J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and George Lucas. Three visionaries who knew that to truly make the world they created come to life, they needed to create universes that extend far beyond the pages of a book or lines in a script.
The characters, places and events they created all needed to have a history. Something that makes us have a visceral reaction to their ultimate fates. A way of explaining how the events of today are connected to the events of the past. We call this ‘Lore’ and it is what sets apart an epic story, from one that is merely minuscule. It allows us to feel like we are part of the adventure, that our lives are intertwined with those of the Hobbits of the Shire, or the Rebel Alliance fighting desperately against the tide of the Empire. We know what the heroes are fighting for and we know why we want them to win.
What is my purpose?
It is clear from the Playstation video released today (and from previous interviews) that Hello Games want No Man’s Sky to be more than just another game. They want to give our journey through the universe a sense of purpose on a personal level. If I travel to the next planet will I find out a little bit more about my place in this universe and will it answer some of the burning questions I have…Who am I? Why am I here? It is this that will keep us interested in reaching the centre of the galaxy (and beyond), long after we may have put down the controller on any other game.
To help create their own lore, Hello Games have created a series of alien races within No Man’s Sky. Each of these races have a unique identity, unique architecture and their own language. Talking to these aliens will allow you to discover more about who they are and what their culture is all about. You will be able to read their writing on monoliths that are dotted across various planets. They have also given us the ‘Atlas’, a mysterious universal database that all discoveries are seemingly linked to and is the iconic logo for No Man’s Sky. What’s more, is that the universe of No Man’s Sky has rules. These rules are policed by what are called Sentinels, a self-replicating army of drones. Part of your journey through the game will be to learn these rules, how to obey them and how to break them without getting killed in the process.
To give the lore further credence, Author and Illustrator Dave Gibbons (Beneath a Steel Sky and Watchmen) and New York Times best-selling sci-fi writer, James Swallow, have been commissioned to create a special comic – “Adventures in No Man’s Sky”. This comic will be released as part of the PS4 Limited Edition bundle on day 1 of release. It features two stories . One involves a trader carrying a valuable cargo and from the conceptual drawings will possibly involve the Gek, a race of birdlike creatures first reported during the Hello Games press event back in March. The second is a gripping survival story about a character who is shipwrecked on a planet, trying to fix their ship and escape the planet whilst being pursued by hostile alien species. All told from a very personal viewpoint.
Lore, Not Lorry’d.
Whilst that lore has long been a part of literature and film making, it is only in today’s open sandbox-like games we can really get enough immersion to feel like we are creating our own story. That said, many open-world games, despite the expansive nature of their environments, still have a general set of rails guiding you along the path to the ultimate end of the game.
The brilliance of No Man’s Sky is that it doesn’t spoon feed you a story line to keep you engaged. There are no quests, no leveling up of your character, no scripted sense of accomplishment. Your own observations and experiences are what drive the game forward for you. The general aim of the game is to get to the centre of a galaxy where there will there be good reasons to continue playing after that point is reached. Indeed, many players will likely never make that journey, instead preferring to have their own adventures and telling their own stories in their own unique way.
Something Sean Murray will no doubt be pleased about.