I don’t consider myself a hard core gamer. I only pre-ordered 3 games this year: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Rise of the Tomb Raider for PS4, and No Man’s Sky. The first I played the hell out of to completion and enjoyed every bittersweet minute of it. The middle comes out in October but I’ve been waiting on the Xbox exclusivity to run out for what feels like a decade (but really was only a year). Also fuck timed exclusivity deals. The latter I finally pulled the trigger on this past Sunday a mere 3 days before launch because I just haven’t been sure what the game is. I’m still not to be honest. But when I read the newest release notes here I knew I had to have this game. Seriously, it’s like Far Cry, Star Trek, Firefly, Minecraft, and Colony Wars had a really drunken (yet wonderful) evening together and PS4/PC exclusive No Man’s Sky was the glorious, weirdly attractive result.
It’s difficult to explain what No Man’s Sky is concisely but I’ve seen one reviewer refer to it as Minecraft in space. That seems as good a description as any I guess. The marketing material says the game features 18 quintillion (yes, a real number with a staggering number of zeroes) different planets. If you see a star, you can go there and explore the planets in that system. Planets are the size of real planets in terms of land mass and you spend large amount of time scouring them for elements and scanning new lifeforms in to a shared universal database, called The Atlas.
No Man’s Sky, developed by the 14(?!) person Hello Games in the UK, uses procedural generation to fit an entire universe in side the game. What that means is the game doesn’t create the elements until it has to and when it does bases the creation on an algorithm to intelligently construct assets. In layman’s terms, if you see a planet you can go to that planet. As you approach the planet the game generates the area you will see when you reach the surface. Once on the surface if you see a building you can explore it. After that if you see a mountain you can go climb that mountain. The trick is none of those elements exist when you are not actively engaged with them. It creates on the fly and erases just as quickly to save space. This technique also eliminates load time. Everything is seamless so you can emerge from a cave, board your ship, take off, fly over the planet for a bit, pull up and blast in to space, fly toward a space station, dock your ship, trade with the station, and blast off again headed for a new planet, all in one unbroken series of events.
In a word, that is fucking amazeballs and I can’t wait to go pet those weird scaly things in the picture below. Oh wait, the planet is procedural generated so the chances I will find these little cuddle-monkeys is infinitesimally small. Which is just as well, they would probably eat me.
I’ve got the game coming this week and will write about my perilous first few steps here for your enjoyment. I’m guessing my ineptitude is going to be a sheer thing of beauty.