On his way back from gamescom earlier this month, Hello Games Managing Director Sean Murray wrote up a post featuring some stories from the development of No Man’s Sky, including how his favorite moment so far came a few months back:
David was adding four-legged creatures to the game (he insists on calling them ungulates), Hazel was adding a weather system, and Ryan was adding collision to all the trees (which is really hard when you have a whole forest full of them).
I hadn’t seen any of this, and I was flying around the universe, trying to take some screenshots. I neared the surface of a planet and suddenly it started to rain. As I was touching down I scared some deer who broke through the woods, dodging in and out of trees. Now this was jaw-dropping to me, because I’ve never seen any of these systems before, but also it felt like this was a real place I’d discovered. No one had been there before, and I didn’t know whether to shout excitedly, or just keep it to myself.
Pointing out how there’s “trading, combat, weapons, ships, and a core game,” Murray says “the quiet moments of discovery are what it’s all about.”
With No Man’s Sky featuring “18,446,744,073,709,551,616 possible planets,” Murray discussed how every planet is different, while also revealing how there won’t be any load times:
The cool thing is that every planet has a single number, a random seed, that defines everything about that planet. A single random seed generates every blade of grass, tree, flower, creature. So as the developer I can note down the planet seed, and then just go back there any time I want. We demoed this at gamescom, just jumping round the universe to different planets. There are no load times, because nothing needs to load, as the planets are entirely computer-generated.
Really this seed defines how many planets you can discover before things start to go a bit crazy and undefined. For us we choose a big number. We’re working to a 64-bit system, which is 2 to the power of 64… or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 possible planets.
Although procedural generation will create all those planets, developing No Man’s Sky is “about filling the universe,” meaning that Hello Games still has quite a bit of work to do:
The procedural technology does lots of [filling the universe] for us, but we have to provide it with the sparks, like the patterns of spaceship design that we think look great, and different types of creature and the way they vary. We have to build the systems, the rules. We’ve shown so far creatures that you’ll be familiar with, but we’re thinking now about creatures that look far more alien, and they’re slowly changing the way even we’re perceiving the universe. It’s getting weirder, maybe not so friendly, and surprising us at every turn.
It’s been a joy to see the game boot every day as No Man’s Sky becomes richer and more varied and we see more surprising things, but it’s also sort of frustrating, because it’s so hard to share our excitement at what we’ve been creating. It has never felt right to just go and show off lots of a game that’s about discovery. It’s like that should be up to you when you finally get to play. I can’t wait for that, and it just makes me want to finish the game as soon as we can.
When more information about No Man’s Sky is revealed leading up to its PlayStation 4 release in 2015, we’ll let you know.