away from development, the better it’ll be for SC anyway.

      • VOAD says:

        My personal experience with 2.1 does not show any major frame rate problem. Does it crash after a while? yes, and I do not expect an Alpha to be played like a finished game.

  5. Somerled says:

    Ahhh, smooth transitions and amazing continuity between spaces; graceful dives punctuated with lovely views; all capped with jerky, fiddly docking. Can’t wait to get back into the cockpit…

    • Luciferous says:

      They really need to work on the landing interface, they are probably trying to come with something that looks sufficiently different to Elite’s, which works pretty flawlessly, no better feeling than swooping in to a station and landing with a last second little flare to line everything up.

  6. Cinek says:

    Why do they even work on implementing this stuff? It was supposed to be long after the release and none of the priorities.

    Another derail?

  7. Psychomorph says:

    “100% in-engine footage rendered in real time”

    …by a super computer from the future.

    • McCool says:

      Not really, most of the functionality in that video is already working for anyone who has a game package to try out,the only new thing is the procedural terrain and atmosphere system. The thing about procedurally generated content is it is naturally easier on the hardware than normal.

      What’s impressive about the video isn’t that it’s showing any tech we haven’t seen before (No Man’s Sky has does something similar), but that it combines all these systems together into one package. That is really Star Citizen’s M.O.

    • VOAD says:

      It works well for me with an I5 four cores and GTX 780. Far to be a supercomputer. Alpha is not optimised anf buggy… like an Alpha.

  8. Morcane says:

    According to all the SC fanboys, this landing on an empty planet is so much better than E:D’s landing on empty planets.


    • Marblecake says:

      Why so passive-aggressive? Isn’t it awesome that we have so many games aiming to give us the full experience? SC will be much more limited in scope than Elite while offering a more handcrafted experience. It’s really like comparing whisky. Why hate those who prefer a Glenmorangie? They’re not taking away your Ardbeg. In fact, one can enjoy both and have a fuller experience doing so.

    • Wertymk says:

      Well, this thing is the first alpha iteration and it seems there’s already as much to do as in E:D.

    • VOAD says:

      As a backers of both games, they are different and I expect them to stay different. Both have pro and Con and will improve with time. Not in ten years but during the next couple of years. No need to hate each others… Braben and Roberts publicly backed each other game…

  9. Sardonic says:

    Wow, those are some pretty nice art assets! I can’t wait for somebody to make a game out of them when CIG runs out of money next year!

    • Wertymk says:

      Weren’t the supposed to be out of money already though?

      • Cinek says:

        I thought that by now everyone even remotely interested in SC knew that whatever was said by DS and that journalist was a complete BS not even remotely close to truth?

        • Arglebargle says:

          Funny, all those complaints by ex-CIG employees were pretty much the same ones I heard when talking to ex-Origin employees who’d worked with Roberts 25 years ago.

          • VOAD says:

            And even more funny. Those so called revelations proved to be fake like everyting DS attemped to destroy CR reputation. DS is a Master of all troll. You can be sure that what ever he say, the opposite is true :)

    • macc says:

      Apperently they are out of money every month or so. Trolls will just make up a new date.

  10. Utsunomiya says:

    Wow, that looks like Mass Effect 1 level of bad.

  11. horsemedic says:

    “Procedural planet perusal seems to be à la mode at the moment” oh my god.

  12. aircool says:

    I think that the biggest thing that drives me nuts about these games is their insistence on using late 20th Century avionics technology.

    Current aircraft have stuff like autopilot (I know right… futuristic), Instrument Landing Systems, Terrain Following Radar etc…

    Meanwhile, our crappy, early 21st Century technology can only do stuff like remotely landing a probe on a comet, have computers that run simulations of spaceships with outdated avionics, and give people access to practically any source of knowledge at the speed of light from their home computer.

    • Cinek says:

      If you want to see ships destroy themselves and find that to be a good game – play AI Wars, or something like that.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s late 20th Century avionics but even earlier mid 20th Century cockpit design for something intended as a visual-based dogfighter.

      For me, that’s worse design than the avionics. Why is the visibility so restricted in cockpit-based space games? By the end of WW2, fighters had bubble canopies so you could actually keep eyes on a bandit when maneuvering. The cockpits in Elite:D and what I’ve seen of SC look like pre-war prop fighter designs with very limited view angles. It just doesn’t make sense, especially with something like Elite:D that has full TrackIR support. I have a better view in combat with TrackIR in Rise of Flight, even with the upper biplane wing in the way.

      It’s either an intentional limitation to keep the FPS high enough, or the designers are paying way too much attention to the dumb (but iconic!) fighter designs from Star Wars.

      • Marblecake says:

        Definitely the latter. While I agree in principle on the visibility issue, climbing into a Hornet feels too much like climbing into an X-Wing for me not to go all “squeeeee!”

      • aircool says:

        My car has 4 wide angle cameras for an all round view – it gives an image as if looking down on the car from a height of a few metres.

        Roll on C34 (for ED – no idea of the timeline for SC) and you don’t even have a rear view mirror, nor a couple of orbiting drones for that external view.

