What No Man's Sky Is

What No Man's Sky Is

"What does sci-fi mean to you?" I was asking Sean Murray, the managing director and founder of Hello Games, this question. He's one of a small team of developers working on the game that had everyone buzzing at E3 this year.

"That's a really good question," Murray said to me during an interview in a hotel a few blocks from the convention center. "Everyone just thinks sci-fi is future. Sci-fi is just alternate to me. It's just our version of the universe, an interesting universe, and I think one that's hopefully quite surprising and interesting to explore rather than our universe, which would be reasonably boring."

As he walked around the brightly-coloured planet they had showed off in a trailer at Sony's press conference, he touched a button that highlighted a transparent geometric pattern over areas of the ground that could be mined for resources. Resources can be used to improve your suit, he later explained to me.

What No Man's Sky Is

That's the only sense of "levelling" you'll find in No Man's Sky. You can improve your character through your suit, your weapon, and by buying new ships. You can't customise your ship. You buy newer, better ones. "It's not levelling up and there's not a tree it's just that when you go to a space station there will be some ships docked there sometimes," Murray explained. "If there are, you can try to buy those ships. You're not trying to customise those ships. It's just there's this hopefully real, working universe and you'd travel as you'd expect."

Murray: "There is a lore to the universe and we adhere to that but we're not going to tell you."

If you asked the people paying attention what No Man's Sky is you might hear a few common phrases: space battles, exploration, colourful, great music (that one might be from me specifically). The biggest talking point, though, is obvious: procedural generation. In a gigantic, explorable universe, there are tons of possibilities. Tons of variations of creatures and trees and space ships and caves and everything else that you can see.

In No Man's Sky you play as...someone. We don't know who that person is or what their motivations are or what their backstory says. And we won't find out. At least not until we get our hands on the game, and even then it's up to the player to discover what they can. "There is a lore to the universe and we adhere to that but we're not going to tell you," Murray said. "We're not going to describe it to you. You can read into that whatever you want. We're not going to tell you who you are or why you're there. We have our story."

When you start the game off as this...somebody, you start off with a ship. It can go as far as space but not deep into interstellar travel. To do that, you'll have to invest in bigger and better ships.

I asked Murray how you would go about "levelling up" to get better suits and weapons. "I could do it just by exploring," he said. "I could do it by taking guys out like this [Murray lifts his controller a bit to emphasise that he is flying in space and shooting other ships]. So if I go up to that fleet that was being attacked I could've joined in and attacked one of the freighters and get a little reward for that."

What No Man's Sky Is

But do you have any friends in this world? Anyone who won't attack you and could even help you?

"We're not telling you, 'Oh this race is good, this race is bad,' or anything like that," Murray said. "You will find that, say, little things like the insignias on their ships, things like that, they're actually consistent. And you can read into that what you will and you will see consistencies in who seems to fight."

So far Hello Games has only shown space combat in their trailers. But there's a lot more to the game, and even to the combat, than just that. I asked Murray about this, and about what kind of genre mash-up he thinks best explains his game.

What No Man's Sky Is

"People ask 'What is the gameplay like?' Well, we showed space battle and that's all that Star Citizen has. We've got a lot more than that, but that in itself is a lot of gameplay. We're showing a whole genre of game there," Murray said. "You could go around exploring and that could be a genre of game and you could play the game that way. We haven't shown other things like our resources or combat on the ground. But there will be that. We also showed fighting over the terrain, and that is like another genre like Star Fox. Just for us, though, it's just a whole bunch of systems that are working together."

In the big, expansive universe that Hello Games promises is full of infinite variety, you can choose to explore. To scare off animals, or to kill them. You'll have weapons that you can use to shoot people and animals on the planets. There are space fleets and interstellar travel. But what about other players?

Murray: "We're not trying to make an MMO and we're not trying to make a traditional multiplayer because it just doesn't suit that."

"There are opportunities to interact with other players, but we're not trying to make an MMO and we're not trying to make a traditional multiplayer because it just doesn't suit that," Murray said. "You and I, when we play, we will be light years apart and we have no control over that — where we start off. We can try to fly to the same place and if we do we'll see the same things and we can make certain drops and do interactions between each other. But we're not all flying to one planet and then having a run around together. What I would be after is something Journey-esque. You know that you were playing with other people, but you're not saying, "Hey! Join me in Journey for a quick game!"

We still don't know too much about No Man's Sky, but I think that's partially the point. There's a story and a protagonist and there's even a gun, but that's not what Sean Murray or Hello Games wants you to think about when you see or hear about No Man's Sky. And when the buzz out of E3 is all about how No Man's Sky seems so full of possibilities, so full of colours and freedom to play and explore, it seems like that method is working.


    What No Man's Sky Is

    No Man's Sky is that amazing dream you once had that after it ended you have trouble remembering it because your mind can't compare to what you saw.

    My idea of what this game should have been like is on a much bigger scale...

    Would have loved this to have been something along the lines of minecraft.

    Go off exploring with friends, explore new galaxies, solar systems etc

    improve ship technology by exploring and collecting new data/materials from different planets, allowing you to travel greater distances

    mine fuel resources, hunt/gather/survive.

    defend against native tribes on planets.

    occasionally sync 2 - 3 different teams together when close by, with the option of engaging in battles or sharing resources and technology...

      Have you heard of this?


      It is very close to a lot of what you have mentioned.

        thanks heaps for that Glock. never heard of this till now... will have a look at this tonight! looks very cool...

