“It’s a small experiment.”
The almost absurdly hyped No Man’s Sky (NMS) finally released on PlayStation 4 today and will drop onto PC Friday after several years in development. It is by far the biggest game indie studio Hello Games has ever made — and maybe the biggest game anyone has ever made.
Considering the huge amount of work that went into the game — Managing Director Sean Murray says he only gets three hours of sleep a night — you might think Hello Games would now be looking forward to kicking back and taking it easy. You’d think wrong: the team is already working on something new.
“Initially I think we’ll all be supporting NMS. But there are other ideas we’ve got rattling around in our heads too,” Murray said in a Reddit AMA yesterday in response to a question about whether or not his studio would continue focusing on one product or pivot to working on multiple projects. “I think video games is just such a largely unexplored field. There’s very few studios that pull off the two game thing, but supporting one game and then kicking off something new — that’s doable right?
“Sh*t, I just remembered, we’ve got another thing we’re already working on that’s unannounced. It’s a small experiment, but hopefully you all might like it. Maybe we can be the Johnny Depp of studios — do a mixture of big stuff and indie stuff?”
Murray didn’t elaborate any further as to what the nature of Hello’s “experiment” is, but elsewhere in the AMA he did admit that he still thinks about a previous franchise he worked on while at his previous gig at Electronic Arts. “I have a recurring dream that I am back working on Burnout 3. Normally that I’m playing the game, and we’ve made it so every race ends with a crash junction. Then I wake up in a cold sweat. Games dev does things to you.”
That’s not exactly a confirmation that Hello’s next project will involve racing and/or crashing cars. In fact, one of the reasons Murray began working on No Man’s Sky was to get away from franchise work on his studio’s Joe Danger IP. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to note that the team is working on something new, and Murray’s dreaming about — having nightmares about? — Burnout 3 ideas.
Getting back to No Man’s Sky, Murray said he couldn’t “really describe in words what today feels like” before settling on “weird and terrifying.” What’s he have to be scared of? Living up to the massive fan expectations, of course, but he wouldn’t have necessarily done anything differently to keep expectations in check.
“It’s [a] catch 22, if we hadn’t announced when we did, we probably would have quit the project without the community supporting us.” That doesn’t necessarily mean Murray wishes he had skipped making appearances at E3 or on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “Every time we showed the game we always assumed people would suddenly not like it anymore… but instead the hype would just get crazier. In an alternate timeline, imagine if we could just be showing it for the first time tonight and launching tomorrow? Imagine how fun that would have been.”
The world will never know what that would have been like, though. Instead, Murray found himself downplaying expectations, writing that No Man’s Sky “maybe isn’t the game you ‘imagined'” in a blog post yesterday. “If you hoped for things like pvp multiplayer or city building, piloting freighters, or building civilization… that isn’t what NMS is. Over time it might become some of those things through updates.”
What is the game right now, then? It’s “an infinite procedural sci-fi-space-survival-sandbox,” which Murray — jokingly? — said in the Reddit AMA might not be far off from the real world. When asked if the “real universe” was maybe a simulation or somehow procedurally generated, the developer said he once had a conversation with none other than Elon Musk about that exact topic.
“I said if I was Elon Musk, then I’d be pretty sure it was, right? Like load up the holodeck with the disk where I get to colonize mars and make self-driving cars,” he said. “So I think he almost certainly is, and then I’m an AI bot I guess? In his simulation? Controlled by a giant AI that’s smirking to itself whilst I give this answer.”
Of course, if the procedurally generated simulation you may or may not be living in isn’t entertaining enough, you at least now have the option to escape into No Man’s Sky, where you’ll know for certain you’re playing in a giant sandbox.