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Noctis Screenshot.png

Panorama screenshot from the game.
Developer(s) Alessandro Ghignola
Publisher(s) Self-published
Platform(s) Windows
Release date(s) 2000 [1]
Genre(s) Space exploration/flight simulation
Mode(s) Single player

Noctis (Latin for "of night") is a computer space flight simulator featuring first-person visual exploration of an imaginary galaxy.

The player is manifested in Noctis as the pilot of spacecraft called a Stardrifter, capable of instantaneous interstellar travel. This allows travelling between stars, refuelling the Stardrifter from Lithium ion-ejecting stars, approaching planets in star systems and their moons, and even landing where it is physically possible. Many planets feature atmospheres and weather effects. Some harbour plants and animals, or even mysterious ruins. No goal or measure of success is imposed by the game: it simply allows to catalogue and annotate the player's discoveries in a common database of stellar bodies called the GUIDE, which is to be synchronised over the author's Internet server. The player can explore the Stardrifter and even walk on its roof.

In the game's sci-fi setting, a fleet of Stardrifters was left behind by a race of sentient cats known as Felysians who abandoned their home world (planet Felysia, star system Balastrackonastreya) long ago for unknown reasons. The Felysians were the only sentient beings in the Noctis galaxy, so there are none to find in the Noctis game.

History of Noctis[edit]

The Italian programmer Alessandro "Alex" Ghignola began creating Noctis in 1996, and is still working on the program's fifth incarnation. Noctis versions I-IV were written in C and Assembly, but Ghignola is currently[when?] writing a new version (to be released as Noctis V) in his original low-level programming language, called Linoleum.

Past versions (Noctis I-III)[edit]

Noctis I through III are still available on the AnywhereBB website, and in some cases contain features that were abandoned with later releases, the most famous of which was the Fationic Cannon, present in Noctis II and capable of destroying worlds, but abandoned[clarification needed] as this misrepresented the Felysians' peaceful society. Noctis II featured an experiment in the use of sound, but this did not function at a high enough quality and was considered too disruptive to the normally silent ambience to be included in later versions. Noctis III was the only version to have a target preview screen, and carried the first implementation of The Guide, which was refined and implemented into Noctis IV.

Current versions (Noctis IV, NICE)[edit]

Noctis was originally based on DOS and uses a fixed display resolution of 320 x 200, and an upper limit imposed on the walking distance from a planetary landing site. (This does not restrict the player's ability to explore the planet, because they can freely take off and land elsewhere.) These limitations do not apply to the Noctis galaxy because it contains over 78 billion stars, most of which host many planets and moons orbiting them.

The current version of the game[when?] is called Noctis IV. In the release of Noctis IV, Ghignola included a facility to have planet names and notes sent back to him and then compiled into a central database of information called the GUIDE. People playing the simulator (also called Stardrifters) could then share their findings with others, and a community of explorers soon developed (on the Noctis forums) around that, vying for a wide range of discoveries, such as the planetary system with the most planets or the biggest tree in the Noctis universe. This is the only way to interact with other players, since Noctis, being a single-player game (not including other Stardrifters summoned in the game, which are NPCs), has a protagonist who does not speak.

For some time Ghignola regularly compiled a new GUIDE based on emailed submissions of players of their "Outbox" and allowed the compilation to be downloaded as an "Inbox"; the GUIDE has not been updated for several years since 2005, but since December 2008 the service has been restored again.[2] A more automatic system of "massively single-player" content sharing is used in 2008's Spore.

The game gained popularity in early 2000 after receiving a very favourable review in Home of the Underdogs's list of worthwhile free games. Noctis earned a score of 9.43 out of 10 as well as the site's "Top Dog" award. The reviewer noted amongst other things the magnitude of the galaxy to explore and the total size of the simulator, which is less than one megabyte.

The source code for Noctis IV was released to the public in 2003, which has led to the creation of a fan-made "mod" to the game called Noctis IV CE (commonly abbreviated NICE). NICE includes bug fixes and additional features which increase the playability compared to Noctis IV. The terrain generation code has also been altered in the NICE version, which means that remarks made in the Noctis IV GUIDE are largely invalid for NICE.

Future version (Noctis V)[edit]

A future version of Noctis (tentatively named Noctis V or Noctis NoVa) is currently under development. Noctis V (sometimes abbreviated as NoVa) promises to relieve the restrictions of the current Noctis platform, as described above. This is because the new version of Noctis is being developed in Linoleum (which Ghignola has developed himself), a low-level programming language that is currently being shaped to better suit Noctis. (However, this also results in a slowdown of the program's development.) To paraphrase the official Noctis webpage: Linoleum and Noctis have evolved together.

Not much is known for sure about Noctis V, but screenshots and details have been revealed by the developer.[3] It is thought that the rendering engine has been completely redone from scratch, Ghignola first having attempted to simply translate the Noctis IV engine into Linoleum, before giving up and rewriting it. Ghignola has also mentioned experimenting with weather and particle effects, possibly things like snow and dust storms.

