No Man's Sky (3)
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No Man’s Sky and the Naming of God

In Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 film Pi, a mathematician is doomed by a recitation of the divine name. Young Max Cohen, the Icarus of New York City, is a socially anxious shut-in who devotes his time and his ultra-sophisticated computer technology to finding a predictable pattern in the stock market. Cohen names his computer Euclid; both the name of a Greek geometrist and the starting galaxy in No Man’s Sky. His conviction, expressed as a tidy syllogism in a recurring voiceover fragment, is that since nature is made of patterns, and math is the language of nature, everything in nature has a…

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Every creature in No Man’s Sky is a dog

You drift slowly into the unnamed planet’s atmosphere, eager to set your spacecraft down and explore the endless possibilities put forward by the procedurally generated landscape. The ship begins to shake gently as you make your descent, the view outside reduced to a motion blur of saturated colors as the stars and sky blend seamlessly together. After breaking through the clouds and surveying the area, you pick a safe patch of ground to steer your ship toward. Perhaps this planet is full of water or giant rock formations. Is the fauna abundant here, or nonexistent? The ship has landed safely—it’s…

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Disappointed by No Man’s Sky? Here are 10 cheap alternates

Given the mixed reaction to No Man’s Sky—we love it, others not so much—plus the fact that you have to lay down $60 on it in one go (not to mention the troubles with the PC version), perhaps you’re hesitant to buy in. Or, perhaps you’ve played it and have been disappointed by it. That’s fine. But there’s still probably some part of you looking to salve that itch for free-willed space exploration, to lumber across alien landscapes and discover sights that, in all likeliness, no one else will ever see. Well, that itch doesn’t need to go without a…

No Man's Sky
Review

No Man’s Sky is a theater of processes

I remember making a mental note when I read that Sean Murray’s “favorite thing” in No Man’s Sky were the space station windows. On two separate occasions, he even went so far as to take people directly to the same window, as if it was one of the prime features of the game. “I’m going to show you the stupidest thing,” explained Murray to IGN, “A videogame window,” quickly adding “but it’s super-cool.” It seemed like a particularly odd thing for him to say. Here was Murray, the face of a game with 18 quintillion planets, a game whose selling…

No Man's Sky
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How to understand No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is out. You’ll have to forgive me, but that feels like something worth saying. Not because the game is the second coming, or because it is “the last game” we’ll ever need, but because, even after all this time, it remains a game built in service of a tantalizing idea. When Sean Murray spoke to Kill Screen’s Jamin Warren earlier this year he put it simply: “the emotion that we wanted to get from people is that emotion of, ‘I have travelled to a place and discovered it.’” That idea, of true discovery in a digital world,…

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The new mundanity of space games

The conference floor was full of astronauts, engineers, and students. Bodies quickly filed past each other to find an open seat. My team of 4th graders waited impatiently to sit. Before I could join my fellow classmates, a hand reached out to guide me to a new seat, away from the others. Instead of sitting a few rows back, I was ushered toward the front. Next to me was John Glenn. Former astronaut. The first American to orbit the Earth. Fifth man to travel to space. I stared up at him in awe. He’s been to outer space. I want…

No Man's Sky trading post
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What can architects learn from No Man’s Sky?

Three years after it was initially announced at E3 2013, No Man’s Sky has officially gone gold. Few games in recent memory have created so much buzz. The near-infinite universe that No Man’s Sky offers is plenty reason to be excited but the way Hello Games is creating that universe using procedural generation is equally inspiring. Procedural generation is a type of design methodology in which components or elements are handcrafted and each given unique properties. These components are then fed into a database which generates forms based on a series of rules and regulations put into place by the…

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The fierce independence of the No Man’s Sky soundtrack

Samizdat—literally “I self publish” in its native Russian—is a term that buzzes with connective meaning. First used by the poet Nikolai Glazkov, it describes the banned political essays, literature, music, and poetry that were circulated by makeshift independent presses in the Eastern Bloc. A response to the extreme censorship of foreign and dissident works during the 1950s and 60s, samizdat publications were emblematic of a fierce spirit of independence, produced through unlikely means. Carbon-copied verse, hand-typed novels, even bone records cut from old X-rays, were distributed by hand, passed from trusted friend to trusted friend, to be read or listened…

No Man's Sky
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The apocalyptic fandom of No Man’s Sky

According to American evangelist Harold Camping, the Rapture was supposed to have occurred on May 21, 2011—the date was moved back five months to October when nothing happened. Apocalyptic preacher Ronald Weinland predicted that the world would end on September 30, 2008. This date was also revised to May 27, 2012, and then May 19, 2013. In a similar vein, No Man’s Sky was supposed to have been released on June 21, 2016—that particular rapture was pushed back to August 9. Though the fact of fandom is hardly unique to No Man’s Sky, the degree of devotion the game’s fans…