In recent months the lid's been kept pretty tight on No Man's Sky, the upcoming science fiction-survival title from Hello Games that will allow players to explore and exploit a galaxy brimming with planets. Though the trailer for the game's first 18 minutes was released in July, the game's release date was just announced last week. The notion of an open world, multiplayer space opera with a galactic economy has generated a sky-high (pardon the pun) level of excitement - excitement that seems inversely proportional to the game developer's willingness to talk about it.
When a project is so secretive so near its completion, the audience assumption is usually that something must be wrong behind the scenes or that the development team is failing to put the pieces together. But it turns out that there's an even simpler reason for why Sean Murray, the game's director, and Hello Games have been so quiet about No Man's Sky.
Today Eurogamer released a video interview with Murray that dove into the director's thoughts on the game, specifically his concerns about the hype that's arisen around the sci fi-survival title. Murray makes the distinction between hype and "excitement"; the latter being a level of expectation before a game's release that is good for the game and can be satisfied, and the former being a level of expectation that is rarely, if ever, met by an entertainment product.Murray confessed that the game's discussion on social media was starting to worry him, and that he dropped off Twitter and stopped answering emails for a while to focus on the game's development. As if to temper expectations for No Man's Sky, he went into more detail about gamers can expect from the game.
According to Murray, No Man's Sky is not so different from other open world games. The mechanic of seamlessly transitioning from space to the surface of planets (the aspect of the game that has perhaps most captured gamers' interest) is to Murray "an aesthetic" that gamers will eventually stop noticing as they move to achieve the concrete goals of harvesting resources or acquiring technology. So perhaps "Skyrim in space" is an apt description of the game. Murray also stated that his team members "really are very careful to downplay any multiplayer aspects" of the game, and that he often just wants to tell gamers to "forget about multiplayer" altogether:
"This is not an MMO. It's not a game you sit down and play with your friends... If you want a death match, No Man's Sky is not for you."
It's not uncommon for a game that combines familiar elements into a unique cocktail to generate unwanted expectations (Peter Molyneux's entire career comes to mind). Though No Man's Sky does include elements of strategy, role-playing, and action games, Murray seems eager to brush off the notion that Hello Games is creating a game that does everything. Players who are intrigued by the idea of a space exploration title that isn't quite like any of its predecessors should be intrigued, but those who are looking for a next-generation EVE Online with Battlefront-esque space battles should look elsewhere.
Despite Murray's efforts to downplay his game's multiplayer aspect, our feeling is that the sensation of player interaction - whatever that turns out to be - on a cosmic scale will be one of the main elements that differentiate No Man's Sky from other open world games, and one of its biggest selling points. The feeling that the player is exploring a vast galaxy that is also being explored by others, that's teeming with planets that are themselves teeming with life, is something that can't be found elsewhere.
No Man's Sky is available for PC and PS4 in June of 2016.