Situated in an infinite universe, the Sony PS4 No Man’s Sky game is a procedurally generated adventure based on the dreams of one man, Sean Murray, whose exploratory dream was to stand on a planet where no one had ever been. His adventure, hidden inside the microcosm of his imagination, took him to planets so remote and so unknown that every step was an experience unto itself. To achieve such an adventure for the Sony PS4, Murray had to develop a game where even the creators were unaware of the outcome.
Imagine landing on a planet in the rain and watching local deer run through a forest, dodging around trees. No one had ever set foot on this place and all the sights, environment and inhabitants are procedurally generated for the very first time. Not only has a new planet been discovered, but everything about it is personal and distinct. These are the first steps taken by any human. Exploration is about to begin.
What sets this game apart from others is that every planet is completely computer generated. Every planet has a single, random seed number from which every minute detail is created. Working on a 64-bit system, there are two to a power of 64 potential planets. It would take over 500 billion years to discover them all.
No Man’s Sky, being developed for Sony’s PS4, introduces a universally vast setting that can never be fully explored. There is no end to the game. Every horizon offers a new adventure, new creatures, or a world never before seen. It could be wonderful, scary or just a pile of moon rocks. No one knows, not even the developers at Hello Games. Its procedurally generated destinations contain an endless number of planets, with unnumbered variations of life, vegetation, and environments.
Every player begins with a planet and a spaceship. But the similarity ends there and the game continues based on the decisions players make. Before one can travel, the ship must be upgraded for the interstellar journey. To do so one must obtain the necessary resources. While they are readily available close to the home planet, they become more rare and valuable as one reaches the further realms of space.
But that is only one of many possibilities. While choosing to become an interstellar explorer opens the whole procedurally generated universe as a massive unexplored medium, each player can choose his own path. While exploration will undoubtedly be a popular choice, one can choose to be a pirate or a scientist. It is this individual choice that makes this game unique to every player.
Hello Games approached the game’s development for the Sony PS4 platform by building a vast, harsh universe that players can discover rather than bumping into each other. The small developmental team of four friends created core assets that can transform into a thousand variations. Every player’s adventure is uniquely his own. Because the worlds are not predefined, they only exist as they come into view for the player. When no players are near, they no longer exist.
Therein lies the premise behind No Man’s Sky. Not only can the game create its own content, it can create countless variations of it. Because the game creates all of its dynamics based on mathematical formulas, there is no loading time. Should a player discover a new planet with a diverse ecology and geography, he can choose to keep it to himself or post the discovery for other players. But is that post actually an attempt to invite or trap other players?
Being developed for Sony’s PS4, the game is filled with endless possibilities. No two adventures will ever be the same, nor will they ever come to an end. Everything comes into existence when a player arrives to see it, otherwise there is nothing. It all hinges on two-dimensional pixels transforming to three-dimensional voxels, and being seamlessly stitched together by a transvoxel algorithm. Even the design technology sounds like one of No Man’s Sky procedurally generated places.
By Hans Benes