No Man’s Sky. After many, many months, even years of anticipation, the game is finally releasing in a matter or weeks. As you’ve probably heard from the hype machine by now, the game features well over 18 quintillion planets, which is a very significant -illion word. So how big does a game have to be to squeeze in that many planets into it? Surely it must be several petabytes large and can only be played on NASA supercomputers? No, turns out it’s only 6 gigabytes large.
Game director Sean Murray confirmed via a tweet that the game is only about six gigabytes in size, and that much of that is actually audio. This means that the core of the game: all the planets, vehicles, buildings, structures, NPCs and so on all fit into an even smaller size. How is this possible, you ask? Two words: procedural generation.
For those asking – size of No Man's Sky on disc is just 6GB. A lot of that is audio (⌐■_■)
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) July 10, 2016
Procedural generation is a process by which assets in the game are ‘generated’ on the fly, while the game is running, using a special algorithm that directs the generation. This means that rather than the developers hard-coding everything in the game, much of the game is actually generated in a semi-random way by the computer itself.
The actual algorithm powering this generation will remain the same across all copies of the game, which means that everyone who plays No Man’s Sky will be playing in what is the same universe. Two players who visit the same planet will find that it’s the exact same planet, although that planet was literally generated, on the fly, by their respective computers (yes, PlayStation 4s are computers too).
No Man’s Sky releases on August 9th in North America and August 10th in Europe and the United Kingdom. It will be available on PC and on PlayStation 4.