For the last IGN First video this April, Sean Murray sat down with Ryan McCaffrey for an unfiltered interview that ended up being more than an hour long. A lot of interesting facts about our favorite bearded game developer were discussed. Watching this interview we really get to know Sean Murray as more than just the face of No Man’s Sky. Some highlights of the interview are found right here.
The geniuses behind No Man’s Sky
Ryan starts off by asking Sean the following question: “Do you consider yourself a genius?”
At which point Sean bursts out laughing. People have actually asked him this specific question a lot over the past few years, so it’s no surprise he has his answer ready.
“Yes, yes obviously” He laughs. “No no no like well the game is not out yet, talk to me after that.”
Sean Murray may not consider himself a genius but he gives a lot of credit to his team of twelve people who make up Hello Games. He calls them some of the best people he has ever worked with. So the credit for the brilliance of No Man’s Sky will not go to one person but rather to the entire team of Hello Games who have inspired each other to build themselves a “skyscraper”. More on that later.
How Sean Murray fulfilled his long life dream of making games
Sean got into games at a very young age. When he was six years old, he made his first text adventure game which he is quite embarrassed about now. Later on in life, the passion he has for games only gets stronger. He talks about games like Quake which he really liked because games like that were almost a reflection of the developer who made them. After Sean finishes his study of computer sciences at university he started his first paying job in IT. He talks about not really finding his place because he had nothing in common with the people who worked there.
“It was actually that similar thing where I had to feel embarrassed about the fact that I was, you know, really into computers.”
He almost felt that he had to be ashamed about being into games. This made him go on a job-hunt for work that better suited his passion. Sean then found out that he was reasonably qualified to work in the gaming industry and he got invited to multiple job interviews. His first job in the gaming industry was with Criterion Games who were responsible for making the Burnout series which Sean also worked on. It was here he felt he had finally found a place he belonged, and with people who were into the same things as he was. The reason he chose to work at Criterion was that they were a really small company when he first interviewed with them. The small team in the small office had always been how he imagined games were made. That’s also the reason Sean decided to begin his own studio shortly after Criterion was bought by the gaming giant EA.
From arcade racers to No Man’s Sky
In Sean’s Hello Games profile on their website it says that he is really into arcade racers and games like Mario Kart, Super Monkey Ball and Excitebike. The influences of which are clearly recognizable in Hello Games’ first release, Joe Danger. But how did Sean go from an arcade-style cartoon racer to No Man’s Sky?
“There are games I want to play and there are games I have to play” Sean explains.
He goes on talking about liking all sorts of games and how he would love to be able to play them all. So the direction change Hello Games made with No Man’s Sky is due to the fact that Sean Murray loves all kinds of games. An open space exploration game had always been one of his dreams that seemed so unreachable but Joe Danger’s success actually made No Man’s Sky possible.
Sean talks about the fact that Joe Danger is still one of his most proud accomplishments, if for nothing else, because Joe Danger is a real game that’s been released, whereas No Man’s Sky is still a concept. Remembering the positive feedback he got on Joe Danger can still make him happy to this day. It is also the game that made it possible to become a profitable indie studio. The decision to leave their current jobs and start Hello Games must have been a hard one. To chose to say goodbye to the security of a steady income and follow your dream of making games with a small team of friends was a real gamble at the time. Sean tells us about images he sent to his friends to try to convince them starting Hello Games would be a great idea. He would send them an image of a skyscraper and an image of a beautiful house next to a lake. The skyscraper was what they were currently making but Sean wanted to make that beautiful house that people would stop at and take their breath away. Sean Murray goes on saying:
“One of the guys said cool let’s do that but only if we go on and make a skyscraper of our own.”
It started off like a bit of a joke, but after the Joe Danger series began doing well, a small portion of the team broke off to work on “Project Skyscraper” which later became No Man’s Sky.
Bringing No Man’s Sky to the world
After starting work on Project Skyscraper, the people involved broke off from the rest of the team and kept what they were working on a secret for about a year. Only when Sean got the opportunity to show a trailer at the VGX awards back in 2013 did No Man’s Sky reveal itself. A funny fact about that time was that Sean actually tried to pull the trailer because he had second thoughts about it being ready to show but it was too late. No Man’s Sky went public.
Turns out that Sean shouldn’t have worried. As we all know now, the game was received exceptionally well and actually put a lot of pressure on the Hello Games team because of the high expectations from the fans. Sean describes his moment at VGX as feeling like the end of a movie where everything turns out good and everybody is happy.
Unfortunately the happy ending got a twist later that year during Christmas when their studio got flooded and they lost a lot of work. This event was really hard to get over but it also brought the team closer together, where at first they had been divided. They went into silent mode and got hard at work to get ready for E3 2014. As Sean thinks back at that time he explains how this game has influenced his life and the amazing people he has met.
“This game has put me in one weird situation after another. Every time I think things have been most surreal then something else happens.”
After years of previous interviews solely focused on the game, it’s great to watch an interview where we get to know Sean Murray a bit better and understand how something as amazing as No Man’s Sky came to be.