The art of constructing an entire fictional universe
April 17, 2017 5:14 AM   Subscribe

To create a fictional universe, you might start with building 1000 stars. Okay, maybe a planetary system or even terrestrial planet is more manageable. Just don't forget your basic seasonbuilding. Obviously your higher life forms will require a language and eventually a writing system. Finally, celebrate your magnificent creation with this a cappella operatic rendition of Justin Bieber's Baby in the very language you've created. Need more help? Artifexian has got you covered.
posted by Foci for Analysis (10 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Other great resources for this sort of endeavor are the web site and blog of MeFi's own zompist, acourse.
posted by XMLicious at 5:48 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the longest time I was planning out a world where planetary rings figured heavily into the religious culture, so this video was incredibly fascinating. Much thanks, Foci.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:23 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

why do you do this to me
posted by destrius at 7:00 AM on April 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

There's a rash of new games that uses rules like these to create procedurally generated universes. No Man's Sky is one example. Or you could go as far back as Elite.

Though as a certain procedurally generated game has taught me, before you can build anything, you must first punch a tree.
posted by adept256 at 7:07 AM on April 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

I just wanted a fictional apple pie.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:14 AM on April 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

So way back in my misspent youth, I played a lot of tabletop RPGs. Usually, we would just get together and do this in the traditional manner. (I usually ran it, so I often did the heavy lifting re: settings.)

Sometimes, we would get together and just worldbuild for hours at a time, extrapolating the consequences of a game system - like, 'what does this magic system mean for society and the economy?' Or we'd roll on random tables for geography and government types, (some games have tables for them), and come up with elaborate justifications for them. Sometimes, we didn't even use those backgrounds, we just talked about them.

I guess what I'm saying is, 'there goes my day.' Thanks, Foci for Analysis!
posted by mordax at 7:58 AM on April 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

I got a few minutes into the 1,000 stars video, and the presenter said M Stars aren't habitable. That's not quite how things are.
posted by miguelcervantes at 8:43 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've always had a problem in that I liked creating worlds more than characters, so my RPG settings would have elaborate worlds that I loved creating, and NPC's I often had to force myself to make. My players never objected though.

Procedural generation has always fascinated me more as an aid to human worldbuilding rather than a substitute for it. Way, way, way, back when I was first getting into programming I slapped together a few apps (in BASIC, because I didn't know any better back then), to randomize various traits, maps, etc. I never used them straight, they sucked because I knew jack about procedural generation as a 14 year old, but they made great jumping off places for my own thinking.

I certain appreciate the reasons for wanting completely procedural generation, but I think there's a lot of missed opportunity in a computer/human partnership for procedural + human generation of things.
posted by sotonohito at 8:59 AM on April 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

There's a rash of new games that uses rules like these to create procedurally generated universes. No Man's Sky is one example.

I wish No Man's Sky worked like this. It procedurally generates planets, but the positions of the planets in relationship with each other and in relationship to their star is completely unrelated to any kind of astronomy. In NMS, every star in the galaxy has planets and they all happen to be in very close conjunction with each other at all times.
posted by straight at 1:44 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wish No Man's Sky worked like this.

Y'all need Space Engine. A labor of love by an uncompromisingly reality-oriented Russian programmer/astronomy enthusiast with the simple goal of simulating the entire universe on a personal computer.

"The procedural generation is based on real scientific knowledge, so SpaceEngine depicts the universe the way it is thought to be by modern science." And it is awesome.
posted by Spiegel at 7:53 AM on April 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

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