The chief architect behind No Man’s Sky tells how the world’s most ambitious game came to be

One of the many worlds players can explore in the game.
One of the many worlds players can explore in the game. Source: NewsComAu
IF God created the universe, who is Sean Murray?
The chief architect behind No Man’s Sky, that’s who. Murray created a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally-generated galaxy.
The highly-anticipated game is unrivalled in its design, which allows players to explore a galaxy containing 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 unique planets.
Creating a galaxy that met the internet’s anticipation for this ambitious game was never going to be easy, but Murray and his team were up for the challenge.
Bored of this planet? There are billions more to visit.
Bored of this planet? There are billions more to visit. Source: Supplied
Roll of the dice
It was a gamble that left the 34-year-old computer programmer working out of an old two-storey building in Guildford, southwest of central of London.
In 2006, Murray walked away from a secure position with Electronic Arts — one of the largest video game manufacturers in the world.
He had grown tired of corporate game development and felt working in a small team would be more beneficial.
Murray sold his house and enlisted the help of two coders named Ryan Doyle and David Ream and an artist named Grant Duncan, and together they created a tiny game development company called Hello Games.
It was in Murray’s living room that the four men created their debut game about a down-and-out stuntman whose primary skill is jumping over stuff with a motorcycle.
When it was time to release Joe Danger in June 2010, the company was near destitute and things were looking grim.
“I had sold off my PS3, we were down to the bare essentials,” he told the New Yorker.
On the eve of the release, the team purchased some cheap cider and waited to see if their gamble would pay off.
“We decided, we are going to drink cider, and it will come out and do what it will do,” Murray said.
The game was released at midnight. By 1am, the partners saw a return in their investment.
Every solar system, planet, ocean and cave is filled with danger, and you are vulnerable
Every solar system, planet, ocean and cave is filled with danger, and you are vulnerable Source: Supplied
Frustrations lead to creations
It had been two years since Joe Danger had been released and Murray was caught in the corporate web he had tried to escape years earlier.
At breaking point from difficult negotiation with Microsoft over Joe Danger’s sequel, Murray headed into the studio to take out his frustrations.
“I was in the studio on my own, and I just started programming. I was furious, and I kept working until three in the morning,” he told the New Yorker.
“Looking back, I think I had the equivalent of a midlife career crisis.”
During his time spent in the lab, Murray created the basis for a game his team had often joked about.
The following day he approached his partners and flagged the idea of the ambitious game they had dubbed Project Skyscraper.
“We’re doing it,” he told his partners.
For the coming months, the team locked themselves behind closed doors and began working on No Man’s Sky.
“I had this feeling: I want to start a new company, like almost an alternate path for Hello Games,” he said.
Knowing making such an expansive and ambitious game would be difficult without a large team, Murray turned to procedural generation — the creation of digital environments by using equations.
By using a variety of algorithms, he was able to design eighteen quintillion unique planet flows out of only fourteen hundred lines of code.
These formulas meant the game would not need to render an aspect graphically until a player encountered it.
“It means I don’t need to calculate anything before or after that point,” he told the New Yorker.
“Does that planet exist before you visit it? Sort of not — until the maths create it.”
Every star can be explored.
Every star can be explored. Source: Supplied
The bush and a trailer
For Murray, his early years were spent on a remote settlement in Queensland some four-hundred-miles off the beaten track.
With seven airstrips, a power generation system, an abandoned goldmine and a water pump all on the property, there was no lack of stimulation for a creative mind.
Murray’s fascination with sci-fi was fuelled during multi-day expeditions with his father, where he would spend endless hours gazing at the night sky.
These childhood experiences would play a vital role in the shaping the success of No Man’s Sky.
Murray had always been an ambassador of tapping into childhood memories as a source of inspiration and when he first put together the Hello Games team, he gave a speech to that effect.
“Think back to when you were a kid. What did you want to be? A cowboy, an astronaut, a stuntman, a fireman, a policeman, whatever,” he told his team.
Practising what he preached, Murray tapped into his early memories of the outback for a trailer he had built to promote the game on Spike TV.
When word spread about the trailer, fellow developers reached out to Murray with warnings because they had fears the game was too vague and unconventional for mainstream audiences.
Murray pushed ahead and released a trailer that showed gamers a number of different components of the development.
“It is a huge game,” he told Spike TV.
“I can’t really do it justice. We wanted to make a game about exploration, and we wanted to make something that was real.”
“Those are suns, and they have planets around them — and you can go and visit them.”
While he gave very little away about the game, critics were impressed with the meticulously detailed graphics.

Post a Comment