Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past week, you’ve probably noticed No Man’s Sky arrived on PC and PlayStation 4. A game both incomprehensibly large and strangely obtuse in design. It has carved the gaming community down the middle, with vocal camps on either side arguing for and against this ridiculously ambitious 'indie' title.
Whatever your take on the quality of No Man’s Sky, there’s no doubting it’s a towering achievement. At 18 quintillion planets it’s millions of times larger than just about any gaming world ever created. It would take billions of years for the entirety of humanity to visit every planet. It all works through a so-called ‘superformula’ developed by Hello Games. All it takes is a seed (in this case a developer’s mobile number) thrown into the superformula, which then spits out No Man’s Sky’s universe.
The problem with this is that the process is inherently random. Hello Games fed in the basic building blocks and the formula stitches them together in various ways, some interesting, some not so much. You might visit a planet with huge dinosaurs playing in a lake, or delve into a subterranean cave filled within swimming cow-pineapples. Equally, you could land on a barren wasteland filled with nothing but iron rocks.
Both procedural and random generation are nothing new of course. Minecraft has made this its business for years, as have the countless roguelikes doing the rounds. But is this damaging to the game as whole? Are randomly generated levels inherently bad?
On the flipside there are probably billions and billions of fantastic worlds in No Man’s Sky. More than could ever have possibly been created manually. NMS flies in the face of the old adage ‘quality not quantity’ by deliver both. You just need to know where to look.
So the big questions is, does procedural generation make for a good game? Or does it put you off a title entirely? Get voting and then share your thoughts below!