No Man’s Sky: A Universe Filled with Lore and Language

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No Man’s Sky: A Universe Filled with Lore and Language

With a near-infinite universe to explore, upcoming PS4 sci-fi epic No Man’s Sky is promising adventure without compare. However, think of any great space saga, and it’s at least partially defined by its cast of characters. With an intergalactic sandbox made up of 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 unique planets, how on Earth is developer Hello Games planning to fill all those worlds with consistent story, dialogue, lore, and language?

Well, as has generally proven the case when it comes to all things No Man’s Sky, it turns out the answer is pretty remarkable. Last week, I stopped by Hello’s compact Guildford HQ to find out more.

“We’ve always talked about having factions in the game. It’s something we’ve always wanted. We had ideas on how we wanted that to fit in No Man’s Sky, but it’s taken us a while to get to the point where we’re happy enough to show it,” creator Sean Murray tells me, before launching into a demo.

No Man's Sky on PS4

In short, here’s how it works. As you travel around the universe you’ll encounter individuals from several distinct races. As with everything else in the game, how they look and what they say is procedurally generated based on a set of variables defined by the Hello Games team.

You’ll be able to trade with them, gain upgrades, learn more about the game’s lore, forge alliances and so forth.

Sound straightforward? Well, not so fast.

“The razor we use to cut features — to decide whether to implement them or not — is ‘does this thing encourage players to go out and explore the universe more?’,” explains Sean.

“With NPCs in No Man’s Sky, you actually have to learn their language; they speak to you in their native tongue. The more you travel around the universe, the more you learn their language, and the more you can communicate with them.”

No Man's Sky on PS4

Yes, you read that correctly. Hello Games has devised a number of distinct alien languages which, at the game’s outset, you will not be able to understand. However, as you explore the universe, discover relics, and talk to new NPCs, you’ll slowly start picking up their dialects.

Sean goes on to explain that there is real value in developing relationships with these characters. If you make the effort to learn the language of a particular race and interact with them regularly, your standing with them will increase. If you’re tight with a particular race, they’ll duly give you preferential treatment — cheaper prices perhaps, or better equipment.

Indeed, if you want to buy a better ship that might allow you to travel to more distant star systems, you’ll need to cozy up with these factions.

Conversely, just as it would in real life, blundering into conversations without knowing the language can have negative consequences. Saying the wrong thing in a dialogue tree will likely result in your standing decreasing, or in the trader ripping you off, or in you losing a useful item simply out of confusion. Worse still, it might even end up in your new-found acquaintance attacking you.

As has been hinted at in previous trailers, there are a number of ways to play No Man’s Sky. You can focus on exploration, on fighting, on survival, or on trading, and the NPC system feeds directly into this overarching framework.

“The nice thing about it is that the NPCs are divided up into different races. So one race is perhaps more focused on exploration and science, and knowing that helps you decide how to best interact with them,” says Sean.

No Man's Sky on PS4

“If you’re playing the game for exploration’s sake, you might want to focus on that race. But if you’re playing the game and all you want to do is kill things, there are more military-based races, so you might want to try and become friends with them.”

As mentioned, there are a number of races in the game, and each speaks its own unique language. So, how long is it going to take the average player to wrap their tongues around a foreign dialect to the point of fluency?

“It depends how much you’re seeking it out. Even if it’s all you do, you’re definitely talking hours and hours of play to learn a language. But I think most players will never become fluent, unless it’s specifically something they’re seeking out.

“And there’s an element of fun to that! I like some of the silliness that ensues.

“Say you were to go into a farming building, and there are some instructions on the wall written in an alien language telling you how to run the machinery. You could make sure you have the necessary language skills to make sense of it, or you could just run up to the console and randomly press buttons. Take the latter approach and the sign could read, ‘DEFINITELY DO NOT PRESS THE RED BUTTON,’ and you wouldn’t know it. That’s fun to me!”

No Man's Sky on PS4

It’s probably important to stress that the interactions you have with these NPCs are reasonably light. No Man’s Sky is not a narrative-driven RPG with a script to follow — it’s procedural, and enormous on a scale that is impossible to properly comprehend. Don’t expect contained quest lines à la, say, Mass Effect.

“You’re not sat there talking about philosophy, or discussing the weather for hours on end,” stresses Sean. “You are doing things like trading, or asking for technology, or sharing crafting recipes.

“We’re not trying to fill the entire universe with dialogue trees and long-running dramas. That’s not what it’s about.

