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How No Man’s Sky's ambitious project envisions the future of space travel

Fellow traveler - A space jellyfish (Image via No Man’s Sky)
Fellow traveler - A space jellyfish (Image via No Man’s Sky)
Angshuman Dutta

It’s been a little over half a decade since the disastrous launch of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky. In one of the most exciting games during E3 2015, managing director Sean Murray and the company faced an uphill battle when the game was launched.

But the title lacked several features, especially multiplayer possibilities. But the team said those would be in the game. As a result of all this, the game was panned by critics and players. No Man’s Sky nearly crashed and burned up at launch instead of soaring into infinity and beyond.

Almost is the keyword, though, because Hello Games not only rectified their product but also developed a solid approach to qualitative continuity by announcing a series of updates. Murray later clarified that the team will remain silent about updates until everything is good to go.

Over the years, given their efforts post-launch, the game has managed to recapture players' imagination. Each update pushes the envelope for the game and the subreddit r/NoMansSkyTheGame hawks Murray’s Twitter for any information. Game update news on his profile is usually marked with a vague emoji sometime before the update drops.


Experiencing No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is a space survival game. The most eye-catching part is that it boasts of over eighteen quintillion planets. The procedurally generated nature of the game lets it achieve an open world whose size is unmatched by any in the market.

Seaside (Image via Sean Murray)
Seaside (Image via Sean Murray)

Each planet has its unique forms of flora and fauna with small inhabitation of certain species that can be engaged in a trade. Certain planets also exhibit hostile ecosystems like extreme weather. Planets also have deposits of various resources that can be mined for construction and upgrades.

Players can engage with the game in various ways. There is an overarching story narrative with various missions and side-missions that one can follow. Some may choose to build elaborate bases, while others can explore the almost infinite space.

Sean Murray discussed the planets and said:

“If a new planet in ‘No Man’s Sky’ was discovered every second, it would take 584 billion years for them all to be discovered."
Strange (Image via Sean Murray)
Strange (Image via Sean Murray)

One of the most alluring aspects of No Man’s Sky is that players get to name a system, planet, flora and fauna on any planet if they are the ones to discover it. Upon discovery, the player can rename the entity from a system-generated name to a custom one. This updates the database for all players.


Constant development of the gamespace

No Man’s Sky has seen many updates that brought it out of the pit it landed on launch. Several major upgrades, starting with the Foundation, followed by Path Finder, Next, Beyond, Origins, and Prisms, have revitalized the game’s structure, added new stories, and expanded the expeditions.

FRONTIERS🤯Planetary Settlements👀Become Town Overseer🏗250+ new Base Parts👨‍👦‍👦Town NPC Sim📺Proc Interiors🎮15x Saves🥂Disputes🐛Monstrous Pets🌈Visual Effects🤖Twitch Campaign🗺Season 3🌌Space Nebulae😎Base Building Overhaul🧞Settlement Sim🔫Grow + Defend Towns https://t.co/RhAqnqCEvZ

The limits of building bases were pushed to a point where players are only limited by their imagination. Moreover, the game area keeps expanding with newer biomes that have been added over the years. The Atlas Rises update included an estimated thirty hours of narrative.

No Man’s Sky now also includes the ability to tame animals to make them companions. The latest major update, called Frontiers, has provided players with small settlements where they can choose to take upon the role of the overseer.

The Expeditions update in March 2021 added a new mode of play called Expedition, where players can start seasonal challenges at a particular point in the game’s universe. After completing various missions, the player is awarded unique objects or customizations.

Normandy in No Man’s Sky (Image via NME)
Normandy in No Man’s Sky (Image via NME)

The second expedition awarded the players the ability to unlock a version of Normandy, the spacecraft from the Mass Effect series, coinciding with the release of Mass Effect Legendary Edition.

Emergence: Expedition 4 🐛Sandworm Pets🤯New Sandworm Variants💀Expedition + Narrative🐙Fight Titan Worms🤢Feasting Casque Head🥚Collect Sandworm Eggs🤮Flesh Pyrotechnic🌈Richer VFX👻Ghastly Trail🎃New Expedition Rewards🐍Rideable SandwormsFree! Out Now! https://t.co/9M6LyfZjby

The latest update to No Man’s Sky has been the fourth expedition titled "Emergence." Released in October 2021, ahead of the highly anticipated Dune adaptation’s theatrical release, the newer content is related to the Titan Worms found in the game world.

A Sandworm in Dune (Image via Dune 2021)
A Sandworm in Dune (Image via Dune 2021)
Titan Worm (Image via Sean Murray)
Titan Worm (Image via Sean Murray)

This is the first Expedition to feature a narrative. The update also provides players with the option to tame and grow a tremendous sandworm companion that they can feed, pet, ride, and fly.

Hello Games provides these updates free of cost and the game has no microtransactions. No Man’s Sky has become a milestone example of salvaging a game when the launch is botched. For such persistent efforts, it won the ‘Best Ongoing Game’ at The Game Awards in 2018 and 2020. The game and the studio received other small and large industry-wide recognition.


Future of space travel and No Man’s Sky

youtube-cover

NASA posted a video regarding their project aptly titled "Visions of the Future" on October 19th, 2021.

The excerpt said:

"At NASA, our mission is to explore. We visit destinations in our solar system and study worlds beyond to better understand big questions. How did we get here? Where are we headed? Are we alone?"

The video follows a number of similar posters made by Jet Propulsion Laboratories based on individual planets and space objects.

Titan (Image via NASA JPL)
Titan (Image via NASA JPL)
Venus (Image via NASA JPL)
Venus (Image via NASA JPL)
Planet Hop (Image via NASA JPL)
Planet Hop (Image via NASA JPL)
Kepler - 16b (Image via NASA JPL)
Kepler - 16b (Image via NASA JPL)

The bold and bright tone of both the video and the posters are eerily similar to the visuals of No Man’s Sky. Whether it is the red soil of Mars, the cloud-touching tower of Venus, or the waters of the Titan, No Man’s Sky offers players the very animation that NASA visions as the future of space travel.

No Man’s Sky has been lauded for its stunning visuals. Be it seeing the sunset, being underwater, or in a cave, the picturesque settings of the procedurally generated planets make for excellent screen grabs for its players. Murray’s Twitter is filled with many such shots.

No Man's Sky (Image via Google)
No Man's Sky (Image via Google)
Blood-red (Image via Sean Murray)
Blood-red (Image via Sean Murray)
A Beautiful World (Image via Sean Murray)
A Beautiful World (Image via Sean Murray)

The vast expanse of No Man’s Sky tickles the imagination of players and provides a space for creativity to foster. From intricate buildings to creative gameplay like The Pilgrim’s Path, players in No Man’s Sky are forever finding newer ways to enjoy the game. A steady stream of updates only adds to the already established legacy of the game.

It's exciting to wonder what more Murray and company have in store for us.


This article reflects the opinions of the writer.


Edited by Srijan Sen

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