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Published on July 17th, 2014 | by Corey Milne


Three for Thursday: Three Concerns About No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky seemed to be the apple of everybody’s eye coming out of E3. The little (big) indie game that could. Coming from Hello Games, a small UK studio best known for the very fun but oft-overlooked Joe Danger, it appears to be one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken.

I should be incredibly excited. Everyone else seems to be. It has a name that harks back to the pulpy science fiction works of classic authors like Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, or Joe Haldeman. It has spaceships and dogfights. It drops you into an infinite, procedurally generated world and says, “go explore, do what you want, and maybe try to get to the centre of the universe because something might happen.”

I have in my possession a ticket to ride the hype train, yet I cannot seem to get off the platform. Perhaps they overbooked. There are doubts eating away at my enthusiasm and I can’t seem to put them to rest. Here’s what’s bothering me right now.

No Mans Sky 2

1)  Hello Games is creating an infinitely expanding, entirely random universe. There is no story structure or arch to act within. Everything is on the player to get out there and explore, to see what they can find. Is there not a case that by creating more, the game will give up less?

2) Following on from this point, due to the game’s procedurally generated nature, is there not a danger that in between the moments of greatness that happen when the stars do align properly, the player may have to travel to and from relatively boring barren worlds? A lot happens in space, but it’s also exceedingly empty. How big will the planets be? How detailed will they be? What will the ratio of barren worlds/ interesting or thriving worlds be?

3) How do you keep the feeling of discovery from fading when the nature of a procedurally generated universe is counter-intuitive to creating any kind of flow?

No Mans Sky 3

You guys remember Spore, right? That game was equally ambitious, and while the core philosophy was sound, and even quite impressive, that did not necessarily equate into a good game that was fun to play. The advances in technology are meaningless if there is no soul.

I don’t want another Spore.


I reached out to Hello Games to ask some questions surrounding these issues and to get an insight into their design philosophy. At this time they have not responded.

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About the Author

Corey Milne has been into video games ever since he went on an adventure with a bandicoot. Other interests include history, science fiction and Judge Dredd. An Irishman living in Scotland, he is attempting to make a living from writing to justify his masters degree. He can be found cradling a Guinness on Twitter @Corey_Milne

  • Wolf

    Really interesting points. It seems like player-created rasion d’etre games have become a bit of a thing in the past couple years. (I blame you, Minecraft! Though they’ve been around for longer) They can be fun to start, but I can lose interest quickly.
    Is there a sweet spot is having some scripted nature to the universe, so there is a semblance of a ‘story’ element out there?
    I also find some of my favorite games of all time show the player’s affect on the world, if a procedure universe is robust enough to accommodate that, that could lead to real player motivation to ‘leave their mark’.

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