Seeing what no man has seen before. Being the first to tread on an alien planet. The unknown. These are essentially the core thoughts behind the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky, set to be released in June 2016.
The hype around this upcoming adventure survival game has been enormous. Developed and published by Hello Games, this open world sandbox is set in its own procedurally generated universe. This could more accurately be referred to as an open universe, with over 18 quintillion planets to explore (or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 to be more precise). Each planet is massive in scale and has its own atmosphere and weather system, coupled with its unique fauna and flora, and all planets are in a specific solar system, each with their own computer-controlled factions. Exploration is really at the heart of this game; going to new planets or their moons and discovering what is waiting for you there – be it either a cute goat-like creature or nothing at all. One major plus is that there are no loading times. All discoveries can be uploaded to The Atlas, a universal database that is shared with other players, and each discovery earns you in-game currency – referred to simply as ‘units’ – which can subsequently be used to purchase a variety of spaceships or equipment. Players can also choose to mine planets for materials, which can then be used for these upgrades. This progress will allow a player to travel deeper into the center of the universe, which is ultimately the ‘goal’ of the game.
The level of exploration available to the player per single planet is absolutely astounding – it would take a player days to walk around a single planet. Unique animals, plants and ancient structures are all apparent from the footage available, with Sean Murray as hinting at an underground space that can also be explored on some planets. Hunting, mining and minor terraforming activities are all available to the player, but be cautious when killing animals; a police-like faction, The Sentinel, protects the planet ecosystems from destruction and extinction, and if a player drains too many resources from the planet, they will be attacked. The penalty for death is the loss of any progress on that planet (discoveries, mining etc.), coupled with a classic science-fiction quote – or one from Jaden Smith.
No Man’s Sky was originally worked on by Hello Games’ Sean Murray alone, with other team members being added later on. Even though this is technically an indie release, Sony provided promotional and marketing support, showing that the potential of this game is quite apparent to the higher-ups. Sony even announced the independently-developed release during their press conference at E3 2014, a first for the Expo. This title looks like a defining release in the industry, mainly due to the scale of the game itself. No matter how well the gaming community takes to it, there will probably be planets, or even solar systems, that are never discovered. The majesty and awe of the vastness of what is being created – that is the beauty of No Man’s Sky. The thrill of going somewhere where no-one else ever has, or maybe ever will. Sean Murray commented as such, stating that “The joy of discovery is something I have long longed for, especially in the Sci-Fi Genre. You know, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. As such, it’s literally a dream come true, for me.”
Discovering new planets and creatures, seeing beautiful landscapes or participating in faction-war in space sounds like heaven to some, but there is a downside. The appeal of the vast, open galaxy might lose its shine and appeal in the future, or the game might even become boring for some gamers. Some might not have enough time on their hands to truly get into the game. Others might even yearn for the constraints and rules that are ever-present in most titles. After all, exploration of the unknown also means that there’s a chance one might stumble upon… nothing?