James Hicks has an article up on Gamasutra describing his solo effort to create a game set in a galaxy-sized universe filled with 3D texture-mapped planets and stars, and using that as the setting for a multiplayer game.
I'm guessing he's a fan of "if it was easy, it wouldn't be worth doing."
In this Gamasutra article, he discusses some of the technical challenges of that first part -- crafting a universe filled with billions of star systems. (Hint: pseudorandom number generation FTW. )
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