No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens

No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens

For the past several years, the video game community has been salivating over No Man's Sky, a space exploration game by Hello Games. Now at last, the game is being released on June 21. At an event in Los Angeles, we experienced about 30 minutes of gameplay — and discovered that some of the game's planets are inhabited by intelligent life forms. Much has been made of the game's 18 quintillion planets (you read that right) — which basically makes this universe infinite. People have also talked about the fact that the game has no load times because it creates things on the fly, and all of these planets are generated by the game itself. That means even the people who made the game have no idea what each and every planet looks like, because they will only be created, named and populated as players visit them. At the same time, there are so many planets, solar systems and galaxies in the game that 99.9 per cent of them will never be visited.

No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens

But like they say in the Carl Sagan movie Contact, "The Universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." And the same goes for No Man's Sky. At an event in Hollywood on Tuesday, Sean Murray, the Managing Director of Hello Games, revealed that some planets are inhabited by NPC (Non-Player-Character) aliens.

"There are bunch of different alien races in the game," Murray said. "They have their own lore. Some of them, perhaps, have a military slant or a scientific slant, and the more the learn of their language the more you'll be able to communicate with them. The more you communicate with them, the higher your ranking with each race is. And the higher your ranking, the more options are available. So for trading, perhaps you get better prices for goods, new technology, that kind of thing."

In our 30 minutes of gameplay — which was isolated to a single solar system of the trillions in the game — we visited two planets and met two different races. (A coincidence that was almost assuredly created for a press demonstration.) One, the Korath, looked like the lead character from Dead Space. The other, the Gez, are short, two-legged walking birds, with huge beaks.

No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens

When you meet an alien, you'll be allowed to communicate. Depending on how much exploration you've done of the alien's surrounding world, you may know some of the language, or you may not. Those kind of things are revealed on mysterious monoliths and constructions on various planets, as seen above. You can try and decipher the language, or you can just guess what to say. If you guess right, maybe you get something awesome. Or you might just piss them off. You really don't know.

Finding these aliens won't be particularly easy, because getting from one planet to another is actually a bit of a trial. In previous demonstrations of the game, the planets of each solar system were grouped fairly close together. But now, as the game is getting closer to release date, all the planets have been moved to more realistic distances. So, even using a hyper drive, it took us 45 seconds to jump from planet to planet. Bear in mind, that's the next closest planet. And there are 18 quintillion across the universe.

Obviously, each planet looks totally different, because it's rendered in real time by Hello's unique set of randomiser tools. Because of that, any time you arrive on a planet, it's almost wholly overwhelming. In this new gameplay demo, one planet had subzero temperatures, so if you didn't upgrade your suit or find shelter, you'd freeze to death. A way to find shelter was to craft grenades and blow up the side of a cliff. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll also find a cave which can be explored and mined for resources. Which adds yet another massive component to the game. The surfaces of these planets aren't the only things that are explorable. Each is built as a sphere, so while you probably can't bomb your way to the planet's core, you can walk all the way around it and, on some planets, even look underneath the surface.

No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens

And everywhere you go, you'll find resources, which are the key to the game. No Man's Sky has its own periodic table, which includes elements you've heard of, as well as new ones. Sulphur, Carbon, Silicon and Plutonium are just a few examples we found (see above). These can be found on random crates in the ground, crystals, plants — you never quite know. A huge percentage of what you see on a screen can be discovered, logged and potentially used in various ways. So when you find resources you can combine them to make technology, upgrades, items — it really depends. You'll be spending a lot of time in your menu, messing around and trying to figure out how it all works. Options there include "Suit", "Weapons", "Ship," and "Discovered", each with a 5x5 grid of changeable options and sub-options.

This incredible ability to explore and mine the planets can be dangerous too. Steal too much and the game's enemies, the Sentinels, will come down and things turn into a space-opera version of Grand Theft Auto. You get a "wanted" level that goes up, the more you steal — or if you decided to try and break into something that's locked — and they attack. First as little flying bots, but then larger robots, walkers and eventually huge ships. So if you watched previous footage of No Man's Sky and thought it was nothing but a nice, calming experience, that's not true at all.

