Across the Universe and Back
It isn’t a world, it’s a universe. No Man’s Sky seems set to challenge expectations of it. Will it be a game? Certainly, there will be game-like elements. Players will explore worlds, fly spaceships, and fight hostile opponents. At the same time, it feels like a colossal experiment. People will be able to go around a virtual universe and see ordinary and extraordinary things, with no one to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do.
Everything will start simply, as a real life does. A player will be alone on a single planet with a bare bones ship. There will be no one around to help you. The land may not even be hospitable. The only residents may be robots, left behind from some other civilization to protect the land.
It’s only after a number of introductory steps that someone takes their first steps out into an infinite, procedurally generated universe. A ship will have to be made space worthy, money accumulated to purchase one capable of leaving an initial solar system, and fueled to move onward. Don’t get tied to what you have. There’s no customization, which means even if you do happen to be the one to discover a planet, you won’t be making a huge impact on it for others to see.
Perhaps that will be the biggest disappointment, for some. Everything in No Man’s Sky will remain as it is, despite your influence and interference. You may be able to chop down trees, but the lumber won’t be put to constructive use. You can’t go around building shelters or space stations. Though a planet you’ve discovered can be named, it appears that’s the only mark a person can make on it.
Ships are disposable. If you don’t like the one you have, save up to buy a new one. The one you have can’t be customized. Or teleported to, from another place on the planet, for that matter. If it doesn’t meet your needs, you’ll need to gather enough resources to invest in an entirely new one.
I suppose one could say No Man’s Sky is taking an ecological approach. Not only is it about getting there and seeing all you can see, but it follows Chief Seattle’s advice. “Take only memories, leave only footprints.” You won’t be able to collect things as you go along. Hello Games already confirmed that plants can’t be collected. Besides, it’s not as though you’ll have a shelter to store anything. One could very well substitute “memories” for “photographs” though, since players will be able to take pictures of the things they see. It might even be best to consider this a universal tourist simulator.
Though, some could see it as a means to spread chaos throughout a galaxy. Your ship in No Man’s Sky is equipped with weapons. We saw them in action, shooting asteroids in a belt. We know space battles will be a feature. Your avatar will also have a weapon, which can be improved, and inhabitants of planets can be killed. Space battles have been confirmed. Violence is certainly an option.
But again, people are never locked into a specific course in No Man’s Sky. The universe is open to them. You can choose chaos as easily as order. A life spent ferrying goods back and forth, in the hopes of becoming rich via trading resources, is as valid as one spent exploring or fighting. People won’t be punished for their decisions, though I imagine people who spend all of their time seeking conflict will likely find more than a few fights brought to them.
After a while, you may even find yourself feeling less alone. Everyone starts No Man’s Sky by themselves, but there are people out there in that same universe. You could pass by friends and strangers alike. While Hello Games hasn’t offered many details on how multiplayer will work, at the very least we’ll always know there are at least some friendly faces in the skies. Even if you can’t be in the same place at once, they’re there.
It’s a comforting thought. Perhaps as reassuring as some other things. For one, survival won’t require a shelter. We’ll be fine without them. Our explorers will have health bars, but those attempting a more peaceful life won’t have to worry about them. With all the unknowns, we may feel more secure in knowing there are some needs we won’t have to worry about.
For all we do know, No Man’s Sky is still a huge mystery. In 2015, we’ll be able to participate in a gigantic learning experiment. There’s a very good chance that everyone who plays will take away something different, and that’s the beauty.