It. Is. New.
In an E3 populated by derivations of the same form, sequels to the same franchises, spins on the same genres and tweaks to the same formulae, No Man’s Sky stands apart. I’ve never seen anything like it. Like, I’ve seen dogfighting sims before. I’ve played in the first person perspective and I’ve picked apart alien character models.
But a communal, persistent, all access systemic universe. That’s new. That’s huge.
It. Is. Infinite.
This is a massive claim, and its arguably too early to gauge what it even means, let alone whether or not it’s at all accurate. In the E3 trailer we start on a never before seen, fully traversable planet. Then we reach exit velocity and find ourselves amid an asteroid field, a hostile fleet, a pyrotechnic dogfight. Finally we chase our prey down into an entirely different fully traversable planet. That’s an asstonne of area to cover in a three minute trailer.
But you know the most shocking thing…
It. Is. Seamless.
… We traversed it in real time!
Travel from continent to continent, land to air, atmosphere to space and beyond without lag, without waiting, without loading. In. Real. Time.
Dodge missiles in orbit, plumb an ocean’s depths, hide in a concealing cavern before making a break for interstellar space – you can do this. There is no barrier to doing this.
The how, the when, the where and crucially, the why, that’s all up to you.
It. Is. Not Scripted.
Much has been made of the fact No Man’s Sky is an entirely procedurally generated experience. Systemic games have had limited success in recent years. So beyond this proof of concept E3 trailer, why should we believe a four man team from Guildford has cracked it?
I would argue – because it aint pretty.
I’m not bashing the art direction of No Man’s Sky, I like it! But these models, these renders, these aliens and these spaceships - they’re low detail. And quite rightly too! This design choice frees up power needed to keep a myriad of systems (atmosphere, vegetation, gravity, fauna, debris, enemies, resources, terrain, weather, momentum) intersecting beautifully but never colliding fully.
But even still, with a literal infinity of stars, systems, planets, oceans, islands and creatures to discover, there is one obvious science fiction No Man’s Sky clearly takes its cue from…
It. Is. Star Trek… Basically… In The Purest Sense, I mean.
“To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Sound familiar. It should. Namely because you love star trek. Shut up, yes you do! And it’s okay to admit it. Why shouldn’t you. It appeals to something primal within us – Curiosity.
There will be quests in No Man’s Sky. You’ll have resources to replenish, foes to vanquish, a ship to maintain and a powerful need to stay alive. But at its heart, this breathtakingly ambitious project is about exploration.
And not just of cataloguing new species, of identifying new planets or marvelling at unseen nebulae. Hello Games are exploring what this new console generation can really do. Hello Games are exploring how games can affect different players in different ways. Hello Games are exploring what the art-form can attain if it finally gets its head out of the specs and into the game.
Forget your 1080p/60FPS.
Forget your photo-real character modelling.
Forget your 100% physically accurate destruction engine.
Let’s go ‘sploring!