Friday, May 22, 2015

No Man's Sky

New Yorker - "World Without End"

"Every morning, at a little past ten, Murray leads a brief meeting with his team. A dozen coders and artists stand among the rows of computers, or swivel their chairs around. In a quick rundown, problems are identified, goals set; in the evening, work is checked into a master build. Murray delegates readily but watchfully.

During my visit, four artists outlined their plans, and then sat down to work. The artists devise archetypes for the coders’ algorithms to mutate. One spent a day making insects: looking up images on Pinterest, designing features for an insect archetype, studying how the algorithms deformed the archetype in hundreds of permutations, then making corrections. “It’s a constant slog of iterating and polishing,” the art director, Grant Duncan, told me. He was working that day on architectural modules that could be combined in myriad ways. Because small changes can have unpredictable effects—the color of a single plant infecting every tree, rock, and animal on a planet—his team uses an algorithmic “drone” that navigates the universe, taking snapshots to measure the repercussions of decisions. Occasionally, Duncan stopped his work to offer suggestions. Reviewing some insects, he said, “Except for the colors, these shapes are kind of working—but the others are bonkers.”

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