SAN FRANCISCO—Hello Games, the makers of beleaguered space-exploration game No Man’s Sky, announced a new initiative on stage at this year’s Game Developers Conference: Hello Labs. As announced by studio founder Sean Murray, the company is setting aside money to fund multiple projects—one of which is already in development—that focus on “procedural [world] generation and experimental games research.”
Murray made the announcement at the end of a discussion about the use of mathematic formulas to generate the quadrillions of planets in No Man’s Sky. This discussion largely avoided talking about the game’s mixed critical reception. Still, Murray did point out a few new details about the end of development.
For starters: Murray and his team made an astonishingly low-ball prediction about how many players would boot the game on its first day. As in, less than 14,000. The team considered that number a high-end estimate of concurrent players, because staffers saw that number attached to recent Steam-use data for the game Far Cry: Primal, which launched shortly before No Man’s Sky. “It’s a huge game, obviously,” Murray said. “That [number] made us a little bit nervous about servers, and the sheer number of people booting the game up day one.” (The team was tempted to estimate even lower, at around the 3,000-player count of indie game Inside, but staffers at Sony warned Murray to estimate something befitting “a triple-A product.”)
Turns out, the game wound up with 500,000 concurrent players on day one, and 250,000 of those were playing on a wide range of PCs. The total number overwhelmed the staff’s “networking team,” which Murray said consisted of solely one staffer (“and that was only one of his jobs… and we had half a billion discoveries uploaded [by players]”). Also, of those quarter-million PC players, roughly one percent had crash dump data reporting back to Hello Games. “It was on par with games I’d launched before, like Burnout, but we were just operating at a different scale,” Murray said. “It was far beyond what I’d experienced before, in terms of people playing a game.”
“Running out of money”
While describing the company’s history, Murray admitted that Hello Games was “running out of money” while making No Man’s Sky, all while juggling the challenge of “trying to finish something you care about really creatively.”
The game’s recent “Foundation” update, meanwhile, has reached one million players, Murray said, but he didn’t clarify whether that number was a concurrent or combined count, nor whether that was split between PC and console. Still, he insisted that reported crashes for the update have plummeted to the 0.01 percent level, and he said most of those are due to players running beneath minimum PC specifications.
The panel focused largely on newer mathematical formulas and noise-generation systems used to generate planet terrain in No Man’s Sky‘s Foundation update, and Murray pointed to player feedback as a sign of the patch’s success—especially since it completely wiped the entire game’s universe and rebuilt it from scratch.
“Something we kept hearing [about the Foundation update] was, the game feels a little bit more epic, or, there’s a different feel to it,” Murray said. “That is the terrain. I know because when our changes went in, everyone on our team started saying [the same thing]. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why, but you know you’re seeing more interesting places and things you haven’t seen before.”
Murray pledged to continue developing new mathematical content-generation systems, both for No Man’s Sky and for new games. He also told the GDC crowd that Hello Games is hiring. Procedural generation “is a big part of our future,” Murray said in his pitch to game developers. “Making really neat, weird engine decisions, and letting them dictate a cascade of problems: it’s cool for me to be able to stand up and say to talented people like yourselves, we’re looking for that kind of thing.”
The Hello Games team did not attend Wednesday night’s Game Developers Choice Awards, where No Man’s Sky beat the likes of The Witness, Pokémon Go, and Inside to win the Innovation Award. At Thursday’s panel, Murray did facetiously whine about losing in other categories to Inside before praising it as a “great game.”
via Ars Technica http://bit.ly/2n99DfB