        Even more ironic is playing with a VR headset but being limited to the cockpit view.

        I know that ‘realism’ has to take second place to gameplay, but when faux realism is the gameplay, then at least make the yaw thrusters on par with the rest…

        …alternatively, just rotate the cockpit 90 degrees on it’s axis so what was up & down now become yaw left and right.

        • BobbyDylan says:

          It’s a game. It may take inspiration from reality, but it’s first and foremost about gameplay. BVR combat is more about selecting options in menu and watching a radar contact disappear. It’s not fun. But getting on someone six, managing your energy and blasting him to pieces? THATS FUN!

      • FelixG says:

        A number of the fighters do have bubble canopies and the like. The bigger ships you are looking at in SC are more akin to bombers and cargo planes which definitely do NOT have bubble canopies. for example: link to

      • VOAD says:

        Balance realism vs fun is a challenge in itself. In 24th century, ship robot will be more efficient than human. They are already in 21st century. If all ships have 360° visibility, missiles and automatic gun, why not reslove battle with dies? Player want to have fun not clik on a button and have ennemy destroyed 1000 km away.

    • McCool says:

      Star Citizen already has autopilot for landing implemented, and will have full course mapping autopilot for bigger ships at release.

  13. Artist says:

    Dear Star Citizen, please smash the boring gameplay of Elite Dangerous! By miles! I promise a long a amazing friendship!

  14. Morcane says:

    It was indeed a joke, I’m not rooting for 1 game being a ‘winner’. I’m just glad to see the space game / sim has returned with a big bang, and hope SC will see the light of day, with all the features they have planned for it. Hell, I’ve backed it, as well as I’ve backed E:D.

    • Morcane says:

      That was meant to be a reply to something else, but yeah, because certaom comment system. :)

  15. PancakeWizard says:

    Unless that planet has covered in particularly giant mountains and they haven’t added and clouds yet, there’s not much ‘sky’ is there?

    Anyway, it still goes without saying: I’ll look at getting SC when it’s released as v1 and not before.

  16. Cvnk says:

    Once you get past the initial “oh! Neat!” reaction I don’t see now procedurally generated planets can remain interesting from a gameplay perspective. Nice technical feat but ultimately kind of boring.

    • Grant says:

      Yes. I hope there is some uniqueness to them still, or some kind of ecosystem at least.

  17. Grant says:

    This is awesome and I’m excited, but they conveniently showed the dark side of the planet at full scale, so you couldn’t see the detail. Wonder if it looks bad still?

  18. Synesthesia says:

    Well, credit where credit is due, i guess. That was impressive, and doesn’t look like Ed’s glorified loading screens.

    I wonder if the flight model is decent.

  19. DailyFrankPeter says:

    Looks like many technical problem games had until now can be solved by throwing 100m at them! Impressive.

  20. metric day says:

    Really cute after years of SC fans sneering at PG tech and saying how boring it was and how hand crafted and amazing SC would be. Now they do this despite it being nowhere near ready to incorporate into their main game (if you could call it that) a few days after Horizons just to steal Frontier’s thunder.

    Tacky move from Roberts, Braben would never pull a move like this.

    • Synesthesia says:

      You’re right, he probably would only charge supporters full price for an expansion that’s free with purchase of the main game anyway.

    • aircool says:

      Thunder is a bit of a strong word for what actually comes with ED:H.

      A wet fart is probably more like it.

  21. Hedgeclipper says:

    I thought it looked really good up until they came to land – I guess they’re going for some sort of anti gravity technology but it just looks really awkward and unnatural having a ship hanging in the air like that without using some sort of thrust.

  22. bill says:

    I’m not following these games very closely, but is No Man’s Sky the only one with interesting planets that have flora and fauna and stuff?

    • KillahMate says:

      So far yes, though depending on how you define ‘interesting’. No Man’s Sky is almost entirely procedural and supposedly has planets with a very wide variety of ecosystems as well as dead ones.

      Elite Dangerous: Horizons is mostly procedural and has all kinds of planets but you can currently only land on the ‘barren airless rock’ kind. Those do host outposts, resources and other interesting stuff – just not a lot of it, and no life. They plan to add more to the planets, but what they’re adding and when is uncertain.

      Star Citizen is so far only using partial procedural generation for planets and asteroids, and it’s not even in the game yet (currently no landing on planets, that’s probably a few months away). They plan to stuff planets with lots of handcrafted zones surrounded by a procedural environment for the rest, and the procedural generation is planned to be quite advanced, but the exact features of the procedural gen (ie will it generate life) are more vague than for Elite, and the timeframe is less vague: it’s a long way away, as for Star Citizen it’s just one of the features and a relatively low priority at that. It does have atmosphere on planets whereas Elite doesn’t yet.

      No Man’s Sky expects you to be spending a lot of time on its planets, and thus they’re very sophisticated. Both Elite and SC expect you to mostly stick to space, thus their spaceships are much more sophisticated than NMS’ but their planets probably aren’t planned to ever reach that level of complexity.

      • VOAD says:

        All 3 games will have different pro and Cons to satisfy every body. No need to shoot at each other.