I’m really excited for this. I have the kind of excitement that six-year-olds get when they discover they’re going to Disneyland, or that dogs get when you ask them if they “want to go for a ride.” Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about—I’m ready to wig-out in preemptive ecstasy. This is because a game is coming out. That’s right, a damn videogame. One that, without having played it, has already blown my mind. Here’s to hoping the actual experience is great.
No Man’s Sky is a space-exploration game made by indie studio Hello Games for Playstation 4 and Microsoft Windows. The reason this title has me so jazzed is that Hello Games programmed algorithms to procedurally generate an entire universe of over 18 quintillion planets, all with their own flora and fauna. That’s easy to say, but let’s really think about that. Let it sink in. Hello Games, a small indie studio, created an entire universe, one so big and varied that they themselves have hardly seen much of what they created, of what the game created. In this way, players will actually be unearthing planets and their life-forms, seeing things no one else has ever seen, within a digital medium packaged and sold to the public. People in living rooms and sitting at desks get to become virtual explorers, complete with the ability to name planets, territories, and lifeforms. Players are actual virtual discoverers here. That almost makes anything else in the game irrelevant. (Lets revisit this point in-depth in a future article)
Players have a goal of course. Something about reaching the center of the universe. They’ll have to mine precious resources, craft supplies, buy and upgrade spaceships, space suits, and their handy-dandy multitool to survive and thrive. Hazardous planets and conditions must be avoided or intelligently weathered. Pirates will prey on players and AI civilizations. Or players can become the plunderers themselves, as long as they evade the Sentinels, the universe-wide robotic police. There’s definitely a bunch of stuff to do, tidbits of deliciousness, but none of that is as exciting, unique, or invigorating as the whole damn enchilada.
I’m putting my adventurer’s hat on tomorrow, because I’m excited to see what a few carefully programmed algorithms can do. Learning to navigate, harvest, craft, trade, fight, and survive is all very exciting, but I’ve done all that before. Most who've played videogames have. What gamers haven’t done is discover things no one has seen, because it was created by the game itself. This is a simulation of standard-bearing by epic proportions. This isn’t about adrenaline, ultra-violence, cathartic storytelling, masochistic challenge, or tactical gymnastics; this is about the natural need to explore and stake a claim. Stay tuned, because the implications, of which I’ll be diving into soon, are vast like the universe of No Man’s Sky.