No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens

And when you die — and you will die — you'll first be greeted by a quote from one of the greats of science fiction (we saw Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick) and then respawn. If that happens in space, you'll end up on a nearby space station, which is also filled with NPCs who you can trade with and buy things from.

While the planets we were exploring during this demo were a tad more action-packed, that's not to say they all will be. That's the point of No Man's Sky. Much like our universe itself, anything could be out there and it's just up to you, the gamer, to find it. But knowing that there are aliens in the world to interact with and help you through your journey is yet one more enticing element to an already insanely exciting and massive game.

In addition to the GIFs above, all taken from new footage, here are some brand new still images from the game.

No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens
No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens
No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens
No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens
No Man's Sky Just Got Even Cooler, Now That We've Seen Its Aliens


    I'm trying not to be hyped but I'm hyped!

    My only concern... No load times but a 45 second trip from one planet to the next?

      Well you can't just teleport instantly from planet to planet do you? That would make you miss out on the space exploration part and you will only do planet exploration.

      Remember how you could end up in between space battles while travelling between planets?

        Good point! Back up to full hypage!!!

          Full steam ahead!

            Or you could find a giant floating alien monolith with a space baby inside!

            Toot-toot! I'm also an excited passenger on the hype-train. Loving the ride, but boy, I just can't wait till we get there!

    If it's better than Rescue on Fractalus, then I'll be happy.

    Why do I get the feeling this will be this generation's Spore?

      Because you are a cynical, burned out husk of a man?

        I must be too because I was thinking the same thing. Spore is one of the only games I've ever pre ordered, and is possibly the reason I don't preorder more.

        That being said, my mouse has been hovering over the buy button all morning.

    Planets are generated on the fly. Love that they've taken procedural generation to such a level, and I'm certainly looking forward to the game, but it got me wondering.

    Say you pick a direction and fly off in a straight line for 2 hours. You past a dozen planets in that time. If at the end, you turn around 180 degrees and fly back along that same line, will you get the same planets, or will the procedural generation make new ones?

      Depends if they are using a random or fixed seed for the RNG. I suspect it is fixed so everyone should get the same universe

      So it's not procedurally generated in the way that you're used to for rogue-likes etc.

      In computers, without special hardware, there's no such thing as a truly random number. Instead there are equations that take a seed (basically a starting number) and generate a pseudo-random number from that. In a really basic random number generator you might use the time of day as the seed, and for every second you'll get a differently calculated random number, but if you used the same time twice you'd get the same random number.

      The reason I'm explaining this is that all versions of No Man's Sky will use the same seed, so even though the universe is procedurally generated, it will always be the same for every player. The advantage of this is that the game doesn't need to store what the universe looks - it can just take the seed and look up what should be procedurally generated at your location.

      Edit: I forgot to add that the starting position for every player is also randomly generated separately, so even though there is one universe, the are so many procedurally generated planets that players would almost ever see the same planets, but in theory it's possible.

      Last edited 04/03/16 10:55 am

        This reminds me of what I was reading the other day about playing cards, If you took a standard 52 card deck and shuffled it, the chances of that order having existed before is so tiny its basically never going to have happened.

        And that's only with 52 cards, not 18 quintillion.

          More on card decks:

        That makes sense. I think. I understand procedural generation, etc (I've tinkered with some basic rogue type games in python), its just gotten me a little mixed up on HOW its generated. For me, procedural generation suggests some level of randomness, and thats whats gotten me turned around.

        The level of detail for procedural generation on this scale is just something I cant relate back to a single seed, but I'll get my head around it.

        I dont expect the planets to magically change behind me or anything like that though, I was more voicing the curiosity.

          Pretty much, it's similar to say, Starbound.

          They use procedural generation to create the monsters and planets to completion, then we all share that universe.
          In other words they used procedural generation during development only and we see the results but never see it in action.

