No Man’s Sky is now releasing in various regions around the world. I have not played it yet (I fully intend to) but I have been tracking it’s progress for what seems like years now and I feel I know enough about the game to pose a bold question…
Are we witnessing the future of video games being born?
Lets back track slightly while explain to anyone who is not in the know what this game promises. There are 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 traversable planets in the game! That’s a number that is really hard to get your head around. It means that if you were to visit each planet at a rate of one every second, it would take you 500 billion years to visit them all. No one is going to achieve this. Our sun will burn out and we will all be dead before any single player has made it a 10th of the way through the in-game universe. That’s quite a technological feat by Hello Games. How are they doing this? Just with simple maths. The game is procedurally generated, that means that everything in the game is created on the fly as you encounter it based on a mathematical formula. I know – its mind boggling!
Its not just the planets themselves that offer near infinite possibilities. Things such as wildlife are also based on algorithms which mean you might never see the same type of creature twice in a life time of playing.
So what does this mean for gaming? There have been big games before, games that would take a lifetime to complete. But never has there been a game where it is simply impossible to see everything. 99% of No Man’s Sky will never even be seen by a player. So this is a game where finishing it is not the objective. They have given players a basic goal of trying to get to the centre of the universe, but beyond that the only objective is just experiencing the game. Its a true sandbox and should already be put on the same pedestal that Minecraft has risen to.
Imagine if games started using this procedural generating mathematical method for everything. For example, imagine a game like Red Dead where there was no boundary on the edge of the map. Instead John Marston could slowly ride his horse all the way around the world, taking in new countries, climates, cultures, etc. right up until you were back where you started. Imagine if that was all done using maths and ridiculously clever algorithms that only super computers to could ever generate. Imagine something simple like Mario changing the game itself on the fly depending on your actions as a player. Or creating a new enemy type each time you play that you have never seen before or will never see again.
A future of possibilities is here. If Hello Games can craft something this huge in a small studio such as theirs, the mind simply cant fathom what a huge 500 person studio could use this system to create.
The possibilities are infinite.