There is no set release date for Noctis V, but Ghignola has repeatedly assured the game community that he has not given up on the project, and has no intention of doing so. The most recent assurance was in a May 9, 2012 interview with Videogame Porpourri, where Ghignola stated "[Noctis V] keeps living in a corner of my mind, on a sort of unwritten post-it note. But it's there, ready to strike as soon as it gets an opportunity to incarnate."[4]

Development of the project began on 11 October 2001.[5]


The Noctis galaxy, Feltyrion, is approximately 90 thousand light-years in radius, approximately double the radius of the Milky Way Galaxy. With the exception of landing on some world types (being gas giants, Substellar Objects, and unstable worlds), this galaxy is entirely open to be explored. Billions of worlds can be explored despite the program's relatively small size, due to its content being generated on the fly. The Noctis universe contains several types of planets and 12 types of stars, noted in-game with an S in front of the number of the star.

Types of stars in Noctis[edit]

  • S00: A yellow star that is suitable for life, such as Earth's Sun.
  • S01: A blue giant star.
  • S02: A white dwarf star.
  • S03: A red giant star.
  • S04: An orange giant star such as Pollux.
  • S05: A brown dwarf, not really a star but more of a Substellar object.
  • S06: A grey giant star, no real-life examples are known of this type of star yet, but along with some S05 "stars", may provide lithium ions that your stardrifter uses as fuel.
  • S07: A blue dwarf star, similar to a neutron star.
  • S08: A star system, not particularly common in Feltyrion but quite common in the Milky Way.
  • S09: A young star that is still a system in formation, similar to Vega.
  • S10: A runaway star that has escaped the gravitational pull of Feltyrion, usually ancient and similar to S03 stars (red giants) except usually lacking planets.
  • S11: These are pulsars.

Types of planets in Noctis[edit]

Substellar objects: giant worlds, larger than gas giants, that emit heat and are sometimes failed stars similar to S05 systems.

Gas giants: Giant planets that consist of gas and can harbor many moons, similar to Saturn and Jupiter.

Quartz worlds: Worlds that, as the name would suggest, have a surface consisting mainly of quartz. They are medium-sized and carry a pure oxygen atmosphere. No world like this is present in our solar system.

Thick atmosphere worlds: Medium-sized planets that have a rocky surface and an extraordinarily thick atmosphere in the tens of Felysian Atmospheres. Temperatures can vary widely from planet to planet of this type. Two examples of this type of world would be Venus and Titan.

Felysian worlds: Medium-sized planets that are suitable for, and in many cases contain, life. These are usually found orbiting S00 stars but can also be found around S03 stars and others depending on which version/mod of Noctis you may be using. These planets are similar to Earth.

Thin Atmosphere worlds: Worlds that are about medium-sized, rocky, and have a much less prominent atmosphere, such as Mars.

Dusty, no-atmosphere worlds: These are worlds that are small, rocky, and lack any significant atmosphere, such as Earth's Moon.

Craterized, no-atmosphere worlds: Worlds that lack a significant atmosphere and are also marked with numerous impact craters, such as Mercury.

Unstable worlds: Internally hot, volcanically active worlds. These worlds are unlandable in the standard versions of Noctis, but in certain versions of NICE, landings for these worlds are being implemented. These worlds are similar to Io, one of the moons of Jupiter.

The Noctis universe notably lacks black holes since it is based on the Wave Theory of Field, a model of physics that doesn't provide for the existence of such entities. This model is also the basis of the stardrifter's faster-than-light drive. It is a drive fueled with lithium ions predominantly harvested by "scooping" for lithium while orbiting S06 stars, using a device that seems to work like a Bussard Ramscoop, and operates by creating a maximass (another feature of the Wave Theory of Field) that expands space near the stardrifter, creating a wave for the drifter to "ride" upon. The drive is operated by selecting a target, and either engaging the drive, or in the case of a planet, beginning a fine approach. Manual control is not available in Noctis IV, but is planned for Noctis V. The stardrifter itself has a hull made out of quartz, which can be made opaque by polarizing it, or left to be transparent (or rendered entirely invisible if NICE is being used). The hull needs no maintenance from the player, and it is assumed that the landing pod gathers resources for maintenance while landed on a planet, and that maintenance operations are done automatically with no involvement from the player. The stardrifter can store 120 grams of lithium fuel, which is sufficient for journeys totalling several thousand light-years.

Planets may have moons, which have the properties of every of the here mentioned types of planets with one exception. Moons are smaller than the planet, so the planet types cannot have moons with properties of bigger planet types. Life on moons of large planets is possible.


The units of measurement used in the game are Felysian units, not Human units. One Felysian gravity unit is slightly less than 1 g. One Felysian astronomical unit, called a Dyam, is about 0.64 AU. The Felysians use a galactic coordinate system known as the Parsis system, where one parsis unit corresponds to about 0.000045 light-years. Parsis coordinates can be entered manually into the drive system to designate a target point in outer space, especially useful for very long distance jumps.

Time is measured in a relatively simple manner. There are 5 units in time, 4 of which are commonly used in clocks, Triads Dexter, the same length as one Second, Triads Medii, which is 1000 Triads Dexter, Triads Sinister, which is 1000 Triads Medii, and Epocs, which are 1000 Triads Sinister, for a total of about 31.5 Human Years per Epoc. The fifth unit of time is the Sithra, which is 50 seconds in length, and is used to measure heart rate as pulses per Sithra.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Web Archive records of the earliest Noctis' homepage". Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  2. ^ "Noctis Inbox Download". 2014-04-01. 
  3. ^ "Noctis V FAQ - Forum Edition". Retrieved 2014-06-23. 
  4. ^ "Videogame Potpourri: Interview with Alessandro Ghignola (aka 'Alex')". 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2014-06-23. 
  5. ^ "The Future". Retrieved 2014-06-23. 

External links[edit]