No Man’s Sky has to be the game I’m most looking forward to in 2015. We’ve only seen bits and pieces of the game so far in brief trailers, during which the game’s procedural nature has been emphasised. In this behind-the-scenes tech demo, Hello Games’ founder, Sean Murray, steps through how the small team managed to create an ambitious space game that banishes loading time using brilliant maths.
The folks from Game Informer sat down with Murray to talk No Man’s Sky a few weeks ago, and during their demo they noticed a few things about the procedurally generated galaxy of No Man’s Sky.
First of all, it’s beautiful and detailed. Secondly, there’s no loading time, and third of all, there’s almost no content for the worlds themselves being stored on the disc, the system you’re playing on or in the mythical cloud.
So how has the tiny team at Hello Games managed to create one of the most ambitious gaming galaxies we’ve ever seen? By layering formulae on top of each other to create something beautiful.
Murray explains in the tech demo that these worlds which you fly around and between aren’t built by hand in advance. Instead, each pixel, voxel and polygon is constantly changing and re-generating based on the X, Y and Z position of the player camera in the world. By using that input, the formulae in the game world can figure out what each rock, tree, creature and mountain is meant to look like.
As you fly around the world, the formula gradually changes with the player camera input and draws the world in front of you. Everything fades into view through a light mist which disguises the edge of the world, so the player never gets the sense that they’re about to outrun the game world.
Murray adds that none of this is particularly futuristic or game-changing so to speak. He said that the idea for a space game came first, and the procedural tech to power it came second through some smarts.
What is really unique about No Man’s Sky and how it develops a procedurally-generated universe is how it harnesses the next-gen capabilities of something like the PlayStation 4 to do it. Never before has a console been able to do maths of this magnitude so quickly, to render a game world so fluidly.
If you’ve got a few minutes, check this tech demo out. It’s the nexus of maths and gaming at its most beautiful.