If there was one VGX 2013 premiere that seems to have made a considerable impact, it's Hello Games' No Man's Sky. The indie studio is known for its Joe Danger games, but No Man's Sky is something completely different. Instead of cartoony platforming, No Man's Sky has players exploring a huge, procedurally-generated galaxy together.
"We want to make a game about exploration and when I say that, it's kind of a bad word," Hello Games' Sean Murray told Joystiq. "It's ambient – a passiveness – but the kind of sci-fi we want is exploration filled with danger. The universe is adversarial; it's like a scary, difficult place to be and you're quite vulnerable in it. We want to create that sense of true exploration."
Discover a planet or star-system and you can mark it for everyone on the shared galactic map, or keep the find to yourself. Make changes on a planet and they'll persist. Murray calls the game a roguelike, so you can probably expect to die a few times during your journey.
"Everyone that plays will play one consistent universe," said Murray. "Normally with a roguelike, you'd play through and every time it's different. With this, everybody starts on a different part of the universe but it is the same consistent universe for all players. There are things you can do that have significance and those things are shared for everyone."
"You are not the hero of this universe; you are a person in it – or a being, a player in it. And you make decisions all of the time as you go through it. You start on the outside of the universe, and everyone does, and for a lot of people that roguelike structure will be trying to get to the center of the universe."
The vibrant planet that's shown in the trailer is grounded in the real world and things players have experience with. The entire game won't be playing it that safe.
“It helps to ground people and I think if we hadn’t shown that, people would go, ‘what the fuck?’” Murray said to Rock Paper Shotgun. “It’s quite weird to see a thing that isn’t a fish in the water. And so we have grounded the trailer in a particular solar system that kind of makes sense for people. What we wanted to get across was a sort of frontiersmanship, a sense of mystery and wonder. For me exploration is seeing something no one has seen before, and for your experience to be unique."
Murray compares the freedom players will have in No Man's Sky to another open, but ultimately cutthroat survival game, DayZ. Players will have to make complicated choices about where they want to go and what they want to take with them.
“We are designing a set of rules, not designing a game, and I think when I talk about DayZ that’s how those feel to me. Your experience in DayZ is your experience, and there’s a set of rules in that 200km square that you then go out and experience and make stories in. And that is what we want," he explained. “It has a set of core mechanics that you can choose how to deal with situations, and how to interact with people, and how to upgrade yourself and how to upgrade your ship. We want you to make choices at all times as you go through. Like in your ship, how much cargo, how much fuel to take, and we want you to live with those choices. You will at all times feel very vulnerable in this universe and not necessarily empowered. You have an enormous amount of freedom, but maybe not masses of power at your disposal.”
For Hello Games, No Man's Sky's differences from Joe Danger are about keeping the studio out of any possible ruts. The four-man team is trying to push its personal boundaries.
"A lot of indie game developers make something good and then they plateau," Hello Games' Sean Murray told Polygon. "We saw Joe Danger as a stepping stone to get us here, so we can risk everything all over again."
We're still in the dark about what platforms No Man's Sky will run on. Murray told Joystiq that the game is currently running on an "off-the-shelf high-end PC" and a "next-gen console." Outside of that information, the team is remaining quiet about specifics, including a release date.
"Next-gen is empowering us" he added to Polygon. "The new consoles are really good. But most of the games we have seen feel like experiences you could have had with the last generation. They have next-gen graphics but we are more interested in creating next-gen gameplay."