Our galaxy is immense. There are more stars and planets outside of our little Earth than any of us can comprehend, and that sense of awe and isolation is exactly what indie studio Hello Games is attempting to replicate with No Man's Sky.
Set for release on PS4 and PC on August 9, this game has captivated the hearts and minds of countless individuals around the world. The sheer scale of this accomplishment and the fact that 99.9% of its planets may never be discovered is simply awe-inspiring.
But while this adventure through the depths of procedurally generated space is designed to be a single-player experience, No Man's Sky does indeed support multiplayer, but it's not exactly in the format a lot of fans may have wanted.
How Multiplayer Works In No Man's Sky
Stephen Colbert interviewed the lead designer behind No Man's Sky, Sean Murray, and labelled the session "Sean Murray May Have Replaced Morgan Freeman As God." He's the driving force behind this creative marvel and has given some great, albeit slightly awkward, interviews on his brainchild. But while he's been cryptic about numerous features in the game, he's been very clear on one specific point:
Make no mistake, No Man's Sky does support multiplayer. We will all be inhabiting the same galaxy come release date, just starting out on an undiscovered planet in an unknown quadrant within it. But we need to understand how enormous this game is. Sean Murray says that the chances of us flying to a planet or station and encountering another player in the same space at the same time is "incredibly rare."
However, there is a galactic map in No Man's Sky, on which we'll be able to see the rough location of our friends. Essentially we'll be able to see the planet they're exploring and the distance between us. But imagine trying to find them. Murray puts this into perspective:
"People keep saying to us, 'Yeah but what if I knew where [my friends] were? Could I go there?" and it's like, yeah. But they're going to have to stay in the same place for quite a while as you get over there.
And then once you get over there you might land on the same planet and then say 'I'm on a planet the size of Earth and I'm on a mountain. Where are you?' Which is, I know, a weird thing and it's daunting.
You May Never See Another Soul In This Vast Galaxy
Though you have a higher chance of encountering a friend in this galaxy than a random player, the statistics are still against us. No Man's Sky is enormous, friends. Enormous. If 99.9% of its planets may never be discovered, the idea that we'll see anyone else on this journey is almost ridiculous. But that's the point.
Sean Murray wants to challenge us with No Man's Sky; he wants us to ask important and philosophical questions during our time exploring its galaxy. The fundamental question of who we are as human beings is a remarkable theme to centre a game around, and perhaps we need to be alone in this almost infinite blackness to fully engage with that notion.
Although, we're not entirely alone.
Murray references Dark Souls and Journey in terms of similar multiplayer experiences. He believes that we should come in contact with other planets that players have explored and named "reasonably often." We'll see the traces of other individuals, maybe the creatures they named or equipment they left behind, but actually seeing another player is something that may never happen to the average No Man's Sky player. The multiplayer aspect of the game is designed to relieve the overwhelming sense of isolation that comes with exploring space. It'll undoubtedly be cathartic for us to uncover something another human discovered. They were here. And perhaps this is a more resonant form of multiplayer for No Man's Sky, as opposed to engaging in dogfights with your friends for hours.
How Does That Make You Feel About No Man's Sky?
The goal of No Man's Sky, in Sean Murray's eyes, is to explore the galaxy before us and carve out a kind of existence amongst the stars. How we interact with whatever we encounter is up to us. Though the game does feature a kind of conclusion, in the form of reaching the centre of this galaxy, Hello Games feel that players actually arriving there may also be a rare occurrence.
No Man's Sky is about a single explorer experiencing a galaxy of possibility in their own way. There's no single way to engage with it and seeing the centre of the galaxy isn't at all necessary. But during that solo adventure, Hello Games hope that we'll take the time to reflect upon our existence on this little ball of ours and ask important questions. "Who are we? And why, on earth, are we here?"