No Man’s Sky Gameplay Explained: Combat, Terraforming, and More
No Man's Sky — beautiful... ambitious... big. We know a lot of things about this space-exploration indie title, but one thing we'd yet to get much solid information on was what, exactly, you do in the game. Thanks to Eurogamer's interview with lead developer, Sean Murray, the layers of enigma are starting to peel away and we're starting to finally get an idea of what players will do when exploring No Man's Sky's nigh-endless universe.
"It's open ended," said Sean Murray, "and players should be able to play a game lots of different ways. I have begun to find games quite predictable. Especially when I look at the stuff at E3, or something like that. I will be sort of... maybe not excited, but I know I will play those games and I will enjoy them."
Despite this outlook and the game's unorthodox format, Murray alludes to No Man's Sky's potential at having widespread appeal. Based on his rationale, we think he and his team at Hello Games are certainly on the right track.
So, we wanted to be a bit more open ended than that. And that isn't a new thing. If you look at PC and a lot of the games that are on Early Access right now, they are more and more that type of open ended thing. And it's not niche; it's like Minecraft and DayZ and Rust. And none of them really work - or sound like they work - on paper. They don't have a classic motivation, or whatever. And I like that. I want to avoid having the game say, 'One of three space stations destroyed!', or having a trophy pop up [when you destroy all three]. That's the answer that I want to give... But then there's the answer I have to give, just because you have to talk about the game and write about it and convey it. So there is a core game mode there. There's the player's journey which, if they play it linearly and go from the outer edge of the galaxy to the centre of the galaxy, that's their start and end of the game kind of thing, and as they go, they're upgrading their ship, they're upgrading their weapons, they're upgrading their suit.
Murray compared No Man's Sky to other games such as Minecraft and DayZ, though it's important to realize that each of those titles have a distinct motivation for players to play. DayZ has a high, perpetual degree of tension to it due to its permadeath feature, and much of Minecraft's success comes from giving players the ability to make anything. What we know of No Man's Sky sounds marvelous, but the question remains as to whether it has that addictive element which will keep players hooked and playing from sunset to dawn.
After Murray flushes out the conceptual reasons of why we might like No Man's Sky, he finally starts going into some details about the things we'll be able to actually do as a pilot and explorer:
There's space combat, there's combat on the ground, there's trading if you want to do that, mining resources and stuff, there's exploring if you want to do that. There's all those things in a core loop. Most of them give you money - which we call Units - and you can use that money to upgrade your ship. And you need to do that to be able to travel further. As you get closer to the centre of the galaxy you will find it is more dangerous - just like in any game - and you will find that the best ships are only available towards the centre of the galaxy. Or are much more common at least. And the best weapons, best suit upgrades, and resources that are worth far more. And freighters that you can attack are worth far more closer to the centre because they're trading those resources.
Murray then goes on to discuss interactions with other players, saying that you can trade, or even do battle with, other people you come across online; but there will also be AI-controlled beings you will encounter, and you won't be able to tell who is real and who is an NPC at first glance. Last, but certainly not least, there's terraforming. You can blast vast canyons into the ground, tunnel your way through a mountain or just dig a really deep hole. We have a feeling there will be a lot of ravagers getting the demolition on out in space.
So, it sounds like No Man's Sky will be every bit the open-ended, grand title we all hoped it would be when that first trailer arrived, and at least now we know a bit more about what its actual gameplay is like. We still don't know everything, however, as Murray was calculatingly glib in his interview and kept many details to himself for players to discover as they play. Nevertheless, we'll be looking to the stars until we have No Man's Sky in our hands.
No Man's Sky is scheduled for a 2015 release on the PlayStation 4 and PC.