Many in the gaming community have been eagerly awaiting the release of the game, No Man’s Sky. A space sim which relies heavily upon planet exploration, mining, with a find your own fortune kinda vibe. But what makes No Man’s Sky different is the sheer vastness of the gaming tableau. Consisting of a universe with over 18 quintillion planets (18,446,744,073,709,551,616 to be exact) For those reaching for a grasp of that number, it would take a single player millions of real years to explore each of those planets. Yup, real years.
So how did the development team design each of those planets for the game’s release? Easy. They created an algorithm which creates planets on the fly as the player approaches, fills the surface with a unique blend of organic, simple, and sometimes complex life. On the surface (see what I did there?), that sounds fascinatingly cool. Each planet will be unique. Some support real life, others will be a nothing but dust and rock. Players can forge their own fortunes, can find unique adventures, and then group up on weekends with their friends to show off their fortunes. Or can they?!
Since the game went gold about a week ago, the indie startup Hello Games has been peppered with questions about the nature of such a game — most importantly, is No Man’s Sky a single or multiplayer game. Based on my understanding of the current press release and articles on yonder Internet, the answer is a little more complex than you might first imagine. And that fascinatingly complex answer is why I may depart this adventure before it begins.
Technically, the game is one multiplayer universe — think Eve Online. Everyone playing the game is randomly dropped onto one of those 18 quintillion planets with rudimentary equipment, a basic spacecraft, and a blank slate. There is no story to follow, no quest hubs, or major player towns to visit — only the desire to move toward the center of that massive universe. And because the gaming universe is so vast, the chances of you actually bumping into another player is staggering small. Like the chance you’ll get hit by lighting 10 consecutive times on 10 consecutive days kinda small. Additionally, you could fly past another player’s spacecraft and never know that person wasn’t AI. There is no tag or ID in the HUD, it would simply look like another craft in the environment.
For me, I’m quite picky about the kind of games I commit to. Does a space sim need to be multiplayer? Recent history tells us that is exactly the case but perhaps No Man’s Sky breaks the mold. Either way, in light of what I’ve discovered about the game over the last few days, I’m definitely not pre-purchasing the game and will wait to see what my fellow gaming nerds have to offer regarding their experiences in-game before I finally commit.
Too bad, I was hoping for something… different. But perhaps that is exactly what No Man’s Sky will be offering and I’m yet to fully grasp what makes this game so interesting. More to come.