For cosmologists, the universe is approximately 12 to 14 billion years old. For the next generation of sci fi gamers, it may be said that their Big Bang occurred in late 2013 when Hello Games announced the genesis of a for-all-intents-and-purposes limitless galactic exploration game — No Man’s Sky.
The LP’er in this segment is IGN Babe in the Woods Ryan McCaffrey, a gamer who, like many in the presence of God (Hello Games’ Sean Murray) has trouble containing a very visceral sense of awe, as Murray casually demonstrates his 15 quintillion planet-sized galaxy that, quite literally, designs itself as you explore it.
The proof in the pudding of God (Murray’s) existence is his innovation of “procedural design,” which again, quite literally, means that his universe designs itself by way of a gang of algorithms setting the rules for how each individual pixel (or boxel) takes shape as the explorer encounters them. What takes a small army of artists and graphic designers months to painstakingly render in conventional video games worlds is just “a bunch of maths” to Murray. Over the course of his dozens of interviews about No Man’s Sky – it seems as though Murray would indeed rather explain his game in binary rather than have to painstakingly parse the English language to search for words that refer indirectly to the maths that he occupies the vast majority of his brain with.
To arrive back where we (all of us) started – there is a going theory, popularized in 2012, that our existence is more likely to be a vast simulation than an actual, original universe. The argument boils down to the statistics — if advanced civilizations were able to create an exact facsimile of existence, they could create any number of simulations of their universe. And the chances that any individual existed inside one of those perfect simulations is greater than that of a person existing inside the old-fashioned original universe.
No Man’s Sky gives us a glimpse into that very possibility. We can still tell the difference between a procedurally designed world, forged out of the core of a PS4. But what about a PS400? Will we be able to discern the difference between playing and living? Is our own universe merely the umpteenth iteration of a procedural design at the quantum level? Don’t ask me — I’m a mere shaman. Ask God (Murray). But you should probably wait until release — God will have his hands full until then.