Hello Games has found itself at the center of another potential legal issue as a Dutch company claims that the No Man’s Sky world generation “superformula” is patented, and the developer needs to return its calls.
Without getting too technical, a company called Genicap believes that the formula being used for the game’s procedurally-generated world was published in 2003 by its founder, plant geneticist Johan Gielis. Dutch paper Telegraaf reports that if Hello Games is indeed using that formula, it needs to licensed, failing which can threaten No Man’s Sky‘s launch. The company doesn’t necessarily want to stop them from using it but it wants a response from Hello Games and appropriate negotiations.
Eurogamer has done some research on this and has found a May 2015 article from The New Yorker in which Director Sean Murray mentioned using the formula (you can read it here). Further research finds that the superformula is in fact patented at the European Patent Office’s database (here). When Eurogamer got in touch with Genicap, here’s what it had to say:
Genicap is working on a project to create revolutionary software based on the superformula that can be used likewise by indies and the major game studios.
Using the superformula to generate natural objects enables you to create endless varied and original objects such as trees, rocks, beaches, planets and mountains. Currently most of this work is still done manually. We are still in the conceptual phase. We expect to be able to tell you more in autumn.
It would be great to exchange knowhow with Hello Games. We believe No Man’s Sky is the beginning of a new generation of games. What Hello games did with the formula is very impressive. Johan Gielis, the founder of Genicap and the one who discovered the superformula, is extremely proud.
If Hello Games used our technology, at some stage we will have to get to the table. We have reached out to them but understand they have been busy. We trust that we will be able to discuss this in a normal way.
Fans are understandably worried if this means yet another delay but only Hello Games can answer that question.