Could the Most Ambitious Game in the Universe Change the Industry Forever?
Let’s face it, we all get tired nowadays when we hear about developer x or y saying stuff like “innovative/brand new/the most -insert epic adjective here- experience” when presenting a video game. Which actually sums up half of every E3 conference so far. I’ve played so many games like these but I never said to myself things like “oh my god, this is the best experience ever, I can actually FEEL the game” (FIFA 15 pun intended). But now, hope has been restored with an upcoming title that has the potential of actually delivering that kind of experience, and maybe even change the way games are built. Nowadays, video games lack a certain sense of… unpredictability. Even the top RPG’s of our days, games like The Witcher, or Dragon Age, that are story-driven and deliver some shocking and unpredictable choice-making moments have their own limits. Yes, their storylines have multiple branches that change the experience every time you start a new game, but it will never feel “brand new” or “innovative” from that point of view. In fact, the core experience is almost the same with every video game out there – it starts at point A and ends at point B (or in the case of the above-mentioned games, it could go up to point J). So, in order to change the whole experience, developers must start with avoiding “points” at where a game starts or ends. Enter No Man’s Sky. You probably heard of No Man’s Sky by now since it was first revealed at VGX 2013 and showcased again at this year’s E3. There are several interviews as well on Gamespot that are worth checking them out. This most incredible title literally aims for the stars. The studio behind it, Hello Games, want to deliver an infinite universe filled with all kind of unique solar systems, planets, fauna, adventures and possibilities. It can easily be seen as the most ambitious project ever tried, video gaming-wise. No Man’s Sky shakes off the pre-written narratives, pre-written events, pre-written everything. At the start of the game, every player is dropped on a different planet at the very edge of the galaxy and give the bare necessities in order to survive. From that point onwards, it’s totally up to the player how the game unfolds. There are no quests. There are no objectives. You don’t embark on an adventure to revenge your murdered family, to rescue a damsel in distress or to investigate a long-forgotten space station. You simply do whatever you wish to do. This is the first step in creating a new experience for the player. Give him the chance of true choice making instead of choosing between pre-written multiple choices. You can mine for resources, you can become a trader, an explorer, a bounty hunter, or even a pirate. Take what you think is the most interesting thing you can do with your virtual life and just do it. The second element in creating a brand new experience is connectivity. The whole universe of the game is shared between players, they are all connected to the same world. But what makes No Man’s Sky different from the other video games that attempted this feature is the scale of that world. As Hello Games founder, SeanMurray explains, “people underestimate how vast our (in-game) universe is. If we were lucky enough to have a million players and started them all on one planet, they would still be really far apart.” And don’t forget that there are an infinite number of planets. So even if millions of other players are playing the game, stumbling upon another live human being is such a wonderful event in its own. You may spend months in this game without encountering another player and this just creates a feeling of independence. And again, the choice-making occurs: what do you do if you find another player? You kill him? You ignore him? You make him your ally and seek other players in that vast world to befriend with? It’s all up to you. The closest experience to No Man’s Sky is DayZ. And just look at how amazingly its players decided to interact with each other. The final, and most important step towards No Man’s Sky innovative experience is what the developers of the game call “procedurally generation”, dynamically creating their worlds through algorithms rather than human design. This ensures the infinite scale of the game’s universe and also the uniqueness of its elements. Putting this together with the massive world and the constant connectivity with all the other players, truly makes the game feel unique. Imagine that you cruise in your spaceship and reach a certain planet. 90% of the planets in the game are not populated by anything, and only a small fraction of the populated planets actually have intelligent and advanced creatures on them. So let’s say you stumble upon such gem in that cold, infinite space. You witness unique creatures with unique traits. And you’re the only player in the world to see it, the discoverer of such wonderful evolution. It makes you feel just as unique as in real life or (sadly) even more. It makes you feel big, it makes you feel important. So it’s without question that the impact this game will have on the industry will be huge. Will other developers try this path as well? Will they renounce their so-called artificial “brand new experiences” and actually shoot for a dynamic real one? No man’s sky truly puts humanity face-to-face with its own decisions and consequences, and whether the players will try and cooperate or wage wars against one another, the game will reveal our true colors and put them in the spotlight for our own entertaining. How much can a player build? How much can he create? And how much can he destroy? Some of them will never leave their solar systems while others will travel to the center of the galaxy (which the developers assure us that will “unlock” a certain “something”). Some players prefer to make up their own meaning and invent their own purpose and No Man’s Sky wants to be their blank canvas. Nobody knows where the game will be headed. The best part? Players will have to figure all out on their own. Check out the trailer below and stay tuned for a release date on PC and PS4.