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An Assortment Of Lesser-Known No Man's Sky Facts

by Bryan Vore on Dec 26, 2014 at 08:00 AM

As we near the end of our month of No Man's Sky coverage, it's time to focus on the smaller details. This game is huge and has many elements that inspire questions about space, gameplay, science, and more. Read on for excerpts from our extensive interviews with Hello Games' managing director Sean Murray about things you may be curious about, but never got a straight answer on.

Will There Be Mod Support?
Sean Murray: I think PC games should have Mods and the ability to mod. I almost feel like we need to give them the tools otherwise then they're just going to start making them, tearing apart your game. That's what I have more of a fear of. I think if they get in there and they just start disassembling it they will end up creating parallel universes; like genuinely that's what would happen. They would change the numbers and then someone else would be playing in a different universe, but still posting to our servers.  

We will probably give them some tools to allow them to do some stuff.  But we don't want people creating new planets within an existing game. I don't think we can stop them doing that if there's a clever enough programmer, which there always is, there are going to be weird things with the game unofficially. But officially I think we probably want to give people some modding ability just so they leave our game alone. Just give them enough creative outlet to keep them busy rather than them thinking of all of the destructive things that they could do. 

Ship Summoning Is Out
When we started off you used to be able to summon your ship. You would land your ship, and then you would just walk anywhere, and you would press a button to summon it. I thought it was quite nice, but it made for weird gameplay because it wasn’t like Destiny. People just would walk, summon, walk, summon. They were summoning it for practically a toilet break. They would walk and see something that was on the other side of this room and summon their ship and fly over there. It just amazed us how lazy people were. So we can't have this. It just looks silly. 

You Can’t Steal Ships
No, there’s no stealing ships, but we’ll see because everyone asks about that. I just don’t like it. We’re trying to keep the game not too destructive. I think as soon as you do that it becomes the game about stealing ships. We’ll see. 

Game File Size
There is a core part of it that would need hardly any download. When we first started making it, I thought it would genuinely be that. It would be the size of the executable and then the small amount of data. That's what we were aiming for. So I was gonna be like, I know this sounds ridiculous but we thought it would be like 10, 15 megs or something like that. I can get it down to that and have a lot there with a really small download. Like the galactic map takes no space, which is crazy. And all of the terrain of the planets take no space. And the textures that are on the planets only take a couple of megs.  And the skies take no space.  90 percent of what you see takes no space.  

But it was very naive of me to think that we would have that really small download because we need sound effects and we need weapons and cockpits, things that are still similar across the game. And we have prototypes that we use as blueprints. And they actually take up space. So actually it will end up coming out the size of a regular game. This makes me sound weird or a bit arrogant or something, but the production values are maybe a little bit higher than a regular download game. Like a lot of download games might be 2D or overly simplistic. So it’s probably more approaching your triple-A game which would be maybe 5GB or something like that.

Isolation Vs. Community
You want them to feel quite vulnerable, like we're all in this together. And I want that feeling where you bring up the map and you can see every now and then a star twinkling because someone has made a discovery - just that sense that this thing is a little bit alive and there are a lot of people out there. I think that's a really nice feeling. It's not just you are a tiny dot and the world's a horrible place and there are robots and creatures and sharks that are just gonna kill you all the time. You want that feeling that there's a slight sense of purpose. This is all getting a bit more filled in. It's becoming a bit more hospitable.

Creating A New Periodic Table
I wanted us to use the Earth's periodic table, and I thought that would be quite cool. I thought we'd teach people about science. It turns out people don't know chemistry that well. And it is no help to them. You're like, "What are you trying to do combining those two elements? They will never go together." They're just like, “Eh.” 

It's a shame, but whatever way we teach people in school there are certain things that are a total turn-off even though they can be intellectual sci-fi and stuff like that. It's amazing to me that you can have somebody super into sci-fi but school has managed to turn them off actual science.  It's like they're back in the schoolroom again and they're like, “Bleh.” 

What things can we make? We think about molecules and think about crystalline structures and stuff like that and then they're just like, “Eh, sounds boring.”  And you just switch it, you change the names, and suddenly it's cool. So there's that element to it.

But also we just wanted to be a bit freer. There's only something like seven different compounds or something like that that we create really good types of liquids that you could have creatures survive in. And we might want more than that for the game. We might want to decide our own rules and you just get tied up into too many conversations about it and things like that. Sometimes gameplay and science don't sync together. That sort of a shame but I think for the best.