          I backed it on Kickstarter and unfortunately that's already finished. They will have their own form of backing under the Store menu soon though, so you can also get involved if you're interested.

          It sounds very ambitious but will be amazing if they pull it off to plan!

          Edit: Wow, you've literally got a few hours if you want to get in - I just noticed their backing period ends on 22 June (must be EU/US time as it's still open!)

          Last edited 23/06/14 2:59 pm

            damn didnt realise the kickstarter was still running... will have to wait fort it to popup on their store...

            in the meantime ive just setup aminecraft server which will keep me busy, as well as some friends and anyone else who joins.

            good find!

              No, the Kickstarter isn't still running. They have their own store on-site for backing. The full options ran out yesterday, as I posted. You can still back there but the only option now is a single copy with alpha/beta access. Previously they had other options with additional content and so on.

            also, god i love voxels.

              Have you played 7 Days To Die?

                yeah but its still very very rough. much prefer dayz, or even rust.

                  It's not the zombie aspect I was referring to (which as you say, is not as polished as the other games mentioned) but the fact that it is a voxel-based world.

                  @glock ah right, yeah, needs a lot of work though.... i mean its alpha. the engine is very rough at the moment...

    I feel like they are being very coy with the details at this point, which is fair enough i guess, but I also kind of get the feeling this is to make it seem bigger and better and of course more mysterious than it really is.

    The way they have been describing the 'infinite-ness' of things and then the way they have seemingly contradicted that by saying that everything is set seems a bit weird to me, which is it? HOW is it?

    I understand the need to be mysterious and ambiguous with the finer points, especially when they're still working on the thing and there is no set release date, but it feels like they are hiding things from the public in order to manufacture hype, when in reality it won't be as grandiose as they are vaguely claiming.

    I AM optimistic though, it does look awesome, shows heaps of promise and i'm definitely interested in checking it out when it drops.

    Maybe in the meantime they should work on their PR structure a little bit.

      Well, it's still a business...and hype never hurt investment or sales.

    The more and more i read about this game, the more and more i get confused and i want to stay away from it, i tried reading the article about this the other day and i got about half way through this one before i called it quits.
    it just seems like a few pages of what this game isnt... but not what it actually is...
    To me it sounds like an open 'universe' with no plot, no story, no direction...

    so i reckon from this point forward im not going to look much more into this...

      Pretty much what I have been thinking reading the last few articles that have come up, but i guess i'm on the 'hopefully optimistic' side. Might be worth keeping an eye out for when they do actually start releasing concrete info on what exactly the game is and isn't.

      do your homework!

      objective: get to the center of the universe.

      plot: somethings is at the center of the universe and is mutating worlds, the protagonist must get there to find out what it is and stop it.

      story: ... you really didnt look into this much did you.. you make your own goddam story ya hear me!

      procedural generation: there will be only one universe when this game releases. though since its going to be generated, not even the devs will know whats inside it. even they keep finding things that the game engine has produced, which they did not expect (a good thing). this is basically a toddlers version of a backwards ancestor simulation.

      random generation: the devs said they will possibly make a different game mode to accompany this after they see how successful the game is.

      discovery: if they told you anything, it would spoil everything... *withdraws from using profanity*.

      the wikis will flood with user info and discovered facts after release, and will continue to flood for a long.. long time. but if you hopped into the game yourself... you would see things that nobody has seen before etc. if someone walked up to a book they knew nothing about, read the blurb and said it had no plot, no story, no direction.. well ELIA MARTELL! I KILLED HER CHILDREN, THEN I RAPED HER, THEN I SMASHED HER HEAD! IN LIKE THIS Q(#_-Q)

    I'm ignoring this game until it gets closer to release. Just too painful to something awesome constantly float in front of you but never close enough to have. Like... Destiny... Oculus.... on and on..

    Call me a pessimist but I just can't believe that this game is gonna live up to the hype. I just keep getting the vibe that it's gonna be like a movie trailer that has all the good bits in it. We'll get the game, be amazed at it for few hours before asking, "is that it?". But God I hope I'm wrong.

      I don't feel like it is really being hyped by the developers.
      Minecraft also has no real plot or particular goal, and it is unbelievably popular.

      I'd by this just for the space combat really.
      Hell, even if the interaction level was only something like the original Carrier Command game I'd be happy.

    Excited for the potential of this, but c'mon man, our universe is slightly more than 'reasonably boring' to explore! It's probably full of all sorts of amazing things, not just X-wings and dinosaurs :P

    Well firstly I would like to say that what hello games is doing should have been done by the big studios years ago. Most Sp games nowadays feel like 4 hour movie.
    Next thing is regarding the game I really don't know how they plan to execute this. But looking at them speak they are saying the world is going to be procedurally generated and at the same time it's going to be shared by many players? How is that going to work are they planning for something like mine craft where they have seed numbers? Is it going to be played on one central server? Because if players are going to see each other they both need to be sharing the same world.

    It sound like they have put in the building blocks into a game and let it go on making it self. Which is fantastic , there not shore what's out there ever. Oi universe that reproduces it self as if it was alive.

    Why does everyone want multiplayability, What ever happened to the good old days of playing a great single player experience then talking to your mates about it. I think this is what appeals most to me about this game.

    Spoiler: The center of the galaxy of No Man's Sky is a black hole. It is the choice of the player to enter it and lose everything, but the player will be recorded and shared for all to see who made that choice.

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