“Having said that, being No Man’s Sky, there is a procedural element to your interactions. The AI you talk to will know the name of the planet you’re on and will reference it. They’ll reference wanting certain things based on the environment they’re in. They’ll know if it’s cold, or hot, or whatever. You’ll see a reasonable amount of variety — it’s not just pre-baked dialogue.”

Before all of you who failed French class at school start getting a little nervous, No Man’s Sky is not expecting you to learn complex grammar, syntax, verb forms, pronunciation, and so forth. To take a simplistic view of it, the languages are more like codes to decipher — generally speaking, you’re simply replacing a word for a word. That was a deliberate decision, made in order to foster a sense of collaboration and coordination amongst the game’s community of players. If you figure out what a particular word means, you can paste it up online and share the knowledge.

No Man's Sky on PS4

“Some of the languages — well, one in particular — is much harder to learn than the others,” Sean adds. “I think it will probably only be possible for people to decipher some of the dialogue by working together online.

“We’re not trying to build something that people will go out and try to speak in the real world, like how I learned Klingon when I was a kid because I thought it would be a great ice-breaker. Turned out not to be the case!

“I don’t expect to find people meeting at conventions and speaking one of our languages. That would be awful; please don’t do that!

“It’s more about creating a really interesting reason for people to explore the game and get some really emergent results.”

So, there you have it. Brush up on your social skills and learn some manners — they’ll likely be just as important as a quick trigger finger come June.

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  • This game seems like it would be something I’d really enjoy.

    I love the codes, the exploration, even the art style is really neat.

    Which is why it makes me so sad that it lacks one option that completely breaks it for me. It doesn’t offer the option to allow me to play from third person, so I can get a connection to my character and the experience.

    Oh well, either way… best of luck. Given the hype, I’m sure it’ll be a success for you.

    • First-person allows for a much deeper level of immersion than staring at the back of a generic model.

    • You’re welcome to feel that way. For me it completely BREAKS immersion… to each their own, so why not offer both?

    • @ WingerNu1 – You’re wrong.

    • First person view feels like someone put a box over your head and cut out a slot for your eyes. There is almost 0 viewing range.

    • Now now folks, no need to be rude. Different people find immersion from different things. I happen to find it immersive to connect to a character, while he seems to find it immersive to see from the pseudo-first person perspective.

      Neither of us are wrong, we just find that connection in different ways. It’s just a pity that this game doesn’t offer options to cater to both.

    • Both PoVs should be available, options are fantastic for consumers.

      Imo, nothing beats 1st person view for complete immersion. No over-the-shoulder; you see what the see like putting on a pair of 3D glasses.

    • @luvtoseek my problem with it is that it really isn’t like that. When you look through a pair of glasses, you still get all of the peripheral vision and self-awareness that is normal. For me, losing that is too jarring for me to feel like I ‘am’ the character, so it just trashes immersion for me.

      But I can understand why not having that doesn’t bother some people.

    • YOU are the character. You are not playing a character. You are the protagonist. Just like Fallout.

    • @Hackedlife See, I can’t accept that. Why? Because I don’t have peripheral vision, I can’t feel my body, I don’t know what’s happening around me without looking… the normal senses that I possess on a day to day basis… they’re missing. And without those, I can’t feel like I AM the character.

      I get that you aren’t bothered by that, but for me… it just makes me feel so disconnected from the experience. It drives home definitively that I am NOT the character and since I can’t see them I don’t even KNOW them… so for me, it ruins the experience for me. Until we get all-senses VR, I doubt my problem with first person is going to go away and we’re still a looong ways away from that…. so as a result, I can’t tolerate first person games.

      Which is why I recommend both options be present. Like they are in fallout, to return to your example.

    • LOL Okay guy….

    • @ALL

      Interesting…I do believe the difference is that people want to feel as close to stepping into an avatar rather than controlling an avatar with puppet strings.

      Obviously, the very existence of a controller marks the idea of a game character strictly as a puppet under you the Master Puppeteer.

      The thing is, the closer to not feeling that way is generally the better. By seeing the back of your self-controled character, it is yet another barrier to remind yourself that this is not you…Like a floating camera filming around the puppet you control.

      Again, the fact that you cannot yet have peripheral vision would allow one to assume a 3rd person perspective would solve this dilemma. However, what it truly solves is the frustration within the forgotten element.

    • (Continued)

      That is that you are playing a game. And it’s not fair if you can’t properly tell where the danger is coming from. With more and more sensory immersion, that issue becomes less and less present.