            That's not entirely true! They've developed the algorithm already, but we do see the procedural generation in real time when playing. The difference is that we'll always get the same result.

              That's pretty much what I'm saying man. The works done already and we see the result. Yeah we see it all in real time, but you won't see the procedural generation physically changing the world (like the same planet looking different between save files for example)

          I don't know how they specifically did it, but I imagine it's mostly a function of the vector between a given point and the centre of the galaxy and preset frequencies of how often they want solar systems, planets etc to occur.

      Random number generators are usually deterministic, so you can reliably regenerate the same sequence of random numbers if you need to. You need to seed the random number generator before it starts spitting out random numbers, usually you seed it with something that changes often (like the timestamp of the current time) to make sure you'll get a different sequence of numbers, but if you store the seed somewhere and feed the same one back in later, you will get the same sequence of random numbers. I'd imagine in no man's sky, once something has been discovered its considered "locked in" and the seed that generated it would be stored somewhere so it can reliably be regenerated the same way every time.

      I think in earlier interviews they mentioned that once something is generated in game, it's permanent (at least in your game, if not everyone elses)

        I think it would have to be the same for everyone else as well, since the premise is that you may come across worlds discovered by others. Anything scanned on that planet would almost certainly be the same as what was originally generated since it's using the same seed.

      Based on the information at hand I think the game still generates the same planets at the same locations. My reasoning here is the fact that gamers can mark planets as discovered.

      All that's meant when they say planets are generated on the fly is, the game engine only renders them as we approach a planet. The algorithms for generating all those planets and inhabitants must already be there, pre-programed.

      It will have to be a very complex program. This game is a really cool experiment to see if with these large numbers of gamers, and such a large universe, will two gamers ever find one-another.

        I think you're close. The procedural generation being more about the art assets than true randomness of content.

        On any level, its procedural work I dont think we've seen attempted at even close to this scale, so its going to be interesting to see it in action. I really hope it works.

        Closest I can think of is Spore, which took the shortcut (and a smart one at that) of largely seeding the various planets with your friends creations. But the procedural randomness did the hard work of deciding what to put there rather than predetermine the models and build them.

        It also ties in mentally to how I believe the original Elite was meant to be. They had to 'limit' the number of galaxies to 65535 because they only had 12k of space, and the extra bit meant it blew out to 14k or something like that.

        But apart from the original galaxy, seeding determined the random galaxies available, which in practice meant you werent going to see the same set of galaxies again, and it would be exceptionally rare to see any of them twice.

        And that was with 65,535 galaxies, whats it going to be like with 18 quintillion?

        *edit* galaxies versus stars, you know what I mean :)

        Last edited 04/03/16 3:51 pm

          Yes. But I think people here are confusing Procedural with Random. This game may have random elements in it but I think the procedural part is what makes the scale possible.

          They probably modeled an entire solar system and every thing in it as a base class with parameters to change it depending on the location it's at in the universe.

          If something is procedural it basically cant be random as far as I can think. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

            They have come out and said before that the final game will be built from one seed. Meaning that flying 2 hours spinning around and flying back will have the same planets, except if the planets rotate about their sun and throw that straight line out of whack. The one seed guarantees that everyone plays in the same univers. The one seed to rule them all.

            It can be procedural and random. Procedural just means it's built program tidally by some kind of algorithm instead of an artist sitting there hand-picking each environment or object. Instead they would make many smaller modular 'building blocks' that objects could then be procedurally assembled out of.

            For example there might be 20 different tree trunks, multiple different types of leaves, multiple different branches, and many different textures for each piece. Then you would procedurally draw from all those smaller pieces and use them to build a tree. If you wanted to populate a forest with handmade trees it would take a lot of man hours to hand make enough unique looking trees that you wouldn't notice repetition when putting them together, like a unreasonably excessive amount of hours. But a few different textures, trunks, branches and leaves, put together procedurally in different ways and you can come up with an almost infinite number of different trees, for no extra work than it takes to make those initial building blocks. And the return on your investment for adding more art is exponential, because even just adding a couple more types of trunk or leaves gives so many more variations once combined with all the rest.

