Hello Games' highly-anticipated space exploration game No Man's Sky is less than a month away from its long-awaited release date. However, new legal issues have cropped up that could possibly delay the massively ambitious game's release yet again.
According to the Dutch Telegraph, a Dutch company named Genicap claims that it owns the "superformula" used to create the game's much-touted massive, procedurally generated universe, estimated to include 18 quintillion planets that will take players about 585 billion years to explore. Genicap claims that the No Man's Sky developer does not have a license to use their algorithm.
"We haven't provided a license to Hello Games," Genicap's Jeroen Sparrow told the Dutch Telegraph. "We don't want to stop the launch, but if the formula is used we'll need to have a talk."
He also added that Genicap is currently working on their own game based on the formula and claim they have previously reached out to Hello Games, but they haven't received a response so far.
"It would be great if we could trade knowledge with Hello Games," Sparrow said. "We tried to contact them but didn't get any response."
In 2015, Hello Games founder and No Man's Sky creative director Sean Murray referenced a "superformula" in an interview with the New Yorker, saying he struggled with the game's procedural generation feature until he stumbled upon an equation published in 2003 by Belgian plant geneticist named Johan Gielis.
"One of the hardest things for us to do is to create coherent shapes," Murray said at the time. "This sounds ridiculous, but it is hard to find a formula that you can rely on." He also noted that the superformula seemed to be reliable and, with a few tweaks in its parameters, was able to create a range of different landscapes.
Gielis, however, is the chief research officer at Genicap, who patented the application of the superformula, which can be used "to create 2-D images, 3-D images and/or animations," back in 2004
According to Genicap's website, the superformula is "a single equation that uses only a few variables to create an infinite number of supershapes. It because also known as the Gielis formula (Generalized Intrinsic and Extrinsic Lengths in Submanifolds.)"
"The Gielis Formula provides a direct geometrical description and relation between circles and squares, flowers and snowflakes, molecules and space-time, sounds and vision, anything and everything."
IT lawyer and patent attorney Arnoud Engelfriet says that if the patent infringement claims do hold up, the developer could be forced to pay licensing fees for the algorithm or delay the game altogether.
"If there is indeed an infringement of the patent, there'll be a financial compensation and distribution will have to be ceased," he said.
IBTimes UK has reached out to Hello Games for comment.
The latest legal issue comes a week after the team announced that the game had officially gone gold. Originally announced back in 2013, No Man's Sky has had to deal with several developmental issues and setbacks since then.
Some of the hurdles included a flood that severely damaged the studio on Christmas Eve in 2013, a delay that spawned death threats against the developer and a recently revealed three-year-long legal battle with British broadcaster Sky over the use of the word "Sky" in the game's name.
No Man's Sky is slated for release on 10 August in Europe and the UK, and 9 August in North America for PS4 and PC.