After a last-minute delay, No Man’s Sky is finally releasing next month. Gamers are excited to jump in their spaceship, but what is the game actually about? And what’s this talk about quintillions of stars?
27-07-2016 - by Thijs Kaagman
If you’d want to categorize No Man’s Sky, it would probably be a science-fiction exploration game. But that’s like categorizing Minecraft as a building game; there’s much, much more to it. To really explain why this is, you’ll have to understand the technique behind the game. No Man’s Sky’s universe is home to millions and millions stars. The developer even says there’s a quintillion of them and I have no idea how much that is. It’s that many.
These stars and planets are procedurally generated. That means the game will generate the planets randomly as you approach them. The result is that not a single planet should be identical to another one. Some will be filled with mountain ranges, others are covered by a dense forest. Some will be teeming with alien lifeforms, others will be completely devoid of any life. But most of them will be filled with resources like rock, wood and other rarer materials.
As a player you’ll be flying from planet to planet to harvest these resources with your multi-tool. You can bring them back to your ship and trade them off at a space station. Doesn’t sound that exciting, right? That is until you find alien lifeforms that aren’t that happy with you wrecking their planet. They’ll attack you and when you die you’ll lose all those gathered resources.
Think you’re safe when you’ve made it back to your ship? Think again, because flying through space can be even more dangerous. There’s pirates that are out for your resources and they can wreck your ship. Losing your ship means starting over, so you’d better be careful.
International space-law is upheld by The Sentinels, a sentient race of self-replicating robots that are programmed to keep space-explorers from interfering with all the planets and their inhabitants. That means mining for resources itself is not without danger either, because you might upset the delicate balance of life on that planet and alert the Sentinels in the process. Unless that’s exactly what you want, of course; those Sentinels can be harvested for some very valuable objects when you manage to survive their wrath.
The universe in No Man’s Sky is so big, the chance you’ll run into other players is actually very slim. When you do, you’ll be able to interact, but there won’t be any multiplayer components to the game at the launch. This means you probably won’t be able to meet up with your friends. There’s also not a lot of story-driven content, which would be very hard to do in a procedurally generated environment.
This means No Man’s Sky will – much like that other procedurally generated game Minecraft – be all about creating your own story. And the game offers plenty of opportunities! You can focus on being a merchant; flying from one star system to the other, trading resources along the way. Or you can be an explorer; discovering new planets and species and naming them after yourself. Or maybe you’ll choose the less lawful side of life and become a pirate; robbing merchants of their earnings, always on the run from the Sentinels.