Today the No Man’s Sky launch date was revealed (June 21st) and it got me thinking about the game again. In case you’ve not bought a ticket for this particular hype train, No Man’s Sky is a space exploration/combat game (for PS4 & PC, at least initially) that features a huge procedurally generated universe. In theory it is multiplayer but the devs have said that the universe is so large that it’s unlikely you’ll run into other players accidentally until far into the game.
The goal, as far as I can tell, is to reach the core of the universe. I think it’s a pretty ‘loose’ goal and the game is all quite sandbox-y. As you discover planets they will be tagged as being discovered by you, so there is at least some vague perk to finding a planet first.
In order to make reaching the core at least somewhat plausible, your initial spawn has to be a finite distance from that core, right? So we can imagine a kind of fuzzy sphere with the core in the center and that is, generally speaking, the play-space of the universe. Players will start somewhere on the surface of this sphere.
The radius of this sphere will determine how many unique starting positions there are, right? As a sphere expands its surface area increases and we’re all going to start on the ‘surface’ of this conceptualized sphere so that we’re all starting on more or less equal terms, with regard to how long our trip to the core is going to take.
So here is my concern (and to be clear, it’s not a major concern, just something to muse about). A Day 1 player gets his/her starting spot and heads core-ward and every planet s/he encounters is a discovery for him/her. This is the pioneer player.
Six months after launch it’s Christmas and a gamer gets a PS4 and a copy of No Man’s Sky. When this new player starts, will there be a ‘fresh lane’ for him to follow to the core? Or will he wind up following in the footsteps of a gamer who started the game earlier? This player is more like a settler, following in the footsteps of those who came before.
I need a math whiz. We need to estimate the sales numbers of No Man’s Sky, calculate the desired amount of time it takes to reach the core, and the average velocity core-ward of a typical player. From there we can calculate the radius of the play-field and from that, the total ‘starting area’ available. Once we know sales estimates and the area of the surface of the play-sphere we can finally know if this is a concern or not. It may be that the No Man’s Sky universe is so large that every player, no matter when they start, will have a fresh, unexplored path towards the core. But if that is the case, I wonder how feasible it’ll be to actually reach the core? Alternatively the universe may be restricted in starting positions which would make playing early desirable so you have a ‘fresh playing field’ to explore.
I told you my mind gets stuck on weird things…