Saturday, 11 September 2010

What's Next In Earthsim

We are working on a major update for 2012 which will include all the discovered exoplanets into the Earthsim universe.

Next Update Due End January 2012

-- Visit stars
-- More performance improvements

Next Update Due December 2011 (browser in final testing)

-- First experimental planet editor, add sea, surface detail and atmosphere to a planet with height data.

Browser Performance Improvements:
-- Faster Login/Logout
-- Faster Star Rendering

-- Further improved Moon and Mars data
-- Saturn's moon Rhea now has real height data
-- Moon added to the Epsilon Eridani system

October 2011

The main feature of this update is the dramatic increase in the Earth resolution for subscribers, some of this new resolution is also visible to free users too.

We are also adding more resolution to a number of moons of Saturn and Jupiter which are all available for free users. The USGS have released a great new merged color image of IO so we are including that for this update.

Universe Browser:
-- Change water levels on planets
-- Change Landscape scaling
-- Medium and High Landscape Detail setting in Graphics Settings

-- Massive 8x increase in Earth detail
-- Rings added for Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune
-- Jupiter Moons: Very high res version of IO, and increased resolution on Ganymede
-- Saturn Moons: Increased resolution for: Rhea, TitanIapetus and Enceladus

EOS subscribers
-- 8x higher resolution Earth

ETV subscribers
-- Same as EOS
-- Venus Overview documentary

- some monitor resolutions were stretched: Fixed
- cracks on planet colormaps: Fixed
- sound not playing on some PC config: fixed

Mid Jan 2011

Universe Browser:
-- Lots of performance work, should give at least 3-5 fps more.
-- AMD Fusion optimised and DX 11 Support
-- Improved shadows quality

-- Improved Epsilon Eridani System
-- Moon overview documentary

EOS subscribers
-- More 'space tour' shots (one per planet)

ETV subscribers
-- Mars Overview documentary

Nov 11 2010

Universe Browser:
-- Time Dialogue - Set, Stop and accelerate time

-- High res moon - The new high res moon data is live
-- High detail Moons for Saturn
-- Real Time planetary scale shadows. A technical first.
-- Shadows cast between moons, rings and on planets


Below is the detail on what the team is actually working on right now. We will drop these into the updates over the coming months as they get done to satisfaction.

More solar system attract shots

Our goal here is to completely beat the attract shots (camera swoops) in Earthsim1. We have been writing some new tools that mean we can film our shots directly in Earthsim itself.

For Earthsim1 we used traditional 3D animation programmes, same as those used for games and animated films. But these always added limits to the type of shot we could make, nothing out there can handle the sort of scale and detail you see in Earthsim.

So for Earthsim2 we have made our own camera tools. You should be enjoying the results of these soon. And we will be able to keep adding more and more shots in each release focusing on the subject matter of that update.

Further improve planet surfaces

We have been working on what is called a procedural planet generator. This is something that can use a simple mathematical model to describe details on a planet surface. The advantage of this is that we can add more and more detail as we zoom in going beyond the data that has been gathered from space probes.

The clever thing about our model is that it 'extrapolates' real data. We feed in the real data that has been gathered from probes, and then we can add more and more detail to it. If at any point the scientists get better detail for a planet, we can simply update that on the Earthsim server and that new detail will arrive on your Earthsim browser.

For our detail tests we are focussing on Mars right now. But we are also going to be using this for creating some of the newly discovered extra solar planets.

High detail rings for Saturn and other ringed planets

I am going to post another article about how we make ringed planets as soon as I get some good screen shots from our first view of Saturn with the effects system. One of the tricky bits has been to get all the shadows correct from the rings and the moons.

Better sun surface and star special effects

I talked about this in some detail in an earlier post Mapping Sun and Star Effects

We have managed to get some really good effects on the surfaces of stars going but we still have work to do to merge them into Earthsim properly. The problem here is stars are just really really bright. And we want to use realistic data rather than just make it up. Building a rendering system that can handle going across the range needed has been tricky. As soon as we have this sorted we will release the better star surfaces into Earthsim.


  1. Hi. Just downloaded the Earthsim 2 Browser yesterday. I try to sign in and all I get is Error Code:Sheep.

  2. Hi Brian, are you still getting Code:Sheep. Deleting your tickets.cache file normally deals with that issue. We have a new update due out next week that we hope should deal with it otherwise.

  3. No. I deleted the tickets.cache file and it went away. I still only get the Earth, Moon, and Mars.