No Man’s Sky recently went gold, and is so close to its early August release after a few delays – but it looks like developer Hello Games might have one more mountain to climb.
As it turns out, the Dutch company Genicap owns patents for the ‘superformula’ that Hello Games used to help build its massive procedurally generated universe – Genicap has now objected to the formula’s alleged unapproved use in No Man’s Sky.
The formula was developed in the early 00’s by University of Antwerp professor Johan Gielis. It was then patented in the European Union in 2002, and the United States in 2009.
In essence, this formula is so ‘super’ because it can use limited computer resources to quickly build landscapes, allowing 3D modelers -like those at Hello Games – to easily and cheaply generate land.
Obviously, in a game that has 18 quintillion planets to explore, you can see how such a formula might come in handy.
But before you accuse Hello Games of anything massively shady, the company’s own Sean Murray has always been open about the fact that this formula helped No Man’s Sky’s development.
A feature from The New Yorker last year described it:
Murray, sitting before his monitor, typed the Superformula into the terrain of a test planet… ‘This sounds ridiculous, but it is hard to find a formula that you can rely on,’ he said. The Superformula appeared to be reliable.
However, ArsTechnica now reports that Genicap take issue with the formula’s use, and since the company has patented applications of the formula that could feasibly cover game design, there could be a problem.
Genicap provided a statement to Eurogamer:
It would be great to exchange knowhow with Hello Games. We believe No Man’s Sky is the beginning of a new generation of games. What Hello Games did with the formula is very impressive. Johan Gielis, the founder of Genicap and the one who discovered the superformula, is extremely proud. If Hello Games used our technology, at some stage we will have to get to the table. We have reached out to them but understand they have been busy. We trust that we will be able to discuss this in a normal way.
It seems that Genicap are willing to keep lawyers out of the situation for now, although a claim such as this could be a hard, unlikely win for Genicap.
With that said, defending against patent suits can cost a hell of a lot of money (in the millions) so hopefully Hello Games and Genicap can reach an amicable agreement.
No Man’s Sky is scheduled to launch in early August for PS4 and PC, though neither Sony nor Hello Games has confirmed if this news will effect that launch.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.