TOTW: An Infinite Universe Ready To Be Explored In No Mans Sky
The world of video games always had and still has a infinite amount of possibilities of what you can make and how you do it. But, so far, there has been no game that have taken that infinity and transferred it into the game. Hello Games, the creators of the game Joe Danger, were hardly the people you would think to break that barrier. Joe Danger, a rounded, childlike cycling/temple run game about a daredevil, Joe Danger, is quite the opposite of a game you would think to lead on to a big break in gaming. But, looks can be deceiving. The Hello Games team has released information about a game that they are making which could not possibly be hyped up enough. I’m sure, just as the childhood dreams of the Hello Games team members would be made true by this game, many gamers and non gamers alike would be astounded and shocked at the profoundness of this game.
It may seem as if I am overdoing this. You know, it’s just a video game. Nothing special. But now think about Earth. And our size compared to Earth. And how far away the moon is from the Earth. And how far the closest other planet is to Earth. It has taken humans about 200,000 years to just reach the moon. There is so much more on Earth and on every other planet just orbiting our sun that we haven’t discovered yet.
Makes you feel small, doesn’t it? Now, if someone could just translate this astonishment into video games, then that game would surely be an instant hit. That’s where Sean Murray and Hello Games come in. “In this era in which footage of every game is recorded and uploaded to YouTube, we wanted a game where, even if you watched every video, it still wouldn’t be spoiled for you.” Murray said. No Mans Sky is what came out of that desire.
In essence, No Mans Sky is a exploration game. Space exploration. But unlike many other games, you are not limited to just that. That’s because the area that you are exploring is, well, pretty much infinite. No Mans Sky uses a technique that was made famous by Minecraft, procedural generation. Basically, as you go along, an algorithm creates the world around you from a fixed number of elements of a landscape such as trees, lakes, rocks, caves, etc. Therefore, each time you play the terrain would be different. But, Minecraft isn’t a realistic game by any standards, mostly because of the trademark blocky graphics. No Mans Sky takes procedural generation to the next level.
The gameplay is very simple. You are a person, thrown onto a random planet in one galaxy designated for all new player to inhabit. Each player gets their own planet. Each planet is life sized, meaning that even if 1 million players were thrown on only 1 planet, they probably would never explore it all. All the planets themselves are incredibly realistic, with a real ecosystem, including amount of trees, lakes, color of water and sky, and more. All these factors are determined by a couple set of rules, such as the distance from the sun, if the planet has moons, etc.
The mechanics of the game has been pretty much been put under wraps. Hello Games wants to each player to have the same sense of wonder when playing the game for the first time. But, we do know that the universe that No Man Sky takes place in pretty much has no rules. There is no quests, no missions, no instruction. You can make of the infinite universe what you want. Since the universe is synced between every player, meaning each player plays in the same universe, if you are the first player to find a planet, or a new species, or a cave, or whatever, any time another player visits that place your name will automatically be always associated with that thing.
So if you would like to, you could spend all your time on one planet, finding all the animal species. Or all the caves. Or you could constantly fly to a new planet, finding more planets than anyone else. Murray has hinted at a system in the game that identifies what you have accomplished and puts you in a category, and ranks you. So you can become the best planet explorer, or zoologist, or whatever you want. That way, the game could be played in a multitude of different ways.
But, there are some main goals you want to go after. If you choose, a goal that Hello Games has hinted at is traveling to the center of your galaxy, where something will await you. Also, they have hinted at some malevolent being somewhere in the galaxy, which drives all the fighting in that area. But, what you do with the world is entirely up to you.
“We are attempting to do things that haven’t been done before,” says Murray. “No game has made it possible to fly down to a planet, and for it to be planet-sized, and feature life, ecology, lakes, caves, waterfalls and canyons, then seamlessly fly up through the stratosphere and take to space again. It’s a tremendous challenge.”
Another thing that sets this game apart from other games is that, in a way, it is a big social experiment. As the players can do whatever they want, it will be interesting to find out if they disperse, trade, fight, or just leave each other alone.
But, a problem with having the universe be made by procedural generation is that you can’t just go in and edit the code of one specific object if it’s malfunctioning. So, Hello Games created an interesting way to find and smooth out the kinks in the game. They created their own sort of “animated gif bots” that will go out to each planet and record a little fly-over for the team to look over. “Only around 1% of the time would it create something that looked natural, interesting and pleasing to the eye; the rest of the time it was a mess and, in some cases where the sky, the water and the terrain were all the same color, unplayable. Of course, this was fixed by the introduction of the rule set.
Altogether, No Mans Sky is a mystery. Just as the universe we live in right now is a mystery, the world of No Mans Sky is full of possibilities. “If you were to visit one virtual planet every second,” Murray says, “then our own sun will have died before you’d have seen them all.” This game will not only be an incredible feat of computing and programming by a dozen or so Hello Games team members, but it will open up a ability that humans have been hoping for since the dawn of time: the ability to fly out into space, and visit the planets and stars that have inspired civilization for thousands of years. Only a special crop of the human race has been able to go out of our atmosphere so far, but with this game anyone will be able to, and then keep on going. The feeling of wonder you will get from playing this game is very important to the Hello Games team, but I’m sure, just from what they have released so far, that the wonder factor won’t be a problem.