“What exactly is the point of No Man’s Sky?”
This is the question that has surrounded Hello Games‘ No Man’s Sky since it’s announcement in 2014. Given the information flow of most new games, you’d think that someone who did their homework would have a firm grasp on exactly how to answer this question. However, that isn’t the case. Some would tell you that No Man’s Sky is a game about discovering new planets and harvesting their materials to make equipment and upgrade your ship. Others may tout the game as the next great space-flight simulator. Furthermore, most would say that the point of this game is to reach the center of its universe. None of these are wrong, and all of these are right.
Okay – so, why are we here?
As a game that generates entire planets in a to-scale universe with procedural generation, No Man’s Sky can be considered nigh limitless. It’s possible to “finish” the game by finding the universe’s center, but it can not be fully explored in a regular human lifetime. At first glance, this makes the game unbeatable and thus unplayable to many who would normally aim to get a 100% completion in their games. However, the game’s pre-release hype was unhindered – if not enhanced – by this notion. Furthermore, we’ve been clamoring to get our hands on No Man’s Sky.
Long before the days of legendary adventurers such as Lewis and Clark, human beings have been exploring this world by any means possible. We’d walk, sprint, swim, dig, climb, crawl and craft our way to as many new horizons as we could. It’s what we do; exploration is in our DNA. Our sandbox is the world and it’s perils – we live and die in pursuit of the unknown. The unknown is precisely what No Man’s Sky presents to its players.
Sandbox 3.0 (beta)
No Man’s Sky feels as though it’s part experiment and part proven concept.
The proven concept is the idea that placing a player in a versatile sandbox will yield good results. Players enter worlds to have fun, and No Man’s Sky simply needs to step out of the way to let them do so. That being said, flying through space in your own starship with gorgeous visuals and countless planets to explore dictates that No Man’s Sky is doing a lot to get out of our way and provide a great time.
In this case, the experiment would be to discover the amount of enjoyment people can extract from playing a game that has no real single goal. Players are the deciding factor of where to go, when to get there, and what to do when they arrive. No Man’s Sky is just showing us many doors. It’s up to us to walk through them. Once discovered, planets (and some areas on planets) will be emblazoned with our username – for other travelers to one day come across and see that it was you who got there first. Explorers can report their findings in exchange for in-game credits which allow them to upgrade their ship and explore even more. The fun that comes with the act of exploring for the sake of exploring will be determined as more people play.
We’ll likely never meet one another in No Man’s Sky. Even still, the game provides a new and shared frontier. We’re all being welcomed to explore a universe that can only be fully seen together, and over time. Hello Games hopes that you will feel a little bit like Lewis and Clark as you scour the galaxy for new planets and various new lifeforms. The important note is that we’re all doing this together – no matter how we decide to do it.
Is the concept of endless exploration too unobtainable to be exciting? Or, will No Man’s Sky be part of the next great frontier?