No Man's Sky, the dream come true of exploring outer space, had a rugged takeoff towards a worthy resurgence.
At the 2013 VGX we got a promise: we would travel to space. The announcement of No Man’s Sky left an audience breathless with the illusion of an outer space built through an absolute procedural technology, in which every planet, star, system and extraterrestrial species would be unique. In subsequent videogame conferences such as E3 and Paris Games Week, expectations were fueled by a title that predicted a gender revolution. Sean Murray shone with enthusiasm in each presentation, reeling the benefits of his new work. And yet, in 2016, disappointment broke out in the community: No Man's Sky had taken off at medium gas. But Hello Games did not give up, and continued working on its spaceship until it implemented all the promises that had been left behind at launch. Today, August 14, 2019, comes No Man's Sky: Beyond, the definitive update of the adventure between galaxies And today we also tell you the story of its commander, Sean Murray, founder of Hello Games, and of his own journey of the hero as Videogame designer.
An early space pilot
Sean Murray was born in Ireland and lived a good season of his childhood in Australia. His childhood was soaked in science fiction that he devoured in novels and video games from the ranch where he lived, according to an interview with EnGadget (2016). His creativity was aroused at the tender age of 6, when he programmed his first video game: a textual adventure that he is ashamed of as an adult, as he confessed to The Galactic Observer in 2016. However, the idea of creating No Man's Sky had already sprouted on him. His inspiration was Elite (Acornsoft, 1984): “When I played, I saw that sky so incredible that it resembles that of the Australian nights and I thought: 'These skies are going to come together and I will visit those planets that leave in Elite, I will land on them' . Then it seemed so simple. I thought it was something that would happen in a couple of years. ” (Sean Murray for EnGadget, 2016)
Sean Murray's dream was to develop video games, which led his studies to them. In 2000, he graduated in Computer Science at the University College of Cork. A year later, he started working at Criterion Games as chief programmer in the Burnout saga, and in 2006 he became Kuju's technical director. At this stage, the designer acquired a baggage that would be useful for the enrichment of No Man’s Sky for three years after its launch: “We did Burnout after Burnout. And although it was fun, it wasn't as much as the first one, where you saw the clearest sky and the game had more creative freedom. And making games is very difficult; Burnout 4 was as difficult as Burnout 3, although it wouldn't have to be that way. If you are going to work hard, it is more exciting to work on something innovative. Upgrading No Man’s Sky allows us to focus on what's new, instead of revisiting the entire game with different characters, ships and environments. ”(Sean Murray for Games Industry, 2016 interview)
The foundation of Hello Games
In 2008, Sean Murray took his creative drive one stage further and founded Hello Games with other colleagues: Dave Ream and Grant Duncan: “Getting into the industry was my dream job. (…) I loved it, but there was nothing to I want more than to start with my own means. The others had the same idea (…). Nor did we go around many times, we assumed that we were going to work together and form a new company. We feel a very spontaneous and unique connection. ”(Sean Murray for Gamasutra, 2009 interview).
Sean Murray during his interview for The Galactic Observer in 2016.
Hello Games hired other indies developers accustomed to artisanal design: people accustomed to making a videogame for themselves in all its aspects: graphics, sound, etc. The first project of the newborn study was Joe Danger, inspired by the acrobatic motorcyclist Evel Knievel: “Grant brought a toy box that was stored in the attic. Then something very nice happened, like an instant power to demonstrate our ideas for video games with an Optimus Prime in our hands. I think that's how we designed our next five games in that first week, with toys on the floor of the office. But there was a very recurring one: an acrobatic circuit by Evel Knievel. We sat down to play and built larger and larger ramps, which went out the window and down the aisles. We began to create a character inspired by this hapless: the most daring specialist in the world. It looked like that character you imagined as a child when you played with those circuits. The game design came out alone. ” (Sean Murray for Gamasutra, 2009)
The result was Joe Danger, an acrobatic motorcycling title that mixed races and platforms, with a cartoon aesthetic. However, finding a publisher was not as easy as bringing the daredevil pilot to life. “The whole world rejected us: Sony, Microsoft and so many others,” recalls Sean Murray in Engadget. After nine months of fruitless search, the study ran out of money. According to the developer in the interview cited, on a drunken night he came up with a desperate solution: sell his own house to pay for the rest of Joe Danger's development. When he cleared himself of alcohol, Murray was still firm in his purpose: “I had bought that house with the money I earned in EA, it was dirty money, like a blood diamond. He had to sell it; It was bad karma. ” After Sean's sacrifice, Joe Danger made his debut in 2010 and garnered praise from critics. : “Joe Danger seems to be designed by Nintendo: continually amazes and delights, like the best Nintendo first-party titles. It has bright graphics and cartoon, and the level design encourages you to go through them again to find the hidden stars and coins ”(IGN, 2010 Reviews). Sales were also not negligible: 50,000 copies in its first week, which became 108,000 in its first three months, according to Gamasutra. Hello Games had fuel left to launch the sequel Joe Danger 2: The Movie (2012) and finally aroused the interest of the distributors. One of these was Sony, with whom he made his most ambitious project and that would make Sean Murray's dream of traveling to the stars come true: No Man’s Sky.
