No Man’s Sky is set to be one of the biggest releases of 2016, thanks to the talent of Hello Games, and the enormous backing of Sony treating it as a first party game. The intrigue has never been higher, and while we only know so much about it (the game is deliberately being shrouded in mystery so as not to spoil it), what we do know is that it’s a space exploration game without a strict story.
It relies on your own inner Indiana Jones to propel you forwards into the procedurally generated game world and discover things for yourself. You’ll need to gather resources, fight the space police, and even keep your ship in order.
But that’s not enough for us. What we can intuit based on the figures we have is mind blowing, and could mean this is the biggest game we’ve ever seen. These are the numbers behind the game that everyone wants to play.
That’s the number of planets waiting to be discovered inside the universe of No Man’s Sky. Just let that sink in for a bit. While that number may seem impossible to even comprehend, it’s actually a quintillion (18 zeros), and means that, at least unofficially, No Man’s Sky must be the biggest game ever made – and we’re sure the Guinness World Record will follow in time. It dwarves even the biggest competition.
But let’s be fair to it and compare to Mass Effect, a game that’s also set in the vastness of space. While there are plenty of planets you can land on in the Mass Effect universe, many of them are small, compact areas that only allow you to explore a tiny area. In total, there are over 170 places you can land in the first game, which is obviously quite a bit short of a quintillion, by a factor of around 10 to the power of 16.
Looking on the EVE Online forums, someone has mined the data of the game and discovered that there are a total of 66,856 planets, so that’s only off by 10 to the power of 14 or so. If a game is making EVE look small, then we’ve got a seriously big experience on our hands.
The theoretical population of No Man’s Sky is so big you couldn’t fit it on a calculator screen. If there are 18 quintillion planets out there, just how many people would exist in a universe that size? Well, let’s assume every planet is roughly the size of Earth (7.4 billion as of 2016), then that would mean the universe of No Man’s Sky could contain (deep breath required, here) 136,505,906,145,450,681,958,400,000,000 people. Or humanoids. Peopleoids. Aliens. You get our drift.
But that’s silly, of course – not every planet will be the size of Earth. Let’s assume, more reasonably, that one in every 1,000 planets is inhabited by an Earth-sized population. Well, it’ll still require a deep breath before you say it, but that gives us the more reasonable inhabited universe figure of 136,505,906,145,450,681,958,400,000. Hey, at least it lops three zeros off that figure, right? Thankfully though, most planets will be barren, though, meaning we won’t need to invest in an industrial-sized filofax to keep note of all the people we meet.
To make all these planets took just 15 people – and they did it in fewer than 1,000 days as well. While that’s a monumental task given the amount of content on offer, what that also means is that if each planet were to be created manually, each member of staff would have to create around 1,229,782,938,247,303,441,066 planets per day. Given that the 15 staff now include PR, and various other staff who aren’t involved in programing, that number would actually be higher. Especially as during 2015, Hello Games was actually only 13 strong!
Of course, the game wasn’t made that way, and the entire world is procedurally generated. Regardless, Hello Games built a probe that we will never see, designed to fly to every single planet and document its travels, all in the interest of ensuring it all works.
The number of copies of No Man’s Sky already sold in just one country – and it’s not even out yet. No Man’s Sky has already eclipsed sales of Hello Games’ previous titles with pre-orders alone. With over 170,000 pre-orders (in North America) at the time of writing, No Man’s Sky has already pre-sold more copies in the USA than Hello’s previous title sold in its first week. That title was Joe Danger, and on PSN it sold 50,000 copies in that first week.
That’s the number of days you’d need to live for in order to discover everything in No Man’s Sky for yourself. And even then, that’s being generous. Let’s assume that you somehow find a way to play all day, every day. You forgo sleep, food, relationships, and everything else we all need to exist. But let’s assume you manage it, and you play nothing but No Man’s Sky. Perhaps you explore 24 planets a day (one for every hour of the day), of varying size and scope: that would mean you’d need 922,337,203,685,477,580 days on this Earth to see the lot.
We hate to break it to you, but that would mean you’d need 2,526,951,242,973,911 years to see it all. It doesn’t take our scientific calculator to work out that nobody lives that long.
The average life expectancy in the UK is around 82 years, which means that if you played from birth for every hour of the day, you’d see 718,320 planets which, while entirely respectable, is the merest fraction of the game. In fact, even if you had everyone in the world working this same job, it still wouldn’t be possible in a human lifetime – unless the world’s population suddenly swells to around 18 trillion or so. If you ever needed to see how big the scope for this game is, it’s right there.