'No Many's Sky' Tried, But the Perfect Space Video Game Doesn't Exist Yet

"People want the exploration; they want open-ended...You can go wherever."

Video games and outer space may seem like an obvious combination, but from early arcade titles like Space Invaders to big-budget epics like the Mass Effect series, something’s always been missing.

“People want that sense of discovery and exploration; that’s the mystery of space,” games writer Dan Ryckert tells Inverse in the latest episode of I Need My Space. “There is a major market for that, about the idea, ‘what if I could be on a planet, then I can just hop in my ship, and just take off into space and go wherever I want to.’

“People want the exploration; they want open-ended…You can go wherever.”

We’ve come close to that ideal space exploration game, but we’ve haven’t achieved it yet, he tells hosts Rae Paoletta and Steve Ward. The open-ended nature of some video games like Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, works on Earth but the technology required for infinite space exploration just hasn’t arrived yet.

For example, No Man’s Sky promised a procedurally generated universe filled with planets to explore and creatures to discover. At one point, the developer even teased a game so big you’d never see 99 percent of it, but when the game actually launched, it couldn’t really live up to the hype.

“Once this game came out, it wasn’t exactly what it was sold as,” Ryckert says. “The idea is really cool, but it is so far from what was sold prior to release.”

Thankfully, there are other great space-based games to scratch that itch, even if none of them offer the type of true exploration we’re waiting for. Ryckert points to two Nintendo classics: spaceship shooter Star Fox 64 and interstellar platformer Super Mario Galaxy 2. (Personally, I’d also add the Ratchet and Clank series, which features a mix of space-based combat, futuristic weapons, and goofy-looking aliens, to that list as a personal favorite.)

Looking to the future, Ryckert is also cautiously optimistic about Star Citizen, a crowd-funded game where you’ll fight and trade with other players in a massive online universe.

“It’s been in development for years and years and years and it’s still not out,” he said. “There’s a major market for that… the idea of like, ‘What if I could be on a planet, and then I could just hop in my ship and just take off into space?’”

Listen to episode 10, “Big Dumb Space Questions,” on Apple Podcasts now.

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