No Man’s Sky is set to break all the rules and could be the most important game release of the last decade.
It was when I was playing Disney Universe with my 5 year old that it finally hit me. My son was going through the usual routine -“I want to play as Jack Sparrow”, “I want to play as Sully”, “I want to hit those bad guys” – when suddenly he asked something he had never asked before – “I want to get onto that Giraffe”. I furrowed by brow and looked around. A giraffe? What giraffe? I scoured the screen looking for what my son was referring too and for the life of me, I couldn’t see a damn giraffe. It wasn’t until my son walked up to the TV and pointed at what he was looking at that I finally saw it. Off in the background, far beyond the limits of where the game allows you to go, was a giraffe. It was plain as day. A giraffe.
This led to an awkward conversation with my 5 year old about why he couldn’t go to the giraffe, that it was not part of the game but was a part of the the background, something which he couldn’t seem to grasp. “But it is there. I just need to go there” was his response and his child like curiosity and naivety got me thinking.
As gamers, we have come to accept a set of rules that we learn over time. Some doors can’t be opened. Backdrops are just that, no matter how interesting they look. Skyboxes exist. We learn these universal rules, imposed by technological restriction, over time and have come to accept them, obeying the rules without being ordered too.
My son has yet to learn these rules and games are still full of wonderment and mystery because of it. This air of mystery has long since been lost on me – I know the rules and these rules no longer ruin my immersion in a game – but what if these rules didn’t exist? What if instead of explaining to my son that he couldn’t go to the giraffe, I could just say “Yeah, just go there buddy” and he could.
This is exactly what No Man’s Sky is bringing to the table. The leaps in hardware capability and procedural generation means that all of those universal gaming truths we have come to accept over the years about to become obsolete. The rule book is about to get ripped up. Watch the below video from the PSBlog to get a taste of the scope.
Skyboxes? No. You just fly into space. Backdrops? Nope. If you can see it, you can go there. The rules that almost every game employ which have evolved into accepted practices over the last 10 years are not at play in No Man’s Sky. There is an air of complete freedom to explore. If my son sees a giraffe, he can ride that giraffe to his heart’s content. If I see a giraffe, it will be a different giraffe but I can also ride it. The mystery and wonderment is coming back to gaming thanks to No Man’s Sky. It is an exciting prospect with breath taking scope.
Of course, No Man’s Sky will have it’s own set of rules, rules far more relaxed than those of most games but rules none the less, but the joy of playing this game will be learning a whole new set of laws while breaking the existing ones.
The reason why No Man’s Sky is so important is because it could be the start of a new generation of gaming. It could be the spark that the industry needs to bring the freedom, innovation and evolving creativity on a mass scale to the main stream and consoles. Procedural Generation is nothing new to the gaming industry and can be traced back as far as 1984 with the original Elite but No Man’s Sky, along side Elite: Dangerous, Starbound and Star Citizen, could generate enough interest in procedural generation and unlimited freedom of exploration that the gaming rules that exist at the moment could become changed irreparably. Procedural generation could become a staple part of every game genre – not just space exploration. Imagine playing a procedurally generated Call of Duty, where no 2 maps are the same? A Gran Turismo that has a different track for every race? It’s a bright future and one that hinges on the success of a few games – No Man’s Sky being one of them.
My Son is beginning to learn the same gaming laws which have existed in a decade through his own experience but soon he may finally get his wish to ride that giraffe into the sun set thanks to No Man’s Sky.