Alleged Use Of ‘Superformula’ In No Man’s Sky Is A ‘Non-Story’, Says Developer

Alleged Use Of ‘Superformula’ In No Man’s Sky Is A ‘Non-Story’, Says Developer

There was some legal noise a few days ago that Hello Games’ ambitious title No Man’s Sky may have incorporated a so-called, patented “Superformula” into its procedural generation code. Managing director Sean Murray has addressed the situation on Twitter, describing it as a “non-story”.

Murray posted the below update today, making it clear there was nothing to worry about:

In fact, Murray was pretty upbeat about the whole thing:

So, there you have it. I guess we can put this to bed… that is, until someone (or something) else pops out of the woodwork.

Perhaps given to its significant media attention over the course of development, No Man’s Sky has continually attracted controversy (even death threats for non-related parties). It’s a bit sad this is the price you pay for having a highly-anticipated game.

@NoMansSky [Twitter, via DualShockers]


  • Weird, in his interview with the New Yorker he admitted working with the superformula and he was quite taken with the possibilities it allowed and how much it improved the scope of his plans for the game. Then again, it seemed that it was a time early in development as much of his language when speaking about it used a future tense. Perhaps at some point he modified it enough that it’s no longer the same thing that was patented.

    The only suspicious thing is that in that interview he sounded quite enamoured and admiring of the formula but in his tweet he mentions it dismissively (“that thing”), almost as if he didn’t know or care what it was.

      • doesn’t actually use

        when I was in research, that’s the technical term for we copied it, and then we fiddled around with it so other people can’t say we copied it… ^_^

        • Which is what you do when patents are involved. The abstract of a patent is often very broad, but the actual claims are usually quite narrow. If what you’re doing isn’t covered by any of the claims, then you’re in the clear.

          And it does seem a bit bullshit for a mathematical formula like this to get patent protection.

          • The issue with modern technology patents (esp. software) has been long running. Both sides have reasonable arguments to certain extents. The original superformula would have been a result of many years of research and testing amounting to alot of money. So it is reasonable to expect some commercial protection. On the other hand, the broad application of theoretical/mathematical models means claiming every application under the sun is a bit unfair.

            Patent claims can be surprisingly broad, especially for stuff coming out of scientific research (which seems to be the case here). I’m on a certain tech patent from my research days that has claims which read as though every piece of water treatment tech for the next 20 years would be violating my work (which would be BS….)

          • The way my own brain (poorly) processes patents is using water.

            Someone patents that water is wet. Very general, with their specific claim being based around getting wet when they shower, the evidence being that the only change in conditions is that they turn the tap on.

            Someone else comes along and says they got wet as well, but in a totally different way. They managed it by jumping into a river.

            The initial patent is for water getting you wet, but the second person should be in the clear because they didnt use the same method to get wet.

            Or something like that.

          • you’re using a very generalised example which doesn’t apply for modern technology patents. Modern tech patents must state specific function, but can be very general in applications.

            The patent may state that I have a process for the wetting of an object upon the application of a liquid from an external source based on manual or automatic, physical, chemical or electronic inputs. Very specific in its process (object first, then water is applied to it), but very open ended in application (it gets wet)

            You MAYBE safe if you jumped in a river…but is there a dam up river which constitutes mechanical input or an external source of water? Is that river dry at certain times, meaning the water is applied to the location (i.e. I may sue you for wetting of the floor below the water). You may not be able to claim water is wet…but you can probably claim that you can wet something by applying water (which is essentially the same thing)

            Of course, your example is VERY convoluted so it’s a bit hard to justify…but you can imagine how complicated modern technology gets through.

          • I know, its just the rough way my brain processes it. Its the way you do something that becomes significant, the what is just the start of things.

            My brain thinks “stuff gets wet”, with one person showing one way to get wet, another showing a different way. The first person argues that they got wet first, so its up to someone else to decide if the second way did anything the same.

            Its never that easy, thats just how my brain does it. My brain can be a strange thing sometimes… 🙂

            My background is with applying law, and you can get into situations where intent is more important than interpretation, so the base of my thinking stems from that.

      • Maybe he is actually trying to down play it so other devs don’t try to figure out the mathematics for his game – essentially coping it?

    • The patent expired a while ago anyway. If the journalists did some fact checking before running the story in the first place, it never would have been a story.

  • Amazing how speculation around this game expands to fill the void from them not giving any spoilers. It’s as if people have a compulsive need to have X amount of information about a thing and will do whatever they must to meet their minimum information quota by inventing stuff to bulk it up. Go read every thread on the first two pages of the steam forum to see what I mean.

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