No Man’s Sky: The Road So Far

July 29, 2016 Written by Michael Briers

No-Mans-Sky-Development

Cast your mind back to The Game Awards 2013 — then known as The VGAs — and amid Joel McHale’s bumbling, cringe-worthy hosting, the one world premiere that turned heads and raised eyebrows was that of No Man’s Sky, a procedurally-generated, impossibly big space title hatched by British indie developer Hello Games.

Fearing that No Man’s Sky wasn’t suited to a stage presentation, Studio Founder Sean Murray was initially apprehensive about showcasing the budding new IP lest it spark extravagant misconceptions about the game’s scale and scope. Alas, it didn’t take long for outlets to jump on the ambitious space exploration title, and by the turn of the year, that notorious hype train had left the station. Its destination? The far reaches of space.

Eager to guide Hello Games’ sophomore property onto PlayStation 4, prior to The VGAs three years ago, it was Sony that swooped in behind the scenes, brokering a deal with the studio that would ensure the platform-holder handled promotion and marketing but, crucially, allow the small-scale team to continue as is without the need for additional development support.

Greatness (?) From Small Beginnings

Indeed Sean Murray was the brains behind the original prototype — then known internally as Project Skyscraper — eventually expanding to a four-person team in time for The VGAs unveiling. It went down a storm, too, and though hyperbole began to cast a shadow over No Man’s Sky in the months that followed, the immediate reaction circa December 2013 was one brimming with wonder, awe and tempered excitement, as players channelled their inner astronaut fantasies.

Imagine the crushing disappointment, then, when two weeks later Hello Games’ offices in Guildford, England were hit by a devastating flood. That was on Christmas Eve, leading the studio to reveal that “everything in the office had pretty much been lost.” It was a cruel blow to an indie studio riding high after the grand unveiling of No Man’s Sky, and at one point Murray himself entertained the thought of canning the project altogether.

no-mans-sky-555x3287

But buoyed by the influx of development talent from the Joe Danger series — Hello Games had been developing two titles simultaneously, before joining forces to help the team get back on their feet — and general good-will from the industry, Hello Games emerged with a renewed sense of purpose. A cohesive unit ready to light up the big stage at E3 2014.

If that VGAs showcase piqued the industry’s curiosity, No Man’s Sky presence at Sony’s keynote arrested its attention. Treating the new IP as though it were hatched by a first-party studio, E3 2014 represented a defining milestone in both the game’s development arc and its impact with audiences.

Chasing the Horizon

Here was a brand new title, one inspired by sci-fi greats in the vein of Elite, that had secured the backing of Sony — at a time when the PlayStation 4 was beginning to establish itself as the industry’s console of choice.

So far, so tantalizing. In the intervening year between announcement and The Game Awards 2014, scores of gameplay videos began to emerge online each charting the boundless nature of Hello Games’ technical marvel.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however; in the months that followed, reports of alleged technical issues began to loom over the procedurally-generated wonder, with particular reference to supposed frame rate niggles on PlayStation 4. But Hello Games rubbished the claims, revealing that development was progressing well at the time as the team ordered all hands to the pump in anticipation of June 2015. 

Descending onto the Los Angeles Convention Center with the “full weight of PlayStation” behind it, E3 2015 really showcased the title’s true colors, with early hands-on impressions painting a universe that was both incredibly vast and inspired. Unsurprisingly, it was the game’s procedurally-generated nature that stole headlines once again, though attention quickly turned to the game’s yet-to-be-confirmed release window. 

Citing reasons beyond their control, that uncertainty stretched long into the latter stages of 2015. It even led Sean Murray to address claims that No Man’s Sky would stealth release in October of last year, and it wasn’t until Paris Games Week that Hello Games’ space oddity was nudged into 2016 — June 2016, to be precise. 

As we entered a new year, the developer was really beginning to showcase the finer details of its sprawling new IP, be that in the form of NPCs or the in-game wanted system — one that places Sentinels on your trail should you cause havoc upon setting down on an uncharted alien vista. 

Coupled with that presentation was word of a release date — June 21, offering fans a tangible reason to get excited. Yes, if that aforementioned ‘hype train’ spun off onto its own course, it was now firmly back on track. That was, until it was delayed three months later, pushing No Man’s Sky to the now-final due date of August

Shoot for the Stars

Fending off deplorable death threats, Sean Murray and his team faced some last-minute hurdles in the lead up to the moment when their impassioned title (finally!) crossed the finish line. The first of which was a legal spat with British telecommunications giant Sky, along with renewed concern of the game’s frame rate. Both were reportedly resolved with relatively little fuss.  

Then, on July 7, Sean Murray capped off four years of development by revealing that, yes, No Man’s Sky had finally gone gold ahead of its August launch date. 

Now safely on course for release — barring one final legal spat regarding the patented superformula — Hello Games has spent the past few weeks educating users on the minutia of No Man’s Sky, from combat to trading to general exploration. 

no-mans-sky-night-drone

It’s almost time. Looking back through the archives, the very first article I wrote for PSLS, all the way back in January of 2015, thrust No Man’s Sky into the limelight — a time when I posited No Man’s Sky as a potential game-changer. Cliched though that phrase may be, Hello Games’ latest has the potential to shake up the genre with an unfathomably deep, possibly evergreen experience. 

Be that as it may, there is an end goal, with Murray noting that the game will beckon players to the center of a mysterious galaxy. 

I’d like people to reach the centre of the galaxy and feel like they could put the pad down, that they had completed the game. Because it bothers me with games that go on forever. In an ideal world, at one point, others would feel like continuing to play and we will give them a reason to do that.

It occupies a relatively modest 6GB on disc, is considered the most-anticipated title of the year by Amazon customers, and doesn’t require a PS Plus subscription to play online. Oh, and it could well make the jump to PlayStation VR in the months after launch, fulfilling all of your astronaut fantasies in one fell swoop. 

No Man’s Sky is earmarked for launch across North America and Europe on August 9 and August 10, respectively. It’ll arrive a little later on PC platforms (August 12), but the real question now is, will you be shooting for the stars in little over a week’s time?