This morning I should really have been starting a rewrite for Order for Burning but instead I ended up reading video game articles online. This piece over on Eurogamer about trying to pin down the upcoming No Man’s Sky into a structure caught my eye. I write scripts for film but I have a huge interest in story as far as games go and No Man’s Sky has been on my wish list ever since I first set eyes on the gameplay demo last Summer.
No Man’s Sky allows you to fly through entire galaxies that are generated on the fly. The universe in No Man’s Sky is forever expanding meaning that it’s quite possible to fly to a planet and be told that you are the first ever person to find it. This means that the game is huge and ever changing.
The trouble is that it’s been very difficult for Hello Games to define what you actually have to do in No Man’s Sky to a general audience and the gaming media. People have watched the video, seen some ships flying around and wanted to know what exactly is the aim of the whole thing. The article above gives some answers but not all. The public at large are looking at No Man’s Sky and asking ‘what makes this a game?’. Popular opinion dictates that there must be a final result, there must be an aim and there must be some structure of opposing forces because this is what we’re used to and what we do as gamers. We must defeat the evil empire, win the match, rescue the princess. For a medium all about interactivity we’re very unsure when somebody gives us freedom.
Many games ask the player to do certain tasks to keep a story moving, there are hoops we must jump through in order to see what the developers have laid out for us. These games are in effect making us actors, we must gives our lines when prompted. Some of the most powerful moments I’ve had in gaming is when the stories are generated by the players themselves. I’ve witnessed stories of betrayal during a zombie outbreak in Left 4 Dead and underdogs overcoming the odds in Football Manager, None of these were predetermined by the game, they all happened in an organic fashion.
No Man’s Sky looks set to give us the stage and the props and see what stories we can make out of them. Many might treat the game with derision as a result but it’s the very thing that makes the game so interesting to me. I want to be able to compare experiences with other players and come up with different outcomes. Obviously I’ve yet to play No Man’s Sky but I’m certainly looking forward to doing so, making my own way in the environment and choosing how I spend my time there.