This isn’t a review of No Man’s Sky because to this point, I’ve only been able to play the game for about six hours in total. I bought the game when it was released, and have battled the game since then. That has coloured my view of the game, and a reviewer’s verdict would be coloured by my attempts to get it to run, rather than about what the game is.
For the first time in years, I angrily demanded a refund for a game, and I felt a satisfaction about seeing the money I’d paid for it thunk back from the developers into my bank account. There is a special hell reserved for game makers who release a product this unprepared for the wild and wide savannah of the PC gaming world.
Arkham Knight’s terrible launch comes to mind, as well as “Assassin’s Creed: Unity”. There is a definite “get rich quick” mentality among gaming companies where gamers are held hostage by their desires and expectations. Game developer’s cynical exploitation of that desire. is something that I don’t want to encourage, so I demanded a refund.
The reason for the refund was that when it hasn’t crashed to desktop after five minutes of play, the only contiguous sessions I’ve had with it were two times that gave me about three hours each. And throughout those hours, there was always a voice in the back in my head saying “it’ll crash at any moment. Beware”. It made for conservative play where I limited what I did to things that weren’t likely to cause a crash. That made for timid and cowardly play. Which makes these two sessions bad for an objective and fair review. I wasn’t having any fun because I couldn’t immerse myself.
But there are things one can talk about here with regards to this game that has nothing to do with the operation of it. One, parochial reason, is that the developer studio Hello Games is located in my home town, and I may have run into the young devs out on the pub circuit in town.
To me, that’s the least interesting part, though. The other part is the concept of infinity which these developers have tried to shoehorn into the narrow confines of a computer game. Computer games being, always, compromises between ambition and limitation, this game was a fair whack at escaping the limitations. On that, I think, they’ve succeeded. The game universe is there. It’s just hard to get into it…
Infinity has always intrigued me because of its potential and because of its weirdness. As infinity approaches one, so does the probability for infinite repetition. Somewhere, then, in this game there’s a likely replica for an Earth with humanlike creatures. If the game is infinite, then the likelihood for that is 1. In effect, for certain. In the real world, if this universe is infinite, as some scientists believe, then the likelihood of exact replicas of Earths and humans is 1. In effect, for certain.
The game boasts of 18 quintillion separate solar systems. That’s 18 followed by either 18 zeros or 30 zeros. Just like with ‘billion’ the definition differs between American usage and British usage. Since Hello Games, the developers, is a British studio I’m provisionally going with the British definition. In any case, there are a lot of individual solar systems that the player can visit. That’s not infinite, of course. That’s a very deliberate hard limit. But it’s a limit arrived at after 30 zeros.
While the number of solar systems in the game are that big, the game mechanics and the parameters to mathematically describe those solar systems aren’t. Algorithmic generation, as needs to be done in a game of this size, constrains possibilities. So, no, humans aren’t likely in his game. But algorithmic generation constraining things to certain things are a feature of our universe as well.
In the real world,chemistry constrains things in the same way. There are only a few ways atoms can bond with each other. Some pairings are more likely than others. Coal binds with everything, while helium doesn’t. Organic chemistry limits things even further. In the end you have the same narrow set of options as the algorithm of the game No Man’s Sky. And that’s where repetition comes in. If infinity guarantees repetition, it guarantees repetition infinitely.
So, yes, I joked about an army of me in another post here recently, but it’s no joke. If infinity guarantees infinite repetition, then infinity guarantees an army of me out there. I’m just one of many, just as it guarantees an infinite number of you, or anyone else.
So, despite me having a terrible time with getting this game to run, and despite me not having a good time during the brief times it did run, the question regarding its near infinity did make me think, and think in awe, about its base potential. That’s something positive I’ll take away from this experience.