Creator Sean Murray explains how cooperation and competition works in an infinite universe
Last week, we took a trip out to Hello Games’ Guildford studio to get a closer look at No Man’s Sky’s huge new update, NEXT. Adding transformative new features like online multiplayer and third-person camera view, this bumper update – a whole year of solid work from the team – represents perhaps the biggest shift for the game since launch.
Following last week’s tantalising gameplay trailer, we had a raft of questions we wanted to put to the team around how the new multiplayer features work in practice. As luck would have it, Studio Director Sean Murray was on hand to answer them.
What sort of multiplayer does No Man’s Sky NEXT offer?
Sean: “Multiplayer is very co-op focused – that’s mainly how we expect people to play. You can gather together a team – a small group of friends – and own freighters, build bases, race vehicles, take on missions, share and trade resources and just, you know, help each other along.”
That’s a lot of changes, will I need to start again or can I keep my existing play?
Sean: “No, you can do all this with a save file that you’ve maybe already got a hundred hours on if you like.”
And if friends want to join me who don’t have a save game?
Sean: “It’s designed so you can play with people who’ve never played before. You’ll both progress together and that’ll be saved for both of you. It’s not a separate mode, you can dip in and out.”
What does that mean for single player?
Sean: “You can still play the game on your own and have that single-player experience. By default, if you do, then you may come across other players. Other people might join you, you might bump into random strangers and, if you do – sure – you can fight, you can have PvP, which isn’t actually that strange: we already have pirates and sentinels that attack you, but now, some of those things might be real people.”
What if I really just want to play by myself? Can I still do that?
Sean: “Sure, If you don’t want these kind of chance encounters with other players, you can opt out of that – though it does create some really cool moments!”
There are four very different modes: normal, survival, permadeath and creative – can you play with someone who’s on a different difficulty setting?
Sean: “These modes really change the type of game, so, [in multiplayer] you’ll all have to play in the same mode – it would be pretty annoying to be trying desperately to stay alive in ‘survival’ mode and somebody else is just breezing around in ‘creative’ mode. But that’s easily managed – you can have up to five different saves, all with different characters and game modes.”
Does multiplayer change the fundamental feel of the game?
Sean: “It’s weird, I’ve always talked about the game being a very lonely experience – which is appealing to me, it’s sci-fi: it’s you alone in the middle of nowhere – but I knew that multiplayer would change that, because you’re gonna be playing with friends and it’s going to be very different.
“The thing that we found though, is that you actually end up getting that same experience in multiplayer. It’s just that now that it’s you and your few buddies – your little away team – against the entire universe. You still feel that sense of wilderness and that ‘frontier’ vibe and it even amplifies the sense of scale: being tens, hundreds of miles away from someone and flying all the way down to their tiny little base on a planet surface.”
Will multiplayer affect how hostile the rest of the universe is?
Sean: “Yeah, for example, we have redone the AI on sentinels. The bipedal sentinels you can see in the trailer replace the existing walkers and we’ve beefed up that gameplay a lot, because previously encounters with sentinels could feel quite random and players would often run away.
“With multiplayer, you’ll get these cool moments where people will end up getting chased by a group of sentinels and you’re just having a nice relaxing moment and suddenly your friend just drags this chaos into your world.”
Will there be new challenges going forward to keep players coming back?
Sean: “People play No Man’s Sky over very long periods of time – it feels appropriate to have regular drops of content to keep the game feeling fresh. Over the coming season we’re doing weekly content drops, weekly missions, new rewards. You’ll be able to partake in community missions and earn in-game currency from that to spend on cool new stuff, like helmets or emotes. There are no loot boxes or microtransactions, it’s all in-game.”
No Man’s Sky NEXT is a huge free update for all owners of the base game and is available to download now. For full details on what else is included in the patch – including expanded base-building, new missions, items and character customisations and a transformative third-person view – check out Sean’s PS Blog post from last week.
Alternatively, you can grab No Man’s Sky now on PlayStation Store, which comes complete with all four major content updates released since launch: Foundation, Pathfinder, Atlas Rises and NEXT.