There was bound to be a little disappointment when Hello Games’ ambitious universe was unveiled to the world, but the outcry surrounding the supposed repetition in No Man’s Sky has grown fairly loud.
In spite of the recent revelation that No Man’s Sky has more species of life than Earth, there are still claims the creatures and planets contained within the game’s 18 quintillion planet universe are more similar than distinct.
As tempting as it is to say these naysayers are way off base, they’re technically correct. There’s a lot of similarity from planet to planet. However, that’s not the fault of Sean Murray, Hello Games, or the algorithm at the center of No Man’s Sky.
It’s just a fact of nature.
Everything Looks the Same!
When No Man’s Sky was first announced, Sean Murray claimed the game was so diverse that even if you were capable of exploring one planet every second, it would still take 4 to 5 billion years to see repetition.
The developer added, “Effectively, fuck you, guy in the comments. Prove us wrong.”
When people began the game crash-landed on their first planet, everything they saw, heard, and shot was something startlingly new. On their tenth planet, that luster had worn off. Lazygamer called the sights and sounds, “an exercise in procedurally-generated monotony”.
Reddit, too, is littered with several threads, like this one, that play host to the ongoing argument among players as to whether No Man’s Sky’s procedural library is too small, or its algorithm not creative enough.
Sean Murray is Right, Technically
Whether you realize it or not, the odds of running into a pair of truly identical planets in No Man’s Sky is astronomical. It’s simply that the diversity is operating on a much more minute scale than you may have hoped for. And that’s not Sean Murray’s fault, that’s just how natural evolution works.
Let’s take the Birds of Paradise in New Guinea, as an example, which come in two varieties, the Greater Bird of Paradise and the Lesser Bird of Paradise. These are them:
From a biological standpoint, these species are so close that there’s almost nothing to distinguish them except mild variations in the color of their feathers. However, that tiny difference is enough to insure that Lesser Birds of Paradise aren’t getting down with Greater Birds of Paradise. To the human eye, the distinction is minimal, but to the animal, the difference is massive.
The same goes with No Man’s Sky’s algorithm. That scorpion creature attacking you on the radioactive planet may look a lot like the scorpion creature who was giving you problems on the ice world a few systems back, but you’re looking at two different creatures.
Singularities are there, they’re just not very common. In No Man’s Sky, as in life, if you want to find the really special stuff, you just have to look a little closer.