It’s been a week since No Man’s Sky lit up the VGX Awards, and since then a few interviews have helped explain a bit more about what the game actually is. There’s still a huge load of unanswered questions, particularly regarding how multiplayer works, but there are many more details available now beyond a pretty trailer that fires up the imagination.
No Man’s Sky will be a procedurally generated universe where all players take part in the same galaxy. While the solar systems and their inhabitants aren’t hand-built, the rules governing world creation and the seed from which everything springs is the same for all players, so the galactic sandbox is identical for everyone. On top of that, the game is meant to be played online, so discoveries and changes are shared to each player. Be the first to a planet and you get your name listed as discoverer, if you choose to share it with the world. Or you can keep it secret to try to hide its resources as long as possible. It’s a big galaxy, although how big is still being kept under wraps, but the Milky Way galaxy has 100,000,000,000 stars at the low end of the estimate. It’s not unreasonable to assume No Man’s Sky has a small fraction of a real galaxy’s stars, but even cut down to size there’s no way for any single player to see everything it has to offer. Hiding a resource-rich planet by letting it get lost in the near-endless expanse of the outer galaxy shouldn’t be too hard.
At the game’s start, everyone is scattered across the galactic edge, and the goal (if you decide you want to pursue it) is to make your way to the core. The starting ship won’t be able to make it there just by setting a waypoint and hitting the fast travel button, of course, so it’s going to take significant ship upgrades plus cooperation with other players to reach the galaxy’s heart. Or you can blow off the quest and just go sightseeing, if fighting to the center seems like too much trouble.
Despite the game’s focus on exploration, there’s going to be plenty of shooting to go along with it. How much and how avoidable is still unknown, but it’s not a safe galaxy out there. Pirates will happily blow you out of the sky and take everything you’ve brought along, and while you can’t die, being stuck on a planet with little more than your ship’s escape pod/cockpit is a situation that’s bound to take a while to recover from. How resources are harvested and turned into a working space ship is another unanswered question, but with a bit of luck your temporary planetary home will have a nice supply of resources to help you recover.
It all depends on the planet, though. Planetary makeup is determined by its chemical composition and a few rules that lead to complicated results. Atmosphere, mineral resources, plant color, and animal life are all determined by the variables that create the world, and the farther into the galaxy you go the stranger the worlds will get. The trailer featured an Earthlike world to help ground the game’s first showing, but one of the driving design decisions is to create an exciting future based on science fiction book covers of the 70s/80s, before everything went all space-marine grey. (Personally I’m hoping for a ringworld somewhere, if the procedural generator can somehow be persuaded to spit one out. Halo’s 10,000km diameter is ultra-tiny compared to a proper 299,200,000km ring around a sun.) Hello Games intentionally didn’t show anything too crazy because No Man’s Sky is a game of discovery, but there’s plenty of room in classic science fiction for some truly amazing worlds populated by fantastic creatures. AI civilizations have also been hinted at, and that’s yet another question to toss on the “unknown” pile for the moment.
Other questions for the pile come thick and fast the more thought goes into it. The scale obviously isn’t exact, but how big are planets? Minor changes to the galaxy (kill a creature) aren’t uploaded for everyone but major ones are (hunt a species to extinction), so what’s the cut-off between the two? Will there be gas giants to mine for gaseous resources, hopefully with rings and moons to explore? Crafting has already been said to not be Minecraft-style, but how are resources harvested and turned into upgrades? How does multiplayer work, and will the game require an internet connection at all times? Which platforms is this coming out on? There’s a lot we still don’t know, but one thing that is known makes No Man’s Sky one of the most potentially exciting games to pop up out of the blue in a long time. Everything you see in the game is a place to go. Every star, planet, mountain, and ocean is an actual place that the procedural engine is more than happy to generate for your exploration, populated with life and and a working part of its surrounding environment. It’s a huge galaxy filled with effectively endless content. As the kid with the tiger says-