Elite Dangerous players are the first people to experience interstellar travel. The sky is not a painted backdrop, you can travel to each and every star you see. The constellations change with parallax as you explore the galaxy, and the night sky viewed from Earth is, of course, accurate.
We achieved this by starting with as much information as we could gather about the 160,000 known star systems from our galaxy.
We know the temperature, size and metallicity (the periodic elements that make up the star's composition) of those stars. And we also know the mass distribution of the Milky Way.
Our unique Stellar Forge system takes that information, rolls time backwards toward the Big Bang, and simulates from there the composition of hundreds of thousands of celestial bodies using the first principles that astrophysicists believe govern our universe. It uses the nebula hypothesis to simulate the composition and orbit of all the undiscovered stars, exoplanets, moons and black holes in our Milky Way galaxy.
We end up with a huge amount of technical information about each star and its planets, moons and asteroid fields, such as temperature, chemical composition and orbit.
This delivers both an incredibly accurate and beautiful cosmic ballet, with all the motions of the celestial bodies correct, and is also the foundation for the different economies of each system in-game.
For Planetary Landings we've extended the simulation still further. We take into account the factors that govern the formation of planets, from the basic chemical composition, size, neighbouring moons and tectonic activity.
We simulate the compression of tectonic plates, so we can see where they'd move together and move apart. That creates where ridges are formed, mountains, or canyons and trenches.
We simulate impact craters, volcanism and ageing. The minerals and elements making up the planet determine its appearance and colors.
You can seamlessly approach and land anywhere on a 1:1 scale planet and experience every square meter of terrain first-hand, either flying your ship close to the mountains and in the canyons, or landing and driving your SRV.
And again the simulation feeds directly into gameplay, with resources to be collected and synthesized, huge surface starports to trade in, shipwrecks to explore and fortified settlements to be defeated.