      Failure becomes measured by a lack of technology, and is deemed unfair. So yes… 3rd person mitigates that unfair variable. But it does so at a cost. And that cost is even further from true immersion.

      I personally don’t mind a boxed out 1st person perspective, but I am all for the enhanced VR visual input that takes advantage of peripheral vision not previously possible…At least effectively.

    • The whole idea of “immersion” has always been weird to me. The idea that you feel like you are the character or whatever is nonsense to me. I’ve never once felt “immersed” by a game. Probably because it’s game. It’s not real. I’m sitting in a chair in my room. Not buying a game because it’s not third person, or first person, is just weird to me. I think the simple fact that it’s a video game is what breaks “immersion” for me.

      All that said, I’m all for options in games, so it would be cool for the option to be there for people that can’t play in first person. Even if it doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Playstation VR.. Think ahead, not within that 22 inch led monitor..

    • It has to be 1st person because 1st person is a little scary(because of the lack of peripheral vision). I imagine the devs want you to feel a bit vulnerable as u explore strange new worlds. 3rd person would turn it into Ratchet & Clank.

    • @caseystoner It’s an exploration game, the fear should come from the scale… the sheer scope of it and the realization of how small your character is Not from some cheap gimmick or jump scare…

    • @welmosca: No. He actually isn’t.

  • The game is looking FANTASTIC! The lighting has certainly improved, and is much more refined than previous showings without betraying the aesthetic.

    I *really* hope that VR support is something that is considered, but I will be getting the game regardless!

  • Reminds me of a combination of Starflight, Spore, Elite, Star Raiders, and Star Control along with others. Really hope it lives up to the hype. So many games today fall short on various levels. Been following this game since the beginning.

    I am sooooooo on the fence about pre-purchasing it as I rarely do since being severely burned over the last five years.

    • Why do you HAVE to preorder it?? Just get it when it comes out after you’ve seen more and made a more insightful decision. There is no point to preordering a game with no exclusive bonuses

    • There are preorder bonuses. Amazon gives you a ship already fitted with a hyperdrive. GameStop gives you the same ship, 10,000 units and a multitool pre-fitted with the plasma upgrade.

  • So hyped for this game, going to be my game of the year most defiantly.

  • OMG!! can’t wait!!! this game is so up my alley.. fallout 4 was a blast but this is more my type of open world where we aren’t told what to do but make the game our own. can’t wait to start exploring the vast space of No Man’s Sky in june!

  • So, will dialogue language kind of work like the Al-Bed Language did in Final Fantasy X? As you learn it, the subtitles gradually change to English (or whatever language you are)?

  • i have a question, is it going to be a collector’s edition for No man’s sky like the pc version or something similar for the PS4?

    • iam8bit has a sweet PC Collector’s Ed.

      For such a promising title, I’m sure the PS4 version is going to offer a similar release.

  • This game looks good and really promising,I really want it to succeed but the hype over it is too big…can already see on the horizon people saying it was a disappointment,that the game sucks and all that mumbo-jumbo.With the spoiled “gamers” we have nowadays its most certain that history will repeat itself,since the launch of PS4 we’ve had a lot of great games that became underrated because of the hype built over them prior to release.People judging games wrongly without even playing them to their full extent is something sad to see.

    Anyway I know No Man’s Sky will be good…looking forward to play it,game focuses a lot on exploration which is a thing I do naturally in every game.I hope there is a lot of things to do on it cuz it looks like a game you get lost on by months.

  • Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . .. . .

    The only things anyone wants to hear about this game is:

    1. DATE
    2. PRICE


    Otherwise shut up about the game.

  • Will this require a PS+ account since there will be so many other users, or is it just the planets and not necessary to meet up with other travelers? if the former, I might just have to subscribe to PS+ afterall.

    • Unless things have changed recently, they’ve gone on record before as saying the game will be fully playable offline. Obviously any online play will likely require PS+, but simply playing the game on your own shouldn’t.

    • groovy, thanks. Though I might end up getting plus for Sword Coast Legends anyway.

    • Hello Games has said that it will not require a PS+ account to play.

  • The more I hear about this game the more i want it. It sounds like it has great potential for interstellar discovery and exploration with some very nice surprises. I have a good feeling it won’t disappoint

  • Mark my words, this will be the biggest let down of the year.