Grant [Duncan, art director] and I had such a battle over this, these planets have green skies. And there's no such thing. You see it in sci-fi all the time. Light is defracted by the chemical compound. The things that can form an atmosphere - there's only a certain number of them and they defract light differently. And none of them will ever produce green. 

We have our own periodic table. We had it so you can see it in the game. It's a button you can press it pops up and it tells you a little bit of info about the planet. It tells you the chemical compounds. So when you come out of water, it will pop in and say what type of area you are in. And when you go underneath the water it tells you. And when you're in space it tells you.  So that's your little read out. It comes up automatically. Then you think, “I could survive in that.” 

Because Grant wanted green skies I ended up adding this thing that was like “unknown air detected.” I was like, “What are we doing? We brought the magic green sky. Green sky component detected. Where have we gone to?” 

But it's true. You have it in sci-fi all the time. Neil deGrasse Tyson likes pointing out things all the time about films and stuff that aren't real. He said like the Daily Show globe spins the wrong way.  But I was watching Cosmos and Titan in the pre-rendered stuff had a green sky. It's a me thing. I think everyone just goes, “The sky can be green. Whatever.” 

VR Headset Support
Personally, there's nothing more futuristic for me than playing this procedurally generated universe thing and having some sort of VR headset on. We have played about with them. Having said that we are a small team. We're making this super ambitious game. People would probably rather we got the game out sooner than, “Let's do this stuff with it.” But I don't know. I think it's a really good fit from the experiments that we've had.

It'll be interesting. I don't think anyone knows how the plan for Oculus or Morpheus is gonna work over the next few years. I don't think Sony knows that. I don't think Oculus knows that. And we definitely don't. But I can tell you that I've had a VR headset working in a very rudimentary way and walked around a planet. To me anyway it's cool experience. We're all about being in a space and experiencing it. 

The Lack of NPCs
I feel like games just don't do NPCs very well. I don't know how much it adds. We've talked about it. It would actually be easy using the procedural stuff to put in every single one of those trading posts a guy behind a desk. Sometimes I think about doing it. Who knows? Maybe people feel they need that. But at the moment we don't have that. And I feel like we don't need it. I don't feel it would add anything. But maybe people will really miss it. It's not feedback that we've had so far, but I don't think it gains that much to just have this cold dead eyed guy. “Welcome to my shop. Do you want to buy some weapons?”  And just a few loops, bits of vocal as well. Like when you go into shops in Destiny it's like, "A shipwright’s work is never done." That's how I feel is that it takes from it.

That Damn Shark!
That first trailer that we showed at VGX [in 2013], it starts off underwater and there's a shark there. I don't know how many times we took that shot, but it was like hundreds. All you do is you start off underwater, you turn around, you walk up, and you walk along the beach, and then you get into your ship and fly up. It should be so simple. I wanted the shark in there because he scares away the fish that he goes past, it just gives some visual interest. And he just kept attacking us. 

It was late at night and we didn't want to start changing the code so we were just like, “Come on, let's just take it again because sometimes he doesn't attack you.” And then you have these brilliant moments where he didn't come at you and you were like great and you would walk up and something else would go wrong. 

Are There Twin Stars?
Yeah. They’re really rare. We're going to have to work on this. You can't just zoom in on them. They look graphically slightly different.

Are There Gas Giants?
You are always able to walk around a planet. There are ones that aesthetically look gaseous. They are actually what toxic planets kind of are. But there's no point in a planet that you can't land your ship on. And we felt like it would be frustrating for the players to see this planet because you and I would know what gaseous planets are but then everyone else might not.  And they would be like, “Oh, I get out and fall?”  It's just a weird concept for people, but I still wanted to have something in there.

Is There Planetary Weather?
We use temperature and humidity to make sure, like, if you see rain, you're probably on a rainy planet and it probably rains there pretty much all the time. We don't want you to go to a planet and see everything that is out there, because that kind of is what Earth is like. You see everything in one planet and there's almost no need to travel. 


Throughout the month of December we have a deep dive on the galactic map, video interviews with the team, insight on the generated soundtrack, a special-edition podcast (coming soon!), and more. Click on the banner below to visit our No Man's Sky hub and see everything collected in one place.