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Dan Dixon, escaped former This is Vegas producer now working on improving his galaxy and planet-smashing sim, Universe Sandbox, told me at PAX that he's working on a significant update to his terrific not-quite-a-game. He expects will be out next year.
The new version, built for the Unity engine, will expand Universe Sandbox to Macs instead of just PCs, will be easier to use (presumably thanks to a better interface), and will feature better explosions. Plus: It will feature more of the life cycle of stars. Because what's a Universe Sandbox without more moons smashing impressively into planets and a bunch of supernovas lighting up your monitor?
Universe Sandbox was cool enough already, but it is getting better. It's nice to hear it will be improving, and it was nice to hear from Dixon that, since Universe Sandbox launched on Steam several months ago, it's been profitable for him.
Dixon has other ideas for improving US, but he didn't want to over-promise. So just keep the faith in this intergalactic endeavor. And trust that, as he told me, he's not going to add many, if any, game-y aspects to it. This is a universe experimentation set. That's fun enough.
A reader who was tired of my stories about L.A. Noire recently wondered why I hadn't written about Universe Sandbox. What's that? A simulation of the universe I can run on a Windows computer? And here I am at work on a Mac?
At least I can watch the trailer of this marvelous-looking creation. You can get it on Steam for $10. Your enticement might be the trailer above... or these promotional blurbs below, which all are listed as Universe Sandbox features on the game's official website.
*Explore our solar system
*Blow up moons
*Line up the planets with a single click
*Play pool in zero gravity
*Rip Saturn's rings apart in 3D
*Destroy our solar system with a single rogue star
*View the paths of hundreds of asteroids & moons
*Compare the moons & dwarf planets
*View our constellations from other stars
*Make a football orbit a bowling ball
*Explore nearby galaxy clusters
Before today, I didn't know I'd ever want to do these things, nor had I imagined that I could pretend they were possible.
Oh! Here's a Universe Sandbox bombarding our planet with the planet(s) Mercury. Keep that kind of behavior in video games, people.