It’s not hard to see why No Man’s Sky was one of the most talked about videogames of E3 2014. Amidst an industry obsessed with lavish explosions and joyous violence, here was a title that dared to be different, focusing on fantastical discovery and fulfilling a sense of wonder. As it turns out, those are two ideologies that go hand-in-hand with virtual reality (VR). The potential for Hello Games’ upcoming title combined with the Project Morpheus or Oculus Rift VR headsets is undeniable.
The best VR experiences deliver an arresting sense of presence. Users are able to feel like they really are a part of the given environment as they explore their surroundings. Where else could this be better applied than in No Man’s Sky? The first-person experience puts each new player on their own procedurally generated world and allows them to explore varying wildlife, landscapes and vegetation, each of which will be unique to that player and that planet. Even in the trailers seen thus far, the title manages to convey an engrossing feeling of losing oneself in the wilderness, uncovering bizarre beasts and picturesque scenes.
So how could VR enhance the experience? Simply by bringing us closer to it. The very hook of No Man’s Sky could be taken to the next level with the inclusion of VR’s stereoscopic 3D and head-tracking. Crucially, the positional tracking included in the Oculus Rift’s second development kit (DK2) and Project Morpheus could allow for the ability to inspect everything the player discovers in as close as detail as possible. Imagine find a strange new type of plant buried deep within a colourful forest and being able to lean in and inspect each individual petal from any angle, or stretching your head forwards to peak down below a piercing cliff face. These are types of interactions are only possible in VR and could really elevate No Man’s Sky.
As shown in its two trailers, piloting space craft also plays a part in No Man’s Sky. Given the already high amount of first-person space combat titles VR headsets enjoy, it’s easy to see how it could be incorporated here. Flying over planets and scanning the scenery with your eyes before taking off to check out distant worlds is the kind of concept that made us long for VR in the first place.
So, could it actually happen? It’s certainly possible. Earlier this year Hello Games’ Sean Murray tweeted pictures of his team using the Oculus Rift headset about their office. During E3 2014, Murray revealed that the team has simply been experimenting with the technology and didn’t confirm any such support. That said, E3 also played host to the reveal that No Man’s Sky would be coming to PlayStation 4 first, and Murray and co have only recently revealed that a PC version might not hit day and date. With that in mind, it’s possible that the team is secretly working on Project Morpheus support for the title right now, and skipped an announcement at this year’s show given Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) low focus on the device itself.
No Man’s Sky with VR remains a possibility, then. SCE has been insistent that Project Morpheus videogames need to be native and not ported, and this could stop this dream project from becoming a reality. Still, there’s undoubtedly a fair wait ahead of us before Hello Games launches its ambitious project with many details still to be revealed. Let’s the team still have a VR surprise up its sleeves.
‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets.