There's been a host of new No Man's Sky videos over the past couple of weeks thanks to it being the latest game featured in the IGN First program, which showcases individual games every month. The latest explores how the universe of the game was created from a single seed and the algorithms that are used to generate not only mountain ranges and seabeds, but the creatures that inhabit them and the AI they use to move around and interact.
This is an interesting thing to focus on as the game itself will not actually be procedural for each player. The universe they've built will be the same for everyone, it's just so massive that players are unlikely to come across the same planets for at least the first few days of play. It's all coming from the same seed, the generation is being used to make sure the galaxy is appropriately huge, rather than random each time. As Sean puts it, maths always comes out the same, so it will happily generate the same planet no matter how many times its reloaded.
I feel like this is a better version of procedural generation than is currently being commonly used elsewhere, a sort of curation. While it would be impossible for the Hello Games team to check every planet for oddities or boredom, they are able to shape the game to their imagination while letting the more boring bits of the work be done by the computer. This authorship appeals to me more then relying purely on a computer to create something beautiful.
There's problems though. Generating terrain as you come to it looks to be producing some pretty significant pop-in. You can see it more clearly in this next video, which is perfect for you if you're sick of No Man's Sky looking wonderful:
Oof, that's a bit rougher around the edges. Don't get me wrong, it's actually for the best that we start seeing the downsides to this tech before we boot the game up for the first time ourselves, because otherwise these expectations are going to backfire on us and the game quite savagely. It also isn't helping with that nagging feeling that while No Man's Sky will be beautiful and fascinating to explore, it will be inherently boring to do so without anything driving me forward. For some that's not an issue, of course.
The very idea of a No Man's Sky release date is at this point heretical, but for good reason - Sean and the Hello Games team know that setting one is just as likely to disappoint fans than excite them. Loads more videos from IGN First over on the appropriate page.