What is Space Without a Game? – No Man's Sky
Since first appearing at E3 last year, No Man's Sky has made quite the fuss about its massive world chock full of plenty to do, even as the "do" remains quite nebulous. Reportedly, if a planet in the game was discovered every second, it would take about 584 billion years to discover them all, or roughly 130 times the remaining lifespan of the sun. But while discovering planets may be interesting enough, it doesn't wholly tell us what the player will be doing otherwise.
Indeed, in an interview with Eurogamer, Sean Murray, lead developer, when asked about what you do in No Man's Sky, says,
"So, the one I want to give is to say it's open ended, and players should be able to play a game lots of different ways. I have begun to find games quite predictable...I know when I see a screenshot exactly what the game is going to play like, probably how long it's going to be, and how it's going to finish. So, we wanted to be a bit more open ended than that...there is a core game mode there. There's the player's journey which, if they play it linearly and go from the outer edge of the galaxy to the centre of the galaxy, that's their start and end of the game kind of thing."
Of course, in a massive, procedurally generated universe, that could quite easily take a very long time. Later, Murray is quoted as saying that just simply flying, without using the hyperdrive, from the edge of the galaxy to the centre would take about 100 hours. It's also not the end of your journey, even as you may reach a point where you could walk away from the game. You could, conceivably, just spend your time floating around the outer reaches of space, investigating planets and space stations.
Investigating planets has its uses too, as you can level the landscape in a quest for resources and money. Hello Games doesn't want No Man's Sky to be known as "Minecraft in space," so they're devoting time to make resource collecting and terraforming something players would actually enjoy doing, to the point where it, again, is something you could do the entire game.
A sense of scale, personal motivation, and open-ended game design looks to be shaping No Man's Sky as the premier accomplishment in sandbox space exploration. The game releases later this year on PlayStation 4 as a timed exclusive, with the game eventually coming to PC thereafter.