            The randomness factors into the algorithm used to procedurally build the things. For example, you have a selection of different leaves, you'll generate a random number to pick which leaves the tree has. You might generate a random number between 2 and 6 for how many low branches it has (I just made that range up, it could be anything, and often those sorts of ranges and parameters would be tweak able and configurable in a script or something). Generate random numbers within a range for how many leaves on a branch, how alive/dead the tree is, how tall the tree is, what angle the trunk or branches are at, etc, etc. It won't be entirely random, it'll be random numbers within ranges that the developer deems sensible for that option, but randomness is key to generating procedural content.

            Expanding that out, you could generate a random number to determine the atmosphere of the world, how many moons it has, the terrain, the distance from the sun, how many planets are in the galaxy, etc, etc. It would be a very complex process still, and there would be other logic going on to make sure sensible logical choices are being made and to handle edge cases or flat out bad combinations of things that get generated, but its all about random numbers at the end of the day.

    there are so many planets, solar systems and galaxies in the game that 99.9 per cent of them will never be visited

    "Galaxies"? As in.... plural? I thought the objective of the game was to get to the centre of the galaxy? I kind of took that to mean there was "only" the single galaxy?

      You see if there is only one galaxy, the closest player will get there first. Having multiple galaxies just mean that there are multiple destination in the game. Imagine if a player is stuck at the far end of the galaxy while the "centre" is at the other corner of the galaxy, it would make no sense.

      Not to mention, there are more than one galaxy in the world. Just like how we are in the Milky Way galaxy, there exist other galaxies too.

    I worry that the hype for this game will never be able to matched by the final product. I have no doubt that it will be an amazing, unique and beautiful experience of a game, but I fully expect 3 weeks worth of "10 things we were promised in No Man's Sky" articles tearing it to shreds.

    There are a few questions that i want to know before i buy, is there just a pure exploration mode? I know there will probably be hostile's in the game but i don't want to build an awesome ship just to have some arsehole npc blow it up and i have to start over again.

    Also, will it be like Elite: Dangerous?, you can play solo but you're still connected to the multiplayer element.

      I'd like to know how multiplayer will work as well. From what I gather there will be some form of LAN play, and then there will be Journey/Dark Souls (excluding invasions) type online multiplayer.

        I'm pretty sure that it's always online like any MMO, but the problem is that the game world is so big that you'll rarely come across other players.

        I thought the only thing reminding you it had other players is the fact things will be named and discovered by them, que "dick planet" and all its "dick" inhabitants, this is why ill spend 9 hours flying when the games launches... so that people will in weeks time find my dick megaverse

    Wheres the footage these gifs came from?!

      PC Gamer has the full 7min footage with a little talking over the top about Chris's experience at the same event

        Thank you thank you!!!

        I found a 3 minute vid with a few snippets but couldnt find anything comprehensive... So fucking hyped for this game!!!

    Germain writing for Kotaku now? This is seemingly new. Interesting.

    Still seeing no active multiplayer other then the name that thing game. Really it wouldn't take much to ad in some MP component to have 3-7 friends come along and help you build and discover. The guy talks about how its impossible because you spawn all different locations... geee if only there was a way to set it so friends could start a new game on the same planet... if only...

    Hopefully I'll run into some Asari type species...

    This article made me a believer, I feel foolish for my previous comments now.

      ooh yeah that'd be great., you know so i can study them for you know science.
      Actually that made me think of something, does anyone know if mods will be at all supported for this game because if they are someone should totally add asari.

      Also does anyone know the recommended specs, I see they posted the minimum and the only place I see anything else is on game debate but I don't know where they got the info for that so im not sure if its accurate.

      Last edited 04/03/16 11:25 pm

        YES.. yes for science...
        I'l have to study them closely not because I want to but because I have sworn an oath to the scientific community you see. *slow grin*

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