    • @DinoCap666 it really depends how successful hello games pull all of these systems together. I’m kinda with you the hype is so crazy that there’s no way it could exceed it. I really want to see what kind of legs this game has after release.

    • Any game with extremely hyped expectations is most likely going to e a huge letdown.

      So this, Dark Souls 3, and Uncharted 4 are probably the biggest candidates.

    • @ Seluhir – People already know what to expect from UC4 and DS3 so its very unlikely that they will fail or be a huge letdown….in the other hand No Man’s Sky is a new IP and people always expect a lot of things from highly known new IPs.So UC2 and DS3 are out of the candidates list.

    • 4 meant UC4 there.

    • @Welmo That actually increases the odds. By inflating the expectations based off of past successes, people may be thinking DS3 or UC4 are going to be way better than they turn out to be.

      For me, my expectations of ds3 in particular are so low so I know *I* won’t be disappointed(especially since I almost certainly won’t play it ;))… but the masses may well be.

  • So your going to enjoy virtual reality in 3rd person view?? Come on

    • I’m actually looking forward to some creative top-down uses for VR. I think a turn based strategy RPG from a third person view would be really cool. Looking at the battlefield from above and moving pieces kind of like a chessboard, but so much more.

      But I do think that there are some interesting possibilities for TP viewpoints in VR in addition to that as well. I think the first rush of games will be all pretty generic first person shooters, exploration, and flight sim… but I think once people start getting tired of those we’ll start seeing some really interesting stuff explored.

      That being said, if we ever get all-senses VR, I’d be interested to play first person. But I think we’re at least a decade away from that, if we EVER reach it.

  • Im not too interested but imagining it in VR makes me excited. Ill def get it if its VR compatible

  • This sounds really neat. I can’t wait to get it.

  • The only thing I wish this game had is more realistic models. Those cartoonish creatures definitely breaks the realism. This is one of the reasons I skipped Firewatch.

  • I think I may take the military route, be the a-hole and take over each planet to steal the resources and create an empire. So many possibilities.

  • I want to get this game and i find it interesting, but i do seek “endgame” when playing games. I think i’ll enjoy exploring and such but i’ll need an actual main objective to achieve, so im hoping this has one, procedural or not.

    • They have said that the main objective is to upgrade your ship so that you can reach the center of the galaxy/universe and once you get there that is the end game of sorts after that you can continue to roam space

  • Some people here want a 3rd person view? I wish it would be 3rd person with the camera pointing at the front of the character, not from behind. I wanna see my guy running towards the camera so I can always see his face. and have small rear view mirror views on each side of the screen so i can see whats coming. that would be so cool

  • I have to admit i love the learn another language thing in the game but i would rather try to learn a REAL WORLD language in the game that is REALLY! useful in real life while enjoying playing the game. Though aside, it remember me FFX which i also liked that addition.

  • Billcipher123618

    This sounds amazing. I’m way into astronomy and codes.

  • #1 candidate for VR. Would be even better with a cockpit.

  • “Last week, I stopped by Hello’s compact Guildford HQ to find out more.”

    They should at least force-create one headquarters that is constantly flooded ;)

    Not sure where I sit on the “things are interesting because there’s no drama, just cost/benefit” angle.

    Want drama. I think. Maybe an addon pack or something?

  • Is there a beta and if so when is it

  • I’m all aboard the hype train on this one. I’ve been reading about this game since, what, 2014? Was it the year before?

    Anyway, sure, I fell for it before with Fable. I read all about that game and it sounded fascinating, but the resulting game was nothing like what had been promises. The difference I feel with this one is how each article I’ve read has not just gone into great detail of the game, but also explained how the game is being made.

    So far, the only concern I have is if a lack of direction in the game will hurt it at all. Of course, a storyline is nice, but if I get bored with exploring that many planets, then it sounds like my problem.

  • The language idea sounds great and I dig the look.

  • I think this will be the Game of the year maybe?

    • Inevitably every game is game of the year to someone, while sucking to someone else.

      If you’re talking from a critics standpoint? If these deliver what they promise, UC4, The Last Guardian and this will probably be neck and neck for most sites. For those sites headed by the masochistic, DS3 will also be in the running. For those few sites who acknowledge the existence of Japanese RPGs on platforms other than the 3DS(which, lets face it, is not many of them sadly – I can’t actually think of any big ones off the top of my head), Persona 5 and Nier Automata may be contenders as well.

      I would say that’s a pretty safe breakdown of what we can expect to be on the GotY lists this year, assuming the games deliver on what they’re promising.

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