Joe Danger art
A rugged takeoff
No Man’s Sky was conceived as an exploration adventure whose goal was to reach the center of the universe. Its announcement in the VGX of 2013 left us speechless with exquisite landscapes, grandiloquent oceans, a fantastic fauna and the promise of an absolutely procedural generation of planets. The expectations were settled and Sean Murray carried out an advertising campaign that he could not manage. The designer never felt comfortable with the press, as he recognized The Guardian last 2018, where the same medium describes him as “talkative and nervous”, an attitude we can see in his other public appearances. Sean was carried away by the passion that inspired his own creation, and advanced content that had not yet been built: 18 trillion planets to visit and the persuasive clue in a multiplayer way among that vastness. Murray said the odds of crossing with another scout were less than 0, but that they could explore together if this happened. During the 2015 E3 gameplay demonstration, the developer said there would be systems that would never be discovered. No Man’s Sky, no doubt, was an ambitious title that would break the limits of freedom intrinsic to the sandbox genre; It would not be an open world, but an almost infinite universe. And the community was infected by the enthusiasm Sean Murray expressed for a work he had dreamed of since his childhood.
The launch of No Man’s Sky was on August 9, 2016. The expectation resulted in such successful sales that positioned No Man’s Sky among the second best-selling title in North America that same month, according to NPD Group. SuperData Research confirmed that digital sales positioned space adventure in the second most sold in all consoles, while in PC it reached 6th place. Critics, on the other hand, praised Sean Murray's work as an experience that made us feel tiny in the universe, but warned that it was a niche title that was not aimed at the general public. “The power of No Man's Sky is to make you feel insignificant,” said Wired, who also pointed out in his criticism that the game was not intended for the mainstream: “Its director Sean Murray has warned that it is a niche game, intended for a smaller audience than its grandiloquent campaign makes us believe. ” Ars Technica and Eurogamer criticized the repetitiveness of the game, whose algorithm was about falling into the monotony of limiting the player to a reduced number of tasks.
Hello Games celebrating that No Man's Sky had reached the gold phase.
On the other hand, the disappointment of the community was capitalized when in their games they missed what was promised in the conferences. The high point came when on the day of launch a user arrived at a system discovered by another browser. After identifying him, both players relayed a match on the same planet on Twitch. And yet, they discovered that the interaction was impossible, since they could not be seen, so the multiplayer mode was not real. Sean Murray, accused of a liar, was the victim of a hate campaign orchestrated by a disappointed community. The Hello Games Twitter account was stolen to expose the message “No Man’s Sky was a mistake” (“No Man’s Sky was a mistake”). Its creator, who ended up receiving death threats, stayed away from the media and began working on a trip to the stars that still had a lot to say.
The rebirth of an interstellar journey
Sean Murray admitted his mistakes, as IGN documentary Sean Murray on the present, past and future of No Man’s Sky (“Sean Murray on the present, past and future of No Man’s Sky”) tells. He had talked about the game too soon, he had advanced features that were under development rather than focusing on what he had on the table. And yet he continued to refine his work until he fulfilled the promises he had made in his euphoric advertising campaign. Foundation Update arrived in November 2016 with new game modes, and the possibility of establishing a home base on one of the discovered planets. Path Finder (March, 2017) added vehicles for exploration, permanent death, new resources and the possibility of sharing bases. Atlas Rises (August, 2017) included an expanded main mission, transport portals, trade improvements and joint exploration.
No Man’s Sky NEXT arrived in July 2018, the redemption that fulfilled many of the promises Sean Murray had made during the pre-launch campaign: the complete multiplayer and the navy ships under our command were the most significant improvements. The same creator describes that NEXT is much more than an apology to the community: "I think it's a great vision, much greater than what we could offer at the launch." Sean Murray had dreamed of an adventure of exploration and survival in space, in which the player felt alone and small before the magnificence of the universe, but adapted it to what the community expected from Hello Games. NEXT was followed by Abyss, which expanded the repertoire of aquatic ecosystems; and Visions, which added new biomes and planets.
In Sean Murray on the present, past and future of No Man’s Sky, the designer claims that the purpose of Hello Games is to make No Man’s Sky ever greater. The new milestone of this space trip is Beyond, which invites us to explore the universe from virtual reality and presents the Nexus, a social platform to organize joint explorations.
Despite the controversy harvested during the first days of navigation, No Man’s Sky managed to conquer a number of explorers who fulfilled, through a video game, their dream of traveling to outer space and feeling its powerful immensity. One of them, Roland Oberheim, honored Sean Murray with a portrait engraved on the surface of one of the multiple virtual planets. The expression for gratitude to Hello Games did not stay there, and last June a group of such intergalactic adventurers acquired, through a GoFundMe campaign, a billboard located in front of the same studio that says “THANK YOU, HELLO GAMES "(" THANK YOU, HELLO GAMES "). The money raised exceeded the minimum required, and the surplus was allocated to the purchase and donation of consoles and video games for Randwick Children's Hospital, in addition to food and drink for the study. Undoubtedly, Sean Murray fulfilled his dream of reaching the stars, although his rugged takeoff was contaminated with mistakes he learned. Along the way he found high levels of toxicity, but also a crew that showed that there is also love in the space of video leisure.
Design of the billboard dedicated to Hello Games