Saturday, February 28, 2015

No Man's Sky vs. Star Citizen

So I've been doing some reading on a couple of upcoming space games, No Man's Sky and Star Citizen. Both proclaim themselves to be creating a whole game universe for players to explore, both are claiming revolutionary game-play, and neither have announced a release date.

No Man's Sky features a procedurally-generated galaxy, with an algorithm that generates 2 to the power of 64 planets. I plugged that into the Windows calculator and it gave me the number 18,446,744,073,709,551,616. The English translation, according to the Wikipedia entry on large numbers, is that there will be over 18 trillion planets in No Man's Sky. According to the creators of No Man's Sky, it would take five billion years for a single player to explore the whole galaxy, assuming that player hit one planet per second. I did a little math myself to work out how long it would take for ten million players to discover every planet and I calculated that if each player discovers 10 planets a day, it would still take over 5 billion years to uncover the whole galaxy.

But how much content is there actually going to be in No Man's Sky? The game's creators emphasis that in addition to exploration, there will be danger, there will be advancement, and a genuine punishment for dying. However, from what I've seen so far, it looks the planet variety will be the same as the variety for the biomes in Minecraft; multiple varieties, infinite ways those biomes can be shaped, but still ultimately the same elements repeating themselves in different ways. I used to play Minecraft 1.8, where I was able to content myself for a very long time simply exploring the world and setting my own challenges. One that kept me going for quite a while was exploring the cave systems. I would set a goal to cover every single area in a cave system, and mark where I've been with torches, block trails, and signs. Between fighting the monsters and getting lost, this was quite challenging and engaging for me, but it still ran out. Since I was playing an outdated version, I didn't see the need to build anything meant to last, nor could I partake in the various features in the upgraded versions. On top of that, my humble PC only has so much room, so when other games came along that I wanted to try, I uninstalled Minecraft. I intend to get the "finished" version someday, when I have the money and the hardware, but I've put it aside for now. I'm concerned that No Man's Sky will have the same limitations as my Minecraft experience; a near infinite playing field, but not much to play with in that field.

On the hand, we've got Star Citizen. They have much fewer worlds in their universe, (they state on their website the game will launch with 100 planets), but it looks like you will have more to do on those worlds. The creators are cooking up a rich galactic lore, there will be professions, an economy and events that players can influence, basically a scaled-up version of traditional MMORPGS. While this intrigues me, I have concerns here too. Will there be a decent variety of goals and gameplay, or will most of the content turn out to be "Kill x amount of such-and-such", "Find and talk to so-and-so", "Gather x amount of materials"? And with the players supposedly having a big influence on galactic commerce and events, will the creators be able to keep the few from ruining the experience for the many?

I'm going to keep an eye on both games, and see what develops. I suspect, or at least hope, that they will both be good in their respective genres. When they both finally release, and if they both live up to their respective hype, I think I may wind up alternating between both. I might play Star Citizen when I want to be part of some serious action and important events, and I might play No Man's Sky when I'm in the mood for laid-back exploration.

What do you guys think? Both likely to succeed, both likely to flop, or is one looking better than the other?

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